The Daily Tar Heel and The Chronicle might be rivals, but we can agree on at least one thing: student journalists should be treated fairly.
Following Duke’s loss to Louisville Saturday, Jake Piazza, men’s basketball beat writer for the Chronicle, asked head coach Mike Krzyzewski a question.
“I’m just curious as to what the next step forward here is for the team,” Piazza asked.
“What’s your major at Duke?” Coach K asked. “What’s your hardest class?”
“Econ,” Piazza answered.
“Say you just had the toughest econ test in the world,” Krzyzewski said, “and when you walked out, somebody asked you, ‘What’s your next step?’ See what I mean? Do you have some empathy?”
The exchange went viral, with sports journalists everywhere offering support and sharing their own stories of unpleasant encounters with coaches and athletics staff.
Coach K’s condescending attempt to give Piazza a lesson in “empathy” was unnecessary and unprofessional. If anyone needs a lesson in empathy, it’s Coach K.
Piazza’s question was a perfectly legitimate one — and one that is frequently asked in any press conference following a loss. And, considering Duke has dropped to 5-5 on the season (its worst start in more than 35 years), Coach K should have seen the question coming.
As many pointed out, this isn’t the first time that Krzyzewski has come under fire for his treatment of student journalists, particularly those who point out his team’s losses. In 1990, Krzyzewski received national coverage for cursing and raising his voice at student reporters from The Chronicle after a column criticized the team’s performance.
While he’s stayed out of hot water in recent years, Coach K is one of the highest paid employees at Duke. Part of his job requirements include answering questions and participating in postgame press conferences — no matter how badly his team played that night.
And although Coach K did call Piazza and apologize after the fact, the reality is that this issue is bigger than Coach K or even Duke. Student journalists, rarely compensated and often overlooked by others in the industry, are often subject to condescension and patronizing comments during interviews and press conferences.
University administrators and communications staff often treat student journalists poorly, may it be ignoring repeated requests for comment or simply giving disdainful answers in interviews. And, as much as we might hate to admit it, even Roy Williams has made his fair share of snappy remarks at press conferences.
Student journalists deserve empathy, too. But most of all, they deserve respect. The job is hard, and as students, we’re still learning how to ask the right questions and report the news fairly and accurately. But when public figures such as Coach K refuse to answer straightforward questions — and instead choose to humiliate us in front of our peers — it hinders that learning experience.
We’re bound to make mistakes — and we should be held accountable for them when that happens. But it’s not fair to criticize us just for trying to do our jobs.
Public figures, such as Coach K, should treat student journalists with respect, not belittle them for asking ordinary questions.
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