By Tony Attwood
First off, I know of course that this is the third FOOTBALL BETRAYED article in a row. I think the issue of how lazy journalists restrict analysis is important – and having decided to write about it, I’m amazed at how each day there is example after example. I don’t even have to go searching.
But please don’t think Untold is going to be nothing but “Football betrayed” articles from now on. We publish three articles a day through the week – and this could be four if we get enough interesting stuff to publish. So there is plenty of room for everything that we normally offer, plus a continuing FOOTBALL BETRAYED series.
So here, before we move onto other items later today I want to cover the Swansea Stoke game from the weekend especially how the comments of Garry Monk, the Swansea manager, were reported – and how this fits into the notion of “lazy journalism” betraying football.
Stuart James in the Guardian today for example says, “The Swansea City manager [Gary Monk] rounded on Mike Riley, the general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, whom he accused of “poor leadership” after failing to make any contact with the Welsh club following a number of controversial refereeing decisions in recent weeks.
“Monk revealed that Swansea have now gone above Riley’s head and sent a letter of complaint, complete with DVD footage, to John Williams, the chairman of the PGMOL, highlighting perceived injustices. There is likely to be another in the post after this defeat. Monk, who was absolutely furious, described Oliver’s decision to point to the spot when Moses tumbled under minimal contact from Angel Rangel as “disgraceful” and “disgusting”.”
The manager also is reported as saying, “I’ve spoken to the referees and the association about it, and I don’t hear anything coming back to me from Mike Riley at all which I find poor leadership. The whole thing is mounting up now, which is becoming a very worrying situation.”
After more quotes along the same lines the journalist has now set the scene. And what is his response? It was be good to know how he saw the challenges. It would be good to bring in an expert witness such as a retired referee, or a ref from another league, who could speak out. It’s not hard to do that. After all Untold does that all the time. So what does Stuart James do? He calls this statement an “outburst”.
Now “outburst” means“
But we’ve already seen that the Swansea manager is not acting on the spur of the moment. He has previously spoken to PGMOL about this. This is a carefully planned campaign by Swansea.
However countering a point in an argument, not by dealing with the point, but by speaking about the manner in which the point is made, is a sure sign of lazy journalism. “I don’t want to bother with this – let’s call it an outburst” is what lies behind comments like…
“Monk’s outburst will almost certainly result in him facing a Football Association disciplinary charge” He then goes on to tell us that “Mark Hughes… argued with just about everything that Monk said, including the accusation levelled at Moses.”
Of course Hughes would. That tells us nothing. That is perfect lazy journalism again – as if by offering two points of view he is something being “balanced”. Issues like this are not balanced – invariably someone is right and someone wrong, and the good journalist sets about finding out who and why.
Jon Culley in the Independent does much the same. He must know (for if he doesn’t he should be sacked at once) that serious accusations have been made against PGMOL and the referees it employs – this is an attack on the very heart of football’s integrity. Untold’s being making these points for five years. The BBC has interviewed two of our correspondents on the issue. Here’s a PL manager saying the same thing. Surely a matter of interest for any passing football journalist.
But no. We get the whole statement by the manager reduced to being called a “rant” a favourite word of lazy journalists – used when any manager speaks out (except where it was Sir Alex Ferguson – for some reason journalists learned not to call what he said “a rant”.)
A rant, like “outburst” is normally used in a pejorative way, It means speaking in a violent or extravagant manner, and is associated with loud and bombastic declamations. The phrase “rant and rave” gives a clear insight into its usage – the “rave” part suggesting something out of control, not logical, not organised, just a stream of words from someone who is (at least momentarily) unhinged. Indeed the word “rant” comes from the Dutch meaning
What lazy journalists do is dismiss any expression by a manager that they don’t want to analyse as a “rant”. Instead of asking, “does this manager have a case?” and “is this something that we as investigative journalists should be looking into” the lazy journalist will focus on the mode of discussion, rather than the truth or otherwise of the allegations as in…
“The Monk rant overshadowed a victory for Stoke,”
Worse, the whole episode is redefined as something that managers do when they don’t like a decision. “Hughes, no stranger to outspoken outbursts himself when the mood has taken him, felt Monk would have been wiser to calm down and making a more measured assessment of what happened.”
So we have a perfect example of lazy journalism. Instead of investigating the affair, instead of saying “this is a major assault on the integrity of PGMOL and the whole of Premier League football – so let’s try and see if there is a case here in this game and in the previous games” we get (in both papers) a patronising comment from Hughes:
“You get a bit emotional after games, especially when you have lost a game when you were leading.”
The allegation of the corruption or incompetence of referees is invariably treated in this way – silly little managers getting all steamed up. Ah, poor chaps. “Calm down, calm down,” as Harry Enfield used to say.
So not only do these two writers in the Guardian and Independent not contemplating any issue within the story, they do something far, far worse. In these desperation to do no work at all, they trot out a line that has been around for 30 years – that managers get worked up and that this manager is bound to face a charge from authorities for speaking in that way.
That notion is both lazy and daft. The issues are
1. Despite knowing the dangers of speaking out against the Secret Society that is PGMOL here we have a manager who has spoken out, and gone so far as to create recordings of bad incidents and send them to PGMOL. Why has he taken such a risk?
2. The allegation is that this is happening in match after match against Swansea is a serious allegation. Is there anything in it? Let’s get the recordings and look and see. Untold did it across the league via the Referee Decisions web site, and we don’t have the resources of a national newspaper. It is not hard.
3. The issue is being ignored by the rest of the media – so it is a great chance for an exclusive. Why do the editors allow their journalists – or even encourage their journalists to be this lazy?
Swansea’s complaint is a huge issue in football. Today, as every day, the football going public is short changed by lazy journalists who take the money and fail to do their job. The fact that the issue is highlighted by blogs like ours shows how desperate the situation is.
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