Wick Communications

Who needs who more?

In sports on August 13, 2015 at 4:28 pm

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So, there is this football team in England (soccer, if you are from the colonies) that has decided to freeze out the press in the town. No more access to players, no press passes, etc. The owner says, in so many words, “the newspaper needs us more than we need the newspaper.

This is one of the increasingly common results of our collective drop in circulation and the lack of prestige of the press generally. In a way, the less-than charming team owner is right. It is important for the local newspaper that it have exclusive, exhaustive coverage of the popular local sports team. And here I want you to substitute your local high school or college coach or athletic director for that English soccer team. Let’s stipulate that it is a symbiotic relationship; the team benefits from coverage that drives interest in the team and the news organizations benefit from the traffic of people interested in the team.

So what do you do when the guy in charge takes your press pass? …

First, take solace in the fact that this is not all that unusual. Big-city beat reporters almost always have a contentious relationship with the teams they cover. If you seek balanced coverage of the team’s successes and warts, there is almost no way around it. When I covered pro sports, I sought a professional relationship with the teams and was unfailingly polite and respectful. That helps. You would be surprised how many news bulls are running around in the china shops that are pro sports locker rooms.

Now double down. If the coach or team owner (or mayor or police chief) makes your life hard, then your life is just harder. The upside is that it’s also more fun. There is nothing more satisfying than scoops in the face of adversity.

Here’s the part that the soccer team owner misunderstood: The team is subject to public opinion. If it’s not from the newspaper, it’s at the motley hands of Twitter, Facebook and myriad voices that are a heck of a lot harder to silence than a poor schlub with a press pass. Prediction: He will long for the days when his biggest problem was a single newspaper reporter with an attitude.

Clay

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