Don’t Shoot The Messenger: A Rough Week For Journalists.

3 02 2011


You’ve ruined it. All of you.


During the last ten days, I have watched various football-related stories ‘break’ on everyone’s new favourite news-stream. Watching Sky Sports News lag around forty-five minutes behind Twitter at the best of times on transfer deadline day confirmed that we don’t need Georgie any more. We don’t even need Jim White. Regional journalists, club spokespeople, even better-informed-than-average fans will tell us all we need to know, seconds after it happens, right in the palms of our hands, on a twenty-four hour basis. What a glorious age of technology in which we reside.



It was going so well. Then something strange occurred. The intelligence-devoid bubbles of idiocy rose to the top of our news fountain more than ever before. The journalists, the oracles we all follow to consume our nuggets of round-ball-related information in real time, dared to give an opinion on what was going on in their field of expertise. Greeting these opinions were not well-informed arguments from the Twitter-dwelling public. Greeting these opinions, and in some cases facts, were abuse, hatred and vitriol on quite an astounding level.



Let us begin on a relatively inoffensive level. Ian Prior, Sports Editor at The Guardian, had the gusto to say a ‘big, and I mean big’ exclusive was to break in three hours time on his newspaper’s website. In the midst of the transfer window, this news sent us all into meltdown. Has Fergie retired? Has Torres walked out? Has Ronaldo finally greased his bonnet into premature baldness? No. Inter kinda want to buy Gareth Bale in summer. So do Real Madrid. Sort of. Sigh.



Well. We were furious. How dare he not throw exclusives of earth-shaking consequences down our necks?! The abuse railed against Mr Prior. Many had a dig in a relatively good natured way. “We’re all off to subscribe to The Times” we cried at an increasingly regretful Prior. Alas, the idiot parade soon arrived at the party. The “UNFOLLOW PRIOR” campaign followed. The comments section of the story in question swiftly filled with hate, many going beyond the usual ‘f**k off’s to extend to threats against Mr Prior himself. All for posting a rather vague-transfer story on his own site in a transfer window full of vague transfer stories.



Dan Levene, writer for the Chronicle newspapers in West London, might suggest Ian Prior got fairly lucky. You could say Prior may have been the author of his own small social-media downfall by building up hype for his own personal and professional gain, only to see it backfire. Levene, however, just happened to be caught in the middle (well, the blue side of the middle) during an actual real, bona fide transfer between two clubs that don’t really like each other when the dregs of Twitter leeched themselves to his personal feed.



Now, let us be clear for a second. Levene did, after taking days of abuse from more than a few Liverpool supporters for suggesting that Fernando Torres would actually move to Stamford Bridge, make a joke focusing on an age-old ‘Scouse stereotype’. “I’m trending in Liverpool.” he said. “I hope I locked the house before leaving home!”. Offensive to some, amusing to others, think of it what you will. Levene himself would, probably, take back what was a flippant Twitter comment if he knew what was coming. What followed was a volley of abuse delving into the ridiculous and sickening. Threats of assault, death, sexual assault of his wife, the lot. Tony Barret, Merseyside correspondent of The Times, and no doubt himself the receiver of some harsh words during his time, spread Levene’s account to his followers, stoking the fires, whilst ingeniously calling Levene a “knobhead”. Maybe that could be the type of wordplay hidden behind the sturdy Murdoch paywall…



There were not so many death threats for Matt Law of the Daily Express when he suggested here that Cesc Fabregas, as many have stated in the last week, is a focus of criticism for his behaviour towards officials in recent times. Law’s piece is not an opinion article, merely a mix of facts and conjecture from others based around Fabregas’ behaviour. In fact, the article mainly focuses on words from the Arsenal captain himself, posted on Arsenal’s very own website.



