Am I poisoning the minds of the young?

I had an interesting Twitter exchange with former senior journalist at the News of the World, Jules Stenson, at the weekend.

To be fair, I started it when I tweeted the following:

If you were starting to feel sorry for tabloid journos, listen to ex NOTW hack Jules Stenson on Media Show Pod. What a turd #journalism

Stenson took great exception to this and replied. I have to say I am impressed by his dedication to Twitter – he does not follow me, my tweet was not retweeted and I didn’t tag him directly. One can only assume he regularly searches Twitter – and perhaps the internet at large – to see what people are writing and saying about him.

His reply:

@MBradbrook Your students must be proud to have such an articulate man as a lecturer.

First off I have to say. It’s a fair cop. I was not at my most eloquent when I described Stenson as a ‘turd’ – but then, in my defence, neither was I at my most inaccurate.

I should add that I don’t personally know him so perhaps I should amend my description to ‘professional turd’, because for all I know he might be lovely to kittens and a perfect delight in his home life.

What was it about his interview that irked me so? Well, it was his lack of honesty. By that I don’t mean that he outright lied but, like many tabloid journalists, he failed to tell the whole truth.

Two examples:

1) Hugh Grant was a legitimate target for press intrusion because he supported greater regulation of the press.

2) Steve Coogan was a legitimate target for press intrusion as he gave Piers Morgan a ‘laddish interview’ in which he talked about his private life.

What is the dishonesty here? Well how about:

1) Hugh Grant has had his private life ‘investigated’ by the tabloids for far longer than he has supported press regulation. It’s not a chicken and egg situation here people – he has been a topic of fascination for 15 years plus.

2) Likewise, Coogan has also been on the receiving end so often before the interview with Piers Morgan that it renders Stenson’s argument disingenuous in the extreme.

To be honest I was a little embarrassed at being caught descending to the level of name-calling but replied to Stenson as follows:

@julesstenson sometimes it's just best to tell it as it is. There are worse crimes in #journalism than a lack of articulation

He was on no mood to debate journalistic crimes however and went on the offensive:

@MBradbrook Staggered they let you teach journalism.

Presuming ‘they’ to be the University of Gloucestershire (my employer) it seems an incredible statement to make on the basis of a 140 character tweet. But then again, doesn’t that just sum up the issues with tabloid journalism? No research, no analysis just a snap judgement.

But no problem , I thought. I’m better than this so I invited Stenson to debate the issue at the University of Gloucestershire – I’m sure that while he was here he could probably even find a couple of students willing to describe me ‘a turd’ just to add balance.

But no. Debate was not high on Stenson’s agenda:

@MBradbrook You just carry on filling young minds at the University of Gloucs with poison and feel very proud of yourself.

Poison! Many of my students will be willing to testify that I fill their minds with boredom but poison seems a bit strong. Perhaps he thinks that Grant, Coogan and myself are to form a lunatic fringe of the Leveson Inquiry and start firebombing the temples of St Rupert?

Not a bad idea. Perhaps then we’ll get the journalism we deserve rather than the patronising, celebrity-filled, dishonest tat that gets served up right now.

What’s Stenson up to now? Well he’s tweeting about Christopher Jefferies of course. He’s tweeting about the most undeserving victim of press intrusion and monstering in history.

What a nice man.

Mind you. I am smiling because I have written the name Stenson so often now that all I can think of is Fenton, the deer-herding labrador.

Is it a good thing to give a platform to racists?

Interesting article about Twitter on the BBC website today by pundit and former striker Mark Bright providing a platform for racists.

The article has been inspired by high profile investigations into allegations of racism made against England captain John Terry and Liverpool striker Lois Suarez and offensive yet completely unsurprising comments by Sepp Blatter who suggested that racism should be dealt with by a handshake and then forgotten about.

It's a strong article written from a position of knowledge and experience and makes a compelling read.

Mark Bright is 100 per cent correct that social media in being used as a platform for racists. It's not just Twitter, the worst by a long way is YouTube - I have stopped looking at the comments section of the video sharing site because of the vile racist nature of many of them.

Liberal society in general has for a long time held on to a 'no platform' policy in relation to racism. The basic theory is don't let racists have a voice as that voice is oxygen which will fuel the fire of their hatred and perhaps ignite it in others.

But now, as Bright has identified, that fire is far from extinguished. In this country many have believed it has been and we have been full of criticism of other countries which we perceive to have lower standards than us.

Incidents of racism in UK football grounds have been identified as a one-off. But that is as true as the News International's claim that phone hacking was perpetrated by a 'rogue reporter'.

Social media is open source. There are legal constraints of course but the judiciary has not yet come to terms with how to implement the law to a platform with millions of characters of information being uploads every day.

So 'no platform' is not working in social media - it promotes freedom of speech and those opposed to 'no platform' have long said that breaching the principle of freedom of speech is a price not worth paying.

Racists were ignored for so long that many thought they had gone away or at least that their number has diminished to an insignificant level. Yet social media is showing the pure folly of that thinking - just read some of the abuse that Bright has received during his time on Twitter.
"When James Vaughan joined Norwich from Everton, I tweeted to say, 'Good luck to James Vaughan with his move to Norwich'. Someone replied to say, 'I don't want any more blacks at Norwich. We've got enough, if you want to watch blacks and foreigners, go to see Arsenal'."
That's a horrible thing for him to have to read yet as a result of a simple retweet, the perpetrator was banned for life from Norwich City Football Club.

The issue is back out in the open and can be dealt with rather than denied.

Perhaps we have to accept that 'no platform' is unworkable now that social media is coming to the fore and embrace that element as an opportunity to more accurately assess society.

Five things sports journos should stop saying

Sports reporting is a funny old thing.

Loads of pages to fill / dead air to talk over / blog posts to write and a fairly limited number of new things happening at any one time.

But it must also be the form of journalism which most churns out the same old tired cliches and phrases. Here are my top five:

1. 110 per cent
It's impossible unless your figure is comparative so leave it alone. I will accept "Newcastle United have increased their number of wins by 110 per cent". I will not accept "David Silva has given 110 per cent today". Go to the back of the class.

2. Unsung hero
Occasionally this is used correctly. For example, you might say that Attilio Lombardo is the unsung hero of Manchester City. Very few people know what he does, or that he is even at Eastlands, but as the team is currently very successful, he seems to be doing it well.

However, I will not be happy if I again see Scott Parker described as an unsung hero at Spurs. He is currently Football Writers' Player of the Year, Tottenham's fans sing his name louder than all others and the Match of the Day team go all misty-eyed at the mere mention of his name. Leave it out. Right out.

3. Referee
OK so this is not a cliche but, for the love of Le Tissier, please stop talking about the whistlers all the time. Yes. They make mistakes. Yes. We can see the errors after we have watched an incident 12 times from four different angles and at super slo-mo but come now do we need to pull every decision apart every game?

4. Good touch for a big fella
Footballing folklore goes that if you're tall you have limited skill because you always have a cold head up there in the clouds. So every time Crouch attempts a back heel or Carroll beats his man we have to hear about how unusual it is. Get over it. We rarely hear the phrase 'terrible touch for a tiddler' despite its obvious application in connection with Theo Walcott or Sean Wright-Phillips.

5. Literally
Do you know what literally means? It literally means that something is exactly like something else. So, catching myself in my fly when I zipped up after a loo break is literally the most painfully embarrassing experience I have ever had. Robin Van Persie is not literally a thoroughbred racehorse. Messi did not literally leave the defender for dead. And yes Jamie Redknapp I'm talking to you.

Mind you when you see what happens if people in football try out some new terminology, perhaps it's better they do stick to cliches.