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February 13, 2013 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-02-13

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verygate has its keepers - those with be able to show their personality - who they everything the way that it is, there is nothing
the clout to open and to unlock, but are - when they are talking to someone." that is really secret."
also the power to contain and restrict. But athletes are not taught simply by For Sports Illustrated columnist Michael
It's a dance that plays out among spokes- amassing experience. Each fall, the Athlet- Rosenberg, a University alum and former
people, sources and journalists every day, ic Department holds etiquette training on Daily editor, his seven years covering Uni-
from the bustling press corridor of the West social media for both first-year players and versity athletics for The Detroit Free Press
Wing of the White House to the tree-lined their more seasoned counterparts. showed him the days of secrecy haven't van-
college campus. Perhaps equally important is the training ished with the advent of social media.
For the gatekeepers of most organiza- that occurs in preparation for the swarm of Rosenberg said while both professional
tions, celebrated news is information worth journalists student athletes often encounter. and collegiate programs can range from
spreading, while confidential tidbits some- While more pertinent for sports that attract accommodating to nearly impossible to
times call for aversion. But for journalists, the most media attention, such as men's foot- access, the University Athletic Department
every effort to conceal is countered with a ball and basketball, public relations staff and tends towards the latter, a tradition bred in
drive to uncover. coaches constantly provide their athletes the days of Schembechler.
Most times, leaders have reason for much with pointers and possible story angles to In 2009, Rosenberg and his Free Press
of the hush. On campus, members of Greek prep for game day interviews. colleague Mark Snyder broke the story that
Life, athletic departments and administra- While Ablauf encourages senior- lead- Michigan's football team had committed
tors, as well as their spokesmen, all have a ership, such as captains, to carry a team's multiple NCAA violations, most of which
role to fulfill: They seek to uphold a brand's message, not all information is up for grabs. concerned rules about exceeding practice
name, keep strategies competitive and Ablauf said topics such as athlete injuries, time.
ensure initiatives are carefully planned. trade secrets and team strategies are particu- After hearing about possible the miscon-
But does secrecy - or the efforts to report larly off limits. duct, Rosenberg and Snyder spoke with mul-
it - ever go too far? "Games are won in a few plays," Ablauf tiple anonymous sources, including parents
said. "It's a few plays here and there that' and athletes, who independently confirmed
FULL COURT PRESS decide football games, basketball games, the allegations.
any other sporting event, and you'want to Rosenberg said the sources were scared
Past the Hartwig Administration Build- maximize your opportunities to win those to talk for fear of retribution and thus asked
ing's glass doors, ticket desks and stacks of sporting events so you want to keep that' to remain anonymous.
newly minted team posters, an unassuming competitive advantage, and I think that's Upon approaching the University Ath-
back staircase leads to one of the Athletic something that we've done here." letic Department for any documents or evi-
Department's most influential offices. For example, in a protocol spanning half dence that could prove the sources wrong,
Headed by Associate Athletic Director a century, Michigan football practices have the department said they had nothing to say.
Dave Ablauf, the Department of Media Rela- been closed to the media since Bo Schem- The Free Press ran the story. A year later,
tions - and its 11 associate directors - care- bechler began coaching in 1969. the department admitted to four of the vio-
fully molds the message and image of an "I think there are things you want to share lations.
immensely visible, yet strategically fortified, and things that you don't want to share, but While Rosenberg said he received push-
University department. I'd say we try to beas transparent as possible back from coaches and fans for reporting
Ablauf, who has been immersed in the with the public and with the media, but there the violations, he never had hesitations; he
inner workings of university athletic depart- are obviously things you want to keep within was confident in the truth of the reporting.
ments since his college days, emphasized the the framework of your team," Ablauf said. "If you cover any institution, whatever
educational aspect of training student ath- However, Ablauf said technology has made it is, you have to cover it as objectively and
letes to interact with the press. it nearly impossible to keep anything secret. fairly as you can, and that's what we try to
"We don't try to fill them with informa- "Every person in America -- in one way or do," Rosenberg said. "I love the University
tion because it has to be from their perspec- another - is a reporter today," Ablauf said. of Michigan ... (but) if you're going to cover
tive," Ablauf said. "The student athletes are "You have the means to report on anything it, you have to cover it the right way."
the experts in their sport; the coaches are that you want. That's just the way the para- Openness not only ranges across pro-
the expert in their sport. You want them to digm of everything has shifted ... Now, with grams, but across sports, coaching staffs








