How Exclusives Work… No.16

POOR ADAM Johnson is getting some stick on the message boards. “Is he moaning again? Why doesn’t he stop whingeing and just leg it if he isn’t happy?” Well, to be fair I don’t think he moaning again. Yes, there are some quotes floating around cyber-space’s network of salvage sites but they appear to be stripped down, reconditioned, polished and recycled versions of things that he said a fortnight ago rather than a serial strop .

I spoke to Adam Johnson after the Yeovil game. He had just done a very short live pitchside interview with BBC Tees and then I collared him in the tunnel and he blurted out a confessional stream of very honest statements about his frustration at being on the sidelines but reiterated his burning desire to stay at Boro. I was the only one there, the national lads at that match spoke to Justin Hoyte in the side room.
The quotes from that interview were later lifted and respun by a variety of other outlets, that’s how it works. Once it is in the public domain – and especially on websites – you can’t control how or where they are used.
But no-one else spoke to Johnno after that game and since then he has not been available to the press. No one is allowed to phone the players without prior arrangement on pain of death and the international break has meant that routine has been disrupted at Hurworth so no journalists have been down there at all and there has been no chance of even a quick word.
Which leaves a mystery, the story now doing the rounds in which he says he may have to leave if Stewie doesn’t … and that Stewie is leaving anyway. The quotes appear to have surfaced first on one of the many gossip sites – Tribal Football,, Team Talk etc – which begs the questions of where they came from. Those sites don’t have any journalists, at least not of the sense you would recognise, reporters who research and source original stories. They have an army of lowly paid media studies graduates who are desk based and office bound and scour the net for quotes which they cut and paste and give a new ‘nose’ but they don’t have staff writers who go to Boro matches or press conferences to make objective first hand observations or ask questions.
Even if they did it would be unlikely that they would ever come face to face with players as access to the tunnel is strictly limited: the written press is usually restricted to the Gazette, the Echo, one from the daily papers and one from the Sundays. A website representative wouldn’t get down the stairs. Generally then, we know where most quotes come from. Sometimes they are from our own Gazette stories, sometimes they are squirrelled away from past press conferences and sometimes they are, well, something else.
When they are lifted by cut-and-paste operations they lose their context. The writer hasn’t got a clue and generally doesn’t care what the question was or what was said before and after to support, or balance a statement that in stark isolation can look quite damning or emotionally charged. And with each step away from the starting point that estrangement from the essence of the story grows.
For instance, a well structured 20 paragraph Gazette story that allows the player to elaborate a point may be legitimately lifted from our web site by Sky Sports or the BBC say but attributed to us and chopped back to eight paragraphs of concise and pertinent quotes.
But from there it will be lifted by someone else and stripped back to maybe just three paragraphs of quotes. And from there by another site. And another. And with every impression the picture fades and distorts like a tenth generation photo-copy to the point where it is barely decypherable.
Then from there those quotes will be picked up and then reconstructed two days later to flesh out another story devoid of any relationship to the original. At is at this point that mistakes, prejudices and agendas are allowed to seep in, when sentences are snapped in half and reordered to fit the constraints of the bite sized, info-lite parameters these lazy cut-and-shut sites work to.
My best guess on the provenance of the current Johnno quotes is that the link with a loan move to Ipswich in recent days prompted someone to take that one line and ‘flesh it out’ by Googling for evidence that indicated if he might be available for a move to Portman Road. I think they came across a fifth or sixth generation story from last week then took two or three lines out of it and pressed the publish button.
Don’t think too badly of Johnno just because he is the victim of a bout of Chinese whispers.
MEANWHILE, MORE on the contrast between Boro and Newcastle. Gareth Southgate has fleshed out the picture that has been emerging in recent weeks of the co-operative management structure at Boro in which the football department works with rather than against the business side.
In the routine pre-match press conference the boss was thrown some pointed questions about the circus up the A19, about Kevin Keegan and about the constraints on the modern manager. His polished responses reveal that while in other clubs there appear to be built in areas of corporate friction, he is comfortable with the structure and believes it is a model that works for Boro.
I thought I’d just throw the quotes in and let you draw your own conclusions. I’m sure they will be different ones from those some of the national tabloid writers will come to.
“The role of manager at football clubs has changed, and maybe this country is now moving more towards how they operate in Europe,” said Southgate.
“Naturally there are a lot of big decisions which have to be taken, and as a manager you need to be in on these decisions but the days have gone where you can expect to do everything yourself.
“We don’t have a director of football here like other clubs. We use a different system. It might not suit other clubs, but it suits us. There are lots of things on a manager’s plate these days and he no longer has the time to go travelling the globe watching players. It’s too time-consuming. So we have a recruitment department here and we make decisions collectively. The decision-making also involves the chairman and the chief executive.
“I am very clear on the type of player that I want to bring in here and that is what we work towards. But then it doesn’t always come down to a football decision. We are talking about huge financial operations and that’s another reason why you have to bring in other people from inside the club.”
“We’ve got a small squad but that’s the way we want it. There are times in the past when this club has had players on big money who were not being selected. We have tried to move away from that and placed the accent on quality. We have a first-team squad of players who are all liable to be selected on a regular basis.
“We wanted to go along the route of bringing in younger players because we believe this is the way forward as a club. Our wage bill needed to be dramatically reduced and we’ve done that. We’ve cut our cloth according to our needs. Now we have a system which is right for us. We are together as a club and we are all singing from the same hymn book.”

