Tag Archives: journalism

Any News, Phil? Leeds United Reporter Phil Hay Suffers Torture by a Million Tweets – by Rob Atkinson

Phil Hay

Phil Hay, perennial Leeds United Twitter target info source

One man who will be particularly relieved, and who may indeed shed tears of joy, when the white smoke eventually goes up over Elland Road and Marcelo Bielsa becomes our anointed king, is the Yorkshire Evening Post‘s chief football writer Phil Hay.

Phil is the man with his finger on the pulse of Leeds United and his ear to the ground at Thorp Arch. It’s become an article of faith that any item of Whites football news can only really be believed when it’s been presented as fact by Mr. Hay, whose articles and revelations always carry that stamp of authenticity.

The downside to this elite and privileged position is that Hay, an endearingly prolific tweeter of the snippets all Leeds fans thirst for, has to put up with a phenomenal amount of Twitter queries, amounting to an ongoing Inquisition, with demands for more news, more verbatim accounts of what’s being said and, above all, urgent confirmation of that which has not yet been confirmed. Sometimes, the strain ever so slightly shows, when representatives from the dimmer end of the Leeds Twitteratti attempt to second guess our intrepid reporter. Then, such responses as he makes can be quite terse and dry. But, ever the pro, Phil does not engage in unseemly to-ing and fro-ing. That’s a lesson I could do with learning.

It’s not just Phil Hay, of course. The equally respected Adam Pope cops for his share of incessant nagging, the likes of “Popey, can you confirm… etc”. Lee Sobot is another target for this insatiable hunger for news NOW. Of course, people do know that you can’t report developments until those developments have developed – but you sometimes have to doubt that awareness. Our professional reporters are harangued 24/7, and it’d be no wonder if they got just a teensy bit sick of it.

The last couple of weeks have been a case in point, with “Any news, Phil?” becoming a catchphrase to rank alongside any in the world of alternative comedy. It’s being used ironically now, as Tweeters take the mick out of their less patient fellow online fans. If Messrs Hay, Pope and Sobot tried to answer every desperate plea for knowledge aimed directly at them, they’d have neither the time nor the energy to get on with their actual jobs.

With this in mind, it’d be nice to think that the manic tweeters would lay off a bit, accept that things happen when they happen or not at all, and generally give our faithful correspondents a bit of time and room to breathe. Not that any such restraint is likely to happen, of course. That imperious need to know is out there, and it’s voracious.

What I will wish is for the Bielsa story to be resolved as soon as possible, so that our chaps in the press room can take a bit of a rest. Then again, once Bielsa is in – well, all the transfer business will catch fire and consume us all, won’t it? Hmmm.

Erm – any news, Phil?

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“Travel Man” in Barcelona: Channel 4 Sacrifices a Great Idea on the Altar of Cheap Laughs

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Ayoade and his self-adoring comedy face


Barcelona
is a city I love and have visited frequently, my passion for the place surviving even my witnessing of a 4-0 massacre suffered by my beloved Leeds United. This explains the enthusiasm I felt for this Travel Man series opener – and also my deep sense of frustration and annoyance, having endured an hour of irritating ego-tripping and hopefully-funny silliness masquerading as an informative travel programme. Never have I started to watch a TV offering with a greater sense of anticipatory relish – only to end up feeling I’d have been better employed and more fulfilled eating a plateful of dried locusts.

The two presenters – Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke – promised much initially, but fell woefully short of their supposed brief. This was, ostensibly, to sum up the attractions of a vibrant and wonderful city and maybe have a few laughs along the way. Ayoade, best-known (though not by me) as a presenter of a gadget show called The IT Crowd, was culprit in chief for what I count as this show’s failure. The premise in Travel Man is that “Richard hates travel and holidays – so what will he make of 48 hours away from home?” Sadly, all else was subordinate to this contrived central message, which Adoyade proceeded relentlessly to hammer home in the most unsubtle way imaginable. It was my first taste of his – for want of a better word – style; I shall not be putting myself out to repeat the experience.

