Reds Mediawatch

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A new column on TIA giving fans a weekly overview and critical analysis on the non-stop coverage of Liverpool FC in the media world.

I’m starting my first column for T.I.A. as an introduction to myself and an overview of what to expect on my take of the media world’s coverage of LFC.

To let you know about my background I’m a marketing and promotions consultant working primarily in the music industry and now branching out to consult on football related media projects. In the past I have worked as music journalist and behind the scenes in the print media as well as radio. I have also worked on the other side of fence as a senior exec at a major record label and it is this experience that has given me an opportunity to see how the media operates on all levels on both sides of fence.

As a music fan studying at university I was incensed by some of the coverage of my favourite groups and the music I loved. So I started writing to offset the balance of the negative media coverage towards those groups/genre and that lead to my dream career in the music industry. Being a Liverpool fan for nearly 30 years (since the age of 6) over the years I have always felt that the team hasn’t received the sort of coverage in the media its status deserves. After some of the recent disgraceful media coverage surrounding our beloved club and the effect it has had on not just the club but on helping shape the views of some of our fans’¦ This has spurred me on to start writing again but this time about the world of football and Liverpool football club.

Within the current multi-media climate and the world of mega channel digital TV (twenty plus sports stations; club TV stations and two 24 hr rolling sports news channels); DAB digital radio; the internet; mobile phone coverage as well the print media (weekly & monthly football publications and football supplements in most of the national & regional newspapers)’¦ the thirst for non-stop info and coverage on the beautiful game from the public seems unquenchable. All these outlets need column space and airtime filled and if it can’t be done the traditional journalistic way… some of them without a doubt make up stories or are selective with how they present the truth and the facts. Football in particular as we all know is a huge multi billion pound worldwide business these days and certain parts of the Media with their approach to coverage can be irresponsible. This negative coverage affects people’s careers; their lives and their families not just the fans; players or staff of the particular team being verbally attacked.

It is for this reason I’ve approached the guys at This Is Anfield to put together this regular column monitoring the media’s coverage from not just a LFC fan’s point of view but of one that is involved in the media to give some balance and perspective on the coverage.

To put my cards on the table I am a big fan of Rafa Benitez and a supporter of the Rafalution but however he and none of the players or anyone associated with the club are not above constructive criticism or debate. This withstanding wherever possible I will try not to review the media’s coverage of the club through red coloured spec’s too much!

With regards the media coverage of the club’¦ its always very one sided with the other side of the story never told. LFC bashing is almost a national sport for some people! It’s fashionable to knock Liverpool; mock the fans and the city… yet many clubs and their fans are envious of what we have achieved as a club. Yet when ex-player/pundits from other clubs; radio presenters; journalists and TV presenters are abusing their positions in the media and their own “opinions” are being put out there as “facts”… I feel it’s very unfair and unacceptable.

Newspapers in the Media

There is a sheep mentality in the media where pundits or journalists take sound bites from others and rehash the same old cliché’s over and over again without researching there stories. Sometimes this is down to poor reporting & journalism but mostly this is to get viewers/listeners/readers incensed enough to interact with them and court controversy which equates to sales or ratings. But enough is enough now… in a lot of cases there is hardly ever anyone on the other side of fence there to balance out the criticism of the club.

A major issue at hand is media impartiality and undue influence on their editorial agenda. Majority of the national media outlets (TV/Radio/Print & Online) are based in London. A large number of the people that work for them support London based teams or in some cases the media outlets have a business equity in some of the clubs they are covering. There is also an editorial stance in some of these outlets that show preferential treatment towards particular players or managers due to their ‘œconnections’ to that media outlet. Should Sky Sports for example reveal that they own part of Man Utd & Chelsea TV as many people feel that those teams get preferential coverage on that network? Setanta Sports distribute LFC TV & soon Arsenal TV in the UK through their packages on cable & satellite and also part own Celtic & Rangers TV. Yet these matters are out in the open and it could be argued that Setanta doesn’t show us any preferential editorial treatment on there channels and nor should they’¦ reporting the facts with constructive criticism as well as debate which showcases both sides of the argument is all we ask for.

As for individual journalists/presenters/pundits… If they support a particular club shouldn’t that information be revealed to the public when reviewing and commenting on other clubs? Is it really possible for them to be “impartial”? My personal feeling is that a number of them can’t and certain people namely Andy Gray have shown that they can’t. If they can’t then in Andy Gray’s case why isn’t Alan Parry from Sky Sports (who is a LFC fan) working alongside him on Liverpool games to address the balance for example. I feel Andy Gray is a good broadcaster but when commenting on Liverpool he seems to lose all sense of impartiality.

The media are gatekeepers and control the flow of information to the general public. They decide what the public get to see; hear and read. With regards to their coverage of our national sport they do a number on teams/players/managers that are not part of their outlets “editorial agenda”. Classic example would be the current media hatchet job done on Rafa. I don’t see the same media outlets and particular pundits/journalists correcting their stance & eating their own words when they are proven wrong. It’s brushed under the carpet and I feel on a lot of occasions they close shop; self regulate themselves and then after being judge & jury’¦ clear themselves of any wrong doing. The tired claim from certain sections of the media when challenged on this matter is that they say ‘œwe are reporting the views of the fans” yet as shown with regards to their comments in the build up to the Porto game they quite obviously weren’t.

Bottom line… lets deal with facts… not fiction! Constructive criticism of the team, the manager and the club is acceptable and welcome… but individuals personal opinions in context should be presented exactly as that and not lies masquerading as ‘œfacts’. If there are media outlets constantly attacking our club & not giving us fair; unbiased editorial coverage then we as fans should contact these organisations en masse and demand an explanation or a change in their policy. The other option is vote with our wallets and not buy; view; listen or support these media outlets. They have a duty to the public to report the facts and critique subjects with an unbiased point of view.

My first actual mediawatch will be online this week and ill be keeping you updated hopefully each week thereafter.

Hakeem Stevens

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