Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shame on you, University of Kentucky athletic department

Well, this is certainly one way to get the media riled up -- pick on a student reporter.

And that's what appears to have happened at the University of Kentucky, where the athletic department has revoked the media pass of a student reporter for not going through proper channels as he sought to interview two members of the men's basketball team.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the decision already is being judged as illegal.
DeWayne Peevy, UK's associate athletics director for media relations, rescinded an invitation to the Kernel's basketball writer for the interviews after learning that he had contacted two students rumored to be walk-ons this fall on the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.
The decision to ban the writer "is so clearly a violation of First Amendment rights for the university to condition access on gathering or publishing information the way the university wants you to do it," said Kentucky First Amendment lawyer Jon Fleischaker.
The dispute began when Kernel sportswriter and managing editor Aaron Smith found the phone numbers in UK's student directory for walk-ons Brian Long and Sam Malone after seeing them named in a post on Kentuckysportsradio.com and mentioned in a Twitter post by UK freshman basketball player Anthony Davis. UK basketball coach John Calipari has since posted on Twitter that the two are indeed walk-ons.
The story did appear in the student-run Kentucky Kernel.

The Kernel also is posting various reactions to the decision, and one of them came from Mr. Peevy:
Peevy told the Kernel Monday evening that there was no written policy about contacting Media Relations first, but reporters knew that was the preferred method. Later, Peevy tweeted a photo of a written policy.
The potential for this story to blow even more out of control than it already is obviously is there. I think there is at least one way to solve the problem: First, the athletic department makes states clearly and in writing what its procedures for interviewing student-athletes are. Second, representatives from the athletic department sit down with the student newspaper to explain why the decision to revoke credentials was made. Third, the paper reports what took place in that meeting, which needs to include an apology from the athletic department and an "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause any trouble" from the reporter.

The bottom line in this -- the reporter didn't know he goofed, and the athletic department should have reacted much differently to it. The power trip looks amateurish.

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