Last week I ranted against various national newspapers for their blinkered, biased and just plain stupid views on the reasons for our resurgence this season.
I received an extremely defensive email from a reader who had missed the point slightly, thinking that I was slating all opinion columns, and indeed all forms of media, including blogs, fan sites and more. My ire was aimed more at newspaper columnists who feel the need to ‘tow the party line’ of their particular paper, losing all sense of perspective and common sense with every word they write.
But it got me thinking. What do we read, and why do we read it? Why am I making that distinction, that I enjoy reading blog opinions yet frequently find national newspapers so utterly infuriating?
The answer is pretty simple.
Newspapers are there to sell copies. And writing a column about how Henry was a wonderful player but that his departure had altered the balance of the team in a way that is currently beneficial does not sell papers to the masses. Slapping a huge headline on the backpage slating the legend does. That is disheartening in itself.
So each paper has an angle they present on any given story. All writers are expected to (mainly) adhere to this angle. Are all Daily Mail writers xenophobic idiots who think that no-one born outside Britain should dare ever have a job in this country? Probably not, but this is the impression that comes across, targeted at readers who feel the same way.
Does everyone who works at the Express think that Diana should be on the front page of the paper every day? Again, probably not, but if she disappeared, so would their readers, and most importantly, so would their sales. Similarly, not every sports hack at the Sun thinks Kaka is off to Chelsea for 100m and Arsenal are about to spend 30m on another striker, in fact perhaps none of them do, but is that going to stop them printing it? Of course not. It’ll sell.
But the internet is a diverse place. If a site is not created for purely financial reasons, then there becomes little point in falsifying stories and writing something that you simply don’t believe in. Of course there are exceptions – you only have to glance at Newsnow to see sites that attempt to draw you in with dramatic headlines, only for the content to either be ridiculous or entirely unrelated. Their currency is hits, perhaps for sponsorship, perhaps for ego, but either way it helps no-one, because you’ll only ever visit the site once.
True blogs, however, are an entirely different kettle of fish. They attract loyal followers, readers who are interested in another person’s opinion, whether theirs is related or not. When reading someone’s true opinion, it is natural to agree more with some statements than others. Does that make it a bad blog? Not at all, as long as it is true to the writer. Those that we read most often (mine are to the right) are chosen not necessarily because we agree with them more often, but because we consider their opinions interesting.
Because that is exactly the point – football fans do not agree with each other. And I’m not just talking about supporters of different clubs, because few fans read blogs away from their own team, unless they are of general interest. No, I’m talking about fellow fans of your own club. How many Arsenal fans do you know with differing opinions of Senderos? Of Hleb? Of Bendtner’s attitude? Of who should be between the sticks? Of the captaincy decision?
These are only current examples. But at any given moment, you could find yourself another Arsenal fan, find plenty of common ground, and plenty more to debate about. Which is precisely what we love to do. Do you find yourself in the pub with friends, at a match, or in fact anywhere, engaging in a lively debate on the merits of a given player, performance, or newsworthy item? I know I do, probably boring any non-football fans to death in the process.
This debating process is available on a blog, in a section common to all – comments. The blog author frequently checks and responds to these, so if you want a friendly debate, you can generally get one. Is that not exactly what we’re after when reading the opinions of others? That beautiful combination of seeing them say something you agree entirely with, and then make another point that you have a slightly different spin on?
At the end of the day, we are fans. We are not in this to become successful journalists, to make money, or to write dramatic stories which bear no resemblance to our beliefs. We are here to share our opinion.
The point is – we have our own unique take on the game, and on our club. And if we hold an opinion close to our hearts, we will staunchly defend it.
A newspaper hack who does not believe in what he is writing can never achieve that.