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SPI.COM: Who's at mercy: Teams or media?


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http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/miller/274882_miller22.html

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Who's at mercy: Teams or media?

By TED MILLER

P-I COLUMNIST

Todd Turner is a smooth communicator, so it's hard to tell if Washington's athletic director was trying to talk a reporter away from the edge of a cliff or provide a final push.

"It's an interesting time in the news media business," he said. "All of us are trying to figure this out."

What Turner's "us" -- Division I-A athletic departments and professional sports teams -- are trying to figure out is this: Do we want to kill the messengers or merely cut off their legs?

News about the media is rarely front-and-center. Mostly because it's boring. There's also the feeling in the business that because we frequently roll our eyes at a sports industry laden with perpetual, disingenuous whiners, we should suck it up when we feel wronged.

That said, news consumers -- that's you -- might want to know about how your right to receive unvarnished sports news is being threatened.

Increasingly, college sports programs and pro franchises are taking steps to manage -- read: homogenize, filter and censor -- information on how they go about their business.

That means restricting independent media access while granting special privileges to providers who are beholden to the team.

Consider:

The Kansas City Royals yank the credentials of radio reporters Bob Fescoe and Rhonda Moss. The offense? Fescoe and Moss peppered Royals owner David Glass, whose seven-year tenure has featured an average of 97 losses per season, with tough questions during a news conference introducing Dayton Moore as the team's new general manager.

The Portland Trail Blazers announce that all interviews must be approved by the media relations department, which reserves the right to demand in advance a written list of questions. Also, all interviews will be recorded, and the franchise reserves the right to post a transcript or audio file on the team's Web site.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, in a snit with The Washington Post, tries to dominate the coverage of his team by purchasing radio stations, a fan magazine, a fan Web site and producing a television show.

For $40 a year, Virginia Tech fans can access football coach Frank Beamer's Web site, where they can get "the best, most up-to-date and accurate information." The Web site is known to "break" stories and provide information Beamer withholds from reporters. Virginia Tech, by the way, pays Beamer $2 million annually.

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