Pelini Still Learning Ropes of Media Balancing Act

By Todd Neeley

I get the whole freedom of the press thing. In fact, I wouldn’t have a job without it.

But the recent move by Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini to close off media access to the team this week — whether indefinite or not — was probably the right decision.

Before all of you beat guys go haywire, think about it — do you want your competitors to know the angles you’re working? Doubt it.

Pelini can’t afford to let trade secrets get out the door.

Linebacker Sean Fisher going down with a broken leg this week in practice was significant news, especially when you consider the guy is easily one of top three Huskers at the position.

A reporter at one of the area rags that cover Nebraska football made a comment on Twitter to the effect, ‘Bo could have avoided all of this by issuing a press release.’ Well, that’s partially true. Unfortunately it was later revealed that a friend of one of the coaches attending practice, saw Fisher get hurt and apparently announced it online in some fashion.

My guess is the guy wouldn’t have waited for a news release.

Yeah, that was a bone-headed thing to do.

It was equally bone-headed, though, for reporters to try to contact the Fisher family and his former high school coach on the day of the injury, looking for confirmation. This was apparently one of the main reasons Pelini rightly pulled the plug on the media.

If things get too hard for Pelini to control to at least some degree, there’s a good chance that even more damaging information could be out there for public consumption.

One beat reporter said he pursued the Fisher story hard because Pelini was unavailable to the media the day of the injury and the story was breaking in online chat rooms.

Although the coach was to be available the next morning, the argument goes that there’s no way reporters are waiting 16 hours after the incident to write about it.

I get that to a point. Yet I’m not sure the story was worth it for reporters to risk their access to the team. I can see both sides of this.

I’ve had to make tough telephone calls on deadline and there are times when you take more risks in calling about everyone you can think of to nail down a story — especially when conventional sources aren’t available.

As Pelini puts it, though, Fisher was still on the operating table when reporters were calling the family. Did reporters cross a professional line? Not really.

But this is where human sensibilities should kick in. The family shouldn’t be bothered at a time when their kid is in agony.

On the other hand, the coach has to come to a realization that we live in the now information age. Newspapers have more competition than they’ve ever had from online reporters, bloggers and even the general public.

Unfortunately, some newspapers let journalistic rules go out the window on this one. For instance, one story written on the Fisher injury cited no sources — anonymous or otherwise.

Obviously Pelini has become increasingly concerned about controlling the flow of information about his team. Other coaches developed paranoia a long time ago, so much that it has become common practice to not discuss injuries.

Unfortunately, seems like all of the injuries coming out of Husker fall camp have been season-ending — Mike Smith, Anthony Blue and Fisher. So it’s not the kind of information other teams could use to their advantage in any way.

This issue must be a major concern for Pelini, considering that Nebraska football has rarely ever shut out the press.

Because of the intense interest in the program, I get the feeling the coach won’t be able to hold out for long.

Welcome to Nebraska football.

Talk about a tough balancing act.

Posted on August 20, 2010, in Bo Pelini. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Love the new back ground,also like to read your perspective keep it up Todd:)

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