Who is playing good and bad cop at The Chronicle. Last 10 #nufc stories by @LeeRyder @NeilCameron5 @MsiDouglas pic.twitter.com/w28IKin26r— Mike Ashley Lies (@MikeAshleyLies) February 18, 2015
This was my contribution to a discussion on Twitter recently over the extent to which The Chronicle have got into bed with the club following the end of the ban placed on them.The Chronicle have said that there were discussions with the club to end the ban, that goes without saying though. They won’t disclose specifics of the discussion. They are categoric that there is no agreement on positively spinning stories or exaggerating John Carver’s credentials for getting the managers job full time.I’ve personally never thought for one second that there would be such an agreement. I do think however that the very fact that the ban was lifted and that The Chronicle is now releasing a string of exclusives with the Chief Executive, Manager and players tells anyone with a functioning understanding of quid pro quo that the local paper came out of the ban somewhat chastened, with an acute understanding of how the club will react to any further “unfair” coverage and with an understanding of the rewards they’ll reap for “balance”.Those that claim the paper is now in the pocket of the club entirely and will not criticise anything are talking patent nonsense. It’s self-evident that criticism still occurs since the ban was lifted. My tweet above has a dozen examples from last week alone. We can be equally categoric that the removal of the ban obviously means we will inevitably see more of the clubs perspective as well. Anyone denying there’s been a shift in tone is denying the basic advantages of a healthy reciprocal relationship between local club and paper. The Chronicle must now pander to the club to some degree, having previously pandered only to fans since being banned.To their credit, The Chronicle writers have been quite forthright in wanting to discuss this. They clearly feel passionately that they are reporting on what the club say and do in their news stories and that they criticise this openly in opinion pieces. Both on Twitter and on their podcast they’ve staunchly defended themselves. Much of what they say I agree with, but I think there’s a straw man element to them focusing on the “in the pocket” extreme argument, because few reasonable people claim that level of shift in coverage. I completely disregard the condescending position that people only complain because they don’t understand what it is a journalist does.The interesting area for discussion is in the extent to which Newcastle coverage has moved from being entirely to satisfy supporters to also trying to keep their main content provider satisfied. How far should that balance move? It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the club providing interviews and exclusives should have the benefit of fair and balanced reporting. Should the Chronicle reject those scoops and the cancellation of the ban? That would be nonsense, any media outlet craves access to ‘in the know’ contacts in order to avoid becoming an irrelevance.But the chronicle have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly and should acknowledge that rather than getting defensive. Egregious examples include:
- claiming (then retracting the claim) that the majority think Pardew has done a good job in a poll where 47.9% voted that way (including mackems)
- trumpeting the claim that United have the 4th most productive academy, simply because we play the players from our academy to fill gaps in a threadbare squad, despite not being good enough, while other clubs only play the absolute best to come through and reach the standards of their multi-million pound signings
- a front page imploring fans to judge Carver at the end of the season being re-worked (to make little sense) following a twitter uproar.
- Declaring that John Carver delivered a convincing display in his first Press conference that “gives Geordie fans hope” when less than a third have any faith in Carver according to their own poll.
- listing “Five reasons why Newcastle United's season is far from over” when it’s completely and utterly over and has been since early JanuaryUltimately, the point I was trying to make with my tweet was one about perception. The good cop, bad cop comment was tongue in cheek. But quantifying the articles in the paper at that point gave a small snapshot of the broad strokes the paper was making. I hoped this was done in a thoughtful, effective manner rather than much of the ill thought out personal criticism seen on Twitter.Mark Douglas himself stated on the podcast that the back page is almost always built upon two Ryder articles. The back page is fundamental in shaping perceptions, far more than opinion pieces 3 pages back. Nothing in Ryders recent output had reflected the total dissatisfaction of the fans though. Given that the club hadn’t lost any of it’s last 3 games at that point, perhaps it was reasonable to hold back somewhat on the rhetoric. It certainly returned following the Man City result. However disillusionment among the fanbase clearly extends beyond the odd result here or there. Fundamentally we are a disenfranchised group and no U18 saying the right thing about Carver will be taken as anything but propaganda as long as the setup is wrong.If the local press are going to celebrate the positive reaction to their strong headlines (“P45Due”, “Sorry”, “Banned but not Gagged” etc) then they must recognise there will be criticism when that level of antagonism dies down or seems to disappear completely.