No Webmasters Allowed
by Will Stewart,, 7/17/98

Note from Will: in a recent News and Notes, I promised a Special Features article about an "emotional" subject that always "sparks debate and lively discussion."

This isn't it.  Instead, this is a Special Feature that was triggered by an article I read on-line.  So hang in there, that other Special Feature is coming soon.

A recent article by an unofficial UNC web site called The Tar Pit addressed quite eloquently and accurately an issue that I faced recently here at HokieCentral. Namely, should webmasters of large, high-traffic, unofficial web sites like HokieCentral, The Tar Pit, and be granted media passes and be able to interview players and coaches of their respective schools?

In an excellent and well-stated article titled We're Not Worthy, the staff of The Tar Pit describes their ideas for enhancing the content on their web site via interviews and sideline passes for games, and they describe the UNC Sports Information Director's response to their requests for interviews and access:


I recently went through the same sequence of events that The Tar Pit staff went through, namely, I sought to enhance the content of HokieCentral by requesting interviews via the Virginia Tech Sports Information Director's (SID's) office. And, like The Tar Pit, I was politely refused, because I'm not "working media." The refusal was so polite that it bordered on apologetic.

That actually doesn't bother me too much. I'm bummed that I won't be able to interview Coach Beamer or Jim Weaver, but I understand the SID's reasoning (more on that later), and I'm at peace with it.

As for getting a media pass to the sidelines or the press box, I've never had much interest in that. I like being Joe Hokie, just like you. I like sharing a fan's perspective, and I never wanted to pollute that perspective by hanging out on the sidelines or in the press box, and I never wanted to attend post-game interviews, where I could ask moronic questions like, "Jim, how did it make you feel when Jermaine caught the pass and you knew we -- uhhh, you -- had won the game?"

Dave's Quandary

Tech's SID, Dave Smith, actually put a lot of thought into how to respond to my request. He consulted with Tech AD Jim Weaver and the Big East conference main office as to Virginia Tech policy and league policy, respectively. He even talked to Frank Beamer about his feelings on the matter. After much discussion, I think the powers that be at Virginia Tech just decided it was prudent not to start handing out interview rights and press passes to, uh, "guys who run web sites."

That's my wording, not Dave's. He was actually very apologetic when he turned down a request I had made to interview Coach Beamer. I got the impression that he wanted to grant the interview, but he had to look out for the best interests of the VT athletic department.

After all, if he grants me an interview with Coach Beamer, then in all fairness, he would have to grant one to CyberHokie, or HokieBrad, or Go VT, or The Screaming Lizard, if they asked for one. That's not a slam on those guys, of course (they're all part of what makes the Internet great for Hokie fans), but if you open the door to us, then you open the door to anyone who starts up a web page. If you're the Virginia Tech SID, where do you draw the line?

So I know where Dave is coming from, I appreciate his position, and like The Tar Pit says in their article, I "accepted my lot stoically."

When I read The Tar Pit's article, I was stunned by the similarities. They sought to do the same things I wanted to do, and they were refused by the same people, for the same reasons. And they accepted the answer. Like me, they weren't real big on getting sideline passes, or press box passes, and like me, they were more bummed out about not being able to interview coaches and players.

Everyone Remain Calm ... Please Stay in Your Seats

From here on out, here's where The Tar Pit and I differ on our reactions. Apparently, public support rallied around The Tar Pit and their readers began to email the UNC SID and beseech the SID to grant media rights to The Tar Pit.

In the article linked above, The Tar Pit tells their readers "If, however, you want to help us to bring you more of what you crave, you can contact the SID's office regarding the 'no access' rule to interviews of coaches and players."

I'm going to tell you to do the opposite.  In other words, do nothing.

Jim Weaver, Frank Beamer, Dave Smith and company have made their minds up, and I don't think any amount of email or discussion is going to change the current status quo. As a matter of fact, harping on the issue with those guys is likely to have the reverse effect, so if you're inclined to contact them and plead HokieCentral's case … don't. Just let it go.

Me, I'm relieved to know where I stand, because the line between HokieCentral and "working media" was starting to get blurred. Some of that was my fault, and I certainly didn't discourage it, because it adds legitimacy.

That blurriness manifested itself recently on the message board when many posters began encouraging me to request a media pass to Tech's upcoming 1998 Football Media Day in early August. I did indeed request a media pass, at the same time I requested the interview with Coach Beamer, and like the interview, I was declined the press pass.

Eventually, as The Tar Pit says in its article, the various athletic departments around the NCAA will have to deal with the issue of unofficial web sites and whether or not to grant them access. You can even make the argument that at Tech, they already have dealt with the issue by politely saying no to me.

Getting Used to the Internet

If the Internet ever does become perceived as "real media," as opposed to an alternative outlet for existing media (like newspapers and TV), then this problem will go away. When that happens, I have no idea how the powers that be will decide what a "worthy" web site is, and I'm glad it's not my job to make that decision.

As a society, we will grow more used to this new, wild and wooly form of communication that we call the Internet, and we'll know how to deal with these issues. There's a lot of resistance to the Internet on many fronts - just ask any college football coach how much harder the Internet has made his life - and it is not yet perceived as legitimate media. I can understand why.

It freaks out the "old guard" that people can now exchange information so quickly, and that some half-smart fan with a computer, a modem, and an Internet account can now publish his thoughts for the whole world to see and read. Publishing and being read by a large audience is a privilege that was previously reserved for those who worked for a newspaper, or could win a book contract, or could afford to self-publish their work.

Something I often tell people is that once upon a time, a device was created that enabled the masses to communicate with each other instantly with just a couple of cheap pieces of equipment, and at a minimal cost. This device horrified the traditional media outlets, because they had previously controlled almost all forms of communication, except for the U.S. Postal Service.

But now some new-fangled thing existed that enabled people to pass information back and forth instantly. Why, people could just say anything to each other, at any time, and who was going to stop them? The traditional media wrung their hands over this new device, because the traditional media no longer controlled people and told them what to think.

In case you haven't guessed by now, the new device was called a "telephone," and many people were convinced that it meant the end of civilization as we know it. But we learned how to live with that new device (obscene phone callers and telemarketers not withstanding), and we'll learn how to live with this new one, the one that's called "the Internet."

Till then, there's no need to campaign for HokieCentral, because I'm happy doing what I'm doing and being what I am. Like I said, I'm Joe Hokie Fan. I purchase my season tickets, just like you, and I watch the team from high in the stands at Lane Stadium, just like you. When they win, I'm happy, and when they lose, I'm upset, just like you.

For now, I like it that way.


TSL Columnists Archives

TSL Home