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Should El Paso Athletes Be Protected In News Reports?

Chris Washburn Jr. is leaving UTEP after just one season. (Photo courtesy of Steve Kaplowitz).

This morning’s article by Bill Knight in the El Paso Times brings up a subject that I would like to call “Journalism 101″. First, here is a little background on the reporting in question. In his story, Knight quotes UTEP head men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd when addressing the departure of sophomore forward Chris Washburn Jr. In addition to blaming lack of playing time and wanting be closer to his Dallas home, Floyd specifically called out a local member of the media for his handling of a story involving the Miner basketball player.

“Plus, he was also a little disappointed by how he was portrayed on local TV by Asher Wildman of Channel 7 (after Washburn was accused of punching a bouncer in a local club last month).”

That comment clearly is Coach Floyd’s way of making Wildman the “bad guy” for his report on Washburn Jr.’s May 12th alleged incident at Palomino Bar in downtown El Paso. The KVIA sports reporter/anchor had the police report on the incident, which specifically named Washburn Jr. By using the police report in his KVIA story last month and speaking with the bouncer who was assaulted, did Wildman portray the UTEP basketball player in a negative light? In case you missed Asher’s ABC-7 reports last month on the incident involving Washburn Jr., click here to watch them.

It also brings up the bigger questiono should members of the local media withhold names of UTEP athletes (or any other public figures) if they are involved in an incident that specifically mentions them in a police report? In other words, is protecting Miner athletes more important than accurately reporting a story? For years, UTEP athletics has been the only game in town, and the local media is perceived by some to be hurting the program when stories like the Washburn Jr. incident get leaked out. Coach Floyd failed to mention that his player was also mentioned in a May 14th story in the El Paso Times by Aaron Bracamontes that also quoted the same police report. Wildman’s reporting skills are what you would expect in any big city, but El Paso’s small-town mentality might be the exception here.

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