Louisville vs. Rice in Omaha

Stay tuned for a LIVE blog of the Louisville vs. Rice baseball game from Omaha. Louisville will be the visitor, with the same lineup it used during the Super Regional:

Boomer Whiting – CF, Logan Johnson – 2B, Daniel Burton – 1B, Isaiah Howes – LF, Jorge Castillo – DH, Chris Dominguez – 3B, Pete Rodriguez – RF, Derrick Alfonso – C, Chris Cates – SS. Zack Pitts, the righthander from E-town, will start on the mound. Freshman righthander Ryan Berry starts for the Owls.

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On Not Following the NCAA’s Rules

TheVilleVoice.com to provide LIVE blog coverage of Louisville’s baseball game in the College World Series against Rice.

By now, the controversy over the Courier-Journal blogger getting kicked out of the Patterson Stadium press box has subsided. There’s a good column in the Courier today by Eric Crawford on the topic, in which Crawford points out the NCAA’s enforcement inconsistencies, its use of credentialing as power over media and its shaky legal footing in trying to prevent blogging of its live events.

If you read the column online, there’s even a lengthy interview (in the comments section) with reporter Brian Bennett about the incident. Bennett said he’s not going to Omaha and, presumably, neither will a substitute C-J blogger. So my question is this: Is the C-J going to accept the NCAA’s ban on blogging during live events, or will it challenge the NCAA’s authority to limit all live reporting?

I’m not sure how far the NCAA will go in its enforcement practice — but I’m willing to provide a free service for Cardinal fans who follow this blog — on Friday, I’ll watch the game on TV and provide ongoing, live blog reports on the game against Rice in Omaha.

So all you office workers and cable-challenged folks interested in U of L’s results — tune in to TheVilleVoice.com and you’ll be updated every inning on the game’s outcome. I’ll give coverage a Louisville slant, and provide some commentary along with it. I’ll even critique the network’s coverage, along with the play-by-play.

The NCAA’s blogging ban is certain to backfire. It can’t police the Internet, and it can’t control ownership of the news. It is certainly within its rights to ban bloggers from its press boxes, but it should be aware that it has no jurisdiction here. I doubt it would grant a blogger a press pass anyway.

It is for actions like this blogging ban that the NCAA earns its bad-guy reputation, and I think that the organization will be forced to address the issue legally in the very near future. But for now, please join me for the ballgame on Friday.

The NCAA as Party Pooper

There was no bigger story in town over the weekend than the baseball action going on at Jim Patterson Stadium. Though 4,000 people packed the stands for three straight glorious days, the national audience spotlight was on the innovative ways fans found to watch — from rooftops, an outfield berm, the top of the football stadium, the roof of a Winnebago. With little promotion, the school could have sold four times the 4,000 tickets available.

On the field, the Cardinals were splendid, losing an extra-inning nail-biter on Saturday that ultimately proved to be a madcap method for extending the party. Around it were a couple of games of hitting displays that made backers of a major college baseball power wish for a mercy rule. Joining the party were everyone who’s anyone, from Steve Kragthorpe and Rick Pitino to Jerry Abramson.

I bought tickets for the first two games, and was amazed as the quality of the baseball played. On Sunday it was the most talked-about event everywhere I went, from a Little League game in Jeffersontown to the Manual High School Baseball Banquet, just down the street from the game.

In terms of media coverage, though, officials seemed as unprepared for the onslaught of attention as the Cowboy pitching staff was for the Cardinal hitters. First of all, there was no local radio coverage (NOTE: I’M TOLD WAVG IN LOUISVILLE AIRED THE GAME ON RADIO). Unless you could get KSPI in Stillwater, Okla., you weren’t listening to the game on radio. I suspect that the marketing folks over at U of L will use the weekend series as a springboard to set up a radio broadcast network for U of L games, like most big-time college programs.

In order to host the series, the school had to follow NCAA guidelines, including the sharing of revenues. For many, including the stadium vendors, this also meant no beer sales, as the NCAA has rules against associating alcoholic beverages with its events. In fact, during regular-season games, cheap beer and free admission have been the main attractions for games at Patterson. With years of mediocrity in its past, few true baseball fans have followed the Cards, until now.

Some controversy arose when the NCAA kicked the Courier-Journal’s Brian Bennett out of the press box for the crime of blogging live reports of the action. Now, Bennett had produced live game blogs before, but the NCAA officials working the game decided this was the time to set a precedent and shut down blogging as a method for reporting on games. Never mind that the national ESPN audience had already been switched to the more competitive Michigan-Oregon State game, eliminating the only other way to know what was going on if you weren’t there (except for those KSPI listeners in Stillwater).

NCAA rep Gene McArtor revoked Bennett’s press credential in the fifth inning. The score was 16-2. It makes you wonder if the official, a former Missouri baseball coach, was bored and/or embarrassed by the game. Probably not. Officially, the NCAA claims that blog is a live representation of the game, and those rights had been sold to ESPN. But I also doubt that anyone at ESPN was griping about Bennett’s blogging. Had I been sitting in my seats in the stands, I could have just as easily provided similar reports. Do you think McArtor would have asked for my ticket?

