Prohibiting Reporters from Reporting

“Media who attend a USC practice are asked not to report on strategy or injuries that are observed during the course of watching that practice or result from that practice. … USC allows media access into all of its practices, and those practices are closed to the general public, and therefore USC asks that the media not disclose information that is observed or learned that could put USC at a competitive disadvantage to opponents.”
— Official media policy on football practices, University of Southern California, as of 8/26/2012

“As a condition of entry to UW football practices, all visitors and members of the media are hereforth prohibited from reporting on strategy or injury-related news observed during practices.”
— Official media policy on football practices, University of Washington, as of 9/12/2012


Prohibiting a reporter from writing what they see is always problematic, and requires a high degree of scrutiny — journalism is constitutionally protected, after all, and universities are tax-protected nonprofit institutions that often receive hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding.

In the last month, two different universities, the University of Washington (public) and the University of Southern California (private), announced that reporters were prohibited from reporting on injuries that they witnessed during football practice. First, on September 11, USC’s Lane Kiffin revoked the media credential of a reporter who reported on an injury he witnessed, and then UW’s Steve Sarkisian issued the new media policy a day later, which I quoted above. Kiffin reinstated the reporter soon thereafter, but the policy stands.

Universities keep their media credentialing policies relatively strict. The usual reason given is that they’re trying to protect their “student-athletes”; another reason is that sports are big business and so controlling access to information is good policy. Now, because I put scare quotes around the phrase “student-athletes,” I should probably come clean at this point. I am persuaded by Taylor Branch’s argument a year ago:

[T]wo of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes.

As you might imagine, these schools don’t make nearly as much of a fuss about baseball practice, because baseball practice isn’t where the eyeballs are. Carter Henderson, an assistant athletic director at the University of Washington, told me by email that the school’s policy regarding reporters was online, “With exception of our recently added Football policy amendment.” Interestingly, you can’t find that football policy amendment on UW’s website; I found it in the Seattle Times. The only thing that is notably prohibited in the UW policy as posted online is “real-time description” of a sports event. (I reached out to USC’s athletics department for comment, but they did not respond.)

A week ago, Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pac-12, said that he would discuss a uniform media policy with universities conference regarding injury reporting. The recent changes in media policy appear to have their origins in decisions by several schools to stop acknowledging or reporting injuries. Many of the schools who did so cited privacy or health concerns as the reason, like Washington State coach Mike Leach and Stanford coach David Shaw. Shaw said, “These are amateur athletes, and their health is not anybody else’s concern.”

Frankly, I don’t buy it. I think that athletes’ health is very much other people’s concern: it’s the concern of their family and friends, among others. (I might be concerned if my child were being coached by Mike Leach, for example. I’m not saying that he’s guilty, just that I would want to know what was going on.) University football programs are not well known for protecting the young men in their care — and I’m talking about concussions, not Penn State. Division I athletes on athletic scholarships have an incredibly strong incentive to stay on the team, because the majority of them will not be able to afford their degree if they get cut and lose their scholarship.

Much akin to the situation in the NFL, where non-guaranteed contracts incentivize players to play through pain and injury for fear of getting cut and losing their salary, there are few economic incentives for college athletes to fully heal from inevitable football injuries. Injury reporting forces schools to acknowledge that hurt players are hurt, rather than simply continue to play them on Saturday.

I have written before on the tough squeeze that sports reporters often face. Scoops are often based on anonymous sourcing — unless you’re lucky enough to cover Ozzie Guillen — when one side has a bone to pick with the other side. The leagues are basically monopolies, whether it’s the MLB or NCAA, with complete prerogative to control the flow of information. Fans are eager to learn more about their favorite teams, and those teams are equally eager to control the message that fans receive.

The only way for fans — or families — to hear anything other than team-produced propaganda is for reporters to ferret it out. I’m troubled by the poor state of football player health, even more than the legal issue of a public land-grant university having a policy that states that a reporter covering a taxpayer-funded organization may not write what she sees.

I’m not a complete truth hawk. I believe that there is such a thing as justifiably protected information, I believe that state secrets should be kept, and I believe that classification can have a purpose. However, I also believe that classification is often abused by those in power, and injured college football players are not nuclear weapons, they are not spies, and they are not state secrets. I do not believe that they should be classified or censored.

