By Tom Shine
There has been a lot of unhappiness from some Kansas State fans over our hiring of Kellis Robinett to cover the K-State athletics program.
Most of the 30 or so e-mails I have received indicate that fans aren't upset that Kellis is a graduate of the University of Kansas. That makes sense.
KU has one of the nation's best journalism schools. Its graduates — just like those from K-State's journalism program — work at papers all over the country, including The Eagle and The Kansas City Star.
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Most of the e-mails aren't critical of Kellis' ability, probably because most of them don't know much about his background. Here's the condensed version:
After graduating from KU in December 2005, he was hired by the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello to cover Idaho State athletics. He did that for a little more than three years, winning half a dozen regional awards and several national awards for his work.
His sports blog on the Journal's Web site was chosen the No. 1 College Sports Blog in the country by Blogged.com this year.
So where he went to school is not an issue, and neither are his abilities. What has upset some K-State fans is that Kellis helped run a blog for KU fans called The Jayhawk Lounge.
Nearly all of the e-mails I got and much of the traffic on various online message boards focus on two posts from that blog. Wildcat fans say the posts show that Kellis hates K-State and has attacked coaches and players in the program. They maintain that disqualifies him from covering K-State athletics.
First, Kellis did not write one of the two posts most frequently mentioned. On the other one, I did not find it hateful or mean-spirited as some K-State fans did.
Some bloggers also have picked up this partial sentence, plucked from a column Kellis wrote as a senior at KU: "There's a lot to hate about Manhattan . . ."
What doesn't get mentioned is that the column, written four years ago, also compliments K-State, including this: "The tailgating scene for football games is awesome. It doesn't matter how cold it gets, RV's and tents always stretch as far as the eye can see.''
When we interviewed Kellis, we talked with him about his blog. We also reviewed it. We interviewed the folks he worked with in Idaho and the people he covered there. One Idaho State official called him the best beat writer to ever cover the program. Kellis also interviewed with The Star, which shares our K-State coverage.
After those discussions, we thought Kellis could provide objective and in-depth coverage of the K-State program. We still do. We think that will become evident as the season progresses.
We also think our decision to have Kellis live in Manhattan will enhance our coverage. It's the first time we've ever had our K-State beat writer live in Manhattan.
Let me also set the record straight on a couple of inaccuracies that have shown up in the e-mails I have received:
Kellis took his blog down so no one would see it.
We asked Kellis to take the blog down. It was the same request we would make of any new hire for any reporting position at The Eagle. We want our reporters focusing their writing and blogging efforts on behalf of The Eagle and Kansas.com. That's what we've hired them to do.
We're hiding Kellis from speaking on radio programs.
Actually, we're having Kellis concentrate on his new job. Like any new reporter, he has a lot of people he needs to meet: players, coaches, administrators. We think his time is best spent networking with them and preparing for the upcoming season. His beat is going to get very busy next week when K-State opens the football season against Massachusetts.
Will he speak on radio shows? Yes, like most of our previous K-State beat writers have.
People in the K-State program won't work with Kellis.
We've had no indication of that in our discussions with K-State officials. The people we have talked to said they look forward to working with Kellis. His initial meetings this week with key K-State officials, including athletic director John Currie, have all been positive.To read a blog entry on this topic by Kellis Robinett, visit the K-Stated blog.