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Journalism ain't what it used to be.
For almost the whole of the medium's existence, the only contact a newspaper scribe would have with their public was through the letters page. Which, if they had anything about them, they would assiduously ignore on the basis that only people with nothing better to do write to a newspaper and most of those that did wrote in green ink and were in need of proper medication.
So a journo sat there in splendid isolation, king of the castle, queen of the county, masters of their domain.
Then some sod invented the internet and people could write to you directly in electronic green ink. Then someone invented comments below the line, which turned out to be a home for everyone who thinks they're better than you and has little inhibition in telling you so. Then someone invented social media and the once proud journo, paid to disseminate information, insight and opinion, looked little different to the masses.
For those hacks that have been in it for the long haul, this must feel like the worst of all possible worlds. Technology has made daily newspaper reporting out-dated and the journo's viewpoint just one more in the maelstrom of internet opinion. There must be hundreds of thousands of football fans who think their opinion is worth at least as much as some bloke from a newspaper. That this might be untrue is beside the point.
But at least your journo still had his contacts book; phone numbers of players and managers who he could tap up for a quote or three before going on the lash...until that privilege skated away on the thin ice of a new day as well. Players stopped drinking and started being suspicious of journalists' intent and worse still, started using Twitter to broadcast their views, thus by-passing the professional journalist all together.
In the early days of Twitter, some journos responded by pretending they had spoken to a player by quoting their Tweets un-attributed, but that's no longer viable. These days, many have more fully embraced Twitter. Now, on any match day, one can read dozens of journalists (presumably under instruction from their papers) tweeting what's happening at a game, all relaying the same information as the same time. Why do you need the man from the Mail to tweet that Rooney has missed a penalty, when there's a man from ten other papers, to say nothing of thousands of fans at the same game, doing the same thing?
These must be trying times for them all. Trouble is, some of them seem to have a rather undeveloped sense of what the medium of Twitter is for and for how the politics of it works. They have rows with the pish-taking public, rows with players, rows with each other, all conducted in the public forum of Twitter. This can be amusing but more usually just seems childish and more suited to an 11-year-old in the playground.
We recall seeing Ian McGarry calling his detractors "haters" for merely pointing out his record of inaccuracy in such tricky predictive matters as transfers and managerial appointments. This is what happens on the internet Ian - people remember stuff, store it up to use against you at a future date. The important thing to remember - and this is our tip to all journalists on Twitter - is that it really doesn't matter at all. None of it. It is a waste of your ire and irritation. You can't win arguments in 140 characters and even if you could, what would that achieve for you, us or anyone else? A small minority of people will be beastly to you sometimes but, if you'd permit us to pull out our copy of 'Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance', that is their pain to carry, not yours.
We haven't checked but are pretty sure all the same, that within the last 48 hours The Mirror's man Ollie Holt will have been having an argument with a member of the public about something. Names will be called, withering sarcasm deployed and bottom lips stuck out. We're fairly sure of this because it seems to be what he does. And who are we to gainsay it, but is that what being a top writer for a top newspaper has come to; a slagging match with some piss-taking nobody? What is the point of that?
Sensible football journalists stay away from this type of behaviour because there is nothing at all to be gained by it except a loss of dignity and a general contribution to the negative energy in the universe.
Technological developments come and go, hypnotising some people while they do so. At the moment every publisher in the land seems obsessed with below the line comments, actively encouraging them at all opportunities, seemingly regardless of the fact that it is always a playground for a tiny percentage of visitors to shout about stuff.
The Guardian website, which has approximately 70million unique users a month, publishes 600,000 comments a month - but, it says, 2,600 folk are responsible for more than 40 comments each. So those couple of thousand button-mashers, or 0.0037 per cent of the total readership, are making 104,000 comments at the very least, and probably more (unless they all make 40 comments a month and go: "enough now", which would seem to suggest a self control otherwise absent in those sorts of obsessive opinion-spouters). Even if the hardcore were only making 40 each, and every other commenter was only making one comment, that's still only 498,600 commenters out of 70million readers, or about 0.7 per cent of people actually using this function. More on that here
In other words, almost no-one leaves a comment, yet below the line comments so dominate news sites that you'd think it was something the vast majority were demanding to use and was part of our human rights to have.
Similarly with Twitter, it seems to us no-one in the modern media is allowed to say they're not on Twitter and don't want to be, regardless of the fact that no-one is sure exactly what it does for the good of the journalist or the newspaper. Being in touch with the public is apparently always seen as a good thing even if the public is just taking the piss out of your alice band. We question the point of this.
Obviously, football journalists have every right to use Twitter like anyone else, and we know from our own experiences that it can be a mutually entertaining and rewarding experience; however, it does not further the art of football journalism at all. In fact, it seems to diminish it; the journo who is not available on Twitter or anywhere else, has an elusive cache about them; a mystery almost.
In the same way that images of copulation have lost their frisson of rare behind-the-curtain naughtiness thanks to freely available porn, so football journalists have lost their aura by being on our timelines every day, one almost indistinguishable from the other, all telling us the same stuff at the same time. Why?
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan's football and cricket books are all in one place here
Follow Alan on Twitter here
or Johnny here