By Tony Attwood
What most of us want, I think, is a media that presents facts as facts, and commentary as commentary, each in a balanced and considered manner. Sadly this is not something the UK newspaper industry is particularly well known for.
And indeed nor have they been well-known for accuracy for some time. For it is now over ten years since both Mirror Group Newspapers (owning the Mirror, Sunday People, Express, Star, and the Record) and Associated Newspapers (owning the Mail, Metro, i-newspaper and New Scientist) were found guilty of contempt of court. It was just one of a series of bust-ups the media has had with the law.
But by and large, of course, the media carry on and publish what they like, particularly in relation to football. However at last there seems to be a bit of a fightback going on, and not just with newspapers.
For example, Jürgen Klopp yesterday accused Amazon TV presenter Marcus Buckland of not understanding the impact of Liverpool’s scheduling, saying, “I realise that you don’t understand it as well, even when you work in football, so why should I explain again? If you make a joke of that you are completely ignorant.”
Meanwhile Manchester United have removed the press passes of a number of journalists including those from the Mirror, ESPN, Sky Sports, and the local Evening Newspaper after the paper published articles about the players losing faith in the manager over issues such as the quality of some of the recent signings.
Manchester United have also taken offense at the way newspapers publish stories without asking the club to comment on the story first, so that the club can reply to the comment. Of course, the media don’t have any obligation to ask for comments – but the clubs are now saying that if that is the case, they don’t have any obligation to work with the media. However, I believe that in the contracts with Sky and TNT there are obligations to do pre- and post-match interviews in a co-operative and meaningful manner.
In previous eras, clubs were keen to co-operate with the media because there was no guarantee that every game would be sold out and it was felt that publicity was needed to encourage the crowds. Indeed if one looks back to the 1970s, in the years when Arsenal were performing averagely in the league the ground would regularly be only half full.
But if we go back further still there were times when in response to what were considered negative reports, Arsenal banned all the media from the ground.
Now once more, many clubs in the Premier League feel that the media serves no purpose for them, as that the media (as we have regularly noted here) follow their own agendas in order to serve themselves, by having sensational stories day after day, which often have little to do with any form of reality.
However one of the problems for the clubs is that the media will continue to make up its own stories, and if they ban certain journalists those stories are likeky to become more and more negative. And as has often been seen, a story doesn’t have to be repeated that often to become something that most people believe, even if the story is untrue.
Certainly, for now, the relationship between the media and truth is, as we have often noted, very shakey. For a number of years through each summer, we have gathered details of the transfer rumours that the media published from the end of the season to the closure of the transfer window, and in most seasons only about three percent of the transfers that are predicted by the media come to pass.
However what annoys the clubs on this score is the fact that most of these transfers are not serious attempts at transfers which then fail, but stories made up by the media that imply that the clubs are not doing their jobs properly.
It is, of course, possible that the current arguments and banning orders might fizzle out, especially as the clubs realize that whether they talk to journalists or not will not make a blind bit of difference to the fantasies that the journalists make up.
But it is also just possible that if the relationship between clubs and journalists breaks down, the media might finally turn its attention to the elephant in the room: the PGMO which is there always controlling, always refusing to be interviewed, but never a topic for much newspaper debate.
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