Kentucky Can’t Possibly Come Out Of This Student Newspaper Flap Looking Good
Media outlets covering college athletics will occasionally have frosty relations with the athletic departments they're covering. It's unavoidable. Something will be said, or written, that the department doesn't like...possibly even if it's deserved. And nowhere is this relationship more delicate than it is with student reporters covering their own school's teams. Sure, in large part they're covering kids, but they're also kids themselves. And that important fact means that if there's any conflict between the athletic department and the students, the students are going to win in the court of public opinion unless they've done something really bad.
So when this story came out about a disagreement between DeWayne Peevy, the associate athletic director of media relations at the University of Kentucky, and the Kernel, Kentucky's student paper, there was little doubt who the more sympathetic side - especially to, say, visible media types - would be. The issue in a nutshell, as told by Kentucky.com:
[Peevy] rescinded an invitation to the Kernel's basketball writer for the interviews after learning that he had contacted two students rumored to be walk-ons this fall on the basketball team. The reporter, Peevy said, broke the university's unwritten policy barring media from interviewing student-athletes without first going through UK's media relations teams.
Peevy's second big issue here (aside from that he's dealing with students) is that the "policy" violated is "unwritten" - i.e., not really a policy. Peevy's stated intention with this unwritten-but-apparently-important policy - to prevent UK athletes from getting "bombarded with interview requests constantly" - doesn't sound like such a bad one. After all, just like student reporters are still kids, so are athletes.
At the same time, being a prominent athlete at a major university (Peevy works mainly with men's basketball, where Kentucky's program is as scrutinized as any in the nation) brings with it certain challenges, one of which is dealing with media members. And to hear Kernel editor Taylor Moak say it, it doesn't exactly sound like the walk-ons in question got "bombarded":
"He only asked the question, 'Are you a walk-on on the basketball team?'" Kernel editor in chief Taylor Moak said. "They said yes. He said, 'Would you be willing to talk now or later today?,' and they said no."
It's true that Kernel reporter Aaron Smith won't exactly have a long-lasting price to pay for his "transgression": the event he's no longer invited to is a single event open only to "select media outlets." Peevy said the Kernel's access to the team during the season will remain unchanged. But it is a price to pay - and over two players just mentioned as additions to the team by Kentucky coach John Calipari yesterday, and who aren't even listed on the team roster yet.
To us, if Peevy were simply unhappy about the reporters calling players about potential interviews and let them know about it, we wouldn't find that so awful. We might think his bad feelings misplaced, but ultimately, it would be a non-issue. The issue here is the revoked invitations to an event over an issue admittedly minor enough that the Kernel didn't violate any written rule. The situation could have been smoothed over with a private conversation, where both Peevy and the Kernel hash out their expectations, and as far as we can tell, it would have worked out better for everyone that way.
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