As the New York State Public High School Athletic Association prepared for state championships this weekend, it found itself embroiled in a controversy over just who it’s supposed to serve.
Is it just high school athletes?
The high school athletic community?
How about high school students who cover high school sports? Do they count?
Dylan Rossiter, a 17-year-old junior at Maple Hill High School, is not an athlete. In fact, he is legally blind, his distance vision severely curtailed. But he is a sports journalist in every sense of the word, and serves as the founder and managing editor of 518Sports.com, covering local high school and college sports. During the year, you could see him and his staff of fellow high school students covering local high school and college games.
But despite a year’s worth of steady coverage, NYSPHSAA denied Rossiter and 518Sports press credentials for the state boys’ basketball tournament this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center, citing standard policy.
“We are sad to inform you that we’re unable to cover the state Boys’ [basketball] tournament because the NYSPHSAA won’t credential student reporters,” Rossiter Tweeted on his @Section2News feed Tuesday.
Twitter exploded. How can an organization formed to serve high school students exclude high school students?
The ready answer, of course, is logistics. There is only so much room on press row. You can’t accommodate every student newspaper/yearbook reporter, every photographer, every website. This is the modern concern in the Internet age, and any age. Besides, how do you figure out who is really a journalist these days?
The concerns are valid . . . but only to a point. If the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference can recognize and credential 518Sports.com as a legit media outlet — and it’s not breaking news to report you don’t need a printing press or satellite dish to be a legit outlet anymore — why can’t a high school sports organization?
“I understand the logistics behind it,” Rossiter said Thursday, “but it doesn’t look good.”
Not by a long shot.
“We covered the NCAA. We just covered the MAAC Tournament,” the Schodack youth continued. “I would expect this as we got higher, not lower.”
NYSPHSSA appears to get why this appears so bad.
“I can understand that,” said NYSPHSSA executive director Robert Zayas. “Really, [Rossiter] is the type kid we want to work with.’
Change could be coming for student journos.
“We are taking a look at what happens in other states,” he continued. “I reached out to colleagues in four other states. By no means do we want to curb a young student’s enthusiasm. But we have to do it within our capability.”
Zayas noted there were 105 media credential requests for the Glens Falls tournament alone.
As for now, they are sorta meeting Rossiter halfway: In a compromise reached later in the day Wednesday, he is being allowed into the arena, and given access to the court and locker rooms — but not officially credentialed or given a seat on press row. Basically, it is everything short of being a credentialed reporter.
Remember civil unions, when gay marriage was still a hotly debated issue? It’s like that: separate, but equal. It’s something.
“If we hadn’t put out the Tweet . . . the state would have expected us to fold,” Rossiter said.
Putting together any tournament — especially multiple ones at different venues across the state at the same time — is a logistical nightmare. There are a lot of moving parts. Just one piece of the puzzle is the media: Reporters and news organizations putting in for credentials have to be vetted, to ensure they are not just some parent looking for a mat-side seat to get a great photo of his or her kid.
No, really: That actually happens.
But to say there is no room for high school kids at events held for high school kids comes across as patently offensive, even if that clearly is not the organization’s intent. There are ways around the logistical issues that can surface, including:
u Auxiliary press areas in the stands that would allow student journalists a dateline, and access to the venue, interviews and taking video/photos.
u Game-specific press passes for multi-game events that would allow the rotating of student press.
u Lotteries when the demand exceeds capacity.
u Overflow viewing areas (TV monitors) that will allow on-site viewing and give student reporters access for their post-game reporting (done all the time in the NFL).
Those are just back-of-the napkin ideas.
The state athletic association does a lot to serve high school students. In this case, it has a responsibility to do more. My guess is, after this dispute, it will.
“This is the first time we have been presented with this — a student working for their own media outlet,” Zayas said.
FRANCE UNDER ATTACK
NASCAR chairman and chief executive Bill France is taking heat for personally backing Donald Trump for president. He thought the endorsement was “routine.”
And that is where he made a huge blunder as the head of American auto racing’s signature organization.
France has the right as an individual to endorse anyone he wants. But that does not make him immune from criticism. And he had to know that Trump has been facing attacks over the racial undertones in his appearances and policies — just as NASCAR is trying to broaden its appeal beyond whites. He should have known his endorsement would impact the organization he runs.
As a rule I don’t comment on politics — who cares what a dopey sportswriter has to say? But any sports executive dipping his or her toes into the partisan political realm is bound to tick people off, regardless of who they back. And, as another rule, that is bad business.