AN interesting email, sent from Kerry GAA HQ, wound its way to my inbox here in West Cork of late, and there was one particular line out of the 350 words or so that irked me.
Basically, the Kerry PRO was outlining the county’s media arrangements for the national league, after consultation with manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, one of which read: ‘From here on in, players are not to be contacted directly by media outlets – requests may be channeled through the PRO’.
The following line explained that players will be attending national league launches and other individual promotions as requested by Croke Park, but to cut off a direct line between journalists and players is a mistake, because it’s the everyday GAA supporter that will lose out.
This cannot be allowed to set a precedent that other counties will follow, and thankfully Cork football hasn’t ventured down that road. And they shouldn’t either. The hurling media set-up is a tighter affair, but at the moment regards the football we’re still able to contact them on an individual basis.
There’s a responsibility as a member of the media when contacting players personally to request interviews. If they say no, that’s fine, maybe next time. If they agree – and nine times out of ten here in Cork the players are more than obliging – then it’s a case of work away.
Of course, there’s always the exception to the rule, a journalist who might go a step too far in looking for a story and quotes, but that’s no reason to rap everyone’s knuckles as a result.
Players nowadays are more wary of the media than before and it’s hard not to blame them when headline writers are looking for that sensational angle to give them the edge over the rivals on the same shop shelf, but I’m attacking this from a local newspaper’s point of view, not a national’s.
A local newspaper is an important link between the players and the fans, who deserve to be kept informed of what’s going on, etc., and if someone other than the two parties involved (journalist and player) tries to control that communication line then it’s a sad day for GAA reporting.
It was a trend I noticed more and more in Kerry towards the latter stages of my working days there, that players were becoming more cagey, afraid to almost jinx themselves, and more select when deciding who they spoke to.
Again, it’s totally understandable, especially in high profile counties when the big names are always ‘targetted’ for a few quotes.
Players don’t want to be subjected to interviews everywhere they go (again, there’s a responsibility and respect from the media), but on the other hand players are public figures of their own making, and GAA fans genuinely want to know what they are thinking on a particular subject.
If I was working for one of the two local Kerry newspapers now, I wouldn’t accept this new dictat from the county board. It’s too controlling. It’s too hands-on. It’s creating a bigger vacuum between players and fans, and that’s not what the game needs.
Local newspapers build up a trust and a rapport with players more so than nationals because we’re the ones that cover the local club games as our bread and butter, we’re the ones who report on these games that the county players star in, we’re the ones that help promote the GAA at a local level, and we’re the ones that need those fresh quotes from a player that a national newspaper doesn’t have.
Media launches in Croke Park are fantastic for promotion of the game, but, number one, we don’t have the time and resources to make a beeline for Croke Park every time there’s a launch, and number two, by the time the quotes do make their way to us they have appeared everywhere else.
We are trying to survive here in what everyone knows is a tough time for all newspapers, and local papers need to be able to ring a player who they know and who they have covered since they played U12 matches, who they have talked to since they were minors, and who they have watched mature into top-class players.
Yet, going by what’s happening over in Kerry with these new media arrangements regarding player interviews, that trust and rapport a local newspaper has built up with players now counts for little.
Being honest, since I started here in The Southern Star three years ago, it’s been a breath of fresh air dealing with the county players (worth noting the club players are just as obliging), and long may that continue.
In the early pages of this week’s news section Liam Hayes points at the Kerry football model of last year being one that Cork should copy, but the Cork County Board should not go down the same road of telling the press to not contact players individually, as they have in Kerry.