UNTOLD ARSENAL MEDIA WATCH: THE TELEGRAPH
Telegraph Coverage of Newcastle and Liverpool Matches
Note: Much thanks to bjtgooner for doing research for this article.
In our inaugural Untold Arsenal Media Watch report, I thought that I would begin with the paper whose coverage was the worst (I’m sorry Telegraph). I don’t think that the Telegraph, overall, is as bad as many other newspapers out there. Unfortunately, their Arsenal coverage seems to be handled primarily by just two reporters: Henry Winter and Duncan White. And I believe that Mr. Winter and Mr. White could perhaps use a little bit of editorial supervision where their Arsenal reporting is concerned… Although I suppose it’s possible that they just really, REALLY like Joey Barton.
So, getting straight into it, I thought we would take a closer look at the reporting of each of these two men on the most controversial aspect of the Newcastle match: Gervinho’s sending off, and the actions of Alex Song, Gervinho, and Joey Barton.
We’ll begin with Duncan White’s account of the Gervinho sending off in the Telegraph’s match report on the Newcastle-Arsenal match, breaking it down to analyze his take on the actions of each individual player. He begins by stating that:
1) “Gervinho, the Arsenal debutant, went down after being clipped in the area” and “referee Peter Walton was having none of it.”
So, here, White acknowledges that Gervinho was, in fact, “clipped in the area.” However, he then goes on to state that “referee Peter Walton was having none of it,” which would imply that Gervinho was diving. White never actually claims that Gervinho dived, but then goes on to say that:
2) “Barton felt so aggrieved by this attempt to cheat that he grabbed the Ivorian by the scruff of the neck.”
Watch Arsenal Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv
The first thing to note here is that White now classifies Gervinho’s actions as an “attempt to cheat,” which is something of a leap from how he initially described them, and despite the fact that he never actually claimed that Gervinho dived. Also, without much explation, he writes off Barton’s aggressive actions as some kind of heartfelt emotional response to a legitimate grievance. Finally, White’s statement that Barton grabbed Gervinho “by the scruff of the neck,” in no manner conveys any kind of image to the reader of what Barton actually did. But he simply moves on, saying:
3) “Steven Taylor tried to intervene and split them up but Gervinho stupidly reached round and slapped Barton.”
The way White describes this gives the impression that Barton was just standing around innocently doing nothing when “Gervinho stupidly reached round and slapped [him].” White concludes his description of the incident by stating:
4) That Barton went down as if one of the Klitschkos had hooked him, and that Taylor than claimed Gervinho had elbowed his team-mate was hardly valorous but Gervinho was dumb to lose control.”
It’s interesting that White apparently felt the need to emphasize that he also found Gervinho “dumb,” as well as “stupid.”
Based on the above, we can see certain double standards in the way that White reported this incident. First, when Gervinho “went down after being clipped,” White characterized it as an “attempt to cheat.” However, when Barton “went down as if one of the Klitschkos had hooked him,” it was described as “hardly valorous.”
However, the most significant contradiction is the fact that White was willing to justify Barton’s own aggression as a genuine emotional response to Gervinho’s “attempt to cheat.” However, Gervinho is given no leeway whatsoever to have any kind of emotional response to being manhandled by Barton, even though he really had more justification for an emotional response than Barton did. Nonetheless, White merely characterizes his response as “stupid” and “dumb,” and moves on.
This is a theme that we’ll see again in Henry Winter’s reporting (below). However, before getting into that, it’s also worth noting the variations in the way that White reported on Newcastle and Arsenal fan responses:
With regard to the Newcastle fans, White stated only that Barton’s “selection was certainly popular with the crowd. They cheered his name loudest when the teams were read out and chanted it before kick off, Barton responding with a salute.” He then continued to say that:
“The Arsenal crowd made their feelings clear, too. Even before the red card, this was a flat performance against a Newcastle side that really struggled to keep sustained possession. With 20 min utes left they chanted for Arsene Wenger to spend some “expletive” money. And kept chanting it.” Before drawing any conclusions, we’ll take a look at Henry Winter’s reporting as well.
Henry Winter covered this incident in the scathingly-titled “Football surrenders moral high ground on day one of new Premier League.” The sub-headline further explains:
“Scarcely had the smoke cleared from the riots, hardly had Gordon Taylor reminded players of their responsibilities in a time of social unrest, then Alex Song, Gervinho and Joey Barton looted the little dignity football has left. In the Premier League’s first televised game of the season. Indefensible.”
So, based on what we’ve been told to expect, the article as a whole should be explaining to us why the author believes that “Alex Song, Gervinho and Joey Barton looted the little dignity football has left.” Clearly, all three were involved in the incident that the author claims to find so offensive, and from how it’s presented here, it would seem that all three are considered equally culpable. But let’s see what the article says… Winter begins to make his case in the second paragraph:
“Barton was more sinned against than sinning but hardly emerges well from the wearying scenes at St James’ Park. The Newcastle midfielder was stamped on by Song, who should have been dismissed by Peter Walton. Song deserves the FA’s disciplinary department coming through his door early tomorrow morning, brandishing a three-game ban. It was dangerous, cynical and cowardly.”
So, at the outset, Winter states his belief that Barton is less culpable for the incident than Gervinho and Song. For stamping on Barton, Mr. Winter believes that Song should have been dismissed and deserves a 3-match ban from the FA, and further adds for good measure that his stamp was “dangerous, cynical and cowardly.” He then continues to say that “Barton was understandably angered and his fuse began burning in familiar fashion…”
However, at this point, Winter abandons the events of the match, and devotes the next several paragraphs to a lengthy soliloquy on just what makes the man that is Joey Barton. Winter begins by acknowledging that Barton may have some character flaws, but then the train leaves the rails:
“This is a player who cannot visit the United States because of past misdemeanors, who will not be considered for England duty because…of the prickly nature of Barton’s personality. Yet in fairness to Barton he has sought to control his notorious temper, to stop that switch in his head from flicking into mayhem mode. He has had extensive counselling, given up alcohol, and tried to keep the demons in check.”