I believe that football players have a right to privacy. But I believe that the fact of their injury is not primarily a matter of privacy, but rather one of strategy, and a relatively unimportant one at that. Its strategic importance would utterly vanish if all schools were required to report injuries. Like all people in a position of power, football coaches want to hold onto secrets, even when they aren’t secret any more. Reporters are professionally obliged not to let them.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


85 Responses to “Prohibiting Reporters from Reporting”

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  1. maguro says:

    Thanks for the High School newspaperish sermon on journalistic ethics, but shouldn’t this be in NotGraphs?

    -6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tom says:

      Shouldn’t you notcare?

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    • Jack says:

      Someone apparently does not read NotGraphs.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      If this was on NotGraphs, it would be “Gentlemanly Daguerrotype of the Evening: Dick Allen’s Mustache Prohibits Leisured Reporters from Assigning Debonair Nicknames of Pleasure as Kenesaw Mountain Landis Disapprovingly Recites Ovid”

      +24 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • maguro says:

        Why do you desperately try to be funny in every post? Is it the fame/glory of the +1? Give it a rest already.

        -30 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jack says:

        No, its because whenever you get a +1, Dave Cameron comes to your house, sings the Friends theme song and gives you a gift basket with a box of Cubans, a collection of George Thorogood casette tapes, and a baseball autographed by the entire roster of the 1996 Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Its pretty bitchin’.

        +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        Nonsense, I am perfectly serious when the conversation turns to beer.

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      • Thirsty says:

        What beer do you favor?

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        (commonly available)
        Summer: Franziskaner Hefeweizen.
        Session: Alaska Amber.
        Serious: Left Hand Milk Stout.

        (uncommonly available)
        Summer: Charlie and Jake’s wheat, brewed and served at Charlie and Jake’s near Space Coast Stadium, Florida.
        Session: 512 Pecan Porter, 512 Brewing, Austin, Texas.
        Serious: Trappistes Rochefort 10.

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      • Paul says:

        I feel like I have pretty high standards, and I must say I have not once thought a comment of his was a desperate attempt to be funny. If you don’t think that particular comment was funny, I think you really need to start attending smile therapy.

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      • Lenard says:

        That title is more than one line. Carson wouldn’t allow it!

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      • I like Left Hand Milk Stout; personally, my favorite milk stout is Duck-Rabbit’s, but that may be because that’s the first one of that style that I ever had.

        My favorite beer is probably Founder’s Imperial Stout. I recently had a Pliny the Elder when I went to the Stone Brewery outside San Diego a couple of months ago, and it really is the best IPA I’ve ever had. Simply magnificent.

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      • Thirsty says:

        Thanks for the response, Well-Beered. I love Franziskaner & Left Hand Milk Stout, so I’ll have to try Alaska Amber (if it’s available in Chicago). Cheers!

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      • Thirsty says:

        Founder’s Porter is pretty wicked as well.

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      • Alaska Amber’s a really nice beer.

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      • Alaskan Amber Drinker says:

        As a resident of the fine state of Alaska, and an Alaskan Amber lover, I can vouch for its niceties.

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  2. BillWallace says:

    Is there a reason why these practices contractually have to be open to the media? If not then there’s not really a story here. If the schools are voluntarily letting you cover their practices then you follow their rules. If you don’t like it then write about something else.

    Yeah this allows the football programs to exploit the media… well the media is exploiting them too, and the players. Everybody is exploiting everybody in that godforsaken farce of a ‘sport’.

    There is no high road to be had, so don’t try to put reporters on it.

    +25 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • yeah says:

      I’ve got to agree with you. How exactly is the public “entitled” to this information, especially with concern to individual player’s injuries?

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    • I disagree. Neither embedding with the army nor covering Stanford’s football practice should mean that you only print what they ask you to print.

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      • yeah says:

        There’s a pretty significant and meaningful difference between knowing the details, successes, and failures of military operations and knowing a private individual’s medical information.

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      • Yeah, I very much agree. I think that military operations should have a higher degree of protection.

        I don’t want to know a player’s blood type. But I definitely want to know that injured players are not on the field.

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      • Jeff H. says:

        Agree with BillWallace. WRT injuries, it’s most likely a response to information being made available instantly via Twitter. It seems reasonable to me that athletic departments would want to get in front of the messaging.

        (Also once the AD confirms any injuries, those witnessed in practice would be fair game – unless I’m misunderstanding the scope of the policy.)

