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Vol. 50, No. 1 • November 2012 • .pdf version
Don't let media days go way of media guides
By KIRK WESSLER / Peoria Journal-Star
The news trickled out last spring, via Twitter and text messages, so it hit newspapers around the Missouri Valley Conference like blows from a bunch of little hammers. But it was no less crushing to reporters and columnists who cover the league than if one grand announcement had dropped on them like an anvil.
Preseason basketball media day had been abolished by a vote of member athletics directors.
I don't know when the Valley began its annual hoops media day, but I know it was before the first one I attended, in 1976, when an excruciatingly shy Indiana State sophomore transfer named Larry Bird tried to disappear into the wallpaper of a hotel conference room in Tulsa. MVC fortunes have risen and fallen and risen again through these past five decades, but media coverage has been constant.
This fall, Creighton's Doug McDermott is the Valley's first preseason All-American in 25 years. Creighton is parked in most top-25 rankings. Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Wichita State give the league a legit shot to put three teams in the NCAA Tournament. A publicist's dream: Media day in centrally located St. Louis – easy in/easy out, one-stop shopping with one-on-one interviews and stories for local, regional and even national reporters – could have provided the MVC with a wealth of publicity.
Instead, plans were being made for a routine teleconference with coaches at the end of October.
Reporters have grown accustomed to teams and leagues making our jobs more difficult. Press-row locations, elimination of printed media guides, closed locker rooms, ever-more restricted access … Hey, we know there's a vast institutional conspiracy to drive us out of business. Eliminating media days figures to be the next step.
But I did some checking and found that's not necessarily the trend. After all, the six "power" conferences still do media days. So does the Atlantic-10. And the Patriot League and Big South Conference. I randomly checked a few other places and found this:
• The Horizon League brought back media day for the first time in at least a decade. A news conference and one-on-one opportunities with coaches and players were provided. Communications boss Bill Potter acknowledged that fewer media outlets might travel to media day than a decade ago, but "that doesn't mean the day is any less important to us. We can still put on a show that is valuable to our member institutions and the media."
• The West Coast Conference abandoned media day several years ago, but voted to bring it back last season, said Jeff Tourial, assistant commissioner for communications and new media. Pressers and one-on-one access with coaches and players were provided for print media. This year, the WCC conducted media day at the studios of a TV partner, but with no print media on site. The event included an interactive piece streamed live on YouTube, with fans asking questions via social media and print reporters encouraged to participate, Tourial said.
• The Mountain West did away with traditional media day this year, because of a lack of media participation, said Javan Hedlund, associate commissioner for communications. The Mountain West office is sending a team to each team's media day, where they'll obtain video for the league website. They also planned to use Google Hangouts to conduct Q&As between out-of-town print reporters and each team's coaches and players.
Still, Hedlund was disappointed by the lack of participation that led to the decision. "A traditional media day is very important so that media can have face-to-face interaction with coaches," he said. If local, regional and national media attended, "it would make the coaches' time and costs to the conference worthwhile," he added.
Hedlund gets it. See, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Those encounters are the single biggest benefit of media day. Reporters and coaches can chat casually in an environment that is not packed with the intensity and emotions of a postgame setting. We get to know each other, if even just a bit. We establish relationships. Sometimes, those relationships might birth a measure of trust. And that's good for everyone.
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