COLUMN: Know your place

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by Cole Sheeks, Sports Editor

Follow him at @ColeSheeks

Working as the sports editor for a small Division III liberal arts college newspaper has been an interesting experience. 

Many people see sports reporters covering national games for professional sports leagues and jump to conclusions regarding what exactly they expect me to do.

That leaves a difficult question to answer: what is the role of a sports editor in my position?

While as much as I aspire towards a career in sports journalism, I would be lying if I said I knew the answer. I have had many different forms of this discussion with various administrators, coaches and professors around campus, receiving many different responses along the way.

Administrators have told me that covering issues that paint the school in a bad light damages the reputation of the athletic department and hurts their ability to recruit.

I can certainly sympathize with this stance and hardly want to do anything that actively hurts the athletic department at EC.

However, I also feel that I have a responsibility to highlight the important issues surrounding the players on our sports teams and if that happens to call for actual improvement, so be it.

Coaches have told me that they do not trust student media, and in fact a few coaches have informed me that they have personal policies in place regarding reporters with the Leader, refusing to speak with us due to a variety of issues. In fact, some coaches have prohibited us from speaking to any of their players as well.

While I understand and respect that many of these coaches have been at EC for decades before I stepped foot on campus (and will likely remain here far after I have graduated), many of the grievances those coaches hold with the Leader occurred long before I personally enrolled at EC and have nothing to do with our current staff at the Leader.

Punishing student journalists by limiting their access to sources is not a productive solution and only makes our coaches look paranoid. Why do we need to treat athletes at EC like children? 

And at the same time, these are Division III sports we are talking about. Why is it a battle for student journalists to cover an event or write a game story with quotes from players and coaches? While I respect the effort involved with competing at this level, is any of this really that serious?

Speaking of talking to players, this is another area in which my role as a sports writer has always felt a bit awkward.

Regardless of the outcome of a game, you can always tell that certain players are  more comfortable than others when it comes to speaking with the media.

Being a peer to all of the athletes I cover, I have always struggled with the idea of ripping apart classmates based on their performance in athletic programs on campus and it was only two weeks ago that I worked up the guts to share my own opinions on the play that takes place on the field at EC in a column.

As I move forward working as the Sports Editor for The Leader and writing about EC sports, I can only hope that those in charge of athletics on campus will allow for our writers to further pursue journalism in an enhanced setting.