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      • BillWallace says:

        The army is a public institution. The media shouldn’t hold back there because the people have a right to know how their taxes are being spent and how their elected leaders are using their young men and women.

        College Football is not. It is a decidedly for profit operation. They shouldn’t be using public funds of course, but that’s a separate issue.

        There’s no absolute right for the media to cover those practices unless it’s a contractual obligation. If I were a team owner in a less corrupt sport and decided I would let media cover something about my team, you can bet I wouldn’t be giving out absolutely unlimited control.

        How did things like Hard Knocks and that hockey 24/7 thing work? You can bet there were at least discussions. Now maybe HBO said we won’t accept restrictions and the leagues agreed because they figure it’s worth it anyway, and if so, good for HBO. Or maybe HBO said “we want an ongoing relationship, but we don’t want a lame censored puff piece. We’ll leave some juicy stuff in, but we promise that overall you’ll look good”. And the league says “cool, do it”. But if HBO was just going to edit a hatchet job, true or not, the league is clearly just going to send HBO packing. That’s the real world. There are no fundamental rights at stake here… this is business, and the media is part of it.

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      • yeah says:

        Well, student athletes aren’t government employees or employees of government funded agencies, they’re private citizens. So, the press does not have any right to access to information about them other than public record.
        Whether the press wants information about their injuries doesn’t really matter, it’s whether the press has a right to that information, which they don’t. Because the press is not entitled to that information then they either have to come to an agreement with the schools and abide by it to keep access or not abide by it and loose access.

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      • The University of Washington is a public institution every bit as much as the U.S. Army is. Employees of the University of Washington — including Steve Sarkisian, unless his salary is paid by boosters — are government employees.

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      • yeah says:

        Steve Sarkisian may be paid with public funds but players are not and you’re talking about information relating to them, not the coach.
        Also, the University of Washington may be a public space, but apparently these practice fields are not, if they are then I guess I’ve misunderstood.

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    • Joel says:

      Knowing if teams are obligated to open their practices to the public is critical to this discussion.

      If teams are obligated to have open door policies for practice, then all teams injuries could be exposed and it is an equal playing field and reporters should be allowed to report as will.

      If however, it is a teams choice to open practices, then it seems to me that the reporters should gladly refrain from reporting on things the team deems inappropriate, or they will just close off practice and eliminate the problem.

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  3. Jeff says:

    As a person who has experience providing on field medical coverage for college athletes (as well as their rehab) I think it is important to remember the athlete’s right to privacy. The athlete’s medical information is protected legally by the health information privacy and accountability act (HIPAA). It’s been very challenging in sports medicine to balance the sharing of important information and protecting a patient’s right to privacy. This can be particularly challenging when the freshman is a minor.

    I agree that protecting information about player injuries offer a strategic advantage for a team. We’ve seen plenty of NFL teams list players as questionable even though the staff knew they would play. It’s wrong for a team to manipulate injury data for strategic gain but the solution shouldn’t be to violate the privacy of the players but probably create a uniform policy to protect the injury information (e.g., no media disclosure of athletic injuries beyond what is captured on game day television feeds).

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    • MikeS says:

      That is what they are hiding behind, but the inclusion of “strategy” gives away their true motives. USC does not want UCLA to know that the starting left guard has a bad right knee. They don’t give a rats ass if everybody else knows, so long as the defensive tackle across the line and his defensive coordinator do not know.

      Imagine the most disgusting, unethical, sleazy thing you can possibly think of. Big time college sports is worse.

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    • Phil says:

      I agree with Jeff. IF the player (or, for a minor, parent/guardian) signs a waiver allowing the media to know about an injury, it’s up to the coach/athletic department how to handle the information. If that information is provided, or reported, without permission, punishment should be doled out.

      I did have to laugh at the letting family and friends know part of the “article.” I can think of tens of athletes who brought their families, and significant others, into an athletic training room following an injury. However, if an athlete chooses not to communicate with their family/friends following an injury, that is the athlete’s right. The media has no right to, for lack of a better word, “out” an athlete’s injury.

      As for injury reports, I think they should be provided. A coach could make them as general as possible and include as many athletes as necessary. After two-a-days, all athletes are injured and having that on an injury report would be beneficial. None of this, really, is the business of the media or the public.

