Team slammed by our own school newspaper. Amazing! No problem with opponents paper or local media. You deserve what you get! But, not home!
— Coach Charlie Weis (@CoachWeisKansas) October 4, 2012
The above tweet from Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis is in response to the headline on a piece that ran in the University Daily Kansan, the student newspaper for KU.
The headline on the piece is, "ROAD KILL AHEAD: WEEKEND HOLDS A BAD BEATING FOR KANSAS OR CALAMITY FOR K-STATE."
The picture kind of speaks for itself, no?
On Tuesday, the Kansan reported that the beat writer for football, Blake Shuster, was pulled aside before that day's press conference with Charlie Weis and encouraged to not ask any questions. Director of football communications Katy Lonergan said that that was not the case, and was just warning him that if he should ask any questions, he should be prepared for whatever kind of tone comes back at him.
Charlie Weis is a highly paid public figure in the state of Kansas, and, I would gather, the second highest paid employee at the University of Kansas behind basketball coach Bill Self. If he's not second, he's most likely in the top five.
Blake Shuster is a student reporting for the student paper, learning the craft of journalism. He is not making anywhere near the kind of bucks that Weis is making. The content of the story that is the subject of Mr. Weis' ire was actually not inflamatory.
If you read what Mr. Shuster actually wrote, he simply covered the fact that KU was preparing for their Sunflower Showdown game with Kansas State by holding a full contact practice that included everyone, even the quarterbacks, eligible to be hit.
Was the headline and cover art inflamatory? Perhaps. Did it cross a line? Maybe.
But Mr. Weis has been around long enough to know that beat reporters don't write their own headlines or draw their own cover art. The guy coming around to practice and press conferences and writing game stories on deadline don't have a thing to do with how the story is presented.
Not only should Mr. Weis know that, but Ms. Lonergan should definitely know that to be the case, and to not have that conversation with Mr. Weis in case he didn't know is, to me, a failing on her part as a communications professional. She shouldn't have had to have a conversation with Mr. Shuster about how her colleague would react to a question from him because there shouldn't have been an issue.
The University Daily Kansan is a student newspaper where the reporters, if they are interested in a career in media and journalism, have a practical opportunity to practice their craft and build up their clips for the future. Student newspaper or not, it is not their role to act as a cheerleader. They should report the news where appropriate and editorialize where appropriate as well.
There was nothing libelous or slanderous about the headline or cartoon. At best, the headline and cartoon were inaccurate with regards to the article that they accompanied.
By the way, Kansas lost the Sunflower Showdown to Kansas State 56-16. This marks the third consecutive year that the Jayhawks have lost to the Wildcats and allowed over 55 points in said loss.