Previously in this series…
- The conspiracy against Arsenal. Part 1: How it unfolded.
- Conspiracy, laziness, or stupidity. Part 2 How the media missed the big Arsenal story
- Is there really a conspiracy against Arsenal? Part 3: Ownership, laziness and repetition
By Tony Attwood
In the last article in this series we looked at four key factors in the media’s coverage of Arsenal.
1: Unity of ownership: a lot of the media is owned by the same company and thus run the same stories).
2. Unity of commentary: the fact that very few media outlets ever mention PGMO, and never criticise the organisation.
3. Laziness and lack of expertise on the part of writers, preferring always to take the same line as each other rather than engage in real research.
4. Repetition: a desire to say what we someone else has said before. (This dominates talk about transfers – very few journalists claim a story as their own, instead reporting is as being highlighted by another outlet.)
Now to move on in our exploration of why football journalism is as it is…
5. Conspiracy and simplicity
As a result of the processes outlined in points one to four above, clubs and most particularly agents, know that they only need to talk to one or two journalists and very quickly the story will be all over the media, without anyone checking its veracity.
Besides very few people in football journalism quote statistics to prove their point beyond the most simple, “Arsenal have had three red cards in the last four matches” and “Arsenal have scored one goal in the past four games” and so on. The notion of looking at the last six games or the last 19 games, or at league games only, to gauge form is generally completely beyond them.
Yet occasionally we do get articles with a whole plethora of stats piled one on top of the other. The BBC website does this just before each weekend match which is full of such obscure facts as”Arsenal have not won a league match on a thursday since 1976,” (That’s not true by the way, I just made that one up).
However most curiously the article and the prediction which appears on the BBC website before each game, is then removed as the game starts and the web page is overwritten with a report on the game. So if you know the URL of the original article and look it up to see what was predicted … it is not there!
Thus in our run up to the Wolverhampton game we carried the note and link about the BBC predicting a 2-0 defeat for Arsenal. But go to that link now and you get the match report with no mention of how completely and totally wrong all their predictions were. And indeed how they utterly ignored Arsenal’s recent form and Arsenal’s form since the first three games of the season, in reaching what turned out to be wildly wrong predictions.
From a different perspective I can recall how in the heyday of local newspapers which regularly had their first edition appear around lunchtime, the journalists and management would all check the 1pm news on the radio stations, to make sure their local evening paper’s headline national stories were not totally out of step with the broadcasters.
Of course, editors copying editors over what are the bigger stories of the moment is not exactly a conspiracy but it does have the effect of keeping certain stories out of the news, and continuing the momentum of other tales.
Thus Arsenal getting red cards and defeats in cup matches was taken as the big story. Arsenal doing well in 19 league games after those opening three defeats was not, and every media outlet ignored that one. Likewise, Arsenal having only two red cards in the league by the time of the League Cup defeat to Liverpool was never mentioned, and indeed when I mentioned this to supporters, no one would believe it. (We’ve since had one more with the sending off of Martinelli in most curious circumstances).
6. Hiding the false predictions and living the lie
No one in the media is going to admit that 96 percent of their transfer rumours last summer never came to pass, nor that some summers we get to a 99 percent failure rate. (This January it was a 100% failure rate!) Just as virtually no one ever claims to be the original source for a transfer rumour; each outlet quoting another as its source – a fact that can become quite circular on occasion.
And since transfer rumours fill up a lot of time and space (the moment the January window shut, the media were talking up next summer’s transfers) without the need for any research or validation of the story, everyone just keeps them running.
When they turn out to be totally untrue, either the story is dropped and never mentioned again, or Arsenal are blamed for being too slow or mean.
But more than this – the fact that the transfer stories are around for most of the year, and most of them are utterly and totally without foundation, encourages football journalists and commentators to make up anything they like. After all, that is what their media outlet is dealing in every day.
When 99% of what you say is nonsense, who is ever going to check anything?
The final part of this series “Lay off the proof, stay clear of the facts” follows later today.
- Everton v Arsenal: a happy video, line-up and what the league table will look like after
- Everton v Arsenal: Injuries, points needed for 4th, and Arsenal the first to 100?
- Everton v Arsenal: extraordinary figures seen in the last 6 games table
- Everton v Arsenal: how this referee treats the home and away team
- Everton v Arsenal and the oddity of referee behaviour