I’ve tried to ignore Florida Coach Will Muschamp’s post-game tirade for four days. Sorry, I just can’t let it go although I know my reaction sounds so self deserving.
Muschamp ripped the media after the Gators’ 24-6 victory over Toledo because of inaccurate reports about the suspension of one of his players. He called the reporting “shoddy journalism”. He called it “irresponsible journalism”. He said of the media, “Our trust is done.”
While I respect Muschamp’s coaching ability, I doubt if he’d know what good journalism is if it smacked him in the face. As for his “our trust is done” comment, Muschamp needs to understand trust is a factor only when it works both ways.
The Florida athletic department – like many other athletic departments these days – wants, even expects and demands, total control of all information. It has shut out media access. The Gators tell you only what they want you to know and with their spin on it.
Under such circumstances the media find themselves in a bad spot: Accept UF’s handouts, ignore the Gators or run the risk of using inaccurate sources. All three are bad.
The biggest losers in all of this are Gator fans. Inaccurate stories are unacceptable, but less and less coverage of their beloved Gators is not a good solution. And coverage of the Gators in the local media throughout the state has deceased considerably. Several of the state’s biggest newspapers, including the Times-Union, have pulled their full-time Gator beat reporters out of Gainesville, using part-time stringers in their place.
Part of the blame goes to the NFL. While the Gators remain a high priority, NFL teams are clearly at the top of the pecking order when it comes to coverage. But limited access is a factor. Closed practices are only part of the problem. Reporters have to jump through rings to get access to players, who are coached on what to say. Assistant coaches, too. Muschamp probably spends less than an hour a week talking to reporters.
In defense of the schools, another problem is the internet and social media. Suddenly everyone with a cell phone is part of the “media” without any standards of professionalism. Professional journalists suffer as a result.
When it comes to such things as player suspensions, schools bring up the “student privacy” rules. They hide behind saying they’re not allowed to talk about students’ “off-the-field” conduct. Really? Think about this: Schools have no problem releasing information about student-athletes that is positive. I’m talking about such things as athletes involved in charitable work and making the academic honor roll.
There was a time when coaches and media co-existed by trusting each other. “Off the record” meant something. Those days are deader than quarterbacks calling their own plays. It wasn’t always perfect in those days, but it was a helluva better than it is now. Especially for the fans.
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