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Tennessee Football Granting Preferential Access For "Respectful" Reporters

Tennessee is rewarding select journalists for their “respectful” coverage, by granting them preferential access to the football program. Head coach Derek Dooley will open the team’s Wednesday mock game for the rest of this season to six journalists – from Newspaper, Television and Internet media – who embody their ideals of proper coverage.

“Show up, which is No. 1. Give effort, and be respectful. That’s kind of a Rule of Three in our program. Show up, meaning be where you’re supposed to be — it doesn’t matter what it is. Give effort, which means give your best — just try. And be respectful when you encounter other people.

“Now, you guys, there are a few of you guys who have gone above and beyond during training camp, just like some of the players, came for the majority of the front-end and back-end (of practice), you gave effort, worked and asked some tough questions. You were always respectful — which I appreciate — and so, John Painter has issued the first-annual Iron Vol of the Media. We’ve got a few people we wanted to recognize who will be attending our Wednesday night mock game for the entire session with the understanding that abuse brings control.”

Dooley emphasized he was not punishing other reporters.

“So it’s not a punishment, because I already hear (it). It’s not a punishment to those that didn’t come, it’s just like the players. It’s a simple reward for exemplary performance, and I hope we’ll get something out of it.”

Tennessee should control which practices are open to the media and, within guidelines and reason, who is permitted to cover them, but the ascendant tone is unseemly.  Tennessee officials are state employees.  Would other government officials would be permitted to cherry-pick specific journalists to cover certain events open to the media?  It is virtually impossible to practice heavy-handed, adversarial journalism in sports.  Reporters rely on their subjects for access.  But, when head coaches feel comfortable bandying preferential access and statements such as “abuse brings control,” can this even be called journalism anymore?

[Photo via Getty]

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