President’s column: On alert for media safety

By Mark Anderson

All of us who cover college football know that uneasy feeling of walking out of a stadium late at night, carrying a computer bag and walking just a little faster than usual to find his or her car in a poorly lit lot.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

It’s a reality in covering the sport these days.

The walks have gotten longer to media parking lots because many athletic directors have felt the need to provide top donors with what were once prime parking spaces for the media. Television also has made college football more of a night game, causing later and later starts and lonelier and lonelier parking lots in the wee hours of the morning for reporters.

The issue isn’t necessarily where a media lot is located, although some are quite a distance from the press box.  It is about safety. The Football Writers Association of America believes schools need to make sure no one has to worry about safely returning to get his or her car.

Thankfully, we’re not alone.

The hierarchy of the College Sports Information Directors of America  (CoSIDA) is working with the FWAA, the  United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and the College Football Playoff (CFP) to make sure this will no longer be a concern — especially for female reporters who have reported instances when they not only didn’t feel safe, but even threatened.

The CFP, in its National Championship game on Jan. 9 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, will have two services available for media exiting the stadium. Security personnel will be available “should media members wish to be escorted to their vehicles.” In addition a text service will be available for media to report any concerns or issues (post-game, specific location and the issue).

Here are the recommendations CoSIDA has sent out in a letter to conferences regarding press parking for college football and basketball games:

  • A golf cart should be made available two to three hours before game time if the distance from the media parking lot(s) to the sporting venue is longer than a quarter of a mile.
  • A golf cart, escort or security should be made available late at night if requested.
  • A texting service should be available for reporters arriving at the sporting venue and later when departing.
  • A precise and detailed description of the parking lots and distances to the sporting venue should be provided in all media information.

On the reporter’s end, I would suggest if there is a concern about the safety of covering an event, be proactive in communicating with the host sports information director. If you know ahead of time that this could be an issue, discuss during the week with the SID the above suggestions. Or, if you get to the stadium and then discover the problem, talk with the SID before kickoff to establish arrangements afterward.

We believe most SIDs are willing to work with reporters to make sure they return safely to their cars after a game. But if problems arise, we would like to be apprised of those.

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