You can probably write the rest by now. Law was accused of running a ‘witch-hunt’ against Fabregas. He only posted such an article because Fabregas wasn’t English, some suggested, despite Law posted a mirroring article regarding Wayne Rooney’s behaviour not six months previous. Some other witty soul simply posted ‘moron’ at him over and over, until Law (probably) threw his Blackberry on the floor of a Starbucks and went off to kick Gunnersaurus in the unmentionables.



The common denominator between most ridiculous overreactions leveled at journalists for, well, being journalists is this: the overreactions all come from fans of football clubs, angry at words thrown against their football clubs. There’s no rhyme or reason, no logic; just idiotic tribal behaviour descending into violence of both a verbal and, more worryingly, a physically threatening nature. The worst part of it all is, these buffoons who threaten the honour of a journalist’s wife for making a silly jibe that’s been made umpteen times on BBC3 previously actually all bother to waste their time in subscribing to these people in which they abuse. How utterly deplorable has our football public become when, not only do they stoop to such lows, but actively seek out and follow these people in hope they might upset them, just so they can release the dogs?



Twitter has become a wonderful place for football fans. Never before have supporters been able to immerse themselves in the presence of so many experts and learn so much from so many different plains of football knowledge. Maybe we have been spoilt for too long, and such is human nature, we want more, and what we receive must be perfect in line with our own views. However, a continuation of such rabid vitriol against those who attempt to provide us with an inside view of the game will only end this relationship altogether, and we shall miss it when it’s gone. Back to Jim White it is…




24 responses

3 02 2011
Tweets that mention Don’t Shoot The Messenger: A Rough Week For Journalists. « [Davey Talks Balls] --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Timo Zimmer, Derek Bremner, Andy Hudson, James Priest, Giancarlo Rinaldi and others. Giancarlo Rinaldi said: RT @DKDickson: NEW BLOG POST: Don't Shoot The Messenger. Focusing on a week of abuse for Twitter-dwelling journos. … […]

3 02 2011

Ian Prior made the mistake of over selling his story. He even tweeted a beeb worker (who I cannot recall presently) to tell him before the big `reveal` that he won`t be let down. When you bill a story as “big, big” and put a fire under it on twitter, you better ensure it has the balls to match. Sadly, his non-story fell way short. He`ll learn from it, hopefully.

I have little problem when it comes to decent journos being factual and even handed, but some are just driving an agenda to get hits with stupid headlines flogging dead horses (Matt Law, John Cross. Although Matt Law is usually not one for foolish headlines)

The problem with twitter (and most on-line comms) is that you cannot easily tell when a glib joke is in fact just a joke. It becomes open to how people take it and its context in the feed.

Clearly threats of a physical nature (that are serious) are the work of fucking idiots. There is many a day I have said “I`d punch his lights out for two pins” but would never actually do it, else the argument is lost.
I think if you write headlines that stick a lighter under a keg you will get noise, bangs, fireworks. If you write a well reasoned, factual piece that is not just paid blogging (I refer to John Cross and his editorialising) then you will most likely get a more even reaction.

That said, when you have fools burning shirts, anything goes.

3 02 2011
Another David

Odd that threatening criminal behaviour is bad, but accusing an entire region of it without batting an eyelid is fine. We’ve had enough of that ‘ha ha ha scousers rob stuff’ libel, thanks very much, and if you perpetuate it, you’ll hear about it. Of course the replies got badly out of hand, but I’ve more sympathy with the likes of Guillem Balague than with Levene’s boo-hoo-hoo act. BATITSONLYAJOKESENSOFUMABYPARSSSE doesn’t wash, I’m afraid.

People are sometimes dicks. Journalists are people. Therefore journalists are sometimes dicks. And thanks to Twitter, people can now be dicks back to them.

3 02 2011

It is not just the fans, it is also carelessness from many journo’s and websites. It’s uncertainty published as fact. It is a matter of style. The way some people pack their articles with words that purport to contain greater levels of knowledge than they do. If the journo’s would just buck up and admit when they were speculating, then much of this would not happen.

3 02 2011
Steve X

Football fans always believe the media has a hidden agenda against their team.

