White plays favorites, benches Spectrum
Student newspaper will not attend football road games for first time since 2006
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 01:09
The Spectrum has attended every UB football game since 2006. We will not, however, be at Saturday's game at Baylor.
That is because UB Athletics, which funded our trips, decided this summer to no longer allow us to travel with the team. Athletic Director Danny White sees it as a conflict of interest for his department to pay the way for reporters to cover UB games.
In a perfect world, we would pay for our travel. But the fact of the matter is that The Spectrum is a shoestring organization. It is a privately funded, completely student-run publication. UB offers us no financial support, and neither does the Student Association. We're funded solely through advertising, and we can't afford the $600-700 per person for travel and hotel to cover road games. We drove to Ohio State for the season opener, but going to games at places like Baylor just isn't feasible.
The Spectrum has provided unparalleled coverage – in print, on our website and on social media – since 2006. The past four editors in chief have risen from senior sports editor. Our Sports Desk has received three national sports writing awards, including being named back-to-back Pacemaker finalists for Sports Story of the Year, in the past two years.
We consider ourselves one of the strongest student newspaper sports departments in the country.
The athletic department's money belongs to White, and he can do with it what he wishes. I didn't argue or complain when we lost the trips, but the more I have thought about UB Athletics' reasoning, the more it has troubled me.
It should be known that this decision belonged to nobody but White. He has two stated reasons for making it: First, UB Athletics sees The Spectrum traveling with the team as a conflict of interest, and second, we were told it was a budgetary decision.
Neither of these reasons, however, is legitimate.
The perceived conflict of interest does bother me, and it makes sense to me why people would think that. “Well,” someone might say, “if you travel with the team, you're clearly indebted to Athletics.”
But having been a sports reporter, senior sports editor and editor in chief at The Spectrum for three years, I can honestly say there has never once been an actual conflict of interest in covering the football team. We have reported the full truth, and that hasn't been a problem because that's what a newspaper does.
The Spectrum isn't a public relations outlet, twisting each story to look positive even when, in reality, the story is negative. Objectivity reigns supreme in journalism. If the football team loses by 40, are we supposed to write about that one sack UB had in the second quarter?
The breaking point for White, I was told, was when The Spectrum published a column after last year's 45-3 loss at Northern Illinois. The gist of the column's argument was that head coach Jeff Quinn should be fired. At that point, Quinn had a 6-24 record as UB's head coach. That means he had won one in every five games. He also refused to insert promising young quarterback Joe Licata – he has turned out well, hasn't he? – and insisted on sticking with Alex Zordich, whose stats had been anemic.
Was it that preposterous to call for Quinn's job?
After all, looking at the numbers, that's what an unbiased reporter would do – and that's what ours did. I would seriously question the credibility of any outlet that was praising Quinn or ignoring his struggles. One tenet of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics is to “seek truth and report it.”
Truth. That's a pivotal word. It was never a problem for us to tell the truth until the reality was that the team was dreadfully underachieving.
We were very thankful for the trips, but these were not vacations. We were working, and working hard, to provide a service to the students. We wrote previews, scouting reports, game stories, columns, live chats and Twitter updates – between two people. I always returned from games entirely exhausted. They were also two-day excursions that made keeping up with a full-time course load (and missing class) and full-time job at The Spectrum all the more difficult.
We do this because we love it, and we do it because students need to know what's happening from a student’s perspective. This paper is by students, for students. We are the middleman between UB Athletics and the student body. By limiting The Spectrum, White has made it clear he does not see communicating with the students as essential.
His disregard for us, the students, is ironic because we're the reason he has a job.
Warde Manuel, White's predecessor, understood the importance of a student newspaper. He knew students get their sports news about on-campus teams from The Spectrum. He understood we are a newspaper. Even when the coverage was critical, he grasped its necessity.
He got it. Danny White does not.
White thinks the school newspaper should support the team – and we do. Last week's football preview took up the entire newspaper. A poster of senior linebacker Khalil Mack covered the front page. White might find this hard to believe, but I'm asked constantly why we give the sports teams so much coverage and are so biased in their favor.