COLUMBUS: At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal. Particularly on the day Urban Meyer was holding his first weekly news conference as the new football coach at Ohio State.
But the reason Meyer is here and Jim Tressel is not is that the fanatical, worshipping culture surrounding Ohio State football intoxicated school officials into believing they were bigger than the rules of society, that the Scarlet Steamroller was strong enough to flatten anything in its path.
Now 17 months later, apparently nothing has really changed.
Minutes before Meyer took to the podium Monday morning in the team meeting room, OSU spokesman Jerry Emig announced the day’s agenda, which included a silly new rule banning reporters from using Twitter during Meyer’s news conferences.
On the surface, it seems petty. But Ohio State officials have no legal standing to prevent reporters from sharing information that is given in a public setting. Nor do they have the authority to dictate when that information can be disseminated.
Whether or not that was the intent, this reeks of a power-hungry program flexing a little muscle in a rare area where they don’t have any and searching for control in areas out of their domain.
Want to ban your players from using Twitter? Fine. Want to keep the coaches off it? That’s their prerogative. But attempt to tell a room of reporters from around the state when they’re allowed to report news and problems are sure to ensue.
It appears as if, at least for this week, everyone in the room abided by the request. I didn’t use my Twitter account during the news conference because I wanted to reserve judgment on the policy in hopes of hearing a better explanation. I didn’t really get one.
After speaking with a couple of the school’s media relations people, the reasoning ranged from the success they had banning Twitter during some closed practices over the summer to how reporters can’t really listen to the news conference if they’re constantly tweeting what Meyer is saying.
My job is to decipher what is worthy of reporting instantly on Twitter and what is worth saving for later. I don’t need OSU officials to make the decision for me.
It’s common for teams to ban Twitter during closed practices and it’s easy to see why. It isn’t a public venue and they don’t want reporters tweeting certain plays or injuries as they’re happening. Teams are well within their rights to make such a request.
A couple of local reporters, myself included, were allowed to watch Cavs summer league practices in Las Vegas last month under the agreement that we wouldn’t tweet live from practice. So when Kyrie Irving fractured his hand after slapping the wall, we saw him walk over to the trainer and get his hand wrapped, but we weren’t allowed to report it immediately. It was the price we had to pay for getting a rare glimpse at practice, since reporters typically aren’t allowed to watch.
This, however, is much different.
The news conferences are aired live on Ohio State’s website and carried live on Columbus radio.
Reporters who aren’t attending can sit at home, watch or listen in and report the news. But those in attendance cannot. Makes perfect sense.
Like it or not, social media and the Internet have created 24-hour news cycles. Under Ohio State’s new policy, if Braxton Miller or any other player were injured or arrested, reporters attending the news conference and asking the pertinent questions would not be able to report the news until the news conference ended.
Twitter isn’t going away. It surpassed 500 million registered users this year and the numbers continue to increase. Schools can either embrace it or shun it.
Southern California made its decision to embrace it by including players’ Twitter handles on their depth chart. Ohio State has gone in the other direction, trying to control when and how the news is distributed.
By the end of our chat, I was left with the impression this rule could soon be changing. That would be a great idea.
It doesn’t happen very often, but this is a contest the Buckeyes can’t win.