The NCAA’s action shows it was ill-prepared for the situation, and its anti-blogging enforcement will certainly face legal scrutiny. Operating a computer, or telephone or any other electronic device from a public place is certainly a First Amendment privilege. Like some of the NCAA’s archaic recruiting rules, the organization’s attempts to patrol the actions of citizens will always face challenges.

Gerth’s Late Disclosure

I have journalist friends who chose their vocation early in life and stuck with it. They’ve never ventured outside of media work, and never move on over to public relations, or marketing, or politics. They stick to it when it might be easier to take a government job, or write press releases for a corporation. I admire them. There are many temptations to leave journalism, given its low pay and long hours.

When I read Joe Gerth’s admission in his Monday Courier-Journal column that he once worked for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear, I thought about how rare it is for a reporter these days to have never been tainted by working for a cause or candidate. And Gerth is a competent reporter. I never questioned his abilities or accused him of any kind of bias.

I do question his editors’ decision to make Gerth’s relationship with Beshear public now, two weeks after a contested primary election in which the paper endorsed Beshear, chose not to cover some negative aspects of Beshear’s candidacy, and regularly ripped Louisville-based candidates Bruce Lunsford and Steve Henry. (Yes, I worked for the Lunsford campaign).

The column should have been written the day Gerth was assigned to the political beat. What possible motive could there have been to stay silent on Gerth’s past throughout the primary, only to open the can of worms as the fall election race gets started? Could some blog writer out there have discovered it, motivating C-J editors to make public something they’d hoped they wouldn’t have to deal with? Is there some other reason for the suspicious timing?

Readers deserve to know if reporters have a past that might affect their work, especially a reporter covering politics who once worked on a political campaign involving a current candidate. Gerth was right to disclose his ties to Beshear, but his timing is questionable at best. Too little, too late.

I wrote and sent the following letter to the C-J:

I found it disturbing that the Courier-Journal would have as its primary political reporter an individual who had worked on one of the candidates’ previous campaigns, and then not disclose that fact until after the primary election.

Do the Courier-Journal’s editors believe that ethics rules apply only to politicians? These editors apparently knew that political reporter Joe Gerth had once worked to elect Steve Beshear as governor of Kentucky when they moved him to the state political beat. They apparently think that 20 years, the time that elapsed between Gerth’s days of writing pro-Beshear press releases and his coverage of the 2007 Democratic primary, is the requisite amount of time for conflicts of interest to expire.

It’s not that Gerth’s reporting of the race was blatantly biased. Reporters generally work hard to avoid any appearance of a conflict, and Gerth’s past as a Beshear intern probably had little effect on his view of the race.

However, in politics, there’s always room for debate. And as a campaign worker for Bruce Lunsford (now there’s some full disclosure) who worked to provide Gerth with relevant information for his coverage, you can’t help but wonder about how his personal views may have ever so slightly influenced his reporting. It’s easy to look back at the campaign coverage and wonder why certain stories, especially those negative to Beshear, weren’t written.

That’s not to say that Gerth’s reporting wasn’t balanced. But it is right to question the C-J’s publication of Gerth’s June 4 column (In the interest of full disclosure) and its editors’ decision to wait until after the primary to reveal this important information.

At the very least, it should have been the topic of his first column, long before the race heated up, because readers have a right to know any issue that affects their coverage.

Political Post-Mortem

For the last four months, I spent my life working to get Bruce Lunsford elected as governor of Kentucky. It didn’t work out, but I’m richer for the experience, and have no regrets. I got a quick, fire-in-the-frying-pan education on the way political campaigns work, and met a lot of great people. I got to run what others called one of the best political Web sites in the country, and got to experiment with a host of new technologies.

I did expect it to last at least a little bit longer. As the returns were coming in Tuesday night, May 22, our group gathered around televisions downtown, holding out hope that Steve Beshear’s number would keep falling as ours went up. I held out hope until Bruce entered the room at the Convention Center, when the sense of doom came crashing down on our team, our supporters, our friends. Bruce was gracious in defeat, taking it better than many in the audience.

I put a lot of things on hold for this experience in politics, including The Ville Voice. As much as I wanted to write independently about the primary campaign, I held back, knowing that anything I would write would reflect directly on the campaign, and we were extremely cautious about breaking the Unity pledge to avoid negative attacks. Yes, I wanted to respond in words to the many who criticized Bruce, but made a conscious decision not to. So The Ville Voice did not become a voice for the campaign, and campaign work didn’t allow me the time, or the mental energy, to write about other topics.

The most-asked question I’ve asked, and heard, in the last two weeks has been — What will you do now? That’s why campaigns are so tough, because losing your job is part of the game. Many of my cohorts on the Lunsford campaign are off working on Presidential campaigns all across the country, or they’re taking some time off, or they’re actively seeking work.

I’ve been a little evasive with my answer. I am seeking new work, but also exploring an entrepreneurial path. There’s a lot to say about the media and political scene in Kentucky, and I’m likely to explore some of those issues right here at The Ville Voice.

So please stick around, post a comment and check back often, as The Ville Voice is back in business.