As the political journalists pour over the election results to find out what really happened and what it means for the future, all they ever had to do was look at football media and ask football fans what they thought of newspapers. If they’d done so, they’d have understood the degree to which the mainstream organs are held in anything from irrelevance right up to outright contempt. We knew they held little or no sway over us, so to hear they no longer influence the electorate on politics was no shock.
It seems that increasingly, only older people bother to consume the newspaper cup of cold sick, while a younger generation discount it altogether, because they find it wholly unrepresentative of their life experience and values.
I’m sure this is true because the attitude to political press has gone the exact same way as the once hugely respected and informed football press.
The newspapers may point to the popularity of their football pages, but in 2017, clicks do not equal respect or belief.
Whether in football or politics, there are the dumbed-down-to-the-point-of-moronic headlines, the ad hominem attacks on the powerless, the outright falsehoods, lies, smears and negativity. There’s the vaunting of the vile, the puffing-up of the already pompous, the ego-stroking of the monied and powerful, the sneering at the foreign or alternative, and the celebrating of a narrow Englishness. And many reject all of that.
Newspapers might confirm a few pre-existing worldviews, but they no longer shape how we see life, because now they are but one small window on the world within a skyscraper of glass.
Social media, websites and niche publications have superseded them in politics, in the exact same way it has happened in football. And for all the problems and issues to be aware of when living in an echo chamber of your own making (which we’ve always done, in truth, just in a less global way), what it has done is create an alternative narrative where the orthodoxies of the newspaper defaults are challenged, not just on a point-by-point basis, but in spirit and inspiration. Hence the huge success of websites like The Canary. You don’t have to agree with their standpoint to see how it is slaking the thirst for a viewpoint that isn’t the mouthpiece of a vicious, cynical and hopeless corporate dystopia, at odds with your own experience of both people and of life. In the world of football, websites such as ours, and many, many others, provide a service not wedded to mainstream power and political considerations.
The long considered, beautifully written in-depth piece still exists but if you wanted to know anything about a football issue, would you really pick up a newspaper of any stripe to find out? Certainly it wouldn’t be many’s first port of call.
If you want to know what happened in a football match, would you wait until tomorrow’s paper? Of course not. Why do the following day’s match reports even exist anymore? Nor would you even go to their website, possibly because it’d take so long for it to load and every time you scrolled down, more and more ads would need to be dealt with. No. You’d check in with your social media group, or you’d put 5live on, or your TV, or you’d text someone who was there. Waiting for 750 words from, say, John Cross or Charlie Wyett is not a choice many would make for reasons of timing, as well as taste. By the time the papers have written what they’ve written, it’s all over and done with and we’ve already moved on. The notion of a ‘Chief Football Reporter’ or whatever the title is today, feels part of a long-dead era.
So to students of football newspaper media, it was surely no shock that in the election, journalists couldn’t affect the result greatly, no matter what they wrote, because we were not taking sufficient notice in sufficient numbers.
Like political journalists who live in the weirdo Westminster bubble trying to tell us about real life, the football journo lives, perforce, in their own rather incestuous and fetid world, spending week after week traipsing round with each other, seeing more of their colleagues than their own families, and for some reason, one supplementing the other on a never-ending merry-go-round of newspaper jobs.
This puts me in mind of this interview our ex-boyfriend, Nick Miller, did with our editor and Supreme Being, Sarah, last year in which, talking about the press she said,
“There is still, even now, amongst newspaper journalists a real sense that they cannot understand that you do not want to be in their world. They still go ‘Well if you want a career in newspapers then you need to not piss people off.’ They are incredulous that you could not want a career in newspapers. To them that is still the pinnacle, and why would anyone not want that? I’ve got no interest in being there. I can’t think of much worse than having an editor ringing me at 9 o’clock in the morning and saying ‘Well what have you got for me today?’ But the divide is massively still there and they do assume that that is still where you want to be.”
This perfectly expresses the gulf between the old world and the new world. Yes we may dip into their output sometimes, but they’re largely an irrelevance, or at best an irritant and certainly not the opinion-formers they once were.
The way they have behaved over the decades has discredited them massively. From Turnip Taylor, to Cor-Bin, it’s all the same thing. We’ve seen it all before and regardless of your political view, know it’s shallow rubbish which takes us for fools and idiots, or worse still, attempts to co-opt us into the world of fools and idiots.
Years of consuming football press mean we are not surprised by the volte face of a paper which on Thursday tells you a politician is great and on Sunday shamelessly says the absolute opposite, without even acknowledging the complete misjudgment they had been pushing as truth for so long, because it’s exactly like how a football journalist one minute vaunts a player, then jumps on a bandwagon against that player after a couple of bad games.
As the captains of the old order are clinging to the reins, assuring us these aches inside are only growing pains, we all know better. Football fans perhaps realised earlier than most that you can’t keep selling poison without killing your customers.