The Bradley Braves will be doing something the team hasn’t done in about 13 years, going to the NCAA Tournament. The team had to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Sunday to get in the tournament. That’s quite an accomplishment, especially considering how small of a school Bradley is, which I’ll tell you is only about 5,400 students. It’s not very big, which is what makes its appearance in the NCAA Tournament that much more special.
Unfortunately, this article isn’t about Bradley’s NCAA Tournament appearance. We could be talking about potential upsets and March Madness, but there is something more important that needs to be discussed, and that’s what happened following Bradley getting into the tournament.
Dave Reynolds, a beat writer for the Journal Star who has been covering Bradley for 29 years, was told by the assistant athletic director, Jason Veniskey, at a media event that he was not allowed to be there because of a "policy in place" despite the newspaper being invited. Reynolds was told that he did not "promote the Bradley Brand" and that he wasn’t wanted there. Bradley’s coach had said the same thing to him.
The reason was because the beat writer was always looking to put a negative spin when he covered Bradley and that he wrote stories that were "half-truths" and "misleading." Not only was Reynolds momentarily barred, but the university threatened to pull the paper’s coverage. That is until all of this news went public and became viral. Bradley University has since apologized and Reynold’s has been allowed to cover the Bradley basketball team in the NCAA Tournament.
As a journalist who covers sports, I understand that not everything I will write will be liked by a coach, an administration or a team, though I promise you this, I do my job honestly and with no ill will.
I enjoy covering the sports teams I cover, because I know the community as I’m sure Reynolds does. I get to know the student athletes better every game I cover and every time I interview them. I have only been doing this at the Rantoul Press for a short time. Reynolds has been covering Bradley for 29 years. That’s longer than I have been alive. I don’t think someone who has been covering a program for that long would be writing negative things on purpose or hold some kind of grudge. If anything, he probably wants the program to do well, considering how long he has been there.
I’ve learned how valuable and important my role is as a sports reporter during my short amount of time here. I cover sports such as basketball, track, baseball and football. These are important to the public as they are played by student athletes who represent the Rantoul community. So, my reporting on them is a representation of the community, meaning I have to be able to cover them. Otherwise, there is no community representation.
I have covered teams winning, and it’s great, because you know people will want to read about the win. I have also covered teams losing, and it’s not great, but my job is to cover what happened whether the result was good or bad. That’s what a journalist does. We report about what happens, not what someone wanted us to report. We can’t have bias, even when covering sports.
What doesn’t make sense is why bar Reynolds now when the team just made the NCAA Tournament? Bradley finally makes the tournament, after 13 years and they threaten to pull his coverage? You are shooting yourself in the foot when you do this. How will the community know how the team does without local coverage? Yes, I know they changed their mind, but in the beginning they did not want Reynolds to cover the Bradley basketball team. I understand that for the Bradley program, success in basketball isn’t always a guarantee every year, so you might not like the coverage when you lose more games than you win in a season. You might be frustrated with the coverage if it is not always positive.
It’s not the reporter’s job to give what the administration, the coach or what the fans want to read or hear. We are here to tell how a team does in a game. If they lose, we report that they lost and how they lost. If the team won, we show that they won and how they won. Why? To let the reader and the public know what happened.
That’s the thing about sports. You aren’t always going to win. You don’t always have a season where you make the playoffs or win a championship. Cubs fans know what I am talking about. They had to wait more than 100 years for a World Series, but how special was it when they won it. All that waiting for that World Series. Even as a Cardinals fan, I thought it was incredible and was happy for Cubs fans.
Everyone wants to win in sports and see the teams that represent them win. But that doesn’t always happen. That’s life. That’s sports. Sports is all about enjoying the moments. When they happen it is great. Sometimes, though, they happen once in a while, depending on where you are at. Illinois basketball fans also know what I am talking about. We are still waiting for another Final Four run. Actually, we’re waiting for another NCAA Tournament appearance, if I maybe honest. Will it happen? Hopefully, but it wasn’t this year. I hope Bradley University learned from this moment. I feel bad not just for Reynols, but for the Bradley basketball team. This should be their moment, when the Peoria community should be watching them.
I hope Bradley University knows that reporters aren’t trying to make their life harder. We are just doing our role and duty to inform the public. We want to inform the community and give them a view of what is happening to their team who represents them, just as the newspaper does.
Contact Ben Theobald at firstname.lastname@example.org