By: M.L. Stein
Press groups protest ban of a Riverside Press-Enterprise
staffer over a minor infraction that occurred last year sp.
THE RIVERSIDE (CALIF.) Press-Enterprise and two national press organizations strongly protested the banning of a news photographer from the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament for what they say was a minor infraction that happened a year ago.
Press-Enterprise cameraman David Bauman, who has covered the PGA tour for 15 years, was refused press credentials for the event in the Palm Springs desert area.
According to Press-Enterprise managing editor Mel Opotowsky, press coordinator Connie Whelchel cited an incident at last year’s tournament when Bauman tried to pick up his press badge while temporarily wearing another photographer’s badge.
In addition, Opotowsky said, Whelchel complained that Bauman was abusive to her at the time.
In his protest letter to Edward Heorodt, director of the Classic, Opotowsky asserted that it was Whelchel who was abusive last year, lecturing Bauman “in a loud and degrading tone of voice about the seriousness of his violation and demanding that he surrender the credential immediately.”
Opotowsky added that several photographers from major media have said that “Ms. Whelchel has a history of rude, obstructive and demeaning treatment of photographers.”
The letter stated that Bauman tried to resolve the issue with Whelchel, but she continued to harangue him and “became more antagonistic and unprofessional.”
In an interview, Opotowsky said Bauman used another photographer’s badge only to get into the press tent so he could pick up his own.
“He could have taken off the badge before he met Whelchel but didn’t think that it would matter,” the editor went on. “We know that, because this tourney is spread over several courses, the practice of borrowing credentials within an organization is not unusual.”
The Press-Enterprise was supported by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and the National Press Photographers Association Inc. (NPPA).
Rick Vacek, the Fresno Bee’s assistant managing editor, sports, and chairman of APSE’s access/credentials committee, wrote to Heorodt that the Press-Enterprise had followed all the procedures specified in the PGA tour media guide and had received credentials for all its other personnel covering the tournament.
The fact that Bauman’s exclusion apparently was due to “a personality conflict makes it all the more reprehensible,” Vacek complained.
In a fax to Heorodt, NPPA president Joseph R. Traver contended that whatever happened between Whelchel and Bauman in 1994 should have no bearing on a “valid request” for credentials this year.
“Certainly, any misbehavior this year should be dealt with on a case-by-case situation,” he continued. “Not in advance or in anticipation of a problem. Mr. Bauman . . . should be afforded every opportunity to professionally complete his assignment.”
Traver, who is photo editor of Sports Illustrated, backed Opotowsky’s claim that Whelchel has a record of dealing abrasively with the media, saying in his letter that “several media representatives complained of her unprofessionalism and lack of understanding in her role as press coordinator ? not press confrontationalist.”
Both Heorodt and tournament chairman John Foster told the Press-Enterprise they would not overrule Whelchel.
Opotowsky said Foster suggested that the paper take the issue to the PGA. Marty Caffety, a PGA official, refused to intervene, saying it was a Hope tournament matter, Opotowsky added.
Reached by phone by E&P, Whelchel refused to comment on the protests, stating, “This is a matter between the PGA and a photographer.”
Commented Opotowsky: “We are sorry for the minor violation of some rule, but what we have here is some functionary trying to throw her weight around because her boots weren’t properly licked.”
?(Connie Whelchel- abrasive) [Photo & Caption]
?(David Bauman-banned photographer) [Photo & Caption]