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July 2021

Untold Media: The press is not reporting issues – it is the issue

By Tony Attwood

It seems it doesn’t matter how many examples of media nonsense is printed about football, some people go on believing the press.  Each day if you look on any of the news accumulator sites you will see article after article about the players that Arsenal are going to sign.  We all know the club won’t sign them – or at least won’t sign all of them, and we all know that virtually none of us guessed correctly who was signing for us last summer until about 3 days before it happened.  But still it goes on.

We are going to sign full backs, because all our full backs are injured.  We are going to sign a midfielder because Jack won’t be back until March.  We are going to sign a forward because Robin is all we have.  Oh, I never thought of that.

In one sense it is all ok – just a bit of fun.  But the trouble is that some people take it seriously.  When Ivan Gazidis addresses the AGM of Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association in August he stressed that there would be transfers but it was a difficult market, but many of the audience (all members of AISA) grumbled and protested, clearly not believing him, preferring to believe the media that proclaimed that Wenger had lost it, and could not sign anyone because of his dithering, incompetence, ineptitude etc etc.

Of course by the AGM of Arsenal they couldn’t come back with the “spend some fucking money” approach, because clearly the club had, and by then we were seeing what excellent purchases had been made, so the protest took a different form – demanding that Mr Hill-Wood should stand down, and that money should be sought from the Usmanov/Dein camp.

All of which feeds into the papers, and off they go again – building up to the transfer window with stories and more stories.   If Arsenal doesn’t buy anyone in the January window, it will be another Arsenal failure, another example of Wengerian stubbornness, and the criticism will start up once more.

Yet what all of this criticism does is ignore not only the fact that the media’s stories about who we are going to sell and buy are just invented tripe, but also the way the media in the UK works and what it is.    Because every time a web site re-runs a story from the press, it is giving the press credence which it doesn’t deserve.

And we can show the press deserves no credence for we have been hearing day after day, week after week, the most shocking revelations of how journalists have hacked into phones on an industrial scale, have tormented the bereaved, have stolen and lied.

It is simply not logical or reasonable in any way to separate what we now know are the tactics and techniques used by the press throughout 90% of the paper and then suggest that they are not the tactics and techniques used in the sports pages.

I must add, by way of background for non-UK readers that there is still a major government enquiry going on into the criminal activities of the press.  Every day we get new revelations and I won’t try to repeat even 1% of the stories that have been heard in the enquiry.  But here is just one as a taster.  Hugh Grant, the actor, has been a strong critic of the press and the way it operates.  When he appeared on a serious BBC investigative programme on TV about the closure of the News of the World (the paper that was the most read paper in the UK and which was forced to close as the phone hacking story broke) the mother of his  daughter received endless threatening phone calls.   The message over and over again, repeatedly, was,  ‘Tell Hugh Grant he must shut the fuck up’.  In abstract some people might feel that they would be able to shrug this off.  In reality most of us can’t.

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The enquiry has heard endless tales of stories run in the press which are complete fabrications, and how photographers push and prod people endlessly to make them angry so they can get the picture which supposedly represents them in a drug induced state or whatever they are suggesting.

Yet despite this evidence day after day about the appalling nature of the British press, and despite the fact that day after day the press print stories about football transfers and the like, there are lots of people who willingly reprint them day after day, without making the connection.   It is simply inconceivable that the news and features sections of the press are “as bent as a five bob note” (as we used to say – meaning [for the younger generation] utterly and totally bent) while the sports section is doing an honest job to uncover the truth.

To believe this is in fact a form of denial.  A form of denial that anything is wrong with the press which allows the reader to believe that something is wrong with Arsenal.  A form of denial that the transfer rumours are based on fact.

To illustrate the case there’s no point going back through them all, one need only remember one that was so eccentric that it ought to ring through history as an example of the genre.  The Daily Mirror on 26 June 2008  said:

“Arsene Wenger is considering a shock move for Peter Crouch to replace striker Emmanuel Adebayor, it emerged last night.

“The Arsenal boss is also watching Euro 2008 Germany flop Mario Gomez and Blackburn hitman Roque Santa Cruz as he prepares to sell Adebayor to AC Milan.”

Yes, well hindsight is good, but awareness is good too.

Every time a web site repeats one of these mindless rumours it bolsters the press a little more, and enables those trying to defend the press in front of the enquiry to say (as I heard from a journalist this morning), “Look, we have a media that is the envy of the world…” as if that is true.   Even if in some bizarre way it is true, would that make everything ok?  Of course not.

The press is not reporting issues – it is the issue, and the more web sites repeat their wild stories as if they are true, the worse it gets.


12 comments to Untold Media: The press is not reporting issues – it is the issue

  • Flavour

    This is absolutely fantastic, I am adding it to the book. Sorry and am saying it here. You know me, I contacted you recently about a book and send you the extract taken for your site. The book is progressive and keep updating and changing until the final publication because I am writing on the progressive and not the past though using the past as a rear view mirror as we nevigate our way to victory. You and all your writers are the most positive ever. Thanks for this. I love it

  • Richard B

    A timely piece Tony.
    Sadly as the advertising market moves more and more towards one which demands ‘hits’ in order to generate a sales story things can only get worse.
    However – which website got Sports Website of the Year for the umpteenth time running this week? Proving that you can print only facts and informed opinion and win.