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    • Breadbaker says:

      I don’t think it’s a HIPAA issue at all. “Jones limped off the field with what looked like a right ankle sprain” is not private medical information. It’s simple observation. If I saw you walking on crutches on the street and didn’t learn from you anything more, I could easily report (if you mattered to anyone in my readership, assuming I had readership) that I saw you on crutches. That’s all the information you get watching practice.

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      • Jeff says:

        Breadbaker, you are correct in that seeing someone limp off the field on television is not a hipaa violation and that seeing someone walking down the street on crutches is not a hipaa violation. BUT the schools can not provide medical information to the press without the consent of the athlete (and if the athlete is a minor then their guardian also). This another reason why the press should not even be permitted at practice. Those sessions should be closed to the media to help ensure the privacy of the athletes. If injury reporting was not permitted to the press and the press were not allowed at practice this may decrease how much teams use injuries to manipulate opposing team strategies.

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  4. DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

    So can i hate Lame Kiffin even more now?

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  5. Anon says:

    First, why is this on fangraphs? A story about reporting on college football doesn’t fit with an advanced statistics focused baseball site.

    University football programs are not well known for protecting the young men in their care
    You want reporters to publish injury information; teams don’t want that to happen. Teams could have closed door practices, which would achieve their goal. Having reporters present (but restricted on what is reported) keeps more outside witnesses present to deter abuse. You want injury reporting; okay, require injury reporting on gameday. This doesn’t give opposing teams an advantage, and it fulfills the role that you desire.

    I think that athletes’ health is very much other people’s concern: it’s the concern of their family and friends, among others.
    Friends and family communicate. They can talk directly to the athlete. The general public doesn’t have any good reason to know about the health of college athletes.

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    • Jason B says:

      “First, why is this on fangraphs? A story about reporting on college football doesn’t fit with an advanced statistics focused baseball site.”

      Get over it, you raging douchenozzle, you. Were you forced to read it? No. But you just couldn’t wait to register your disdain for this free (and interesting) article on this free (and interesting) website.

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  6. Steve says:

    The only way an athlete’s family can find out about an injury is through the media? Are student-athletes now barred from talking to their family?

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  7. vivalajeter says:

    I really don’t know what to say about this article. But whatever I want to say, it’s not complimentary.

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  8. David says:

    Goodness I at least would expect fangraphs to be insulated from this nonsense. If I wanted to read this tripe I’d spend more time on Bleacher Report.

    You could at least spent the time to approach this from an interesting or unique angle, instead you found a cardboard soap box; your up there now spouting your very well reasoned, persuasive ethical and philosophical arguments (note: sarcasm), but its not exactly solid footing.

    Just in case your taking votes, this sucked.

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  9. Rick says:

    So many comments to make…
    1. This does not belong on this site
    2. Freedom of press is so that you can freely comment on public policy without worrying about someone from teh government coming in and harming you for disagreeing. College football is not public policy.
    3. If journalists reported injuries/strategy, then the practices will be closed again. Pick your battles.
    4. As a reporter, you are obliged to report news that affects a large number of people (think Exxon, Madoff, Fannie Mae) but do you really consider a kids twisted ankle to be included in that? Logic fail.
    5. This does not belong on this site.
    6. You are bringing up poor ethics and trying to create a dilemma out of them that does not exist. It is extreme but to me is like trying to justify Princess Di’s death due to public interest in wanting a photo of her.
    7. Look at the BoSox. Is it really in the best interest of the team for everyone to know now if Valentine is going to be fired? No. If I were a BoSox fan, I actually would not want this crap in the news as it hurts my team. Let it be news after the fact instead of creating news/creating stress for those involved/hurting the team. PS, not a BoSox fan here.
    8. This does not belong on this site.

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    • Rick says:

      Did I mention that this does not belong on this site?

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    • Anon21 says:

      Eh, your 2 and 4 are flatly mistaken. But the larger point stands.

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      • You’re right, it’s not really a baseball post. But I think that a lot of the issues in this post are very similar when applied to reporters who cover baseball.

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      • Jay Stevens says:

        Why is college sports public policy?

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      • Anon21 says:

        To be clear: college sports is not public policy, or only very weakly so. (There are issues with labor exploitation, for instance.) His 2 is mistaken because freedom of the press doesn’t only cover reporting on public policy. Like freedom of speech, it also covers reporting on the arts, sports, and even celebrity gossip. But freedom of speech and the press aren’t necessarily implicated by a policy that restricts press access to an event not normally open to the public.

