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Shooting the Messenger is All Too Easy


“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air”

After three months of being a trainee journalist, I’m beginning to realise that the ‘j’ word invokes a wide range of emotions in ordinary people. There appears to be a theory pedalled around that journalists are conceited, heartless individuals compelled to feed you all a pack of lies.

Sports journalists are often tarred with this brush. Journalists are supposed to retain objectivity and refuse to show bias but in the partisan world of football, that is something most fans can’t comprehend.

And perhaps this is what drove the anger of many fans when they turned on the outlets that broke two of the recent big sports stories.

When The Sunday Times and Panorama warned us that the forthcoming World Cup bid was corrupt, we told them to shut up. Did they want us to have a World Cup? Why then would they seek to destroy it? We had the best bid and believed the only thing that could ruin that was our all too intrusive media. Instead we were supposed to continue with the preening, the pampering and the pandering so we didn’t upset the decision makers.

We were all too afraid of upsetting Sepp Blatter

When Russia and Qatar were the surprise winners, we all cried corruption. Perhaps The Sunday Times and Panorama were onto something. By then, it was too little, too late.

Then yesterday, when News of the World journalist Neil Ashton broke the news that Carlos Tevez had handed in a transfer request he was met with a tirade of abuse.

The focus of fans’ venom wasn’t their temperamental Argentinian captain nor was it his puppet master agent Kia Joorabchian but the man who’d informed them of the news. So why shoot the messenger? Because it’s easier.

In our well developed, democratic system; corruption is something that happens elsewhere. We didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that FIFA votes may have been up for sale. We cannot fathom how despite clearly offering the best package and pulling out all the stops, we were outdone.

We cannot understand how club legends can suddenly abandon everything they seem to stand for. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are thought of as relics to a bygone era. They love football; they feed on the passion streaming down from the terraces. More than most, you get the impression they would play for free. We don’t want to believe that they too are merely pawns in their agents’ games.

The press shouldn’t be painted as saintly figures and there are occasions when they go too far. I could not and still see no possible benefit to The Mail on Sunday’s set-up which cost Lord Triesman his job. There is a difference between investigative journalism and a tabloid sting and on this occasion the newspaper veered into the latter.

But instead of threatening sources and lamenting the media isn’t it about time we faced up to reality? The fact Sepp Blatter believes he can bag himself a Nobel Peace Prize with his cavalier attitude tells you FIFA operates as a purely political vehicle these days. And the idea of loyalty, even in the most fervent footballers like Tevez and Rooney, has been replaced by greed.

So when The Sunday Times, the BBC and Neil Ashton expose these flaws and break these stories they should be praised rather than disparaged. After all, it’s not like you send death threats to your postman after he’s brought the latest phone bill, is it?

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