20 thoughts on “How Exclusives Work… No.16

  1. Just to spread yet another taxi driver rumour… my cabbie in Liverpool last night swore he’d had Stewie’s “missus” in the cab in August.
    She apparently said he’d be at Liverpool by Jan – but also said he was totally in his parents control and was listening to them too much….
    Its amazing how many Taxi drivers get a full confessional…

  2. I admit that the sentiment expressed by Johnson is very similar in both articles. I’m not clear on the provenance of these ‘new’ quotes from Johnson that mention Downing looking for a move to a ‘big club’.
    He mentions being behind Downing in the pecking order in the interview that is the basis of your post-Yeovil piece on Johnson, but its only in the the Teamtalk piece that he mentions Downing leaving (“Stewart Downing is obviously going to look to move to a big team soon”).
    Did Johnson mention Stewart Downing leaving for a ‘big club’ in your post-match interview with him? If he didn’t, then where have the desk-jockeys got these quotes from if they were not simply reworking material from your online copy, especially if they have had no access to the player? Or are the quotes that we’ve been reading in the last few days that were not included in your interview entirely fabricated?

  3. The stuff regarding JINKY is much more to do with this ridiculous transfer window . It is silly season with the football hacks running short of interesting stories. Imagine the rubbish being bandied about if it wasn’t for the Geordies and the Hammers.
    We already have the second coming thanks to Walcott’s fine display, the rebirth of the Golden Generation. Yet the pundits apparently had plenty of Tommy Cooper insults lined up for Capello. So I suppose that Walcott for Man city is the next breaking story!!!
    No offense AV but the British Press blow with the wind, constantly changing their minds – I even read an apology to Sven saying how correct he was taking Walcott to the World Cup. I mean after the abuse the bloke took after that decision. All based on one win.

  4. Ah, I’ve just re-read your closing paragraph and it seems you hint at fabrication, or ‘fleshing out’, by people who have nothing to do with Boro.
    **AV writes: I don’t think it is ever conscious fabrication. I think people at a distance from the original cut and paste quotes from one story and weld them awkwardly into another unfolding story. Sometimes they may erroneously assume something is a quote when in the original it was an inference by the writer.
    But when it happens it creates a completely different internal dynamic , introducing misunderstandings and mistakes along the way. I also think they do not have the time, staff, contacts or often the inclination to check the source and are not aware or the errors when they publish them.
    Hence the story of frustration can quickly become a “play me or I’m off” demand and the player ends up being slagged off by his own fans for no fault of his own.
    The problem is that the “new story” then gets whizzed around cyber-space, gets linked on the message boards, picked up as snippets of gossip by the Beeb or the tabloids and then take on a life of their own.
    Sometimes, days or weeks later a story does the round and you know it is just a bastardisation of your own story because there are phrases in it that you rather than the player used (“so would if be fair to say then that…..”) but then the manager or player will be asked about it again and the response gives the whole thing new legs and we end up being forced to join a chain reaction we started.
    It is crazy but an inevitable by-product of the wonders of the interweb.

  5. Nice one AV.
    For those of us not familiar with the operation of the press, but often hoodwinked by the kind of story you are referring to, its a great little eye opener. I am sure most people don’t believe everything they see on the websites they visit, but when a story is regurgitated a few times it makes you think that there can’t be any smoke without a fire…
    As for GS’s comments, the guy is a star, very straight-forward explanation of what’s happening at the club. We all have our criticisms from time to time but when you hear a brief description of the business plan it gives you faith that the club is looking good for the future. Thank god for his highness the great lord Gibbo.

