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Vol. 57, No. 2 January 2020 .pdf version
Let's recognize best schools that allow media do its job
By MALCOLM MORAN
We're really good at complaining.
Sometimes we complain because we're right, or we're dealing with deadline stress. Members of a certain age will remember when the USBWA made complaining an annual event that required an appointment.
We would sit in a meeting room during the Final Four rows of chairs surrounded by bare walls and take aim at poor Dave Cawood over missing media buses, an absence of telephones or the need for more telecopiers.
(We'll wait for a moment while students stop to google the word telecopier.)
That is why the most important fundamental advance executed by my predecessor, Joe Mitch, was the tone of communication this organization established in the way it conducts business.
I am proposing an extension of that tone in the form of an annual award to recognize the schools that most effectively provide us with a chance to do our jobs.
This is not a good-guy award. This recognition would draw attention to specific policies, on game days and beyond, that determine conditions for beat reporters and other interested media members.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this idea is not original. The Football Writers Association of America introduced its Super 11 in 2009 to recognize the schools setting the standard for media availability and accessibility. In more than a decade to follow, the FWAA has been able to shine the light on best practices and incentivize an open approach. The award has also created another form of incentive.
Suppose intermittently cooperative Team A makes the discovery that its rival, Team B, receives positive recognition on a regular basis. Maybe Team A decides it needs to tweak some things to improve working conditions.
The idea is to create a group evaluation of nuts-andbolts factors that determine how well we can do our jobs.
What are the conditions when the team plays? Where are our seats? Can we see the game?
(It is hard to believe that question needs to be asked, but it does.)
Is the dressing room open? If not, is there access to players that are the most relevant to the outcome of the game? How efficient is the distribution of statistics and notes? What is the access to the visiting team? If the media parking area is not close to the arena, is there a system to make sure reporters can safely reach their vehicles?
Does the head coach linger for a less-formal session after the postgame press conference? Are assistant coaches available?
Are practices open? Are portions of practices open? Are coaches and players available on a regular basis? Are freshmen available?
Are coaches and players available for individual sessions for profiles or other longer stories? In other words: Is initiative rewarded? Or stifled?
Five seems like a good number for basketball. It's a number that also creates an exclusive feel. Let's see how the evaluation process develops. If the district representatives and officers feel that there is a small difference from the fifth to ninth-rated schools, we could establish a second team or honorable mention status. If the discussion creates a consensus that there is a distance between the top five schools and the next level, we can cap the recognition at five.
The goal is to highlight the best work that is being done, not unlike the way we highlight individual playing or coaching achievements.
This is a recognition that can be determined by all the media members in our organization. If you are aware of a program that should be considered, please contact your district representative. The contact information is in your USBWA directory. Please describe as many specifics as you can to make the case. You can be guided by the questions that were asked here, but feel free to add any observations you have discovered in your experience.
We could highlight each recognized school with an institutional profile that defines and explains its business model and why the decision was made to become accessible. My hope is that the award could be announced after the end of the season and presented each year at the annual CoSIDA convention.
So please share your thoughts and ideas. We are accepting nominations of schools. We are also looking for a name for the award. Please send those ideas to me at email@example.com.
There's just one request. In an effort to steer our organization clear of any name, image and likeness controversies, Fab Five is not on the table.
Lodge Notes: Forde moves to Sports Illustrated
Past USBWA president Pat Forde joined Sports Illustrated as a senior writer after spending the past eight seasons at Yahoo Sports. Forde also worked seven years at ESPN and the first 17 years of his career at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Paul Woody announced his retirement as columnist after 40 years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Dan Wetzel and past Rising Star award winner Kevin Armstrong are executive producers of "Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez," a three-part documentary series on Netflix.
Longtime sports writer Irv Moss, who covered colleges among many other sports for the Denver Post, died on Jan. 8 from esophageal cancer. Moss, 85, retired in 2016 after a 60-year career at the Post.
The Athletic has added Charlotte Carroll, formerly of Sports Illustrated, to cover the UConn women's program and Brendan Marks, formerly of the Charlotte Observer, to cover Duke and North Carolina.
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