F365 reacts as Mail reacts as Twitter reacts to lazy content

Dave Tickner
Ilkay Gundogan Bernardo Silva

Is there anything worse in 21st century online rush-to-publish journalism than stories based entirely on what a few people on Twitter have said?

With the possible exception of ‘articles that start with a question,’ no, there is not.

The Mail’s astonishment at a commentator confusing dark-haired, bearded, silky-skilled Manchester City attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva with dark-haired, bearded, silky-skilled Manchester City attacking midfielder Ilkay Gundogan marks a low point for the genre.

” The best impression of Bernardo Silva you’ll ever see’: BT Sport commentator leaves fans baffled after mistaking Portuguese star for Ilkay Gundogan after he had fired home Manchester City’s first in victory against Aston Villa’ farts the trademark pithy Mail headline.

Were they, Mail? Were they baffled? Was anyone baffled? Were they really? No. Nobody was baffled. Even the tweets you’ve harvested contain zero bafflement, just a few mild jibes and to be fair one half-decent gag about an entirely understandable mistake.

We can’t imagine any of those tweeters gave the incident any more thought.

But the Mail, where the computers presumably don’t have a delete key, sniffed some content. One Twitter search and 600 largely copy-and-pasted words later, you’ve got yourself some #content. (Oh, and just as an aside, on one of the few words that weren’t control-veed you put ‘teaming’ where you meant ‘teeming’. A baffling error.)

The subject matter makes this one particularly egregious, because I find it hard to imagine reading that and looking at pictures of Bernardo and Gundogan in the ‘teaming’ rain and coming to any conclusion other than ‘Live commentary is unbelievably difficult and while we can all take some mild enjoyment in the occasional errors it is genuinely incredible such misidentification happens as rarely as it does.’

We’d even venture that this would be the reaction of the people whose jokey tweets were included. It’s an entire concoction. Nobody was baffled or angry or anything else beyond mildly and momentarily diverted.

But it’s not about this specific example, this whole genre of story stinks.

It’s the laziest trick in the content farm playbook and we shouldn’t give it a free pass. It can make even the most nothing incident look serious, or the most fringe opinion mainstream. And it’s not just a football journalism problem either.

Once we accept that all that is needed to stand a story up is ‘a few cranks with a hundred followers between them said this thing on Twitter’ then we’re screwed. We probably already have and are, but we can still get angry and, yes, maybe even baffled about it.

Because the thing is, this story device allows publications like the Mail to have their lazy cake and eat it. While this example is crappy and unnecessary, it’s relatively harmless. It won’t always be, though. By filtering the story through the shit-sieve of twitter, the Mail and publications like it can distance themselves from the views contained – they’re just reporting the baffled fans or bewildered racists or bamboozled misogynists or whatever it happens to be this time – while also allowing them to write literally any story on any subject any time they want. That is the nature of Twitter; by definition, search hard enough and you can find three people saying anything.

You could even, for instance, search for tweets saying the Mail’s article about the football commentator momentarily mixing two names up is a sh*t piece of work and they ought to be ashamed.

You could easily, for example, find Jake Humphrey TAKING TO TWITTER to call it “Not news, not journalism, not kind.”

Or we could mention how Twitter user David Rowe was baffled by the Mail’s decision to run such a non-story, calling it “pathetic”.

We could even note that Alex Narey used the popular microblogging site to mock the Mail’s “atrocious article”.

If we wanted to go bigger, we could point out that one of the best in the business, Ian Darke, had used his Twitter account to hit back at the Mail and defend his commentary box colleague.

But we won’t do any of that. Because we’re better than that. Just.

Dave Tickner