The Fifth Down

President's column:
Job cuts and other nightmares

I don't need to watch a slasher movie or go to a haunted house to get a good scare on Halloween.

All I have to do is go to and read about the number of jobs being cut at newspapers.

It's a shame that many papers don't care about the quality of work by an experienced writer. They can hire someone considerably younger at much less salary, and in many cases simply use freelancers because they don't have to pay benefits such as health insurance and a retirement plan.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
• President's column: Job cuts and other nightmares
• FWAA Awards Q&A
• 2008 All-America Committee
• Lodge Notes

Many older guys like me (anybody 50 or over qualifies as old guy in my book) have had to adapt to how the business has changed, such as using the Internet to break stores and using your print product for mostly features.

Realizing we are now in a business where people want their news as soon as it happens, the responsibility of reporting this news through either Internet stories or blogs is at the heart of some of our problems with access.

One of the reasons professional relationships between coaches and reporters have been reduced to a Cold War status is that coaches don't trust reporters, even during casual conversation.

There is such a competition among reporters to stick anything on blogs to draw Internet hits that there are too many examples of a lack of journalistic judgment.

Reporters should hold their blogs to the same reporting standards they use on their stories. When reporters carelessly throw something out in a blog to see if it sticks, we lose credibility, especially with coaches.

This is one reason why coaches don't trust us, besides the fact they are naturally paranoid. This is partially why they've shut down our access next to nothing.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't break stories or pursue the news. All I'm saying is let's do it as professionally as possible, even in blogs, an outlet where it's easy to get lazy and throw anything in there, because we're required to write blogs.

On the other side of the ledger, there are still too many tunnel-vision coaches whose narrow minded thinking just blows me away.

This month's winner of the Nick Saban “I Respect the Media But You Can't Talk To Anyone But Me” Award is Boise State coach Chris Petersen.

Earlier this season when FWAA first vice-president George Schroeder of the Eugene Register-Guard called Boise State's sports information department to set up interviews when Oregon was about to play the Broncos on Sept. 20, he was informed of what might be the most ignorant media policy I've ever heard.

Schroeder was told of a Petersen edict that barred media from the opposing team from interviewing Boise players before games.

If this policy wasn't so pathetic, wasn't so Mayberry, I'd still be laughing.

Neither Boise State nor the Western Athletic Conference was overly apologetic to Schroeder about this Neanderthal line of thinking, not caring to budge an inch on the policy.

That's fine, because you if you don't give, you don't get. Boise State and the WAC shouldn't expect many favors from writers with that kind of attitude.

We all need to be vigilant in our fight for access. If you've got a problem, let someone know. Don't be quiet. We've been quiet for too long.

Meanwhile, with the season coming down the stretch, keep an eye out for Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year candidates, as well as Bronko Nagurski and Outland Trophy nominees. Awards season will be here soon.


FWAA president Ron Higgins covers college football for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn. He can be reached at


• Bert McGrane Award nominees: Mark Blaudshun (
• Volney Meece Scholarship nominees: Dave Sittler (
• Website, National Team of the Week: Ted Gangi (
• Membership Directory: Charlie Fiss, Goodyear Cotton Bowl (
• Ethics/Press Relations Committee: Kirk Bohls (
• College Football Playoff Liaison: Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff (
• Eddie Robinson Award: Steve Richardson (
• Fifth Down Blog/FWAA Best Writing Contest: Ken Stephens (
• Bronko Nagurski Trophy: John Rocco, Charlotte Touchdown Club (
• Outland Trophy, All-America Team: Steve Richardson (
• Super 16 Poll: Phil Marwill, National Football Foundation (
• Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award: Matt Fortuna (
• Freshman All-America Team: Mike Griffith (

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