WC 2010 and the media

Well, it's all over for another four years and once again ends in failure. This failure is a little bit special though as we have been tonked by the Germans - our footballing nemesis - rather than surrendering on penalties in the quarters or semis like the plucky top eight team we usually are.

Funny to see the media's reaction in this country and it really has highlighted how poorly served this country is by the sports media at large. We get platitudes and cliches and half-baked guesswork from nearly all quarters as the media lurches from patriotic supporter to uber-critic in the space of a few hours.

Desperation for a scoop is behind some of it. A genuine exclusive is almost impossible to come by during a world cup campaign as the pack is in full attendance and the players are flanked by press officers at all times.

As a result, any kind of controversy is blown up and eagerly seized upon by the rest of media. Anyone reading about John Terry's press conference would have presumed he had suggested chasing Capello back to Italy armed with pitchforks. Anyone watching it would have actually seen a senior and experienced player talking about his disappointment at being so rubbish and how he and other players were going to discuss it frankly with the manager.

It was clear that things were not peaches and cream but neither were they worth the kind of blanket coverage they received. Of course the public is interested but can that kind of coverage be said to be in the public interest?

The second aspect I am unhappy with is the way that an answer to a question is frequently used out of context.

Take today's article in the Telegraph which explains why the team is such a worthless and pampered bunch of overpaid prima donas.

Alright so that is a slight exaggeration but it outlines many of the gripes from the players. One is attributed to Wayne Rooney who "alluded to boredom when he said he did not like being asked to go to bed in the afternoons".

But did he? Or was he asked if he liked going to bed in the afternoons and replied in the negative - an honest and obvious answer to a dull question. How many young men do like being asked to go to bed (alone) in the middle of the afternoon? But now that the campaign has spluttered into failure, the answer has been woven into an article proving that Rooney is not a player struggling for form and fitness butking of the whingers.

Then there was Alan Shearer on the BBC's coverage who snorted with derision at Fabio Capello's assertion that the long Premier League season had left his top players exhausted.

The former England striker said: "He can't claim that now because before the tournament he said that the team were in tip-top condition. Also the Germans played more games than us."

Fortunately it wasn't just British journalists/presenters/experts involved and the Netherlands' Clarence Seedorf stepped in with some common sense. He pointed out that no manager would say his players were knackered before the tournament as it would give opponents a psychological advantage.

He also pointed out that the Germans may have played a couple more games but their season is aided by a winter break which allows them significant recuperation. However, that common sense did not sneak into the English papers this morning which invariably repeated Shearer's claims.

My favourite of all the shoddy journalism also came in the Telegraph this morning when chief sports writer Kevin Garside insisted that Capello should repay all the money he had earned and leave now. That was either a comment of a man pandering to the blame mentality afflicting our society or of someone naive to the extreme.

I want to read detailed and accurate match reports, in-depth interviews conducted in a professional manner and investigative reporting when it comes to finances and structures. The rest of the celebrity-based, sensationalist clap-trap I can leave ta.

Not all sports journalists are bad though. For some proper in depth material check out the work of Matthew Sayed in The Times (if you want to venture past the paywall) or Ed Smith .

Paywalls and News:Rewired

Great sessions at the news:rewired conference at Microsoft's swanky headquarters in Victoria. Mind you, I did wonder with it being Microsoft if they keep having to move every six months to overcome irritating problems with the structure that were missed at the designing and building stage.

This was journalism.co.uk's second such conference. The first was in January and was interesting without hitting high notes throughout but this second event buzzed along with a great variety of speakers from the old (former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves) to the very new (Hannah Waldram, The Guardian's Cardiff Beat Blogger).

There's still a lot of assumption from delegates. Many times I heard people say that online has freed the journalists as no-one sits at their desk and churns copy any more. But I'm afraid that I estimate it is still commonplace in 80 per cent of the industry, although no editor or news editor will ever admit it.

I admire enthusiasm and confidence but we should temper it with some reality along the way!

The one speaker I couldn't work out at all was Philip Trippenbach who repeatedly lambasted journalists for being obsessed with the 'story'. You can read his blog through the link and see if you can make more sense of it.

The gist seemed to be that the obsession with the story led to a narrow presentation of complex issues and that a greater use of interactivity - a 'game' in which a user gets to set the budget in a similar way to the classic game Civilisation for example - is a better way of enabling a user to gain an insight into a subject.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to make a far better use of such interactive tools but cannot see it is a separation from the story. To me the joy of online is the way in which we can use a huge range of multimedia and pose the question 'how would you like to find out about this subject'. The story is a key part of this as are the comments, blogs, video, podcasts, graphics, games etc.

But he spoke with huge passion and intellect so I'll be tracking him down for further debate in the near future.

The subject of paywalls came up again. At the first conference the mere mention of the subject brought a sneer to most of the delegates faces and my suggestion that paywalls may present a workable future for the industry brought forth snorts of derision.

This time however, the tide seemed to have changed with the majority accepting that some form of paywall was inevitable for most sites. It was interesting to see that this sea change had occurred within five months and that no-one seemed to acknowledge there had been a change.

It was enlightening hearing testimony from the likes of The Times's head of online Tom Whitwell and Karl Schneider, head of editorial development at RBI, about their experiences although Murdoch's man was more guarded than a US President on tour in Iraq when it came to revealing figures.

Whitwell, for example, insisted that the paywall enabled his site to focus on quality rather than quantity and put 'the genuine' reader to the forefront of everything they do. 'Genuine' indicated someone who was interested in reading and interacting with the site as opposed to a 'driveby reader', which is a great, if slightly loaded, term for someone who pops in, reads a sentence and leaves without engaging with the site.

Of course, some publishers will go to extreme lengths avoid using the term paywall but whether your charging an app or for a browser subscription, you're still asking for money to let people see your site.

Interesting times ahead.