  • Dan T

    I understand that people spreading these made up rumours are worsening the media situation, however, I know I can just pass it all off as made up rubbish. So the fact the story is probably not true is not the bit that bothers me most as I expect this from the media.
    The bit that bothers me most is that it is simply boring. Why would I want to read the same regurgitated rubbish on 10 different blogs, I don’t! It is total laziness, and this is what I really take issue with. Why bother having a blog if you are only reporting non-truth stories that everybody else is also reporting? Why not actually do some thinking and write a real article!
    p.s. i am of the younger generation but a 5 bob note seems like a perfectly legitimate note to me (and legitimate is certainly not a word I would use to describe the press). Isn’t it 9 bob note?

  • LRV

    Yes Tony, the press is indeed the issue. Well, I don’t buy or read any of their papers. I haven’t done so in a very long time. I don’t read those parotty blogs either.

  • Surely five bob is a crown? I would have said nine bob = bent too.

    Also, since you carry links to Arsenalnews and Tribalfootball, isn’t your stance mildly hypocritical? I accidentally clicked through to Le Grovel from the former!

  • Ross

    I had a go at the “author” of an article posted on a fan-site about a month back. The “article” said that Alex Song wanted to leave Arsenal in search of trophies and that his leaving might occur in January: or “sources inside the club suggest…” or “it is thought…” or “blah blah blah”.

    I told him his piece was tabloid rubbish (that may sound harsh but it was true) and that he should try and produce an article about actual football and not regurgitate something based on heresay upon heresay upon nothing.

    His response was that the article had been circulated around other sites like The Guardian, Sun etc. – I knew this as I had seen the same rubbish elsewhere – but it was his opinion that because they printed it, it was a valid article worthy of reproduction.

    No imagination, no pride to be had in writing well, no objective opinion, scepticism or questioning of the validity of the numerous assertions within the piece, no referral to actual sources or signs of research, just the fact that another place printed it so it must be worthy of a reprint. Poor, lazy, and shameful (he called himself an author), I was mildly disgusted with his reply.

    The point is that it only takes one article, the truth doesn’t matter, and web-based articles are now fuelled by “likes”, “recommends”, “RT’s” (retweets), and the number of clicks that may possibly turn into advertising banner-clicks. If they’re successful in any of these areas – which they’re designed especially for – then they spread and spread due to people like my lazy protagonist, regardless of their quality or the truth.

    It’s good to see people’s eyes are still open here though. It’s heartening. Sorry about the length.

  • RedGooner

    Well David Villa broke his leg and is out for 6 months so get ready for RVP to barcelona in the summmer/january that cesc phoned him up and begged.
    You could beat them all to the story Tony an exclusive as to why.

  • Mandy dodd

    Agree that some of these stories can raise expectations and cause damage when these same expectations are not met, seem to remember a lot of frustration out there over the mata issue, or non issue last summer.
    I suppose the press have to print something, and maybe arsenal, for some very good reasons does not always give the press so much.
    As you say, these stories will rear their ugly heads again in coming weeks, wenger will be judged as having lost the plot if he doesn’t sign the likes of Neymar or messi. Arry will be linked with everyone, worsening the mood of some in our ranks. Podolski, gotze, hasard,mvila, Scott Parker, shay given, melo, hamsik, cavani, Charlie Nicholas, gus Caesar and terry mancini will no doubt be splashed all over the back pages linked with moves.
    I remember at least three well followed arsenal sites last summer stating we were about to sign Cahill, and jagielka, says it all really , kos, vermaelen and merte are better than them anyway!
    Some say that arsenal create deliberate smokescreens and diversions over transfers, who knows, but if true, I would like to think such things are in place to make some of the press look very silly, as well as for more sensible reasons.
    Having said that, I must state, is it just me or I have seen less about arsenal than usual in the red tops lately, calm before the storm?

  • Byo

    The most annoying part is when the Arsenal blogs reprint the non-stories, rumors and conjectures!

  • Anne

    On the question of the motive behind some of these transfer rumours, I thought this article, and particularly Arsene’s comments, were quite interesting:

    “Arsene Wenger has insisted Arsenal are not interested in controversial Mexican midfielder Marco Fabian.

    Chivas star Fabian’s family insist in the Mexican press that he is on the brink of joining Arsenal in a £6m move in January.

    But when asked if he was interested, Wenger said today: “No. It is just an agent who wants to sell a player.””

  • eduardo

    all of you have forgotton the one phrase that signals a transfer story is almost certainly false – Sky Sports understands – surely you all know this means sky sports have made up, especially where arsenal transfer stories are concerned

  • Waleed

    The club needs to shut down the ‘media watch’ section on the website. It’s an embarrassment.