July 1, 2016

Access denied

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Every August, the Journal requests eight media credentials from Queen’s Athletics: four for reporters and four for photographers.

It’s part of our effort to provide wide-ranging Gaels sports coverage; our staff attend and report on multiple home games nearly every weekend.

Last week, though, we were informed by Athletics that we’ve been approved for just one reporter pass in 2014-15. Our photographers, they said, can shoot games from the bleachers, but are no longer welcome on the sidelines.

We were told that this decision stems from a story we published on March 28, detailing how the result of Queen’s varsity team of the year vote changed after Athletics retroactively struck a new voting panel.

On March 29, I received a letter from Jeff Downie, associate director at Athletics, in which he wrote, “We will be reevaluating our relationship, and the privileged access we provide the Journal moving forward.”

The athletic department never disputed the truthfulness of our report, but our access to games has now been slashed. This is a strange and arbitrary punishment — one that demonstrates Athletics’ persistent, willful ignorance of the Journal’s mandate.

This newspaper serves the Queen’s community by reporting accurate and relevant information. We won’t apologize for doing our job in exchange for standard access. Doing so would breach the trust of our readers.

That’s why punishing us for reporting on the team of the year vote is a slap in the face to the entire student body — the same group that pays Athletics millions of dollars a year in mandatory fees. Students don’t deserve to know the truth, it says.

Legally, Athletics can deny or revoke media access for whatever reason — even as a means of deterring honest reporting. A similar incident occurred last week at Florida International University, where the athletic department pulled the credential of a Miami Herald reporter.

Denying access is a spiteful form of sandbox politics. It’s the bureaucratic equivalent of Athletics taking their ball and going home.

It’ll come at the expense of our staff and contributors — students that have sought opportunities to develop as journalists, and that have now been arbitrarily blocked from doing their job at Gaels games. It’s an act wholly unbefitting any university department.

There’s no such thing as positive or negative news coverage — there’s only coverage, embedded in the objective pursuit of the truth. By harbouring a grudge over a factual story, it’s a lesson Athletics has yet to learn.

Nick is one of the Journal’s Editors in Chief. He’s a fourth-year political studies major.

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