The Associated Press Managing Editors Association has sent a letter to UK protesting the school’s treatment of the Kentucky Kernel.
Here is the body of the letter:
Dear Mr. Barnhart:
Associated Press Managing Editors, a nationwide organization of newspaper editors and broadcast news directors, objects to your department’s reprehensible conduct in response to news coverage by The Kentucky Kernel of the basketball team’s addition of two walk-on players. Your department’s revocation of reporter Aaron Smith’s media access to team interviews amounts to no less than an attempt to bully the newspaper into submission and to censor news concerning operations of the University of Kentucky athletic department.
This is a level of abuse of free speech not tolerated at universities in other states and is particularly abhorrent at a taxpayer-owned institution. We urge you to restore the access of The Kentucky Kernel and Mr. Smith and to ensure that your department henceforth honors its accountability to public
Here is the letter sent by AP Sports Editors to UK:
Dear Mr. Peevy,
It was with great concern to learn that you have rescinded an invitation to the Kentucky school newspaper to attend a media event because they violated an unwritten access rule. This is disturbing on many levels.
You have referred to an “unwritten” rule and an “understanding” between the media and the university that all interview requests must go through the SID department. Clearly, something as vague as an understanding is not legally enforceable or should a violation lead to punishment. It would be like giving a speeding ticket to a car driving through an area with no speed limit and saying, “Well, everyone knows you should be going 65.”
There is also the abridgement of basic First Amendment rights to decide access issues based on what the publication writes. This is a form of censorship, something institutions of higher learning should find as repulsive as the media do.
Ultimately, the decision to talk to the media rests with the athlete and if you don’t want your players to talk to the media without the SID office interceding then you have to get that message to the athletes. And, we believe you did as the athletes in question chose not to talk.
Finally, you have been quoted as saying that the purpose of the media event is “to test some of my guys out.” This shows that you see the relationship between school athletes and the media and how exposure and dealing with the media is part of the learning and maturation process. That kind of insight is very welcome so maybe you can see that how this type of punishment is out of line with what you are trying to accomplish.
It is because of these and other unstated reasons that the Associated Press Sports Editors, the organization that represents most of the country’s sports sections and websites, strongly urge you to reverse your decision to ban the school paper from the media event.
If you would like to discuss this matter further please feel free to contact me.
Michael A. Anastasi