Reporters should remain unbiased

By James Krause

Beat reporters do their jobs without bias, even if those beat reporters are students at the school they cover or professionals at the local newspaper.

Just as much as college sports are a competition on the court, it is a rat race for schools to make their teams huge money makers for the university.

Major networks like ESPN that cover larger universities on a daily basis have become a part of everyday sports coverage, but newspapers and reporters who cover the teams in small markets often aren’t recognized and appreciated until they’re gone.

Such is the case for Bradley University, whose administration banned Peoria Journal Star beat reporter Dave Reynolds from the school’s basketball media events Friday and then unbanned him Saturday.

Reynolds said Jason Veniskey, assistant director of athletic communications at Bradley, told Reynolds he was banned because “he didn’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here,” according to a Friday Journal Star editorial.

Bradley men’s basketball coach Brian Wardle also spoke with Reynolds, echoing Veniskey’s message.

“[Wardle] said I’m always looking for the negative,” Reynolds told the Journal Star. “[Wardle] said something to the effect of ‘We don’t want you around anymore.’”

Reynolds isn’t just a small-town beat reporter for the local basketball team. Reynolds, who has been covering Bradley basketball for 29 years, is a two-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year.

With as long as Reynolds has been covering games, Bradley University might have forgotten he works for the Journal Star and not the university athletics staff.

The role of reporters should be reiterated again and again, whether it be sports, politics or otherwise. Reporters relay news and information to their readers without judgement of whether the content is good for the university or not.

When covering NIU football this past season, the Northern Star published articles that shed light on the university’s struggle with attendance numbers at football games and the contract extension of former head coach of football Rod Carey.

The Northern Star had just as much a responsibility to deliver recaps of every football game from an objective viewpoint as Reynolds has to report the facts of his assignment.

The loyalty of a reporter is to one group only: the audience. The size of the publication is irrelevant, as journalists in larger markets in the U.S., such as New York or Chicago, deserve the same respect and responsibility as reporters in small towns like DeKalb and Peoria.

What’s more disparaging is Veniskey referring to Bradley, a school that is meant to educate students, as a brand, or as something memorable enough to be recognized on a national scale like they’re Notre Dame or Texas.

My mother said several of her friends who live in the state don’t know where Bradley is. My father lived in Illinois for 20 years and he forgot where Bradley was. My grandmother has lived in this state for 83 years, and she thought it was in Indiana.

It is not a national brand. Bradley is barely a brand outside of Peoria.

An key component of athletics that Bradley and some mid-major schools have gone blind to is that local papers, like the Peoria Journal Star, are very important to these small communities.

You can walk into almost any small business in DeKalb and find a newspaper clipping from the Northern Star or the Daily Chronicle because local publications reflect how those businesses impact the community and vice versa.

Bradley’s men’s basketball team won five games in the 2015-16 season, and still the Journal Star covered the team. They understood how important the team is to the Peoria area. ESPN didn’t cover them, CBS didn’t cover them, Fox Sports didn’t cover them but the Journal Star did.

Now Bradley is going to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, and they are showing their true colors as a school that wants the brass ring that is national media attention at the sacrifice of small papers.

Beyond newspapers, mid-majors like Bradley and NIU have seen their focus on growth go from their local communities to wanting to gain national attention. In doing so, they are risking seeing those local communities and publications vanish.