and administrations.
"Football coaches tend to be a little bit
paranoid and controlling, and that s just the
culture of the sport," Rosenberg said. "It's
almost a militaristic kind of structure."
He noted that the NHL, NBA and MBL
are often more open to media interactions
since they tend to have a looser, less rigid
But because Michigan athletics have such
a formidable fan base, administrators don't
feel pressured to generate as much publicity
or be open with the media.
"There's nothing wrong with the program
a few crowds of 60,000 can't cure," Rosen-
berg said. "You can see where they won't ben-
efit from it because they're selling the place
out anyway. At Michigan, people will care
regardless of what they do with the media."
For example, Rosenberg said while he
admires Michigan head football coach Brady
Hoke, he gives very little to the media. In
comparison, Rosenberg said Michigan State
University tends tobe more open as they try
to build more excitement about their athlet-
ics, adding MSU head basketball coach Tom
Izzo would tell you his whole life story if
you let him.
For Rosenberg, building relationships
with coaches and athletic departments is
key to developing a quality toolkit of sourc-
"I think you. should build relationships
and build trust over time," Rosenberg said.
"You can't go over there and expect to
have a bunch of great sources giving you
stuff in a month, or even a year. You just
have tobe patient and get to know people."
With that relationship, journalists,
spokespeople and administrators gain a
respect for each other's motivations, he said.
For cadres of journalists, it's an intricate
understanding that each party has its pri-
orities, and if that means a reporter asking
a tough question, that's just part of the job.
"They're just different people in different
roles," Rosenberg said.

On Saturday mornings each aut
maize and blue clad students fill frat
:houses' front porches and lawns; school
it brimming on high for an afternooni
Big House.
The presence of Greek life on campu
easy to miss. It's a realm Mary Beth
has come to intimately understand d
,her 30-year involvement with Univ
Greek life, the past decade spent as itsc
"Everybody's got opinions about
life," Seiler said. "I think that's one top
.could pretty much ask anybody on the s
and they're going to give you an opinion
When it comes to media attention,
junior Cathy Wojtanowski, Panhe
┬░vice president for public relations, said
sorority or fraternity's national orga
tion controls much of the news flow.,
Wojtanowski served as her chapter'sr
relations VP last year, she said she rec
a large guidebook from the national+
detailing everything from socialx
guidelines to protocols for media relati
With most incidents, whether posit
negative, the University's Office of Gree
Fand its executive boards have little infl
in the ways individual chapters handle
ations with the media or the public at la
"It's going to be up to them (each chi
and their national organization about w
said," Seiler said. "If it somehow spille
into the larger Greek community, wev
have to discuss it depending on wha
issue) is."
Seiler said in most circumstances
taining to the larger Greek communit
directs media inquiries to student lei
{such as council presidents. But whe
topic surpasses merely informational pi
Seiler uses the University's media infras
ture, such as the Office of Public Affai
advise on protocol.
"I think what's dangerous is when p

