Wednesday, 8 August 2012

How journalism works

And our example for today's lesson is this article in today's Star, titled "Angry Cats' Quit Threat".

Lesson one. Make the headline unusually dramatic.
Forget, if you can for a moment, the erroneous use of the word "cats" in the headline of an article about the Dragons. Instead, focus on the words "Angry" and "threat". Dramatic, eh? That got your attention.

Lesson two. Don't worry about the headline and body matching up.
Scour the copy below the angry, threatening headline. Do you see anyone actually saying that the Dragons are about to quit Super League? Of course you don't.

Lesson three. Sensationalise!
Note the line "Around 500 fans walked out during their last home game in protest at a video referee ruling." Given that the ruling came in the last minute, the only surprise here is that they don't say that 9,000 fans walked out. Also, "There is a belief around the club that the RFL don’t want ­fourth-placed Dragons to reach the Grand Final because it may affect crowd numbers." Quite a claim, again not backed up.

And that's basically it. All that's missing here is a liberal sprinkling of the word 'EXCLUSIVE' and it's a full house.

As far as the Dragons (not Cats; not now, not ever) are concerned, their focus is a little off. All through this season, there have been some bizarre calls and, yes, the Dragons have got the rough end of some of those. Instead of railing against referees and refereeing standards though, the spotlight should really be turned on those in charge of the rules - the lawmakers rather than the policemen if you like.

Rugby League's USP ought to be it's simplicity, but years of tinkering have produced a set of rules with vast grey areas between the black and the white. Think how you'd describe a game to a new spectator. How many times do you think you'd describe an incident as "well it looked like x to me, but the ref's obviously seen it as y"? I do it all the time on radio commentary. A series of minor tweaks over the years has left a lot of what happens down to interpretation rather than one thing being OK and another not and that breeds inconsistency which breeds frustration and anger in fans, players, coaches and club officials. Currently, that frustration and anger is being vented at the referees. It needs channeling to the rulemakers.

Regarding the Dragons, then it's to be hoped that Trent Robinson's comments are an attempt to deflect crticism from his players at a crucial point of the season. Rather than worry about 50/50 decisions that go against his team, he'd be better controlling the things he can control, such as ensuring his scrum-half doesn't gob off at the referee giving penalties away while in possession and allowing the opposition to score cheap tries against his side. Just a suggestion.

As for the claim that there's a conspiracy afoot to deny the Dragons a shot at Old Trafford glory, that has to be filed away with the rantings of David Icke and Kevin Pietersen, the great conspiracy theorists of the age. If we thought the powers that be in the game had a Machiavellian plan to bar a side from big finals, we'd stop watching altogether. Besides, if a plot existed, it would convey rather more competence and planning from top bods inside the game that we flatly refuse to believe exist.


Anonymous said...
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Barrie Thomas said...

"well it looked like x to me, but the ref's obviously seen it as y"

Of course - this could possibly be because you, and the referee, are in different places, with different views of the same incident. How many times have you queried an incident at a match only to find out it was you who was mistaken when you view the same incident on the tele?