We learned late last night that Northwestern will no longer be permitting written reports from practices. If you read the site regularly, you know that we are one of the few sites to still do these reports, and they're quite well-read by fans, but the team (or their PR handlers) has apparently decided that these reports were doing more harm than good.
Specifically, they were worried about about other teams gaining a competitive advantage from practice reports. While we disagree that we reported things that gave away plays that were not already obvious to coaches from other schools, that's ultimately the team's call and we will respect that. The point of open practices, the team says, is to allow us to see how the team's preparations show up on Saturday. It's not for us to write about who had a good day and how position battles are going.
Practices will still be open, and there will still be post-practice interviews, but we will not attend nearly as often as we have. Before, we could justify writing a short article that combined practice notes with some interesting quotes from players post-practice. However, over the course of the season, there are simply not enough interesting things to be said for us to write a "feature" from each practice that incorporates cookie-cutter quotes from players about trust, confidence, maturity, execution, going 1-0, etc. We'd just be writing the same stories over and over again, and given our experience talking to players, it's unlikely those stories would include much substance. It's more beneficial for us and for you if we spend our time writing actual analysis. We still will do some longer features on players, so we will be at interviews for those stories, and we are always open to suggestions. And obviously, we will still be attending every game.
The purpose of this is not to have you all go yell at Northwestern or get all journalism righteous about it. There wasn't a lot of "journalisming" going on in practice reports anyway. They were content. Substantive, sometimes interesting content, but still content. Moreover, while many teams do permit practice reports, many teams also do not. More teams probably fall into the latter category, so this is not unique to Northwestern. The purpose here is to tell you why you will no longer see practice reports from us and to give you our justification for attending far fewer practices than we were before. We hope you understand, and we hope our time can be better spent on writing smart, analytical stories in our quest to provide more and better coverage of Northwestern sports than anyone else.
Kevin Trahan, Chris Johnson, Josh Rosenblat, Henry Bushnell