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OSU had ‘no legal standing to prevent’ reporters’ tweets

Photo by Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

Akron Beacon Journal sports writer Jason Lloyd didn’t like what he heard when he arrived at Ohio State for first-year Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer’s weekly press conference.

After walking into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for Meyer’s media availability Monday, he was informed of an Ohio State athletic department policy that barred media members from reporting information via social media during football press conferences.

That directive, given by OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig, prompted Lloyd to write a column criticizing the athletic department, and that column might have been part of the reason why the policy was lifted Tuesday afternoon.

Emig asked reporters to delay tweeting until the event ended, as he had at previous football events during the Buckeyes’ fall camp and practices.

In an email to The Lantern, Emig said the request to delay tweets from the press conference was intended as a courtesy to both reporters and football personnel. It was not until after the press conference, Emig said, that he was told Meyer’s press conference was being broadcast live by Columbus radio station WBNS 97.1 FM and streamed on the athletic department’s website.

“I simply asked those in attendance to not tweet while an interview was taking place,” Emig told The Lantern. “Once I was reminded of (the live broadcast) – after the press conference – I realized that courtesy or no courtesy, we can’t ask people to delay tweeting. So even though many in attendance were supportive, we won’t ask to delay tweeting any longer.”

Lloyd’s column, which said, “Ohio State officials have no legal standing to prevent reporters from sharing information,” was live by Monday night.

It was viral too.

The top-viewed story on the Beacon Journal’s website, Ohio.com, Lloyd’s column was being discussed on Twitter by nationally recognized sports writers. The story was also repurposed by the Poynter Institute, a school for future journalists and teachers of journalism and several newspapers including the Salt Lake Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel.

Lloyd elaborated on his position during a Tuesday interview with The Lantern, saying “you can’t give them control of areas that they can’t control.”

“The problem I had with it is just the control that they’re trying to extort over the media and I can give you examples for years now of the power and influence of college football programs and how far it extends,” Lloyd said. “And Ohio State certainly falls guilty to that as well. It gets to a point where you’re trying to control the media and I don’t work for the Ohio State University.

“I’m not on scholarship at Ohio State. I have no ties to Ohio State. So you, therefore, have no right to tell me how I can and cannot go about doing my job in that setting.”

By the time OSU football’s Tuesday media availability rolled around, tweeting was permitted.

The reaction to his column, Lloyd said, was mixed, but he also correctly predicted what would happen after his column was published.

“(Tuesday) went exactly how I thought it would – the fans would lash out and say, ‘You’re a whining cry baby,’ and I understand where they’re coming from … people don’t care how you make the sausage, they just care about eating it,” Lloyd said. “People don’t care about (reporters’) access, lack thereof, how we go about doing our jobs. I understand that.

“I also kind of figured that on a national scale, people in this profession would kind of catch wind of this and rise up as well and voice how ridiculous this is … This issue is bigger than whether or not you can tweet what Urban Meyer is saying in the moment. The issue at hand is Ohio State trying to reach and control areas where they don’t have control.” 

Lloyd said he plans to attend and cover OSU’s Saturday game against Miami (Ohio), which is scheduled to kick off at Ohio Stadium at noon.  

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