Freedom of the press. God bless America! Freedom of the press means a lot of things but something that it doesn’t mean, at least not to me, is no holds barred access to an institution and the personalities attached to it. In college football, LSU has added itself to an ever growing list of schools that are restricting the access that the media has to practices. This isn’t a bad thing.
What LSU and other schools like it are doing isn’t purely about controlling the narrative or about keeping negative stories from being published. Sure, keeping everything full of rainbows and unicorns is probably a part of it, but it’s not the entire story.
In 2017 the media isn’t just about the big boys. With the rise of alternative, blog based media outlets, everyone is trying to make a name for themselves. And the best way to make a name for yourself in this industry is to be the writer and/or outlet that breaks the big story. Big stories and hot takes rule the day. All of that is a recipe for modern day media personalities to be borderline paparazzi.
This paparazzi mentality acts as an influence towards being the first one with the story. That may be good for the media, but that can be detrimental to the football programs that are being reported on. Each industry has what can be considered proprietary information and scheme changes, personnel changes, and major and minor injuries can all fall under the scope of proprietary information for football teams.
Just look at what Leonard Fournette had to endure injury wise in 2016 for LSU. His ankle was a constant problem for much of the year. Do you think if teams had advanced notice of just how tweaked his ankle was that the information would influence the defensive game plan and psyche of opposing defenses? I sure do. And based on message board chatter, it appears that some members of the LSU coaching staff shared my opinion. Scroll down to Sealawyer’s post and you’ll read that some members of the coaching staff feared that Fournette’s ankle status would be leaked.
The irony of this unnamed coach fearing that information about the severity of Fournette’s ankle leaking is that it was leaked. On a message board. Now message boards aren’t the foundation of respectable journalism, but I can tell you that athletic departments do have employees assigned to monitoring message board chatter. If leaks like this came from legitimate media sources, that would change everything.
Regarding what the generic fan wants coverage wise from their favorite teams, the restricted level of media access changes nothing. The average fan wants to see some high-resolution photographs of their favorite players to go along with some rah-rah videos of the team’s second-string quarterback shredding the scout team defense.
My favorite team is the Missouri Tigers and I’ve had my issues with how the local media in Columbia, MO. covers the program. But the series of articles that I wrote about that subject had nothing to do with practice reports. My grievances had to do with the local media ignoring things that were legitimate stories. That’s not what we’re talking about with LSU.
And remember something. This fabricated hot-button issue is about how practices are covered. Practice? We’re talking about practice!
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E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons