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Calhoun Encounter with Reporter Should Have Been Prevented

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This past Saturday UConn defeated South Florida 64-50, but the real match-up came in the postgame press conference. A freelance journalist/political activist, Ken Krayeske, kicked off the Q/A by asking UConn Coach Jim Calhoun about his salary.

You can catch the exchange in the video above, but Krayeske went pretty hard at Calhoun regarding his approximate $1.6 million salary, and asked if Calhoun should return some of that money due to a huge budget deficit in Connecticut. Calhoun didn’t hold any punches either, telling Krayeske he suggested he “shut up”. Calhoun also let him know that his program brings in $12 million to the university annually, and that he would have been happy to speak with Krayeske one-on-one if he had actually come with some facts.

According to the Hartford Courant, a UConn spokesman said Krayeske had a photo credential and he e-mailed during the week to say he was working on a UConn basketball story and needed photos to run with it.

Before I get into how this exchange should have been prevented, I’d like to make it clear that I have not spoken to anyone at UConn, so I’m making some assumptions on their credentialing procedure. But, this exchange could have been prevented or at least minimized. My intent isn’t to slam their staff, but to use this as a learning experience. A few questions come to mind:

1) If Krayeske isn’t a regular media member that covers UConn basketball, why was he credentialed after just sending an e-mail, especially being a freelancer?

In a case like this you have to get a fax on outlet letterhead from the editor of the publication requesting the project. An e-mail from a freelancer is not enough to get a credential.

2) I know there are a lot of talented reporters out there, but it seems odd that a writer would also be the photographer taking photos for a story.

This was probably covered by the UConn PR staff, but that would have been one of the first things to raise a red flag for me.

2) Did Krayeske give any indication during the game that he was a fraud, and why was someone with a photo credential allowed to ask a question in the postgame press conference?

In my experience, someone that has secured a credential but really isn’t there to cover the game almost always tips their hand. Usually it’s right off the bat in the pregame media access. Typical signs are showing little interest in the pregame access, not covering it at all or not seeming interested in the game. I usually made a note to keep my eye on someone like that, especially if I didn’t already know them.

3) Whether or not the UConn PR staff was keeping an eye on Krayeske, they should have stepped in once the question was asked with, “Anyone have any questions related to the game?”.

This is always a tough spot for a PR person. It can be very difficult to know whether or not to end an interview or line of questioning, but this was a case where Calhoun needed to be protected. Even if you think Krayeske’s questioning was valid, the postgame press conference was not the time or place. Calhoun was right in that Krayeske’s questioning was something that should have been handled in a one-on-one setting.

Again, this isn’t to bash the UConn PR staff, it’s to learn from a situation that could have, and probably should have, been prevented. Krayeske probably shouldn’t have even received credentials, but the questioning definitely should have been stopped before it escalated.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the situation, either from the PR side, or even regarding Krayeske’s line of questioning, as that’s generated some heated debate as well.

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Written by Brian Gleason

February 23, 2009 at 3:20 am

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