How does a responsible newspaper publisher deal with a major collegiate football coach refusing to talk to one of his columnists? If you’re The State‘s Henry Haitz III, the answer is pretty simple — tell your veteran columnist to write about Clemson, instead. Romenesko.com reports Ron Morris has bugged South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (above) for the last time :
“The publisher of the paper has removed Ron from any coverage of the football program, which down there is akin to the Washington Post not letting Dan Balz write about government,” one of Morris’s former colleagues told me. “Effectively, he’s being forced out at the behest of the football coach, with the publisher not standing up for him.”
Morris declined to talk to me, but others familiar with the situation — including former University of South Carolina and State staffers — described how The State’s publisher made his veteran columnist agree in writing that he would never again write about Gamecocks football or talk about the USC program on TV and radio shows.
Early this year, publisher Haitz – a Penn State graduate – told Morris he could no longer write about Gamecocks football.
“They made him sign a long list of things he could not do,” says a Morris friend.
“The fans there see [Morris’ removal from the beat] as a big victory,” says the Washington Post’s Babb, who once covered the Gamecocks for The State. “It looks like the great Steve Spurrier took him down. It’s a very humiliating episode for journalism. …What if somebody at Mississippi State figures out it’s that easy” to get a writer removed from a beat?