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    • Simon says:

      And your 3 becomes pretty irrelevant if journalists are allowed in to practices on condition that they don’t report anything that anyone wants to read about.

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    • Paul says:

      So apparently you want Fangraphs to be a fanboy guest blog site, not one operated by a respected journalist, who employs writers who care about journalistic professionalism. I’ll take the latter, thanks.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      Excellent response Rick.

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    • Drew says:

      I would argue that point #3 could easily be directed towards the university rather than reporters. Clearly the university wants to have its cake and eat it too. The program receives the benefit of additional media coverage, additional air time on Sportscenter, etc. However, if the information could detract from its chance of winning a game, the university wants to control that information. Either take the pros with the cons or don’t take a seat at the table.

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  10. Gee, Alex, since you are writing on a sports sight regarding information emanating from the athletic department, where do you think us, as the reader, figures your support lies? Hiding behind that freedom of information BS, please, don’t think your profession is so holier than thou. Who really reads that stuff anyway except bettors looking for an edge. Your profession depends on athletes on the field so you can get stories? Sad.

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    • Believe me, I don’t believe the profession is holier than thou. Many reporters are terrible and some are deeply unethical. But I think that the profession is still necessary, and I think that the NCAA needs someone to provide accountability. So does MLB.

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  11. Crumpled Stiltskin says:

    Requiring colleges to disclose injuries would be an odd measure, seeing as how the reason the NFL does so is not to equalize the strategic playing field (which they clearly care little about it), but because they know that they primary interest in their sport comes from people who are interested in gambling on it.

    It would seem even more cynical than denying “student-athletes” pay or, were they wishing to keep up the facade of amateur athletics, a pension plan, to then throw such a bone to gamblers, who are also trying to profit off of these athletes.

    P. S. As was also pointed out above, the media is also profiting off, and therefore exploiting, these amateur athletes. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for such a reporter’s position.

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    • I think we agree that the students are being exploited. So the question is: what policy would ameliorate their exploitation? I think that some accountability is necessary, even though I admit that many reporters are no angels themselves.

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    • Slacker George says:

      More transparency is a barrier against gambling influences. If injury information is secreted away, there is a huge incentive to peek at that information. Gamblers approach insiders, insiders provide insider info, amateur athletics becomes even more corrupt.

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  12. Calvin says:

    So the schools could just close practices to the media, but they don’t. Why? Because they want the attention and their programs mentioned in print and on screen. That’s fine. When you want to appear in a paper/TV/website, but you want to control what it says, that’s called advertising. I’m sure the outlets that all of these media work for would be more than happy to sell a column/story’s worth of advertising to the schools.

    The schools are playing with access journalism (google it, the top hit is informative), and if you haven’t seen the insidious nature of that lately, especially in political and campaign coverage, you just haven’t been looking at all. The schools should be blasted mercilessly, as should everybody else who tries it, because it’s a totally corrupting practice, but, yeah, I know, good luck with that.

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    • I know what access journalism is. A lot of this is also what political consultants call “earned media,” which is generally considered to be preferable to advertising, which is called “paid media” — preferable because it’s free, and preferable because it appears to have the imprimatur of objectivity.

      Newspapers and other media organizations typically provide cover to the schools while more or less pushing their message. That’s the way it works.

      But for schools to turn around and raise Cain when a journalist does his job — that rankles me.

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  13. Calvin says:

    They only pitch a fit because they have the expectation of the media knowing it’s supposed to roll over. They have the expectation of the media rolling over because the media usually has rolled over. Yes, the schools should be blasted here, but it’s only because they’re the ones talking at the moment- both parties to that kind of relationship are completely corrupt.

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  14. OSG says:

    While I agree with you on some principles of what you’re saying, you have to acknowledge that the ‘give us access to everything and let us report on anything’ line many in the media parrot is more than a little self serving.

    Yes, free flow of information is important, but it’s also true that when you hear “he should just come clean”, “he should issue a public apology”, “they need to open up about what happened”, “they should give us access”, etc. etc. it’s also true that the media person making the argument is arguing for their own benefit, because they get the scoop and they get to break the story, which advances their careers.