In Birmingham, all the Villa fans think the Mail is biased towards Birmingham City, while all the Blues fans think the Mail is biased towards Villa.

They see criticism of a team as proof of someone’s dislike of a team – apparently forgetting that, if there is one thing football fans like to do, it’s moan about their own team.

We can criticise our team because we are fans. YOU, on the other hand, obviously hate our team because you keep criticising them…

3 02 2011
Tom Huelin

Good article.

I think it shows how much we listen to or rely on journalists views. We no longer need to tunen to a paper of choice, we can just get the journos views straight from the horses mouth, so to speak.

Speaking of Andy gray as we were so much last week, we don’t need him any longer because we have so many pundits all their opinions, for what it’s worth. Hell I do it myself.

Journos are as famous now as the ex pros on soccer Saturday, except like with referees people feel they can say what they like at them, because they do the same to everyone else.

Do they really mind though? I read some of the events unfold that you talk about and I’m not sure they’ll lose much sleep over it, their job is to stir up discussion, we’re just adding to it here. Job well done I’d say.

Now follow me on twitter……..@tomhue1

3 02 2011

Here here.

I’m sick of ignorant, closed minded and dumber than dumb people giving the hacks (!) so much grief.

If someone writes a piece that may seem ‘anti’ my club I’d rather know how they reached their opinion than abuse them. Banter is banter but threats – verbal or otherwise especially against a spouse are beyond the pale.

Crawl back under you rocks and come back when you can have an open debate without the vitriol.

3 02 2011
Dave T


About time someone started telling the truth about these loveable scallys and the area they live in

My experience of them and the place has been nothing but negative, rude aggressive, a demand to be recognised as some sort of special case, I dont agree with Boris Johnson on many things but as regard liverpool he was spot on

And as for ‘the history’ lets not go there, too many skletons in the cupboard which they in the normal hypocritical style seem to want to erase from the history books

3 02 2011

Daryl – I agree with more or less everything stated there. Prior built the story up, and he, and probably others, will learn from doing it again. One thing I would pick up on, though, is ‘headlines’. The headlines are often not written by the writer in question, leaving a decent story open to being fronted by a stupid headline that sensationalises the whole thing, against the writer’s will.

David – I wouldn’t say I didn’t ‘bat an eyelid’ at Levene’s comment. I said it was ‘silly’ (which I’m now ashamed to point out on a vocabulary basis!) and said some would find it offensive. However, there is a massive difference between saying anything in a way that is clearly light-hearted, whether you agree with the principle or not, and meaning something in a violent manner. He said it as a joke, and if people had a serious problem with his stereotyping on an emotional level, then I’m sure he would apologise. Threatening to murder him in a serious manner for it is nowhere near the same degree.

Holm – I would agree, more fact, less sensationalism. However, as stated above, ‘Bale might, err, sort of, maybe, move’ doesn’t sell papers. I can get the reasoning. If people want facts, they should read books.

3 02 2011

Superb blog, the comment he made was indeed silly, unnecessary but let’s be honest it should’ve been taken at its face value – as a silly thing to say. On the other hand, Liverpool fans call us (Chelsea fans) plastics, chavs (another stereotype) and I don’t see anyone complaining. I probably follow into the category of very-well informed fans/blogger that is aforementioned, and the amount of flak I’ve received from Liverpool fans has been overwhelming. Unlike my namesake, I do give it back to them, as I do not adhere to professional standards. For years fans have been abusing in the comments sections the journos that provide their professional opinion, well twitter is now an opportunity for journos to respond.

3 02 2011
John - Wolverhampton

Come on, everyone knows Scousers nick stuff, people from the West Midlands are thick,, Scottish people love heroin, Southerners can’t handle their drink and are generally homosexual and the Welsh enjoy intercourse with their livestock. Surely we can all take a little joke on this subject if it’s said in the right tone???

