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Vol. 48, No. 2 • February 2011 • .pdf version
Virginia Tech still closing doors to members of new media
By BRIAN NOUBERT / Black & Gold Illustrated
For more than 20 years now, my employer, Gold & Black Illustrated, has covered Purdue's football and men's basketball teams everywhere they've played.
For me personally in my young career, that's meant covering numerous college football bowl games, including a Rose Bowl; five NCAA men's basketball tournaments, two NITs and preseason events all over the place; and live events on dozens of campuses nationwide.
For the first time in our print magazine's two-plus decades of publishing, we were turned down this fall for a press pass to an event on another school's campus.
Citing longstanding athletic department policy, Virginia Tech declined our credential request for Purdue's Dec. 1 game there, making it the least of our concerns that our flight to Roanoke, Va., was already booked.
Subsequent appeals to athletic department higher-ups and follow-up inquiries from the USBWA – the Association's effort, by the way, was much appreciated – were stone-walled. Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference officials held no jurisdiction here, even though the game was part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
First, some background on our publication, which some might call a "fan magazine," but we believe to be much more: GBI began printing more than 25 times per year back in 1990. We joined the Internet about the time everybody else did and partnered with Rivals.com, the national network of sports sites now owned by Yahoo!
Between our magazine, which went largely digital for the first time this year; our web site; and our robust social media communities, Gold & Black Illustrated and GoldandBlack.com publish to tens of thousands. We've expanded heavily into television and radio, as well.
To the Virginia Tech athletic department's credit, their policies are explicitly outlined online at Hokie Sports.com (www.sportssystems.com/clients/vt)
Long story short, per written Tech's policies, online media will not be granted credentials at Virginia Tech if they either A.) "primarily" cover recruiting or B.) sponsor message boards or interactivity components that allow users to post anonymously.
There are other stipulations, but I'm running out of space here and, in our case, these were the only two points that were relevant.
Rivals.com covers football and basketball recruiting. Maybe not "primarily," but it does cover them. So do major newspapers all over the country, more and more every season. ESPN, which broadcast the Purdue-Virginia Tech game, maintains its own online recruiting network.
As for the anonymous interaction, look around.
StoryChat is everywhere. How many of us do not allow users to respond to blog postings without including "the actual name and city of the individual," as Tech's policy demands? How many of us use Twitter, which is inextricably linked to anonymity? Social media is a new central front in sports journalism.
Virginia Tech has reasons for its policies, and it should be noted the sports information personnel we dealt with were only upholding mandates set by their superiors.
Whether it's fear of the Internet, a desire for absolute control over information or financial interests in university-sanctioned sites or publications driving these policies, I don't know.
Universities have the right to credential – or not credential – whoever they'd like, for whatever reasons.
I do want to say that we've greatly appreciated every school and event that has provided us the access we've needed to do our jobs. We consider that access a privilege, not a right, and have done our best to conduct ourselves accordingly.
I just wish that as a member of the media, I'd been judged on my own merits, on my employer's 20-plus years of publishing professionally and on a variety of different platforms. Rather, I was summarily dismissed by association, for reasons that do not make sense in our ever-changing, ever-evolving sports media world.
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