E.A. Sports Today

EASportsToday.com not welcome at JSU

Athletics officials cite long-standing policy, although new media has exploded in years since policy was introduced

By East Alabama Sports Today

Jacksonville State sports fans expecting to follow the gains and pains of their favorite team on East Alabama Sports Today will be disappointed after a representative of the new web-only publication was denied access to the Gamecocks’ weekly football news conference Monday.

About 10 minutes before the start of John Grass’ first game-week press conference as the Gamecocks’ head football coach, EASportsToday.com Content Editor/Senior Writer Al Muskewitz was called out of room by JSU senior associate athletic director Greg Seitz and told his publication was not welcomed at JSU media events.

The press briefing is held each Monday during the football season to address that week’s game. The Gamecocks open their season Friday at Michigan State.

The website also was denied access to the team’s preseason media day in July.

Seitz cited an athletic department policy of more than 15 years of not credentialing web-only publications and said it was consistent with other Division I schools in the state, conference and region. He said the policy was reviewed after the initial denial by himself, university president Bill Meehan, athletics director Warren Koegel and university counsel Sam Monk and “they like our policy the way it is.”

“Unfortunately nothing’s changed on the policy so you won’t be able to come in today, “Seitz said. “We do not credential or grant access to on-line only entities.”

He said EASportsToday.com was welcome to buy tickets to any of JSU’s athletics events; that scenario, however, would not provide access to interviews or any press materials available to credentialed media, which in JSU’s eyes would be print or broadcast based. He said in earlier discussions video streaming and some transcripts of interviews are accessible on its website, but that precludes any independent reporting.

East Alabama Sports Today and its free website, EASportsToday.com, were launched in July to provide coverage of local sports in and around Calhoun County. It is intended to be a journalistic enterprise, not a fan site nor a blog, although it welcomes readers to comment on the stories they find on the site.

It was anticipated Jacksonville State, with its nationally ranked football program and other successful programs, would be a major component in its coverage plan.

“JSU’s decision is deeply disappointing and somewhat confusing to me,” said publisher Kenny Wright, owner of EASportsToday.com’s parent company Wright Media Corp. “Here we are, a locally oriented news outlet willing to provide coverage to the local university and give its fans another source of information, with a reporter whose experience covering the school gives him a deep insight into the program, and they choose to not take advantage of that.

“As someone who obtained the majority of his college education at Jacksonville State and supports it financially, it’s disappointing they wouldn’t support one of their former students’ endeavors. It’s unbelievable they wouldn’t do their due diligence and realize we’re a legitimate media organization as skilled in its reporting as the daily newspapers.”

Felicia Mason, executive director of the Alabama Press Association, said Monday dealing with digital-only publications is “part of a conversation” currently ongoing within many press associations across the country. She said in the states those type publications are recognized they are subject to rigid guidelines to authenticate their legitimacy.

An executive with the Alabama Sports Writers Association said he couldn’t remember any similar denials of access and was looking into that group’s policy before commenting on any supportive action.

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