  6. AV:
    A good, instructive, informative and responsible article!
    We bloggers can all be bit guilty of the “cutting and pasting” and desktop research approach to getting our points across.
    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!
    However, in fairness to amateur bloggers, when professional (and I mean this in its narrowest sense of receiving payment for their stories) media hacks of any persuasion are the most guilty of the same process, it’s hardly surprising that “stories” become distortions of the true facts and that the standards applied are a reflection of what “the professionalsâ€? seem to be getting away with day-in, day-out!
    When this is done deliberately and cynically, it is self-serving and destructive to the whole image of the media. It is also intrinsically dishonest in that it is deliberately intended to mislead, by change of emphasis, rather than give a condensed version of the intrinsic subject matter or interview content.
    For example, Sky Sports website last night carried a video clip of Gareth Southgate – one of a series of “Joe Soap on Walcottâ€? post-Croatia media overkill items and which was entitled “Southgate on Walcott”. This is, in my opinion, a clear case of a Sky interviewer/reporter feeding a loaded and closed question to an interview subject, then taking that particular section of interview out of context and presenting it as though it was something other than a incidental, secondary and casual remark as a closure piece to an interview set up for another purpose or on another pretence. Thus Southgate’s seeming endorsement of Theo Walcott is secure and added to the list of Premier League managers seemingly giving approval to the next Sky Sports favoured campaign to support Theo Walcott’s, should Sky Sports decide that it’s what they want to promote – and why wouldn’t they? He’s Arsenal and therefore on their A-listed clubs.
    This type of practice is, frankly, unacceptable, irresponsible and much more cynical – and it’s from people in privileged positions of direct access to managers and players – not from anyone several stages removed down the information food-chain!
    Granted, rumour-mongering and negative spin trawling by cut and paste bloggers in matters which adversely affect the relationships between players, managers and the local support is damaging.
    So, I genuinely applaud you for pointing out how and why this happens and what are the consequences and potential pitfalls of Chinese whispers.
    However, I do believe that in the context of your disclosures, it is worth pointing out and emphasising that there are genuine sharks out there that are much more dangerous than IT or media-studies geeks who do blogging to supplement student income as they hopefully seek to develop careers or auld gadgies like me who do it for fun and to keep the brain cells from atrophying!
    I don’t believe you were condoning such behaviour by the media, by the way. But I felt it only fair to point out the facts and that there is another side to the coin.

  7. Well said AV!
    In today’s game there are too many knee jerk reactions to bad media reporting.
    Adam Johnson is a potentially quality player at our club. He’s right to be frustrated, but the main point we should be taking is that he wants to stay at the club.
    Football is funny and I think that either he’ll be off on loan and/or he’ll get his chance in the side as the season progresses.
    If he was a mercenary he’d have already of gone.
    We should be supporting a genuine lad the best we can (considering Downing is ahead of him) not forcing him out of the club.

  8. The morning after the Yeovil game. The
    Daily Mail’s website had a large photograph of Adam Johnson and a report on the game. That seemed to me to be very unusual. On a slightly different track a recent piece in the Independent suggested that all of the best players in the country,s academies should be gathered together in the academies of Manchester United and Chelsea because they were the best academies. The basis for that one seems to have been remarks made by Brian McClair after the Manchester United Premier Cup competition last month. Boro’s Under-15s took part in that competition. Draw whatever conclusions seem appropriate.

  9. I have to say the critism of Adam Johnson has passed me by. Work commitments have kept me away from the blogs and message boards. Although its easy to see how a ‘quote’ can be manipulated and a mountain grows out of a mole hill.
    Tomorrow’s match is going to be an interesting one, Boro and Pompey I would say are fairly evenly matched, but with home advantage they may have an edge. That said with Digard and emnes possibly coming into the team, I don’t see the temporary loss of Tuncay and Shawky being a disaster, if Aliadiere also can’t play then we’ll start to look a bit thin on the ground up front.
    I’ll be happy with a draw but its a game we are capable of winning.

  10. Hmm, it is the manipulation of facts for sure. It’s like PR stunts when senior management muck in on the shop floor so Joe Public would feel they are “one of us.” Not in their fancy suits getting 50,000 pound a year they’re not.

