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Defining Our Role

It is a turbulent time in many ways. Our economy is in the tank and unemployment is through the roof. Even worse, it's been two years since K-State went to a bowl game and the basketball team went to the NIT this year.

The newspaper industry is suffering through these difficult times, and is dealing with the added difficulty of adjusting to new forms of media. Online media, including this site, has changed the landscape of news and sports journalism, not to mention started a debate about what is "real" media and what is just noise. Some bloggers have already weighed in on this issue, and I recommend you check out what they have said. I doubt I can add much to the overall tenor of the debate, and I don't intend to, but I hope to clarify what we see as this site's mission.

A few of my colleagues on SB Nation have been able to obtain press passes from their athletic departments, permitting them to attend press conferences and other functions that require "access." None of us at BOTC have ever considered applying for a press pass, and we have absolutely no plans to do so.

Why? Wouldn't we love to sit in on the great Bill Snyder's press conferences? Wouldn't we love to get that "why the fuck did you just ask me that?" look from Frank Martin? Wouldn't we love to hobnob with illustrious journalists such as Jason Whitlock and Bob Lutz at football or basketball games?

The answer is no, we really have no desire to do any of those things (with the possible exception of the Frank Martin look, as that would be a badge of honor for us). We don't intend to be your news source. You already can get the news from excellent beat writers like Austin Meek and Jeffrey Martin and, if you are willing to pay for it, Covering K-State sports and breaking K-State sports news is their job. It's what they're paid to do, and what they devote their days to doing. Given our situations, we couldn't hope to provide you with anything resembling what they do, so we don't.

In our cases, I am a law student who lives more than 700 miles from Manhattan, and Panjandrum, EMAW and Bracket Cat each have day jobs that occupy the majority of their time. We do this because we enjoy discussing K-State sports with you, K-State fans. You have probably noticed that a lot of newspapers are trying to become more interactive for fans and readers, but they are still a top-heavy medium. Our intent is to discuss, analyze and critique the news that Meek, Martin and Tim Fitzgerald report and offer our opinions and perspective on what is going on with K-State sports, and provide a little entertainment for our constituency.

Not having access has another dimension to it. When I discuss this, it would be easy to take it as me saying that I don't believe Meek, Martin and Fitzgerald are doing their jobs as journalists. That is absolutely not my intention. I know each of those three men personally, and I can vouch that they do a good job. Austin Meek and I were in the same sportswriting class at K-State that Fitz taught. I met Jeffrey Martin last spring in San Antonio and have occasionally kept in contact with him since. As I said, I respect the job all three do.

But recently, in Fort Worth, we saw what can happen when those with access get a little too honest. The Mountain West Conference does a broadcast show, called The Mtn., where student reporters at each conference school give their opinions on various topics involving sports programs at their schools. Brian Smith, a senior in broadcasting at TCU, was involved in this show. On a recent episode, he discussed the quarterback race at TCU involving incumbent Andy Dalton and true freshman Casey Pachall. In this discussion, Smith stated his opinion that Pachall would unseat Dalton as the starter, saying that Dalton "can manage a game and play not to lose, but I don't really think he's the guy who can win you a game. And Casey Pachall is that kind of guy."

That was Smith's opinion. Agree, disagree, or indifferent, it's what he thinks about the quarterback race at TCU, which is definitely a relevant issue for Horned Frogs' fans. But the TCU media relations department didn't like Smith's "criticism" of a student-athlete, and forced him off the show.

No doubt, SB Nation is a growing and vibrant sports network of which I am proud to be a member. But the case of Brian Smith illustrates clearly the primary reason why those of us at BOTC don't want athletic department-sponsored access. Athletic departments are all too happy to bully smaller or less popular publications when they offer honest assessments of the school's programs. We saw this in Nebraska when madman coach Bo Pelini tried to intimidate student reporters after a critical editorial ran in The Daily Nebraskan. To state my feelings with perfect honesty (not that I ever intend to be less than honest), I don't want to sit at my laptop as I prepare to write a post and wonder if the opinion I plan on offering will result in my access being revoked by the powers that be.

Meek, Martin and Fitz don't really run into this dilemma, because they have powerful publications backing them, and the athletic department would risk a full-scale backlash if they tried to pull credentials from those groups. Can you imagine Lutz or Whitlock if that happened? They can offer opinions and discussion, to a point, without fear of reprisal. I would rather not bother with the hassle of wondering whether my opinion is going to be popular at Anderson Hall or Bramlage Coliseum or the Vanier Football Complex.

Further, given the essentially unlimited nature of our medium, we can bring you posts that would never in a million years make it to the pages of a newspaper. Would Panjandrum's "Adventures of the Big 12" series ever get published in a newspaper? Hell no, but given the hits it has generated, it's obvious that it's wildly entertaining. Would Bracket Cat's excellent analysis of what a playoff system would have yielded over the years get past the first editor? Not a chance, but it has drawn the interest of readers. Would most of my random critiques of decisions or journalists or whatever the hell crosses my mind to write about get beyond the mental wet-dream stage in Kansas City, Topeka or Wichita news rooms? OK, you've probably figured out the pattern by now.

I believe it's perfectly possible for BOTC to co-exist peacefully with the Topeka Capital-Journal, The Kansas City Star, and, although the folks at Rivals don't seem to be overly fond of us. Those guys do a great job of reporting the news that is created by K-State's athletic teams. Judging by the growth of this site in the last year, my guess is that we are doing something right by discussing that news, providing our own content in the form of opinions, analysis, and satire, and providing it all in a forum that encourages, in fact demands, the participation of other Wildcat fans.