I make no bones about being a fan of Tottenham Hotspur, I have been one since 1981 and no doubt I will continue to be one until my time is up. I try to watch as many games as I can get my hands on, and tend to read the varying match reports once they are published. As a result, in recent weeks my eyes have really been opened to the way the media industry works in the UK, and why, simply put, it cannot be trusted to produce a proper, balanced, fact based view of whatever they happen to reporting on. Okay, so perhaps I have always really understood that was the case, somewhere ‘deep down’, and 2 incidents in the last couple of weeks have really shown it to be true.
The first was after Spurs magnificent 3-1 home win against Inter Milan, when I went searching the ‘reputable’ news sources on the web for differing views on the match. I found that no less than six different ‘sources’ all offering exactly the same match report – word for word. One organisation added an extra paragraph to the ariticle, but otherwise the reports from ITV, Football365, teamTalk, Sky Sports, Soccernet and The Independant were all the same. Of course, it’s not made immediately clear that three of those six are actually from the same media stable (stand up teamTalk, Football365 and Sky Sports). Perhaps more interestingly the author and source of the article wasn’t made clear either, except when I found it on the sixth site, The Independant, who attributed the report to a journalist from the PA. None of the other sites reported the source.
So much for multiple independant sources.
Moving on to the second incident, which comes from the web pages of The Telegraph, and is a sort of match report of the Spurs v Werder Bremen game, from last night (at time of writing), in which the former cantered to a 3-0 victory. What stands out in this so called match report, is that the author (who isn’t clearly atrributed, but from a breadcrumb trail could be Jim White) either wasn’t watching the game, or at least wasn’t making notes. We know this because of the three key points in the game, the Spurs goals, he makes factual errors in reports of two of them. Firstly,
It led to the second goal, Pavlyuchenko misheading into Modric’s path for the midfielder to volley home.
It was in fact a deliberate Crouch knock-down which Modric was able to clip into the net. The third goal is also incorrectly described,
When his delicious chip hit the cross bar midway through the second half, the ball bounced back kindly for Crouch to add a third.
No, it didn’t. Bale’s “delicious chip” bounced off the bar and Aaron Lennon chased the ball down, picked it up, nutmegged a defender beautifully before picking out Crouch with a decent pass, from which the striker produced a good finish. I don’t think ‘the ball bounced back kindly for Crouch’ quite covers all that.
Big deal you might say, what’s the problem with a couple of errors and sharing a report? The problem is two fold. Firstly, these are basic facts about the game which have been misreported. If the journalist cannot get the basics right, what else are they getting wrong, what other basic facts are being mis-reported? The whole veracity of the document is cast into doubt. Secondly, the report is a document of history, of events in the world. Unless someone re-visits the article and corrects it, history, according to the Telegraph, is different from what actually happened. This is really important. In future years the archives of respected media outlets will be used by historians of the future as a window on the past, and if journalists can’t get even the most basic facts right, how distored will that world look?
In the context of world events, the documenting of a single football match is no big deal, I understand that. My worry is that it shows a more endemic problem in the quality of the media today, and that is a bigger deal as it has such a profound influence on everyone, both now and when people look back in tears to come.