    So the question is – is it in the public’s interest or the reporter’s interest that they get this information? There’s validity to the privacy argument, and there’s validity to the strategy argument. The notion that ‘family needs to know’ though doesn’t seem valid, because I suspect that family is finding out from the athlete him/herself, and not waiting to find out from a reporter. So I’m not sure how important it really is that we get this info.

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    • Sure — ‘give us access to everything and let us report on anything’ is self-serving. There are and should be limits to access. But many of the rationales for those limits are themselves self-serving.

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  15. ? says:

    I cannot think of a one reason why this should be on FanGraphs.

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  16. ? says:

    Actually, I cannot think of a one reason why this was even written in the first place, much less published on a site devoted to a completely and utterly unrelated subject.

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  17. Nate says:

    In the case of football, unlike baseball, knowing that the left tackle sprained his wrist during the week is massive safety issue. Every single play he goes will be targeted against the injured spot.

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    • Of course. But if he sprained his wrist, there’s a serious argument to be made that he shouldn’t be on the field, and instead should be getting medical attention. Injury reporting provides a greater incentive for schools to actually take care of their students.

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      • Phil says:

        Alex, I have spent years taking care of athletes at the college, high school, and non-traditional field settings. Are there some cracks in the system? Yes. But, you’re lumping all medical professionals who deal with athletes as not caring about their well-being. At this time of the season, in baseball and football, all athletes are dealing with injuries. Not all of them are significant enough to list on a report; I leave that determination to those who actually spend time with the athletes.

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      • Not at all — I don’t mean to criticize medical professionals at all. I mean to criticize coaches, athletic directors, and officials with the conference and NCAA.

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      • Phil says:

        We do care about our student-athletes. They receive a lot more medical attention than the media is aware of. It’s getting a lot better on the concussion front, but nowhere close to where we need to be. The lack of medical care provided to athletes from youth up to college isn’t where we need to be; sadly, for many HS’s, that’s a cost issue. My theory, if you don’t have enough to pay for medical coverage for practices and games, you shouldn’t have collision or contact sports. The cost, monetary and otherwise, of a mismanaged catastrophic injury is much higher than that of a certified athletic trainer.

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      • Marver says:

        “Injury reporting provides a greater incentive for schools to actually take care of their students.”

        Built into your argument here is the belief that students are too stupid to take care of themselves, or seek medical attention. And, if students can’t or won’t take care of themselves at the age of 18-22, I gawk at the fact they’re actually at an institute of higher education to begin with.

        Additionally, it shouldn’t be your choice to dictate whether or not a student decides to seek medical attention or (in the case of those hoping to not jeopardize playing time, etc.) not. That’s the individual’s decision to make.

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      • Many students don’t do a great job of taking care of themselves — and few of us know exactly what’s wrong with us at all times. The football team should have a much more sophisticated understanding of the types of injuries that are likely to be sustained on the football field than an 18-year old who just got his bell rung.

        I’m not so much of a paternalist that I would advocate that someone be compelled to accept medical care against their will, but I fear that the opposite is happening: that schools have an incentive to continue to push students onto the field when they are actually obviously hurt.

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      • Marver says:

        “schools have an incentive to continue to push students onto the field when they are actually obviously hurt”

        What is that based on? Do you honestly believe that institutions take no precautions to avoid potential lawsuits? Hell, even the Mike Leach debacle included the coach allegedly ordering his player to NOT practice because of a concussion.

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      • Phil says:

        Alex, why don’t you head on over to the Harvard Athletic Department and speak to the athletic trainers. Set up and appointment with Brant Berkstresser, the Head Athletic Trainer; his number is 617-495-2200. Let him explain how athlete medical conditions are handled. Before you suggest “Harvard is different,” Mr. Berkstrasser graduated from West Virginia, and worked for Maryland football, Kansas State basketball, and was Head Athletic Trainer at Georgia Southern (a strong FCS program).

        Learn about how the athletic trainers and physicians communicate with coaches and others. The sky isn’t falling, Alex; it’s just a little cloudy in some areas.

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      • That’s a good idea. I may try to talk to him for a later column. But the economics of the Harvard football team are rather different from those of the USC or UW football teams, as you know. While Harvard’s athletic department may have a say in the admissions process, Harvard and other Ivy League schools (as well as Div III schools) do not give athletic scholarships.