From early in the piece, it was clear that Travel Man was to be the vehicle whereby Ayoade might reach a wider audience and give them the benefit of what he fondly imagines is his laconic and laid-back presentational personality. The dreaded “comedy voice” was a frequent intruder into his narrative; that annoying way of introducing ironic quotation marks by vocal inflection, so that the listener will (hopefully) be inescapably aware that here is a windswept and interesting cynic with an edgy and alternative view on pretty much everything he sees. Some people can carry this off and even make some decent entertainment out of it; Ayoade, on this depressing evidence, patently can’t.

In contrast to my zero prior knowledge of Ayoade, Kathy Burke is a performer I’ve always liked and rated – but here, she was drawn into a teeth-curling attempt to create an unlikely comic double-act. Everything of substance was sacrificed in the effort to get as much ironic comedy as possible – frankly, not a lot – out of this incongruous pairing. Whatever the lure of Barcelona’s many and varied points of interest, it all had to be about Richard Ayoade and his reactions to whatever he saw; a self-indulgent and subjective take on each too-hurried item with the twitchily uncomfortable Ms Burke doing her best to play up to her colleague’s self-adoration.

Thus, in the interests of establishing the desired laugh-a-minute feel to the thing, there was an awkward “Ooh, we have to share a hotel suite” moment with Ms Burke seeming to fear some unlikely molestation from her clearly aloof partner in crime; then there was some cringe-worthy banter at the Nou Camp football stadium, magnificent home of CF Barcelona – where Ayoade was at some pains to demonstrate his effete apathy towards the Beautiful Game – and next some frankly repulsive emetic slapstick in a restaurant, to the bemusement of the admirably patient, polite and professional staff. Burke is a highly capable performer, but she was rather dragged down to the level of her colleague, who was clearly preoccupied with projecting his individual personality over the whole undertaking.

So, instead of being treated to Barcelona’s panoply of vivid beauty and unique art, we got a series of laboriously ponderous set-ups culminating in yet another of Ayoade’s hopefully-cutting one-liners – drawled and mannered punchlines that invariably failed to be even a fraction as devastating as they were clearly intended to be. It was bitterly disappointing fare, and Burke did well to hide the embarrassment she must surely have felt. Perhaps she will reflect that, as an accomplished comedienne, she should not be wasting her time playing stooge to a partner who should have stayed at home surrounded by his gadgets – rather than stepping so far out of that comfort zone into the pitiless and unforgiving arena of comedy.

The victim in all of this squalid waste of time and opportunity – apart from the hapless viewer, sat seething with all hopes dashed – is of course the city of Barcelona itself. A feature-length programme could hardly do justice to its many attractions: the beauty and individuality of its Gaudi-dominated architecture; the culture that shines dazzlingly out of every sunlit surface; the cuisine, the sport, the history. It’s all there in one precious jewel of a city, just waiting to be described and marvelled over. But, disgracefully, we got none of that – in fact it is sadly fair to say that by far the most informative aspects of the whole production were the occasional graphics which flashed up, telling us the price of this or that and highlighting one or other sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, Ayoade and Burke were tenaciously flogging away at the dead horse of their joint comedic potential; it was grisly, unrewarding viewing.

What we did learn is that Richard Ayoade loves Richard Ayoade, and is keen to share that passion with a broader interest group than his usual audience of geeks – but that he is guilty of the cardinal sin of any wannabe comedian: that of forgetting to be funny. And we also learned that Kathy Burke, when handed lemons, will do her solid best to make lemonade, bless her. On this occasion, though, she should have thrown those lemons at her partner’s smug countenance – and hopped straight back on the train home. If she had – then maybe I and doubtless thousands of others might have been spared the empty disappointment felt after a production, that could have achieved so much, ended up delivering nothing but resentment. The knowledge that there went an hour of my life I’m never going to get back left me wondering what the effortlessly authoritative Michael Portillo might have done with such a nugget of a travel show idea. He could not, let’s face it, have been worse – and you just know that he’d have been far, far better – by an order of several hundred magnitudes.

