To what extent can you criticize a student-athlete?

The student athlete, at least the majority of student athletes, see their status as an athlete as part of a package. They are either using their sports skills to get an education or are attending school so they can play sports. They are, for the most part, regular student who compete for their school, not unlike the debate team. But unlike the debate team, the sports teams receive in-depth coverage in the school newspaper, watching their every move.

There are many students who represent their university outside of the classroom who aren't criticized and analyzed publically like the college athlete. Why are college journalists easy with the level of criticism they dish out to their fellow classmates who play games for the school? The ethics of sports journalism, the limits of coverage, they are problematic for the college sports journalist who idolizes the brash, in-your-face style of the Mike Lupicas of the world.

Focusing more on being a journalist than an entertainer would be a good first step for the college journalist looking to cleanse their ethical soul. The use of delayed ledes and zingers can cover a lack of journalistic ability for only so long. Just because people already know the score of a game, doesn't mean a reporter can't tell what happened in detail and make it interesting without resorting to tabloid writing.

The other important step a college sports journalist must understand is the need to consider the position of the college athlete. The intrusion on the private lives of movie stars and politicians is excused with the reasoning that they are public figures, that we, the people, bought the right to intrude on their lives with the high salaries they are paid or the power we give them. Criticism of these people comes with this. But what about the college athlete? What is the college athlete's special renumeration for the criticism they receive? A scholarship? Many students receive scholarships. Many students don't read how terrible they did last weekend in the paper/

Practicing more journalism than analyzing would help solve the ethical problems of sports journalism, but this won't happen until the big boys straighten out their act. Whether this happens anytime soon remains to be seen.

Stringer jobs: unethical or resonable career opportunity?

The ethics of sports journalism are questionable to start with. The staged news event, the total spin control by the team, the handling of journalists as guests, rather than reporters. When the setting is the world of college athletics, the questions just multiply.

The most obvious problem with college sports reporting, is the absolute total control teams exercise over access to themselves. Interviews must be routed thourgh the university's sports media department. This results in less-than-honest interviews with coached athletes instructed to speak the company line. Because of this, stories break through the sports media department and investigative reporting is at a minimum.

Of the major sins of journalism, is accepting gifts from those you cover. As such, college sports journalists are going to have to go to confession. Regularly, college sports journalists are plied with free meals and trips with the team in return for covering the team for the college paper. This, while not exactly ethical, is nothing different from how professional journalists are treated.

The key difference is the stringer jobs. Most major outlets cannot afford to send a reporter to every sporting event. So, instead, stringers are hired. These reporters file wire-format stories for a small fee. This money may be small, but to a college student it is a God-send. The key to this job is the sports information director.

The sports information director is the person contacted by the outlet with the stringer job. They tehn dole out the job to someone of their choice., often the reporter covering the beat for the school paper. This is no coincidence. Having control over the student journalist's income gives the sports information director some influence over the reporter's stories.

Another factor influencing the ethics of student sports journalists is their time and travel limitations. Any help that can be obtained is welcome, especially when it comes to away games. So, somewhat like the hack reporter who shifts a few lines in a press release before filing it, the student reporter utilizes his "greatest" tool to help him save time. The sports information office puts together stats and a few paragraphs on a game and releases it, allowing the reporter to pick and choose what he wants from the release before putting his name on it. Without the help of sports information the reporter is stuck. Either way, sports information's fingerprints are all over student newspaper sports coverage.