Kentucky’s Kernel Censorship Prompts Press Criticism, Twitter Protest

As I predicted in my previous post, the overreaction of University of Kentucky athletics officials has turned a so-what story about a pair of basketball team walk-ons into a national media blitzkrieg.

UK’s decision to bar a Kentucky Kernel staff writer from an interview session with Wildcat basketball players led to informal and formal condemnations from major journalism figures and organizations.  It has also prompted a spirited protest on Twitter, with related tweets employing the hashtag #FreeKernel.

The most talked-about and retweeted comment came from Sports Illustrated senior writer Andy Staples.  His words: “Until Kentucky agrees to #FreeKernel, I think I’ll revoke SI coverage of their mediocre football team.”

In a public letter to the UK athletics media relations team, the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) called the restriction “reprehensible”: “This is a level of abuse of free speech not tolerated at universities in other states and is particularly abhorrent at a taxpayer-owned institution.  We urge you to restore the access of the Kentucky Kernel and [Aaron Smith, the writer of the piece that spurred the controversial response] and to ensure that your department henceforth honors its accountability to [the] public.”

In a statement to the school, the local professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists declared, “UK can’t stop a reporter from asking a question and shouldn’t cast down an excessive punishment for doing so.  It’s an abuse of power and a shameful blow to the First Amendment.”

Kernel editor Taylor Moak offered a very reasoned rationale for the paper’s decision to temporarily ignore the unofficial rules limiting access to UK student athletes: “Any good journalist is going to ask for more information from their source.  Our position is that, as journalists, we can call whomever we need to. UK has these guidelines that are written, but you never have to sign anything. They’re guidelines, but just that.”

Separately, here are a few of the #FreeKernel tweets:

2 Responses to “Kentucky’s Kernel Censorship Prompts Press Criticism, Twitter Protest”
  1. Thanks for the update on the protest, i spend my day researching this it’s always nice to come across a blog like this.

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  1. […] words build off the news media and public criticism aimed at UK Athletics that poured out in the immediate aftermath of the […]