Problem solving: Sports editors to meet with NCAA over coverage issues

It hasn’t been an easy year for a reporter covering college football in the Pac 12. The USC beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News was banned from practice and had a game credential revoked for reporting on a player injury.

The Seattle Times has had run-ins with Washington and Washington State.

ASPE President Gerry Ahern said he wants to address these issues and more with the NCAA. In a post on the ASPE site, he said:

“There have been a lot of brushfires this year that are new, and these issues will continue to happen unless we as sports editors and sports management step up,” said Ahern, who is director of news content for USA Today Sports Media Group. “They want to control the information at universities not just for traffic, but as competitors. “We have to ensure as best we can the access that our reporters need to do their jobs.”

Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton talked about his paper’s difficulties with Washington.

Shelton said his paper is dealing with similar issues in his department’s coverage of the University of Washington and Washington State, both of which only have a few practices a week, for only a few hours at a time, and have strict policies preventing reporting on strategy or injuries.

“You get certain players on certain days, and if they invite the right person, you might get the player you want, but it’s hard to plan stories out in advance,” he said.

Additionally, “if someone gets taken off the field in an ambulance, you can’t report it, which basically forces a reporter to break a rule to do his job.”

His newspaper also ran into problems with its live game coverage, and the Seattle Times often found itself at odds with the Husky media department.

“We started doing live chats almost every day at noon and had beat reporters do it, and the University of Washington liked it, so they did it themselves then stopped the Seattle Times, [saying] it infringed on broadcasting rights,” Shelton said. “It’s not a partnership at all; it’s definitely an antagonistic relationship.”

It’s a good move for Ahern and APSE to meet with NCAA officials about these issues. However, I’m not sure how much will be accomplished since unlike the NFL, the NCAA doesn’t dictate media policies for schools and conferences. But it still should be good to have the discussion.


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