The Press We Deserve
The boys of the mock shock brigade were out again in the Scottish media this week after Scotland’s heart-breaking draw with Poland. The target of their ire was once again Celtic and the reason the faux- rage folk were pretending to be ‘outraged’ was the fact that Celtic had tweeted a ‘Good Luck’ message to the Irish Football Association ahead of their match with Germany. Celtic had wished the Scottish side good luck and also tweeted to every Celtic player in the squad to wish them well. All of this went unnoticed by the hacks looking for a cheap anti-Celtic story to stir up the less intelligent and get more clicks on their ad-filled web page. Celtic remains a club proud of its Irish roots and with a huge support in Ireland and there is no genuine ‘outrage’ just the usual mischief making by those with a dislike of Celtic.
It remains a source of great regret that the standard of Journalism has dropped so dramatically in Scotland. Where are the Hugh McIlvanneys’ of the modern press pack? Where is the incisive and intelligent prose we once breathlessly read in our better papers? We are treated to reporting in the tabloids which would barely pass Higher English in its stunted style and often blatantly biased content.
Such reporting of Celtic is nothing new. We have seen since the inception of the club stories and reports laughable in their bias. One cartoon from the 1920s depicts Celtic and Rangers locked in a snooker match representing the title race. The keen eyes and smart appearance of the Rangers player is in marked contrasts to the stereotypical and frankly racist depiction of the Celt. Another cartoon of the era shows St Mungo between a Celtic and Rangers player and again the contrast is marked and the inference clear.
Those were clearly less enlightened times when ideas about race and intelligence were based on ignorance and prejudice. Even in a relatively educated country like Scotland the national church debated at their General Assembly of 1923 a report entitled ‘The Menace of the Irish race to our Scottish nationality’ and suggestions that Irish migrants be repatriated were applauded. In such an atmosphere it is not surprising to see racist depictions of Celtic players given the club’s origins.
In the modern era, we of the Celtic persuasion have seen far too many negative spins put on stories for it to be coincidence. From ‘Thugs and thieves’ to Fergus McCann being compared to Saddam Hussien, from stories of unsettled players printed on the mornings of big games to tales involving misleading headlines and photos. The advent of the information technology revolution has at least allowed the discerning reader to dump the tabloids in favour of other sources of news. Sales of newspapers like the Daily Record have plummeted from 750,000 copies per day to under 200,000 and it isn’t hard to see why this low quality paper and others like it are heading for oblivion.
Consider the standard of reporting when Rangers IFC’s coach was burned by unknown arsonists a couple of years back. The story appeared in one tabloid's online page and was astonishingly accompanied by an image of Celtic fans enjoying a pre season trip to Brentford. The ‘guilt by association’ angle was as obvious as it was unfair.
An important game at Ibrox saw the Daily Record run with a deeply distasteful ‘Who is hated more at Ibrox?’ headline beside a picture of Neil Lennon and the Tax man. Such irresponsible reporting says much about the desperation by some in the press to stir controversy and try to stem the drop in sales. The Lennon headline at least saw Celtic act and in a furious statement they said…
‘We feel the language used was inflammatory and highly irresponsible. The treatment of Neil Lennon has been well documented and in this context of this article was insensitive and unnecessary.’
Consider also the press Celtic have had in the past 20 years in contrast to the fawning puff journalism surrounding Rangers and David Murray. From Super Casino’s to a £700m rebuilding of Ibrox into a 70,000 seater super stadium and all printed without so much as a cursory check on how it would be paid for. The demise of Rangers in 2012 saw much of the media face the bitter and astounding reality that Rangers FC had actually gone way of Third Lanark and St Bernard’s. Even dyed in the wool succulent lamb munchers admitted as much at the time only to backtrack in spectacular and unconvincing style when the great lie of Rangers surviving liquidation was trotted out to assuage the shattered legions of Ibrox fans. This volte-face was exemplified best by Jim Traynor who said in the Daily Record in 2012…
‘No matter how Charles Green tries to dress it up a newco equals a new club. When the CVA was thrown out Rangers as we know them died.’
A year later Mr Traynor was employed by the Rangers IFC and was writing the following…
‘Why is it so many are continuing to write and broadcast that this is a new club when it is just the owners who are new. Is it a basic lack of intelligence or something more sinister?’
It would indeed exhibit a serious lack of intelligence if any football fan swallowed such contradictions. Mr Traynor isn’t alone in his revisionism of what occurred in 2012. Sales demand that newspapers do not alienate a large section of their dwindling customer base and so truth and objectivity are sacrificed on the altar of mammon. Money rules and the truth is seldom allowed to get in the way of a good story.
There are of course good, honest Journalists out there but as in all walks of life there are those of poorer quality too. The quickest way to a better press is stop buying the poorer papers because in the final analysis we get the press we deserve.