In case you missed it: FIU decided it wouldn’t offer press credentials to the Herald’s David J. Neal for the Golden Panthers’ football home opener against Bethune-Cookman University, citing “concerns” about his coverage. The Herald immediately yanked all reporters from the game, meaning FIU’s opener gets no ink in the Miami paper.
Neal has been covering the team for three years—“fairly,” according to the Herald. That means, of course, some of Neal’s articles were complimentary, others weren’t.
It would seem the latter is what ruffled the Golden Panthers’ fur. Although FIU’s media statement wasn’t specific, it hinted at coverage it considered disrespectful. “We did not issue a media credential to the Herald's beat reporter because of concerns we have brought up to the Herald's reporter and editors over the past few years about the reporter's interactions with our student athletes, coaches, and staff, and the nature of the resulting coverage. We welcome coverage of our athletics program that is professional and respectful of our student athletes and our institution.”
In other words, “We didn’t like what he wrote, so he can’t come over anymore.”
Neal’s access to the school has been on the decline in recent months, according to reports, even going so far as to cancel its football media day because Neal planned to attend. Most recently, he has been banned from football practice and told that athletes were prohibited from talking to him.
Not having read any of Neal’s stories—though I understand FIU’s football program is troubled—I can’t say whether his work is balanced or not. And thus far, FIU has not explained specifically why it stiff-armed Neal.
But the reality is this: trying to “fire” a beat reporter is futile at best. When it comes to the Fourth Estate, you don’t get to pick the reporter who covers you.
FIU claims it will discuss the situation with Herald leadership in the days to come “and continue a positive working relationship.” And that, folks, is an attempt to place cheap lipstick on FIU’s reputational pig.
Actually, the beneficiary in all this might be Neal, according to Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde. “David J. Neal, you lucky dog, you. Florida International University not only has done you a favor by promoting your name in a manner covering them never could [but] you don't have to sit through their games.”