3 02 2011

Twitter has changed the nature of journalism. Fans are no longer passive receivers of news/comments. Journo should be more responsible for what they tweeted, regardless it is a joke or not. It is the fans they are dealing with directly now.

3 02 2011

I’m a liverpool supporter through and through but it always amazes/darkly amuses me that people who behave in a such a disgusting and idiotic manner actually have twitter accounts, far less are able to use computers.

3 02 2011

RE: Dan Levene. I was born in Liverpool and lived there for over 35 years. I did see the comment made by Mr. Levene and was disappointed by it.

I didn’t feel compelled to question his joke ( opinion?) but I have to admit that it does get tiresome each time this type of joke (assumption?) surfaces.

In my opinion I am a really nice bloke. I have a degree, I run a small IT company I have a wonderful family and I still love my mum and dad! But I don’t think people should label me as a thief just because of my accent, even if when someone does say it, they are only saying it as a joke.

However, it is really upsetting that some individuals take it upon themselves to make such insulting and threatening comments to Mr. Levene and his family. This is simply inexcusable and in not how the vast majority of people from Liverpool behave. Like anywhere in the world, there is always a small minority who try their best to spoil things for everybody else.

My apologies to Mr. Levene & his family from one of the many decent scousers out there.

3 02 2011

Your use of the word “expert” amuses me and although you have left the subject relatively vague on who you were talking about, after writing an article defending these journos to the hilt, one can assume it is these journos you are calling experts? I’m sorry son but your high and mighty opinion of yourself and your cronies on fleet street is exactly the problem. Your not experts cause you have a degree in journalisim or media studies. You may be able to string a few sentences together but this does not qualify you to comment on the game. Exactly the way Richard Keys started to tell us what to think on the LMA love in which is “Super Sunday” an expert is one who has played the game and understands it intrinsically.

My second issue is that of the “stereotypical scouser” comment. It was out of order by the boy. If your are to accept his comment as a good giggle what next? Jewish people don’t like to spend money? All black men can run fast and dance really well? Oh but it’s all ok that’s just a stereotype.

Perhaps rather than trying to be all pious and witty in your blog next time perhaps wind your neck in and decide if people might have a point and your small mindedness might take a lesson by actually opening it to someone without a media studies certificate.

3 02 2011
Daryl Booth

dkdickson- I bow to the headlines point. However, if you lie down with the wolves…

But yes, point taken.

3 02 2011

Jay, I am totally willing to accept criticism of any form, as I would hope you would see by me publishing every comment regarding this article, no matter good or bad.

However, whatever you think of my intentions, you are wrong to quite astonishing levels in the way you paint a picture of me. Give the ‘About The Blogger’ part of the site a read, and you might see why. Firstly, I wrote this article from bed in about forty-five minutes whilst reasonably irritated by watching Matt Law be ripped to pieces for the umpteenth time this week.

The reason I wrote this from my bed and not from ‘my Fleet Street’ desk, is because this I am nowhere near a journalist. In fact, this is maybe the 20th piece I have written for this part-time blog in about a year. I ramble on here for a bit, yes, and some might not agree with me all the time, but I don’t have any ‘Fleet Street cronies’, I certainly don’t have any degree in media studies or journalism, and I certainly don’t take myself seriously in the discipline.

Now, for the 17th time today, if you have a read up (and again, I’ve already put this in the ‘Comments’ section), I’ve described Levene’s comment at ‘flippant’, ‘silly’ and ‘offensive to some’. Hardly a glowing endorsement.

So, apologies for not being the Daily Star maverick you think I am. I don’t call myself an expert, and don’t expect you to either. Just ranting about an issue, through a free blog to whoever will bother to listen.

3 02 2011

I reckon Joe Kinnear had it about right.

