Monday, October 31, 2011

Learning English: The Journalist v The Modern World

Tom English was strutting his stuff in the Scotland on Sunday yesterday. Gird your loins fellow bloggers. He had his sights set on us:

"This is the reality of the online blogger. They can spout stuff that turns out to be untrue and, when they get it wrong, it never boomerangs back and hurts them. They carry on untouched by the laws of libel that the mainstream media have to contend with and shielded from the mortification that a newspaper or radio reporter would experience if he, or she, went off half-cocked with such a bombshell.

"You learn to be cynical about the cyber bombasts.

"These supposed exclusives from the blog-o-sphere that we’re expected to chase like a cat would a mouse? Sorry, most of them come and go without a squeak of truth."

Funny. What I've done is selectively quote from his piece.

I've come up with quotes that make him look like a Luddite idiot who suspects blogs, Twitter and the internet are filled entirely by crazies.

Maybe he does think that. Maybe he doesn't.

I don't care. He doesn't care that his attempt to destroy the "blog-o-sphere" is framed selectively within the crazy world of Rangers' financial uncertainty.

I'm cynical of cyber-bombasts as well. But Tom English seems to think we're all tarred. And he's the everyman with the brush in his hand.

Every football journalist working in Scotland today is an idiot. They make up stories about transfers, about want-away players and about managers on the verge of the sack.

And they do that without fear. Because:

"They carry on untouched by the laws of libel that the [non-sports] media have to contend with."

They don't. Only an idiot or an addled conspiracy theorist would argue that they do.

Sometimes journalists get it wrong.

Sometimes they don't mean to. But they do. They're rarely publicly mortified when it happens. They move on to the next story, unabashed. Off to search for the next squeak of truth.

Bloggers get it wrong as well.

Some bloggers get it wrong because they're little more than internet trolls who use the medium to further their own agenda.

Some get it wrong because they're crap, because the internet offers a medium to bad writers, untrained journalists and simply bad people that newspapers often - but not always - manage to weed out.

Those bloggers shouldn't live untouched by the rules of libel. Unleash the lawyers on the idiots. Leave the rest of us to it.

Take a look at the specific subject English writes about. Craig Whyte, Rangers and the threat of a football club meeting its end in Govan. (It probably won't.)

Some of the details about Whyte's ownership of Rangers, details now readily acknowledged by the mainstream media, have been broken online.

Some of the legal intricacies of what might - or might not happen - to Rangers have been explored by "new" media outlets in far more depth, with more attention to detail, than newspapers have managed.

These stories have been explored by people who might well have an agenda but who also lack the access to Mr Whyte that Tom English has recently enjoyed.

They're not all hysterical idiots. Arguing that they are suggests the writer is in the throes of hysterical idiocy.

This blog largely takes cover from such issues. Take a look at the tagline. It's not a news site. I've never pretended it is.

There are other sites out there that can do news better. In the chase for breaking stories it's actually the "old" media outlets that tend to lead the way. I've never hidden from acknowledging that.

But there's a middle ground to occupy here, one that (sensible) bloggers tend to be happier to colonise than (unreconstructed) journalists.

All journalists are cowed yes-men bewitched by the cult of modern football.


All bloggers, Tweeters and forum posters are idiots, making a mockery of the principles of journalism, pissing all over the testament according to Harold Evans.


Is it lost on Tom English that the majority of his readers now reach him online, for free?

Rage against the agenda driven fanatics. Rage against the liars and the fantasists.

But don't rage against us all.

Because we're all quickly learning to be cynical about the raging newspaper-bombasts.

Donate to the Scottish Football Blog Blogathon, 19 November 2011


  1. Excellent stuff. At the end of the day everyone lives or dies by whether there's credibility to what they write and report. I think we all have a more stringent filter for things that are broken online because we've all seen stories from "the mate of his brother". As a result of this any blogger, online journalist or writer has to work that bit harder to get legitimacy. And that's probably a good thing.

    Anyone and everyone needs to understand that you can only report incorrectly so many times before your credibility is done. "Mainstream" media may have to condend with legal issues, but as you point out, there will be more and more of the big bloggers that have to live with the same rules as the online readership grows.

    There's always a mix of motivations and methods in reporting, but anyone with aspirations of gaining (and keeping) an audience will do all they can to fact check. In an awful lot of circumstances that may well be done more stringently than by the professionals.

  2. Thanks Thom

    The funny thing is I reading Tom English and I actually can't argue about some of the points he made. But he uses those examples to write off the whole online community. And that, unfortunately, makes him look like yet another journalist who doesn't quite "get" what's happening to his industry.

    Cheers again for the comment,
    (Nothing but Thoms and Toms here)