Press organization protests UK’s treatment of Kernel

Updated with APSE letter of protest.

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

Sincerely,

Hollis Towns

President, APME

Click here to download a copy of the letter.

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It was with great concern to learn that you have rescinded an invitation to the Kentucky school newspaper to attend a media event because they violated an unwritten access rule.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.

Regards,

Michael A. Anastasi

APSE President

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Comments

  1. Cranky Banjos says:

    Ridiculous. How is this a big deal again? Oh. It was KENTUCKY. The Kernel kids apparently broke some rules and can’t interview players this one time. Who cares? It’s got nothing to do with censorship and abuses of free speech. It’s certainly not “abhorrent.” Those are words and phrases more suitable for a letter to the Syrian government, not to the UK Athletic Director.

  2. Todd says:

    I would like to see all the offended media outlets boycott the interview sessions if they feel so strongly about it. If it is that bad, then they should do more than write letters.

  3. jhn says:

    I hear the other commentators, but its sure seems like Mr. Peevy (what an unfortunate name) has a short fuse. Calling these kids to determine if they were on the team doesn’t even sound to me like a violation of the rule not to contact student athletes directly. How did the Kernel know there was a rule to break until they contacted them to find out they were student athletes?

    Either way, a strongly worded letter to the Kernel probably would have accomplished most of what Mr. Peevy wanted. In this episode of UK media relations, he just comes across, again, as very vindictive.

  4. JackB says:

    I can understand the criticism, but I don’t see any first amendment issue or censorship here. It was an invited, limited interview session. There was no content based censorship, and the other media outlets did not hesitate to attend. Interviews were done, stories will be written, the sun will come up tomorrow. Not a story any longer.

  5. Mark Liptak says:

    I see the point of view where this could be an issue if continued, built upon and taken to extremes.

    But I must tell you that right now I don’t see the “apocalypse” that some other do about this and I’m in the sports media myself.

    This could have and should have been handled better, privately and it does look like Peevy has a short fuse, but some of the responses to this appear to be as over the top and what started this in the first place.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Mark Liptak

  6. John Clay says:

    Student paper was not wrong.

  7. Brian says:

    No, John, they were wrong. Policy is don’t contact athletes. The reporter was trying to confirm they were walk-on athletes, which means that he assumed that they were. So he shouldn’t have contacted them. End of story.

    Instead, you’re blowing it out of proportion, making it some self-important issue. The Kentucky beat doesn’t exist without the cooperation of Kentucky. You rely on them, not the other way around.

  8. Mark Liptak says:

    John:

    We’ll have to disagree.

    At Idaho State for example the policy is you are not to contact student-athletes for ANY reason without going through the Sports Information Office first. Period. There’s no grey area for the media.

    In football for example, the head coach is only available at the weekly press conference on Tuesday and at his radio show Wednesday night. No assistant coaches are allowed to speak to the media at any time after fall (August) camp ends, no freshman are allowed to speak with the media at anytime, period. Other players (non-freshman) are only available after the weekly press conference on Tuesday for 2 1/2 hours. That’s it.

    After the game the head coach and requested players are available for a postgame press conference.

    You can make a case that the Kernel (and by the way I wrote for the Kernel when I was at UK) skirted the rules but were still technically OK by looking up the phone number and asking the two if they were walk-on’s however they crossed the line, in my opinion, when they then asked if they wanted to comment or set up an interview. Assuming they were told the rules before hand, and I get the feeling that Peevy probably did so many times, based in part on his reaction, than they were wrong.

    I stand by my comment…two wrongs don’t make a right.

    And I agree with Brian’s comment…the media; especially the mainstream media today probably needs UK more than UK needs the mainstream media. They can easily set up their own TV and radio networks if they choose to and with the abundance of alternative media outlets (some good, some fair, and some bad) fans would find a way to get the information they want.

    It’s the new reality today in the business. Some parts of that are troubling but some parts of the new situation aren’t bad.

    Mark Liptak

  9. John Clay says:

    If a school sets up its own media network and shuts out other media sources, then fans only get the information that the school wants them to get. And it will only give information to outlets that presents the information the way the school wants it presented. We are seeing some of that now.

    That setup is not good for anyone. It breeds corruption and abuse of power. I’m surprised with your journalistic background, you don’t see that.

  10. Mark Liptak says:

    John:

    (Interesting anti-span word by the way! LOL)

    I agree that this has potential to get abused, no question. I simply think that most schools would realize that abusing the situation as you describe it to that extreme, would in the long term be counterproductive.

    Also again with the alternative media sources out there someone, somehow, someway would find out information regardless of how much a school tried to put the clamps down on it.

    It’s hard to keep quiet multiple individuals with recorders, cell phones that take pictures, face book, tweets and such. It’s a completely different world now media-wise to 10, 20, 30 years ago.

    I also think that perhaps naively, that given the choice, most people, and most schools will do the right thing.

    And John I’ve got to tell you, universities (like the example I cited with ISU a smaller school) are already clamping down on things. I don’t see how they can do much more than they are already doing.

    Bottom line, I know the rules going in and either I abide by the rules to get my stories or I don’t, in which case the only person that’s going to be harmed is myself. I don’t get stories, I don’t work…it’s that simple. It’s not a perfect system but I’m not going to change it and I’ve learned to adapt and work within the constraints which fair or unfair I’m not going to change.

    Mark Liptak

  11. Brian says:

    Respectfully, John, I would say that abuses of school policy will on further send schools down the road of “state-run” media that you fear.

    In this case, they did not shut off access to the entire media, just the one reporter for this one session.

    Schools are not shutting down access just so they control the message. I’m sure that plays into the reasoning at some schools, but the main issue now is the desire for the schools and media partners to monetize their websites the same way they do their radio broadcasts. IMG is pushing this hard at their schools and is investing a lot of money in equipment and technology to make it happen.

    Ultimately, the access for the media will not be reduced to nothing. The school sites and networks are the way schools speak directly to their fans. Mainstream media is the way they reach new fans. Schools and teams aren’t ever going to forget that.