4 02 2011
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4 02 2011

Interesting points – some of the abuse being being handed out to journos on twitter has been outrageous. The ones I saw were directed at Guillem Balague for his suggestion that Torres was on the verge of submitting a transfer request. Cue a deluge of abusive tweets claiming that he didn’t know what he was talking about and accusing him of hating LFC (in somewhat more florid language). He was later to be proved correct of course. More recently, Oliver Kay seems to have received some abuse for his description of Gary Neville as an ‘overachiever’ – he even posted a twitlonger 1000 word explanation!

As to why, I think you are right to highlight the ‘intimacy’ afforded by Twitter – people get to interact directly with the journos, many of whom answer questions. However, though there is interaction, there isn’t necessarily a relationship – as with most online abuse, it is less likely to take place offline. There are any number of reasons for the distinction. It could be that people dishing out abuse are just angry, unhappy people, whose abusive behaviour offline would get them arrested/asbo’ed. Another issue is that journos don’t get a lot of respect (see Jay’s comments above for an example) – they are usually not respected as ‘experts’ because they haven’t played the game. For many ‘fans’, this is only way to acquire such ‘expertise’, and whether a footballer can actually cogently express this or not is irrelevant (for examples of this, see nearly every single pro-footballer that appears on Sky’s Sunday football). Rather, journos are viewed as privileged – from the fan’s point of view, the journos get paid to write something that they pay to watch. For many, this is only because the journos have some (lightweight) communications degree. This introduces a class element to it – a lot of journos are educated and middle-class. Many of the ranters are not. Add in that journos are often peddling opinions that many feel fans feel they are just as qualified to express and some responders will invariably cross the line. That said, it must be acknowledged that, as with the Ian Prior story, journos can deal in baloney – knowingly leading fans on in the interest of garnering publicity/interest. It doesn’t help the integrity of the profession, which, let’s be honest, is not held in high regard in the UK.

As for the Levine joke, it is somewhat different – more an example of how text is not the most suitable medium for humour, particularly when denigrating an entire group of people. You describe his comments as flippant and silly but that is because you are assuming they were made in jest/tongue-in-cheek. For others of a more sensitive disposition (again, see Jay’s comments above), this meaning is less clear and could be seen as another slight on scousers by a ‘southerner’.

A final point is that some people cross the line but, perhaps, the medium of twitter (as well as comment boards for journalists’ blogs) gives them undue prominence. The voices of the many sane and even-handed people are not heard because agreeing with someone’s opinion is less likely to provoke a response than if you violently disagree with them. If you look at the positive responses that Guillem Balague received after he posted some of the abusive messages, I’m still inclined to believe that they are more good-hearted and decent people who appreciate and respect the additional information and interaction that twitter affords than those who use as a medium to abuse all and sundry who disagree with their myopic views.

4 02 2011

Dan, you had to go and write a comment that’s better than my entire article, didn’t you…

A fantastic analysis. The debate surrounding the good and evil parts of Twitter could go on forever, so I’ll leave it there. But I pretty much agree wholeheartedly.

4 02 2011
David Hand

Support Blackburn and these problems will be solved. Journalists, or even ex-footballers, do not have an opinion on us never mind write articles. Darren Lewis wrote in the Mirror about sexism in the PL asking when will there be a female owner of a club, forgetting that we have a female owner. Who cares what the media say, Oliver Holt said we would be relegated without Big Fat Sam, so what? I always preferred his mum anyway.

4 02 2011

That anecdote regarding Darren Lewis is fantastic. Rallying against sexism through minor sexism of his own.

Like I say, media-defender of all I am not. There’s some horrendous, venemous idiocy posted throughout the newspapers on a daily basis. Just…lay off the death threats!

6 02 2011
David Hand

I agree most fans are idiots. At the moment that favourite saying at Ewood is “Jack will be turning in his grave” because Venky’s sacked Sam and want a hand in the transfers, taking it away from the chairman John Williams. They would have had a point if Jack Walker had not sacked Don Mackay (who had won are first trophy in years in 87) and then took over transfer dealings from the chairman Bill Fox. You can go on Youtube and find fans complaining about Don’s sacking, it is just through forums and twitter they think that their voice matters.

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