This series will tragically continue with what we might dolefully expect to be a similar treatment of Istanbul, but it won’t have me for company. My advice is to stay at home instead of being tempted to go along for the ride and, with all due deference to Richard Ayoade’s forcefully-professed and overtly squeamish dislike of muddied oafs – see if there’s any football on.

Norwich in for McCormack … Yeah, Yeah, Put a New Record On – by Rob Atkinson

Ross McCormack

Ross McCormack

They’re not the brightest bunch down at the Daily Fail – they seem to lack any real intelligence or imagination.  This is odd for a representative of the gutter end of the Fourth Estate which depends so much on fabrication and ludicrous hogwash for the majority of its output.  Perhaps the strain of supporting Mr Camoron’s ridiculous and unelected regime has addled those tiny brains.  Whatever the cause of this rag’s latest foray into Fantasy Island territory, it’s all getting more than a little boring now.

What the Fail‘s dim but persistent hacks have cottoned on to is the fact that the best way to rile Leeds United fans is to run yet another story linking our current best player (no challengers to Mr McCormack for this title at the moment) with Norwich City – based purely on that backwoods Norfolk outfit’s notable record of signing some of the Whites’ meagre pool of talent over the past few seasons.

The difference at the moment of course is that Norwich are now a Championship club again, having suffered an hilarious relegation despite securing the services of 75% of the Leeds United League One midfield. When those regular raids on the Elland Road playing staff were going on, the Canaries were, albeit temporarily, Premier League birds.  It’s a distinction far too subtle for the booze-raddled mind of your average FAILOnline fantasist, but that Premier League status did make a difference for as long as it was a fact. It’s a difference that no longer applies, though – so what (we might ask) is the rationale behind the current story linking our Ross to the ex-Premier League (they are no more, they have ceased to be) Canaries?  I’ll tell you what. Nothing. Nada. Zip, zilch and, as Mr Cellino would no doubts say, niente.  It is all, to use a technical term descriptive of the journalistic standards at the Fail, bollocks.

It’s hardly unlikely that Mr McCormack will move on to pastures new this summer.  He will have no shortage of clubs queuing up to recruit him, and on much better terms than his present agreement.  But Leeds United have him tied to a contract, and Ross himself has spoken of the attraction of staying at Elland Road and winning promotion as captain.  Much better, he said, than playing in the Premier League with “just any old club”.  So how much better still are his current circumstances than the scenario of playing for just another Championship Club, against Leeds United (to whom he has consistently pledged his allegiance) – and uprooting his family into the bargain.  It just doesn’t add up.  Then again, neither does your average Fail hack’s expenses account.

The “writers” for the likes of the Sun, the Mail, the Mirror, etc etc, are never going to be good journalists, telling the truth and uncovering legitimate stories.  That’s so far beyond the bounds of probability as to be laughable. But they could at least vary the standard fare a little, in the hope of eventually becoming slightly less pisspoor journalists.  Why not link McCormack at least to a Premier League club?  It’d still be made-up crap, most likely – but at least it wouldn’t be quite such transparently obvious crap.  The current habit of using Norwich all the time, just because of the well-known irritant factor for those of a Leeds persuasion, is lazy; it’s unimaginative; it’s boring.  It doesn’t help the clubs concerned, or the fans of those clubs – and neither does it reflect well on proper journalists working for serious newspapers, who tend to get tarred with the same brush by an undiscriminating public as the morons who rattle off the same old crap from their rightful place at the sewer end of Fleet Street.

So please – do us all a favour.  Put a new record on, or just shut up altogether. Or stick to writing astrology columns. You wouldn’t be missed in the real world of sport – and at least doing horoscopes you’d have a bit more chance of being right once in a blue moon. 