  11. AV, I never believe hardly anything that I read in the papers (except the Gazette of course ;))and next to nothing on the internet.
    Like you say there is so much chopping and changing of words you wonder how much resemblance it bears to what the player actually said.
    Sometimes the same quotes get used to say opposite things in different papers and that can’t be right.
    And you can see the quotes work the way down the food chain and becoming dafter by the day.
    I know it makes your job harder AV but I don’t blame the players for not talking to the papers, especailly the likes of Stewie who knows that no matter what he says can be twisted. Even telly or radio it can be edited unless it is live.
    I’d like to see a return to the old verbatim Q&A interviews. At least if you can see the question you can see which way the reporter is pushing the theme.

  12. Storm in a teacup. Johnson says the same thing a bit too often for my liking but I’d prefer it if his boots did the talking.
    For me, the point is not whether he is frustrated but that whenever he has got his chance in the Prem he has not done it. Maybe the Championship is his level.
    If he is still being vocally frustrated come January we should sell. Emnes is there now and Porritt not far behind so if we can get £4-5m we should cash in.

  13. Gareth Southgate …. legend! Manager of the month for August and well deserved (although that probs means we cant win at Pompey now because of the curse).
    Southaget is doing some good things and is very impressive when he talks. How long before he is linked with the Geordies?

  14. Great article, AV. Very enlightening. I think you should print this in the Gazette and on the main website:- I’m sure that it’s only a minority of fans who come on here or use the message boards; yet your message is a positive one that puts the record straight and should take any pressure off Johnson if made available to the wider fan-base.
    Meanwhile, I agree whole-heartedly with Darren. The more I hear of Southgate, the better he gets. I honestly believe that his partnership with Steve Gibson could be one of the strongest we have ever seen in the Premiership and I am looking forward to genuine progress this and next season. The club is in safe, responsible hands.
    But wait – Lawrenson has tipped Pompey to win tomorrow. No surprise there then! Given that he has a proven record as a useless tipster, I suppose we should be quite encouraged! C’mon Boro!

  15. First the curse of Lawrenson and now the curse of Manager of the Month!!! Defeat to Pompey now looms certain!
    Fantastic news about Gareth. I’m absolutely over the moon about his award, which is richly deserved. National recognition for Boro!
    I would now like to suggest a “Chairperson of the Month Award.” Clearly this month’s trophy would have to go to Mike Ashley for his enormous contribution to world comedy.

  16. Jinky is frustrated and fed up with not getting a game! well thank God for that because I’d be a lot more upset if he was sat on the bench not giving a you know what!
    He is potentially a great talent and meantime has to watch people like Walcott getting fame and fortune whilst he gets splinters in his derriere unless Aliadiere or Stewy get injured. I doubt if the attributed comments are “exactly” what he said but lets be honest who hasn’t at one time droped a hint to an employer about leaving/quitting etc. in an effort to get a few more quid or promotion it’s just that when we do it doesn’t get plastered all over the internet.
    By the way if my Boss is reading this the cup of Coffee I was allegedly seen having today in Eldon Square with a certain Oliver Hardy lookalike in a Barcode shirt was about some faulty trainers I bought last month and nothing at all to do with a £3M p.a. vacant Managers post!

  17. As a left footed midfielder myself (not for a Prem team but for my Supermarket execs 11) I think kid Johnson needs to rein in the his ego and redouble his efforts on the training ground with regard to tackling and tracking back. Mouthing of to the press, that’s what Johnny Foreigner’s meant to do. Things like this have me scratching me head so hard I’m starting to look as bald as TinTin.

  18. I’ve heard a rumour that the barcodes have approached the iceland manager to take over at Sid James Park… however he declined the offer and now the skunks are traveling to their local B & Q to see if their manager he is interested.
    Well done to Gareth Southgate on manager of the month, its been a good start so far and the recognition comes because we are making waves on the pitch. Forget your sheiks and whatever else if you aint playing the football it dosnt matter how much you have in the piggy bank.
    I think today may end up an entertaining draw, hope we can keep the good recent record going at Pompey. 2 – 2 stewy with a goal or 2 to silence some critics.
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. We have conceded 2 goals in injury time, two in the last 5 minutes plus another two in the last half hour.
    Gate talked last season about learning our lessons in conceding late goals. We had to improve and we certainly are much better at letting them in. It is good to see all the hard work on the training ground paying off.
    The fact of the matter is that if a team has three times as many shots they are likely to score more.

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