This, too, is part of the job
I began studying journalism with the intention of writing nothing but sports. It’s my passion, covering the games and the personal stories of the athletes playing them.
That said, though, I still have a job to do.
And when our readers call me to question something in the community sports scene, it’s my responsibility to follow up on that concern.
That was what we did when we received a call Wednesday night from a parent asking what was going on with the Nevada Union baseball team. I told the caller that the Miners’ road trip to San Diego hadn’t gone so well, as NU dropped all three of its games in the 55th annual Lions Club Invitational Tournament.
But that was not the sort of news he was seeking.
After all, this parent was calling from San Diego.
He wanted to let us know there were members of the Miners baseball team that had been sent back home before NU had completed its tourney schedule. He also shared what he was told had occurred, though he would not give his name.
His main concern, and that of many others who have contacted The Union since the story appeared in Thursday’s edition, was the supervision of the players making the trip to compete in the tournament.
So we called Nevada Union principal Marty Mathiesen and Miners’ head coach Ted White. To their credit, both returned our calls seeking comment on the incident that same night. And both were as forthcoming in providing as much information as they felt they could at the time.
So we published exactly what they said – and nothing more.
Some responding, including Nevada Union athletic director Steve Pilcher, however, said they didn’t think such an incident warranted a story.
“We’re dealing with kids,” Pilcher said by phone Friday, adding that school officials continue to investigate the matter. “We can’t tell you their punishment and we can’t tell you what they did.
“The problem is that you start putting things in the newspaper before we have all the facts and the entire community is an uproar. I think that’s in poor taste for the players and parents.”
So when does an “incident” become a story?
Pilcher is correct in that The Union did not have all the facts – and to date, still does not – about the incident in question. Nor, due to privacy policies often pointed to by school officials, do I expect that we’ll ever be presented with all the details of the incident.
But the fact that more than a third of Nevada Union’s baseball team was involved in an incident that resulted in some players being sent home early is newsworthy.
Pilcher wasn’t alone in his criticism of our coverage, as another member of the Nevada Union faculty shared similar sentiments in an e-mail. The author, though, did not respond to requests seeking permission to publish his name.
But here’s a bit of what he said:
“I do not understand why something of this nature needs to be published,” the message read. “Such incidents as this have occurred with other teams in the past but were never made public by your paper, why should this incident be any different?
“Your professionalism and judgment in printing such an article has, in my opinion, shown a lack of character by yourself as well as The Union.”
So when does incident of this nature – on which, by the way, no one has commented for the record allowing us to know the exact “nature” of the incident – become important enough to share with our readers?
Does it become important enough to mention the next time the Nevada Union team takes to the field, if players are suspended from action or dismissed from the team? Do we, as sports writers, ignore the fact that the Miners may not have the same players stepping into the batter’s box in their next game that we wrote about in last week’s season outlook?
Those are valid questions and ones on which I welcome discussion, but when a reader calls and asks us to look into something, I feel a real responsibility for us to do so.
And that’s was what we did Wednesday.
The story named no names, nor included any rumors on what the incident entailed, but apparently some believe that went too far – even if members of the community were calling for more information.
“This is not a community issue. It’s a school issue,” Pilcher said. “It’s between the parents, the school and the kids. I’ve always felt that discipline issues don’t belong in the newspaper.”
And, of course, that is a valid viewpoint, especially when you’re talking about teenagers.
Typically, when a player is suspended or removed from a team, coaches tell us only that the player in question had broken a “team rule” – which, to this point, is practically all we have published on the incident.
But when seven members of 19-man roster are involved in an undisclosed incident several hundred miles from home, perhaps it is time to take a look at the bigger picture and discuss the school’s policy on supervising such trips – and whether or not it was aptly followed.
Those are the concerns, after all, that have been shared with me since the story was published Thursday morning.
And, like it or not, it’s my job to check them out – even if I’d rather be at the ballpark, kicking back, keeping book and writing about the actual games and the athletes who play them.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears each Saturday. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.