SBD/September 19, 2012/Media

Pac-12 Tightens Rules On Media Access To Practices, Raising Questions On Ethics

Oregon State football practices are open to reporters and to the public
More Pac-12 football programs are "closing the doors to practice and cutting back player interviews," a change for a league "once known for its openness and accessibility," according to Bud Withers of the SEATTLE TIMES. The issue "was spotlighted last week" when Univ. of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian "announced a policy forbidding reporters from writing about injuries as a condition of attending practice." That "edict has left local news organizations ... weighing the ethics in potentially seeing news but not reporting it." Historically, media allowed to watch practice "have agreed to coaches' bans on reporting strategy." But outlets contend that not to report on injuries "is an attempt to control the news at a time when Twitter and Facebook might crackle with reports from students on campus who see a key player on crutches." No factor has "impacted the trend like the Internet, with its numerous fan websites and message boards." On occasion, a video or "piece of intelligence that a coach finds intrusive shows up, and rather than ban the offender from practice, they're more apt to make a pre-emptive strike and restrict all media." Taking the "other side is Oregon State's veteran coach, Mike Riley, whose policy is the most liberal in the Pac-12." Practices are "not only open to reporters, but to the public." Riley "conceded some displeasure at a couple of instances in which, through social media, word of an injury reached a player's parents before the staff could call them." Riley in an e-mail wrote, "All in all, I think the positives outweigh the negatives" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/18). USC last week reinstated the credentials of L.A. Daily News reporter Scott Wolf after he was initially banned for two weeks for reporting on an injury (THE DAILY).

FOLLOWING THE NFL'S LEAD? In Denver, John Henderson reports Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is “considering an NFL-style, league-wide weekly injury report.” Scott “will hold a meeting early next month to discuss the issue,” on which league coaches “appear deeply divided.” Riley said, "It would be good just to have it all out there and not have any questions.” But Washington State coach Mike Leach said that discussing a player’s injury status “violates federal law” (DENVER POST, 9/19).
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