Column: What happened at Bradley needs to be learned from

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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Bradley. Bradley, Bradley, Bradley… this is not a good look for you. What were you thinking?

Last week Bradley University made the shocking and disappointing decision to pull credentials from Peoria Journal Star beat writer Dave Reynolds, a reporter who has covered the Bradley basketball team for 29 years, ahead of the team’s media event centered around their upcoming appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Almost as disappointing and ridiculous as the school’s decision to pull Reynolds’ credentials was the athletic department’s reasoning behind their decision; the department did not believe that Reynolds had been “promoting the Bradley brand” quite like they would have liked him to. You have got to be kidding me.

It needs to be said that the purpose of this column is not to rub Bradley’s face in the dirt, as the school has already restored Reynolds’ credentials and issued an apology, but rather to remind athletic departments everywhere of something they should not need to be reminded of: A reporter’s job is not to promote your team. It is to report on the team, the good, the bad, the happy and the sad.

Reynolds had done this at the Peoria Journal Star for 29 years, covering the school with all of the ethical prowess that should be expected of a reporter, and at a time when the school should have been celebrating a postseason berth, they instead disgraced themselves with the alarming and unfounded act of ignorance and arrogance.

I do believe that athletic departments should reserve the right to pull credentials from reporters who are indeed being irresponsible in their work, but this was far from the case in Peoria. Reynolds holds three Illinois Sportswriter of the Year awards to his name. Three times in his career people have voted that no one in the state does their job better than Reynolds and Bradley still thought it be wise to pull his credentials for not being positive enough? My goodness.

What is scary about this decision by Bradley, and I do applaud their apology and the restoration of Reynolds’ credentials, is the sheer idea that if someone of Reynolds’ reputation who has covered the team for 29 years can get treated this way at a small school in Illinois, then who is to say it will not happen elsewhere.

Perhaps it is a good thing this happened. This event should serve all athletic departments across the country that they need beat reporters. A beat reporter’s job is not to serve the school it covers, but it is, and always will be to serve their readers with the truth. For Bradley to alienate the reporter that covers its team for the paper in its hometown is troubling.

The relationship between media and athletic departments needs to be symbiotic. The reporters need the department to their jobs to the best of their abilities and the departments need the reporters to get the name of their school out. But in this relationship, there needs to always be an understanding that the reporter has an allegiance to the truth and not the school. And likewise, the reporter needs to understand that those who work in the department have an allegiance to the school and not the reporter.

It is my hope that everyone can learn from what happened here and that the relationship between journalists and reporters can continue to grow and both sides garner a stronger understanding of where each party stands in the relationship.

At Eastern we the sports staff of The Daily Eastern News are thankful for the strong working relationship with the school’s athletic department and hope to continue this in the long run.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]