In a post-scrimmage press conference on August 14 in Fayetteville, AR, Razorback coach Bobby Petrino called out a reporter saying “and that will be the last question I answer with that hat on.” That was after answering Hog Sports Radio then reporter Renee Gork’s original query.
The ensuing furor has been dubbed “Hatgate” as if the world needed any more scandals, or in this case a pseudo scandal, with the “gate” suffix.
To read the reaction by many national and regional media outlets, you’d think Petrino, no media darling, had called Gork the “B” word or told her, like Bobby Knight a few years back, that when he died to bury his body face down so Gork could kiss his hindquarters.
Bobby Petrino, who certain segments of the national media are looking for any reason to criticize due to his abrupt departure from Atlanta in Dec. 2007, probably didn’t appreciate the breach of professional etiquette represented by Renee Gork’s headgear.
It seems Gork had little enough professional sense to wear a Florida Gator hat to the Arkansas press conference. It’s a matter of common sense, really. A media professional is not supposed to wear the gear of any team, at least not gear for the same level of football, for ANY team, including the team they are covering.
You’d think the Taliban provided security for the Arkansas Razorbacks, judging by the outraged reactions by some hysterical media elites and bloggers such as Holly Anderson of EDSBS. Anderson, a Tennessee grad.
You know, the same University of Tennessee last seen with mattresses being thrown from dorm rooms, then set afire, inciting a near riot when former coach Lane Kiffin, a walking NCAA violation, left UT for USC last winter. Just for a little perspective, this Anderson person is hammering Arkansas fans as irrational for complaining of biased coverage by Renee Gork.
Berry Trammel of The Daily Oklahoman, a veteran reporter and columnist who is not and never has been affiliated with the University of Arkansas, describes the situation as Reporter Fired For Stupidity. I agree. If the situation had been reversed, if say an Arkansas grad who worked for a Gainesville radio station showed up at an Urban Meyer presser wearing Arkansas gear after a scrimmage , would the reporter be let in the door, let alone get even a single question answered?
Renee Gork’s story is that she just grabbed the Florida hat on her way out of her door due to rain outside. According to the local weather reports, there was no rain anywhere in Northwest Arkansas on Saturday, August 14. There certainly was none in Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas that day.
Now we’re supposed to believe the poor damsel-in-distress is being unfairly railroaded by a bunch of pitchfork-wielding yahoos. I don’t suppose Renee Gork’s habit of whining about her job on her Twitter account, not a personal account, but her account at the station, could have anything to do with the firing? Ya think?
Of course, you can’t read the whining tweets. They have been deleted and her account closed to the public since the incident. As Dana Carvey used to say as the Church Lady on SNL: “how conveeeeenient”.
In the rush to judgment in this don’t-get-it-right-get-it-first society, the University of Arkansas, Bobby Petrino, the radio station, and Arkansas fans are being pilloried all over the ‘net and talk radio.
In a press release from the U of A, it is clear that the University or Bobby Petrino did NOT demand Renee Gork’s firing, nor should they have. All they asked of the radio station, KAKS, was that Gork not cover practice for a few days to allow for a cooling off period.
However, let’s be clear. Clear enough for even Florida Gator fans to understand, provided they can get over their separation anxiety due to the graduation of whats-his-name. This station, Hogs Sports radio, is not affiliated with the University and is a private enterprise. KAKS has the right to employ who they wish. Covering an athletic team is not a right, it’s a privilege for those chosen to do so.
If Renee Gork, who seemed apologetic in an interview with a local TV station, is seen as offensive or polarizing to her former station’s listeners, the station has the right to do what they did. I personally am not glad she was fired, but recognize the station’s right to do so.
Radio is dependent on advertising, the rates for which are determined by ratings. If having a gloating Florida fan (is that redundant?) covering the Hogs, and according to tweets Gork was not thrilled to do so, that would no doubt have a negative effect on KAKS’ ratings and thus advertising revenue.
As for the other side of the story, KFSM Channel 5 in Fort Smith aired an interview with KAKS General Manager Dan Storrs in which Storrs says that wasn’t the entire reason Renee Gork was let go.
This is not to say that Renee Gork is a terrible person or a bad reporter. I’m not familiar with her work and have never met the woman. I do know that Bobby Petrino does not suffer fools gladly as the saying goes, and had a male reporter done the same thing, Petrino would have reacted in much the same way, if not more aggressively.
I cannot attest to Bobby Petrino’s character or lack of same. I just know that since Petrino became the coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, the players’ GPA’s are up and incidents involving player misbehavior are way down from his media darling predecessor who supposedly has an impeccable character.
Petrino has only recruited a player or two who ran into problems elsewhere, nothing like the halfway house that Ole Miss football has become.
I suggest if you want to know about an SEC coach’s misbehavior you read Stewart Mandel’s recent column on Houston Nutt.
As for this whole Renee Gork hat affair, I suggest that the horde of pitchfork wielders ready to string up Arkansas Razorback fans and coaches get both sides of the story in the future.
As for any aspiring reporters out there covering a team other than their favorite squad, I suggest they keep their “fanboy” instincts under their hat if they want to have any credibility.