Leeds Takeover: Is the “Yorkshire Post” Backing the Wrong Horse? – by Rob Atkinson

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Yorkshire Post: Nice headline, shame about the story

This bold headline in Tuesday’s edition of the YP was a scoop, surely.  Possible sensation.  Certainly an attention-grabber for anyone with the interests of Leeds United at heart.  Probably there would be interest further afield as well, for anything LUFC-related tends to make eyebrows raise and ears prick up, pretty much anywhere.  Love ’em or hate ’em – it’s very difficult to ignore Yorkshire’s Number One football club.  So this YP story looked like a sure-fire winner.  Only one problem.  The content of the article bore absolutely no relation to the headline, whatsoever.  There were no “first details”.  In fact, there were no details at all emerging from this meeting of Cellino and McDermott.  Nada, zip, zilch.  Nowt.  How perplexing.

What there was amounted to a rehash of several recycled, days-old, tired and weary semi-true factoids about United’s prospective new owner.  We could read – again – about his convictions for fraud.  The YP reckons they were both “spent” under English law and therefore would not be an impediment to Cellino’s passing of the League’s “fit and proper” test.  This conclusion seemed tinged with regret on the Yorkshire Post‘s part, but the raking-over of cold ashes continued nevertheless.  Fascinated, we were able to read – again – of how Cellino tried to sack McDermott and replace him with bosom buddy Gianluca Festa.  Yawn.  Heard it all before.  And we read – yet a-bloody-gain – that McDermott was reinstated during the 5-1 derby whopping of Huddersfield Town (some sources, including GFH, say that he was never actually sacked at all).  But again, we already knew about this, we’d known it all for ages.

And that was it – there was nothing more to this piece than a few reheated facts and rumours that were past their use-by date as long ago as last week.  What was the justification, we might well ask, for that rather misleading headline, appearing to promise at least some of the inside story around what actually passed between manager Brian and King-elect Massimo?   Ultimately, all there is to glean from this strange little article is that the Yorkshire Post appears to take a dim view of Signor Cellino and is thus moved to force-feed its readership a dubious diet of warmed-over snippets of an uncomplimentary nature.

The fact remains, after all, that Cellino is still quite likely to be Leeds United owner in the not-too-distant future.  And the Yorkshire Post, in common with any regional newspaper, surely has a vested interest in maintaining a mutually satisfactory working relationship with its local football clubs.  If it doesn’t, then it should have.  All of which begs the question – how does the YP imagine that a policy of repeated bitching about Cellino, under headlines purporting but failing to deliver new information – just how do they think this is going to assist them in establishing some sort of rapport with the imminent Cellino administration at the county’s foremost club?  It’s an odd sort of approach to the formation of professional and harmonious relations, to say the least.

If the YP have put all their eggs in the basket of earnestly hoping the Football League will somehow ditch Cellino, then that is one perilous and high-risk strategy.  There may well be a need for some frantic kissing-up mighty soon.  Perhaps, after all, they should adopt the Peter Lorimer tactic of heartily endorsing whoever seems likeliest to wield executive power in the near future – it seems to work for him, except insofar as his now-tattered “Legend” status with the fans is concerned.  It will be very interesting to see which direction the Yorkshire Post does take over the next few weeks, when this tangled situation – hopefully – gets sorted out one way or another.

Whatever course they opt for, it’s devoutly to be hoped that a newspaper with a long history of covering the slings and arrows of United’s outrageous fortunes can, in future, try to maintain some sort of link between headline and story.  Tuesday’s effort did them no credit at all, and many Leeds fans who rely on them heavily for updates on what the hell’s going on at Elland Road, will instead be wondering what the hell’s happened to journalistic standards at the YP.  The consensus on Facebook’s “Elite Dirty Leeds Group” – an eclectic mix of academics, nutters, deviants and cynics, bound together by an abiding passion for Leeds United – was that the YP had sold us a pup with this headline, and that the intention was to run a Cellino hatchet-job dressed up as a news article.  It’s hard to argue with that verdict.

Note to the YP: in future, chaps, if you’ve nowt new to say, perhaps it would be better just to say nowt.  There must surely be goings-on elsewhere you can usefully fill a few column inches with.  Filling them with your own jaundiced views on the soon-to-be-anointed King of LS11 is not a particularly bright idea.  Backing the wrong horse at this stage of the game is less bright still.

The fans need their local rag to keep tabs on things at Elland Road – so don’t let us down.  OK?