Florida International, apparently unhappy with the way the team has been covered, has barred Miami Herald writer David J. Neal from having a credential to Saturday's game.
Neal has been covering FIU since 2011. The Panthers play Bethune-Cookman, an FCS school, Saturday evening.
No explanation was given by FIU, but Neal’s access to FIU coaches and athletes had been dwindling for months, to the point where he was no longer permitted to attend football practice or conduct interviews. Last week, when Neal attempted to write a story on the FIU women’s soccer team, he was told no one was allowed to talk to him.
“It’s unprecedented for any local team to refuse to credential our beat reporter without reason,” Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said of the four pro and two college teams the Herald covers on a regular basis. “The team does not get to choose who covers the program.”
It doesn't appear to be an issue with the Herald itself. According to the paper, a photographer and columnist were credentialed and a spokesperson for FIU quoted in the Herald story said the school was disappointed the Herald chose not to cover the game.
Perhaps it's because of FIU's choice? The Herald said it's "the only major media that covers a wide spectrum of men and women FIU sports programs year-round, from baseball to basketball to football to volleyball and soccer" and that after a thorough review, it stood by Neal's work covering the team.
A move to swipe credentials from a reporter in an instance like this is a bad move for any team, no matter the size and scope. However, it's an especially poor move for Florida International, one of the bottom teams not only in FBS, but in its own state. Florida has seven FBS-level programs. If they were ranked on popularity, FIU would be sixth at best.
The Herald may lose some readers with its move, but FIU stands to lose a lot more. Because of the standing of FIU, many more people would read a story about the football by seeing it on the Herald's website while browsing or flipping through the newspaper than who would abandon the Herald to seek out coverage from another outlet.
The school should be wanting the coverage, and no, the scrutiny and attention this move has garnered doesn't count as coverage. FIU was 1-11 in Ron Turner's first year last season. When you're 1-11, not everything is going to be positive.
It's enough to be known as a bad football team. You don't want to be known as a bad football team that also bars reporters from covering games without a stated reason. Unfortunately, FIU is resembling the latter.
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