UPDATE: Bradley issued the following statement Saturday afternoon, a few hours after I wrote this:
Several years ago, I attended my first International Association of Communication and Sport summit at Bradley University.
To see an institution that celebrated all things sports media spit in the face of sports journalism is disgusting.
But they’ve done just that, recently preventing longtime beat writer Dave Reynolds from attending a media event.
From Dave Eminian and Nick Vlahos of the Journal Star, quoting a conversation between Reynolds and the Bradley SID:
“He responded by saying, ‘You don’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here.’ I said, ‘Jason, that’s not my job to promote the Bradley brand. You know that.’ “He said, ‘That’s what we decided.’ I said, ‘Who’s we?’ He said, ‘Bradley University.’
Bradley University tweeted out the following statement:
During the 2018-19 season, the amount of access granted to Peoria Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds was reduced. At the time his access to the Bradley Basketball program was limited, we discussed the issues that led to the policy change with Peoria Journal Star Sports Editor Wes Huett and the level of access has remained consistent for the last several weeks. Our focus is on preparing for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
Notice there is no accusation against Reynolds, a respected journalist of nearly 30 years. No insinuation of wrongdoing or malfeasance.
It should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: The job of a sports journalist is not to promote a team. It’s not to make them look good. Nor is it to trash them. The job is to accurately report on what is happening with a team - good, bad, indifferent.
Look, access is kind of a dirty word in a lot of media circles these days. The second a news organization publishes a story that someone doesn’t like (usually something that makes the Trump administration look slightly less evil), there are cries online that reporters are only doing those stories because they are trying to maintain their access.
That’s true sometimes. But not all the time.
Access to sources is not critical to journalism but it is vital - especially to primary journalism. The kind of local reporting that feeds the national commentary stream. A core part of the job is interviewing sources.
This is not to say that Reynolds can’t do his job because his access has been limited. But it makes that much more difficult, for no reason. His job is not to promote Bradley University. It’s to report on it.
And Bradley University denying him access simply for doing his job is inexcusable and wrong.