Ok, I think that’s just about enough to qualify as “fairness to Barton.” But there’s more:
“Once so negative, that energy flow needs an outlet, and Barton…has engaged in jousts with his many followers on Twitter, including a lengthy late-night exchange with this columnist… Barton appears to possess one of those hyperactive personalities, always needing something to occupy him…” (I shortened this, btw)
When the point finally emerges, it’s as follows:
“Honest about his earlier transgressions, Barton now reacts when he feels the victim. Song’s stamp fuelled that grievance. So when Gervinho dived, Barton responded, dragging the Ivorian up, and then squaring up.”
Ok, so let’s break down this argument: Nowadays, having come clean about his “earlier transgressions,” Barton only becomes violent “when he feels the victim.” Barton felt vicitmized both by Song’s stamp and by Gervinho’s “dive.” His earlier victimization by Song “fuelled that grievance,” so that “when Gervinho dived, Barton responded.”
Basically, according to Winter, Barton wasn’t the aggressor at all, but rather just “responded” to his own victimization by Song and Gervinho. So, I suppose that the referee should just go ahead and assign the cards to them? And I wonder how Winter will feel about Gervinho’s “response” to his victimization by Barton?
“Gervinho slapped Barton…There can be no sympathy for Gervinho, and the inevitable red arrived for raising his hands, but there will also be widespread consternation that Barton received only a yellow… Taylor should have a word with Barton, repeating the sentiments he expressed at the Premier League’s ‘Get on with the Game’ launch.”
So, apparently, these are Winter’s conclusions about the events of the night: Both Gervinho and Song deserved red cards for their actions. Barton, on the other hand, deserved a yellow card, and perhaps a talking to from the referee. Moving on, Winter had this one last thing to say about Barton:
“Sadly, Barton too often gives the impression of having an empty head on young shoulders. After being surrounded by irate Arsenal players, Barton signalled to Robin van Persie his belief that Gervinho had hit him with a punch.” His conclusion? “Barton has some soul-searching to do after this incident.”
I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions about whether you consider the above to be “biased” reporting or not.
Telegraph Coverage of Liverpool Match
Compared to the Newcastle match, the Telegraph’s coverage of the Liverpool match doesn’t offer quite as much to examine. Like many media outlets, the Telegraph played heavily on the rain during the match as an analogy for Arsenal’s failures. However, in the Telegraph, White and Winter repeatedly used this theme to convey a sense of “gloom and doom” for Arsenal. So, as my analysis of the Liverpool coverage, I thought I’d just take a closer look at some of the highlights of White’s and Winter’s “Arsenal against the elements” campaign.
The Telegraph initially reported Liverpool’s victory in an article by White with the headline:
“IT NEVER RAINS… WENGER FEELS THE STRAIN AS ARSENAL CRASH TO LIVERPOOL”
White also opened the article with this theme, stating:
“And it pours. Arsène Wenger stood at the edge of his technical area, soaked and bedraggled in the August rain, willing his team to score an improbable late equaliser…”
White also made use of the “weather” analogy in his article titled “Arsenal v Liverpool: Arsene Wenger insists he can ride out the storm.”
Subheading: “Never in his 15 years shaping Arsenal’s fortunes has Arsene Wenger faced such a torrent of trouble as this.” (photo caption: “Swimming against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.” ).
“From red tape to red cards, outgoing stars like Cesc Fabregas to incoming missiles like Andy Carroll, Wenger fights a turning tide. ‘We swim a bit against the stream,’ he concedes.
Stream? Nice try, Arsene. This is no gentle dip in some scenic brook. Wenger finds himself in a treacherous river swollen by storms. He can’t even prepare a team without worrying who’s injured, suspended or sold.
He can’t even get a friend to make a phone call without landing in hot water.”
Winter closes by stating:
“Wenger…needs to find some answers to stop the stream becoming an inhospitable flood.”
Also worth mentioning is Winter’s article titled “Arsène Wenger is lost in fog of denial over Arsenal’s weaknesses,” in which he opines that “Nasri’s future remains as darkly clouded as Saturday’s sky over the Emirates.”
(Subheading: “No more excuses. No more blaming Lady Luck or linesmen. Arsène Wenger is trapped in a nightmare substantially of his own making.”)
Further to the above, bjtgooner noted that the Telegraph’s match report “summarised the match, and was reasonably fair but failed to mention that the first goal was offside or the felling of RVP in the Liverpool box by Carragher. The article finished by praising the Liverpool subs.”
Overall, I would say that this represents a fair assessment of the Telegraph’s general coverage of the Liverpool match. Where the facts are concerned, the coverage is generally reasonable. But on the “doom and gloom” factor? Sopping wet and overly saturated, following the recent downpour.
With the new players now arriving at a rush Untold will be going through each one in turn in the coming articles. Our first is already published…
You can keep up to date with the latest publications on Untold on the index page
- Arsenal, Southampton, and all those cup wins.
- Southampton v Arsenal. Arsenal hit new territory with injury problem
- Southampton v Arsenal: the stats that no one else will publish
- How QAnon has taken over football reporting in England
- The clamour for another creative midfielder at Arsenal – but why ditch Smith Rowe?