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Vol. 47, No. 3 • March 2010 • .pdf version
Got a beef? Calm down and make the call or send the e-mail
By JOHN AKERS / Basketball Times
As sure as a game-winning shot by Scottie Reynolds (or Sherron Collins or John Wall, for that matter), every season serves as an example of the challenges that we college basketball writers routinely face. Now and then, we are also reminded how easily such issues can be resolved when two parties listen to one other.
Basketball Times recently experienced a couple of examples like those over the span of a week or two. We won't name names or schools, because those details really don't matter here. What's more important, a couple of potentially ugly situations ended as well as possible.
In one case, a student-journalist was denied a media credential to write for our online site for reasons other than a lack of space on press row. The student was accused of being unprofessional. The school was accused of carrying a grudge.
In another, we read a story that one of our writers had pursued for us a year ago – but couldn't, because access was denied to the subject of the story. The story appeared on one of those Web sites that could eat Basketball Times for breakfast. Naturally, favoritism was suspected.
An exchange of e-mails and a phone call cured both problems.
The student-journalist had worked for mainstream news agencies and, as far as we knew, was legit. There also were alleged issues that we didn't know about, most involving social networking and the school's sports information department. He was either unprofessional, as the school's SID suggested, or a guy who whose greatest offense was reporting news that the school would rather that he didn't. (In other words, our kind of reporter.) There was no way for us to know for sure.
We told the school that while we didn't want anyone who might be unprofessional representing us, we pondered some of the rascals and rogues we've met on press row and wondered what it took to get barred from such a club. Perhaps that put a smile on someone's face; probably, it had nothing to do with their decision to grant the student a credential after all.
No relationships were ruined in the process. We're happy to report that the student filed his story without incident.
Then there was the story that was denied to BT, then granted to the Web megapower. Honk if something like that has happened to you, but it's never fun to be on the wrong end of the deal.
Our story would have been about a successful player with a troubled past, but it was one that he no longer wanted to discuss. The topic was delicate, and without the player's cooperation, there was no point in pursuing it any further.
We wondered what had changed when, one year later, we saw the story elsewhere. We suspected that we already knew the answer: The player and the school had been given a pitch by a giant Web site they couldn't refuse.
Nevertheless, we gave the school's SID a call. A year ago, we were told, the player had turned down all interview requests about his past, with his coaches' blessing. This year, the SID said he had convinced the player that he could benefit from telling his story. The coaches remained skeptical, however, and there were no new media requests to press the issue. Then the giant Web site called. Coaches were convinced. The story was written.
Could they have gone back to the reporters who had showed an interest in the story a year ago? Maybe, but the SID, just happy to get any go-ahead, said things happened in a hurry.
If we had been the ones to call this season, he assured, we would have been given the story this time around. Maybe, maybe not. But the SID was apologetic, and he was believable. We both came away happy that we talked it out.
There are two lessons here – no doubt learned before, then forgotten, only to tap us on the shoulder yet again:
1.) Don't be afraid to call a second or a third time. A door closed one season might be opened the next.
2.) Pick up the phone. Write the e-mail. Don't go looking for a fight, but stand your ground. When two sides are reasonable, solutions will be found.
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