Sports reporters for various publications have had a difficult time covering Texas State’s football team. Newspapers like The University Star, The Austin American-Statesman, and The San Marcos Daily Record have all faced challenges obtaining interviews with the football players—not because of any lack of talent, but because of the bureaucracy that dominates the university’s athletics department.
Despite the wishes of the athletic department’s administration, we have been taught in every mass communications and journalism course we’ve ever taken to get those interviews by any means necessary.
This is the second season under head football coach Everett Withers, and the team remains anything but a point of pride for Texas State. The team had a 2-10 record in the 2016 season, with no wins in the Sun Belt Conference. The current season has shown little improvement.
Despite the team’s lack of success, coverage should still be a top priority to the university, especially if they ever want to increase game attendance. However, sports information directors have blocked our coverage of the football team.
When trying to reach out to players – our very own peers – without first going through a sports information director, we are punished for it. We are told “to find a new beat to cover,” and, “you are no longer welcome to be around the team anymore.”
What the athletics department doesn’t seem to understand is that we are journalists. Our job is to tell the stories of others.
It is hard enough for us to tell stories that readers actually want to read when covering a football team that is 1-6— a team that has had two consecutive losing seasons under Coach Withers. The student body views the team as a joke, as seen in the low attendance at any regular-season game.
It’s fairly understandable for the athletics department to be weary of what kind of coverage Coach Withers’ losses will bring; however, we should not be punished. We should not be told what we can and cannot report on as journalists.
We have had student-athletes reach out to The University Star requesting more coverage of their teams. We are respected by student-athletes, who, at whatever cost, want their stories to be heard. We respect them too. They don’t need a sports information director to tell them when they can speak and who to speak to.
Sports reporters should not have to go through a middleman to obtain their interviews. We all attend Texas State, and the student-athletes are our peers.
What is there that the football team has to hide this season? We are not allowed to talk to the quarterbacks or freshman athletes, which, with 46 players, make up about half of the 2017 roster. Even then, the sports information directors only allow us to interview two players per week.
We have been defending the First Amendment since 1911, and will continue to do so for years to come. We will not be told what to do and how to do it. We will cover the beats that we want, and will not be stopped from doing what we have been taught is our responsibility as journalists.
We will continue to get the story by any means necessary.