COLUMN: Athletes asked me to 'soul search,' so here's the truth about being a student journalist


evanpetzold

The term "student journalist" is often misinterpreted and, to be blatantly honest, I understand why.

Is it really fair to put the words student and journalist right next to each other?

At Central Michigan Life, I am a sports journalist who also attends classes, studies for exams, spends countless hours at the library and casually enjoys college life.

The misunderstanding of a student journalist enters the realm when fellow students, athletes, administrators and residents in the area miss the point that we set professional standards for ourselves and aim to uphold that reputation.

Just so everyone understands, I hold myself to professional standards. In the same way, I imagine football players hold themselves to professional standards like strict workout schedules, a healthy diet and reliability on the field.

A key professional standard of journalism is reporting objectively.

During Central Michigan football's 1-11 season in 2018, I served as the beat reporter – consistently on coverage for practices and games. I showed up, did my job and completed my work.

I took heat for some of my coverage. While publishing a variety of compelling feature stories, I had to report on the game-to-game struggles, made clear by a 0.08 winning percentage.

Wide receiver Damon Terry was the first to voice his opinion on our football coverage provided by CM Life.

"I hate to take away from the true supports we do have.. but Central Michigan football has to have the most disloyal, conditional fans I've ever encountered," Terry wrote on Twitter. "And the worst ones are the reporters for the school."

Former football player Eric Cooper Jr. jumped in, adding, "Facts, @CMLifeSports ya'll need to do some soul searching there in Moore Hall. Period. Ya'll make the University looks that much worst with ya'll terrible articles."

When I reported the news of now-former coach John Bonamego's wife, Paulette Bonamego, getting permanently banned from Kelly/Shorts Stadium due to a confrontation with CMU's play-by-play broadcaster, CMU head men's basketball manager Tyler Reamer went to Twitter to shoot his shot at CM Life.

"Don't like this one bit, if no one wanted to comment why is this a story," Reamer wrote on Twitter. "This shouldn't even be a thing, say what you want, nothing but respect for the Bonamegos. I wish them the best, they don't deserve this."

Cooper added to Reamer's rant on Twitter, "@CMLifeSports needs to be cut."

The truth of the CMU football season was one win in 12 games and the firing of Bonamego. When good things happened, which was a rarity, I wrote about it. When struggles occurred, I wrote about it.

I understand people dislike negativity, but the truth is the truth. 

For those football players lashing out at CM Life, I have a two questions: Would you have a roster spot if you didn't workout? Would you be on the team if you never showed up to practice?

My guess is your answer is no, and I assume you'd be kicked off the team and unable to pursue a professional career in the NFL.

In the same exact way, full-time publications will not look the other way when a potential job candidate poses as a "fan" when covering a team. 

Reporters can't be fans. Football players can't skip practice.

While a handful of athletes at CMU, specifically the football players, have voiced their displeasure in CM Life's coverage, I have a great deal of respect for them. By covering the team, I'm close enough to recognize their hard work, determination and passion for the game. It doesn't mean I'm a fan

And for those on the football team who already understand why I do what I do and how the industry works, I appreciate you. I urge you to explain the truth behind being a sports journalist to your teammates, friends and family.

We are both doing our jobs. Hopefully mutual respect can exist between us all.

Athletes, administration members and residents of Mount Pleasant, if you have an opinion, write CM Life a letter or column expressing your thoughts. We value those opinions, even if we don't always agree.

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