Looks like somebody at FIU came to their senses.
After denying access to Miami Herald beat writer David J. Neal for the football team’s opening game last Saturday, Florida International University has decided to credential him for the remainder of the season, according to Paul Dodson, the school’s assistant athletic director for media relations.
“The FIU sports program is an important part of our coverage,“ said Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez. “We’re glad we were able to reach a quick resolution.”
I wanted to play catch up on this.
If you follow sports media, you probably heard that the Miami Herald declined to staff Florida International’s football game Saturday after the school declined David Neal, the paper’s beat writer, a seat in the press box.
Talk about insane. The school should send out limos to pick up reporters.
The details are here in this story in the Herald:
No explanation was given by FIU, but Neal’s access to FIU coaches and athletes had been dwindling for months, to the point where he was no longer permitted to attend football practice or conduct interviews. Last week, when Neal attempted to write a story on the FIU women’s soccer team, he was told no one was allowed to talk to him.
“It’s unprecedented for any local team to refuse to credential our beat reporter without reason,” Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said of the four pro and two college teams the Herald covers on a regular basis. “The team does not get to choose who covers the program.”
FIU’s response in part:
We did not issue a media credential to the Herald’s beat reporter because of concerns we have brought up to the Herald’s reporter and editors over the past few years about the reporter’s interactions with our student athletes, coaches, and staff and the nature of the resulting coverage. He is not banned from FIU or FIU Stadium. He just does not have additional access beyond that of the public.
However, it doesn’t say whether Neal would be allowed to buy concessions or use the bathrooms.
The paper responded by using a wire service story off of Saturday’s game.
Butch Ward, writing for Poynter.org, thought the newspaper made the wrong decision:
This is just one fight in the escalating offensive against allowing journalists to cover news.
And forgive me if I don’t sense we’re winning.
The Obama administration has limited access by photojournalists and other reporters to White House events and to the President. Local governments and police refuse to speak with reporters whose work they dislike. Candidates restrict reporters to “press areas,” ensuring that conversations with the public are not overheard. Professional and collegiate sports teams have steadily made it more difficult to cover live events.
Many of those who control access have decided that thanks to technology, they need news organizations less and less to deliver their messages. So as they steadily build their capacity and expertise for communicating directly to the public, they grow bolder about telling journalists to take a walk.
Later Ward writes:
We work for the public. And that’s why, when one of those entities tries to manage our coverage by denying us access, we need to ask:
What does the public want us to do?
In my experience, the public is a harsh employer. Aware of an increasing number of options for getting information, the public is likely to say:
Just get the story.
In theory, Ward is right. However, we’re not talking about the White House. We’re talking about a sports program that barely is on the radar in Miami, let alone anywhere else.
In this case, they need the coverage more than the paper needs to cover them. The newspaper can’t allow itself to be bullied. From what I’ve read, Neal was just doing his job. If it made FIU uncomfortable, then he must have been doing a very good job.
The Herald shouldn’t cave here. Neal, and only Neal, should cover the next FIU game for the paper.