        I’m hoping that the Harvard athletics department under Mr. Berkstrasser takes good care of its athletes. But it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.

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      • Phil says:

        You really think it matters if a school is FBS or FCS (Harvard’s level)? Fine, speak to the staff at Boston College. When you win, no matter the level, the athletic department gets more money. So, wouldn’t the athletic director put more pressure on coaches to win? You really think athletes at Harvard are any less competitive than UW or USC? Athletes are going to lie about injuries, from Pee Wee on up to Senior Olympics. It’s the job of a sports medicine team to sift through the crap and make every effort to prevent an injury from occurring, or made worse.

        It’s still apples to apples, but real big apples vs. slightly smaller ones. Athletes are athletes.

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  18. TKDC says:

    I thought this was a great article.

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  19. Paul says:

    I actually think you have this backwards, Alex. Issues of national security are most rife for abuse that leads to significant loss of liberty. This is not about some cosmic “need to know,” it’s about the power of free speech to protect individual liberty. Julian Assange did not leak tons of documents knowing that some people would be targeted, he did it because certain elements in the press is corrupt and is simply not able to perform the “gatekeeper” role that it has assigned to itself.

    The answer, in my view, is for news organizations who believe in the principle of free speech to boycott any and all coverage of the programs that choose to restrict speech.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      Nice, right up until it’s your brother that gets killed because that asshole thinks disclosure is better.

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    • I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “programs” in the phrase, “boycott any and all coverage of the programs that choose to restrict speech.” College football is a program that restricts speech. I don’t think that the solution to attacks on free speech is for journalists to unilaterally refuse to cover the things that want to silence them.

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  20. Jay Stevens says:

    In the grander scheme of things, I just don’t see any sport as all that important. It’s entertainment, and sports “reporters” are nothing more than publicists. Sure, if we’re talking about the number of concussions in football and the general state of health of players, now that’s a story that should be subject to the highest ethics of journalism. But reporting on minor injuries or strategies seen during practice? I think a team has every right to control what game-related information comes out of closed-door practices.

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  21. Marver says:

    If you believe that your tax dollars funneling onto the football field entitles you to watch and report everything you can regarding what happens on that football field, wouldn’t the corollary extend into the classroom, lab rooms, etc?

    -Should I be able to report what person X,Y, and Z are researching in the taxpayer-funded nanotech building on campus, even if it may be potentially proprietary information?
    -Should I be able to report what was on the final for a specific class that took place on a taxpayer-funded campus?
    -Should I be able to report what the cute girl who worked the cash register at the taxpayer-funded cafe on campus wore?

    When applied to other spheres, it should be obvious that’s a problematic principle (and thus a broken argument).

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    • It’s a problematic principle, sure. But publicly-funded universities are and should be subject to scrutiny. They should have the opportunity to make an argument for discretion — but when those arguments are spurious, they should be rejected.

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      • Marver says:

        But those arguments weren’t shown to be entirely spurious. Notably, you never address this reason which you cited: “another reason is that sports are big business and so controlling access to information is good policy”.

        Also note: there is a difference between you reporting a concussion you may have seen at practice, and you reporting how Tyler Wilson looks on the practice field while practicing injured. Yet that’s a difficult policy to draft; hopefully you understand the ease in drafting a statement that says “shutup about anything to do with injuries”.

        The team, which has a vested interest in (at least) the (short-term) health of the player, and the player, which has a vested interest in his own (long AND short term) health, seems like an adequate incentive system to me. Any coach that would punitively punish a player for being hurt is punishing himself, and you submit no evidence to suggest this exists en masse anyway.

        Furthermore, other teams having knowledge of injuries their opponent may have serves to make those players a target. If you want evidence of this, there’s about a billion references to this in professional sports; I imagine it would exist in the collegiate ranks, too; perhaps moreso.

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      • I disagree that the coach “is punishing himself.” There are a whole lot of warm bodies who are willing to play for that coach if any one person goes does with an injury.

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      • Marver says:

        Punishing a player, via benching, for being hurt implies that the player is better than his new replacement. As such, the coach is punishing himself by playing with worse personnel. Additionally, there is basically no evidence to suggest this exists and, furthermore, what the hell is the difference between benching someone so they heal and benching someone because they didn’t play hurt? In either case the player isn’t playing. Is the difference the altruism or faux concern of the head coach?

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