At most media outlets, credential requests and their acceptance or denial tend to be handled quietly and behind the scenes. Grantland isn't your typical sports media outlet, though, and Bill Simmons certainly isn't anyone's typical editor-in-chief. That's led to a fascinating story that raises issues about editorial bias, credential approval and writers and editors who once bashed access, but now want it. It all started Tuesday. Simmons sent out a rather interesting tweet about his publication being denied access for an upcoming Duke-UNC game:
Yes, in addition to blasting Duke (and revealing that he's always hated them), that's Simmons not only saying he's going after them further, but changing his Twitter avatar to "Duke sucks." Of course, that's not really all that out of character for the famously opinionated "Sports Guy," but it's remarkable behaviour for the EIC of a massive sports media operation. (It's also funny, considering that Simmons has taken shots at access in the past.) Simmons' bias doesn't necessarily come through in every article on Grantland, and it would be particularly silly of him to actually start publishing anti-Duke stuff over this, but even hinting at that is a bit problematic. What adds to the intrigue here is an investigation of the situation by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, who inquired with Duke's athletics department about Grantland's request being turned down and tweeted the response he received. Here it is:
According to Duke, ESPN's umbrella of networks, websites and branches have 10 seats on press row for the game, as well as a photographer spot, multiple camera spots required to air the game, and access for College GameDay. Duke says they would love to accommodate each legitimate request but because of space issues at Cameron, Duke says they must make some some tough decisions for the UNC game. One of those decisions, according to Duke, is the inability to credential blog sites and websites that do not attempt to cover the team on a regular basis. Duke says they communicated this to Grantland's Sarah Larimer who requested a credential for Shane Ryan. The university received a courtesy reply from her on Feb. 22 and then nothing more from anyone at Grantland. Until today. Via Twitter.
That sounds like a pretty reasonable response from Duke; every sports event can only accomodate a limited number of media, and high-profile ones like Duke-UNC obviously have sky-high demand. It's not like ESPN/Grantland are being locked out here; rather, Duke's saying that they're already giving ESPN a lot of space, and (as Brian Moritz pointed out) Grantland might not have a better claim to a seat than some other outlets, given that a lot of their writing can be done without access. That doesn't sound like a huge controversy from here, and certainly not one that justifies an editor-in-chief going on the Twitter warpath. What makes this even more notable is the identity of the writer in question, though...