start speaking and there's an investigation dents saw:
in process," Seiler said. "And whether that's an "ulterio
tumn, an Ann Arbor (Police Department) thing or more comfe
ernity internal to Greek life ... You let the process In "Pledi
I spir- work the way it's supposed to work, and peo- journalist,
in the ple intervening and adding comments and cover to pr
speculation really isn't helpful." life, investi
s isn't During the joint interview, Seiler, as well psychologi
Seiler as Wojtanowski and LSA junior Michael - In an en
uring Freedman, who is the Interfraternity Coun- of opennes
ersity cil president, agreed that most media inqui- reportingi
direc- ties are in response to negative allegations or difficult.
incidents. "Secrecy
Greek "I think it's reasonable to believe that reporter to
ic you Greek life raising money isn't the type of bins wrote
treet, story people want to read," Freedman said. the press,v
a." "They want to read about the negative con- sometimes
, LSA notations of Greek life, which there are going unde
llenic very few, realistically. If a minor thing does Still, Sei
each (occur), that's the story I feel like is pursued place in the
aniza- rather than the thousands of dollars that are "I think
When raised for children's cancer or for MS that going on, i
public happens ever year." Seiler said.
eived Seiler also noted that coverage of Greek have it out
office life is more balanced in some years than oth- sometimes
media ers. But if we'r
ons. Events, awards and charity "are the things deal with t
ive or I wish people knew more generally - that it's steps throu
k Life not just about partying." tion can be
uence Multiple fraternity and sorority freshmen
situ- members said they would feel comfortable TH E C
arge.- speaking to the press on most topics con-
apter) cerning Greek life, with the exception of cer- While rn
hat is tain traditions like initiation. The members tions are no
d over agreed that this type of secrecy simply pre- are high an
would serves long-held traditions. cially when
t (the For this feature, 10 presidents and spokes- federal lev
men were contacted via e-mail requesting an - the infar
per- interview to discuss relations between press tion that la
y, she and Greek life. As of publication, none have journalism
aders, responded. Two members of Zeta Beta Tau, - wrongdo
n the a brotherhood no longer recognized by Uni- as prevalen
robes, versity Greek Life or ZBT nationals, offered Carl Berns
struc- to speak with the Daily but required viewing Anthony
irs, to and approving the article before being pub- sor of jour
lished, which Daily policy does not allow. cations of
eople Seiler said if the newly installed presi- CNN repo

>r i
-e t
id t
i a

'3Y Sam
Lore balanced coverage without Affair a political scandal in the late 1980s
motive," they would likely feel during which the Reagan adminsitration
table speaking with the media.. secretly sold weapons to Iran despite an
d, the Secret Life of Sororities," arms embargo - Collings clearly remem-
lexandra Robbins goes under- bers an interview with then-Congressman
wide an inside look at sorority Dick Cheney.
sting issues such as hazing and "I remember that he would not answer my
Li abuse. questions other than to keep repeating the
il interview, Robbins said lack same basic idea, but I wanted to find out more
is often dangerous and makes what happened," Collings said. "There was
cidents, such as hazing, more no way he was going to help and my guess
was beinga Republican, he wanted to protect
makes it more difficult for a the Republican administration."
enetrate an organization," Rob- Collings recalls the frustration of not
"When members won't talk to being able to provide the public with the full
e have to take alternative - and truth of the scandal.
ess desirable - measures, like "Secrecy makes sense in some cases; obvi-
over, to share the story." ously they're protecting their sources and
r said not all information has a their methods," Collings said. "When it gets
public discourse. excessive, then they're depriving the pub-
if there's something negative lic of information the public has a right to
it the business of everybody?" know"
'Does it serve some purpose to But while Watergate-esque investigative
in the media? And I would say reporting may seem sexy, its implications
egative things have a purpose. have very real consequences.
taking positive steps not just to "The biggest change in the media profes-
ose incidents and taking those sion is the rush to judgment - the rush to
hout the year, then that informa- get something out - and I think everyone
ositive." that's on the media side of things rushes
sometimes because they want to be the
NSEQUENCE OF SECRECY first one to get the story," Ablauf said.
"Sometimes there's going to be things that
vostly respectful, these interac- fall through the cracks that they don't fact
void of tension. Often the stakes check; they don't have their information
the repercussions are vast, espe- accurate."
his relationship plays out at the But when reported ethically and accu-
I. Forty years after Watergate rately, tough stories can be powerful. It can
ous Washington Post investiga- mean the difference between stagnation and
inched a revival of investigative progress and between continued misconduct
nd the resignation of a president and justice.
ng, misuse and injustice remain On Capitol Hill, behind committee meet-
as the year Bob Woodward and ing doors, stadium gates and fraternity house
in's reporting rocked the nation. fences, secrecy reverberates.
Collings, a University profes- Every gate has its keepers; every day the
alism ethics, knows the impli- interactions between sources and journalists
ecrecy first hand. As a former continue to pulsate. And the choice remains:
ter covering the Iran-Contra silence or speech?

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