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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The S-R is changing the way it covers WSU football practice

Before Wednesday's practice, reporters were informed that the Washington State defensive football coaches would no longer permit us to list limited players in our practice reports, or describe things such as position or depth chart changes with the reasoning that such information gives a one-sided advantage to WSU's opponents.

As reporters, the sports staff of the Spokesman-Review cannot in good conscience report while omitting key details. Rather than tailor our coverage to produce a sanitized story that is acceptable to the subjects of our stories, we are going to devote our time and resources to bringing you WSU coverage in other ways.

We will still attend post-practice interviews and I will still file a daily report based on those interviews.

A little context: These are already closed practices. The team has not invited media to observe practice to increase their knowledge of the team with the understanding that some things are off limits. The media watches practice and we report what we see, which is what any student walking past Rogers Field sees. But the team has no recourse against a student or other passerby who, say, tweets about an injury.

But the team can restrict access to credentialed media members, who were informed that if they continue to report which players are limited, or are starting, or are moving positions, that the defensive coaching staff would no longer grant interviews.

These concerns are by no means unique to WSU, or even the current defensive coaching staff. Last year I was informed that a defensive coach was displeased with my practice report prior to the Oregon game because it noted that a scout team receiver had caught a couple long passes, and that there was a danger of Marcus Mariota reading through my report and discovering that the defense wasn't very good at defending deep balls.

Nor is this the first time the Cougars have placed restrictions upon what reporters are permitted to describe at practice. In 2012, Mike Leach told reporters that if they did not stop describing the nature of the injuries they saw occur during practice they would no longer be granted any interviews whatsoever.

In the past we have tried to accommodate WSU's concerns while still being truthful to our readers, writing about practice without revealing anything that would give away WSU's strategy and referring to injured players as "limited," a general way of referring to the injury without providing undue detail.

But we refuse to omit important information that we observe and edit our coverage to comply with the wishes of the same entity that we are covering. In other words: attending practice under these restrictions essentially requires that we lie to you. And we aren't going to do that.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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