“All that is required is an issue about which others are passionate and feel unheard”

Here’s a must-read for anyone interested in sports journalism that goes beyond the weekend’s player ratings. As one of the biggest names in European football goes into administration, The Guardian carries a piece by the author of Rangerstaxcase.com, a blogger who “pulled down the facade at Rangers”, including a scathing commentary on the Scottish press’s complicity in the club’s downfall:

“The Triangle of Trade to which I have referred is essentially an arrangement where Rangers FC and their owner provide each journalist who is “inside the tent” with a sufficient supply of transfer “exclusives” and player trivia to ensure that the hack does not have to work hard. Any Scottish journalist wishing to have a long career learns quickly not to bite the hands that feed. The rule that “demographics dictate editorial” applied regardless of original footballing sympathies.

“[…] Super-casino developments worth £700m complete with hover-pitches were still being touted to Rangers fans even after the first news of the tax case broke. Along with “Ronaldo To Sign For Rangers” nonsense, it is little wonder that the majority of the club’s fans were in a state of stupefaction in recent years. They were misled by those who ran their club. They were deceived by a media pack that had to know that the stories it peddled were false.”

Over at Rangerstaxcase.com, the site expands on this in its criticism of STV for uncritical reporting:

“There does not appear to be a point where the media learns its lessons. There is no capacity for improvement. No voice that says: we have been misled by people from this organisation so often in the past that we need to get corroboration before we publish anything more. Alastair Johnston, you will recall, artfully created the impression for Rangers’ supporters and shareholders  that the payment of the tax bills that are now crushing their club would be the responsibility of the parent company. His words then were carefully chosen to avoid actually lying, but his intended audience seemed in little doubt at the time as to what they thought he meant.  Either Mr. Johnston has been misrepresented by STV or he appears to be trying to gain an advantage in the battle to oust Whyte by misleading Rangers’ supporters.”

The piece also includes some interesting reflections on collaborative journalism and crowdsourcing:

“Rangerstaxcase.com has become a platform for some of the sharpest minds and most accomplished professionals to share information, debate, and form opinions based upon a rational interpretation of the facts rather than PR-firm fabrications. In all of the years when the mainstream media had a monopoly on opinion forming and agenda setting, the more sentient football fan had no outlet for his or her opinions. Blogs and other modern media, like Twitter, have democratised information distribution.

“Rangerstaxcase.com has gone far beyond its half-baked “I know a secret” origins to become a forum for citizen journalism. The power of the crowd‑sourced investigation initiated by anyone who is able to ignite the interest of others is a force that has the potential to move mountains in our society. All that is required is an issue about which others are passionate and feel unheard.”

Rangerstaxcase.com is not unique. Combine the passion of sports supporters with the lack of critical faculty in much sports journalism and you have potentially fertile ground.

For my own club, Bolton Wanderers, for example, I turn to Manny Road (site currently laid low by a malware attack).

For the Olympics there will be a regular and easy supply of good news stories to wade through, but also an extremely active network of local and international blogs from people scrutinising the foggier side of the Olympic spirit, which is why I set up Help Me Investigate the Olympics and am encouraging my students to connect with those communities.

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