Modern media and its mixed messages

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Neil Sherwin calls for media outlets to adopt a consistent stance when it comes to football reporting.

Soccer or football? Yawn.

What a fun week it’s been for sport in Australia. I of course use the word ‘fun’ in a sarcastic sense given the disasters unfolding in a number of codes.

While it’s a good thing that wrongdoers are (hopefully) going to be named and shamed, there’s no doubt that it is also disheartening to see the games we love caught up in such fiascos.

Football specifically is not without its problem; indeed the world game has come into the spotlight with hundreds of games now the subject of an investigation for matchfixing.

Domestically, the Melbourne Derby gave the ‘anti-football’ brigade easy ammunition after supporters tore up seats at the Etihad Stadium in an act of thuggery that has been widely condemned by the football community.

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One particular media outlet, the Herald Sun, has become quite the headscratcher in terms of its attitude to football coverage.

On the one hand you have David Davutovic, a journalist who has been given a platform for double page spreads and extensive coverage of the game.

He provides tactical analysis, detailed reports, and the sort of articles that can only aid the growth of the game here.

To counter that, another Herald Sun journalist, Rita Panahi, has been allowed to express her opinions to the point where a purposely antagonising headline (“Soccer trolls’ abuse proves how right I was”) has been placed on an article hidden behind a pay wall.

It appears that controversy is seen as a cheap way to make a few bucks.

Of course, there is some truth in her sensationalism as Panahi has been unfairly targeted by a large number of idiots firing off insults behind the safety of a pseudonym and a keyboard; nobody should condone that sort of behaviour, especially when you are trying to put a point across to the naïve.

At the same time, her own conduct on Twitter has been questionable to say the least and trolling in its own right, see the “Negative footy yarn on the front and back page? What? But…but that never happens! #accordingtosoccertrollls” tweet for example.

When I pulled her up on this she said I was “victim blaming” and sees nothing wrong with her actions, refusing to acknowledge playing any part in it.

However, generalisations such as “you soccer fans”, a defensive tone, and over emotive language also do nothing to stamp out the fire that she largely created by going on the attack with her original piece.

If you are going to use the medium to promote yourself then you have to be prepared for the backlash from people who don’t subscribe to your opinions.

Panahi’s writing clearly indicates that she is neither a fan or an expert when it comes to football and is shooting from the hip in a lazy manner; in fact she’s the complete antithesis of Davutovic.

Her insistence on peddling the age old term that “it is called soccer in this country” is yawn inducing as well as puzzling when you consider that her employer has a section for “Football” but none for “Soccer”.

Panahi isn’t the only ill-informed member of the Australian media being given a platform to talk about something which they know little about.

It’s safe to say that a certain Tom “I actually played soccer for two years when I was young” Elliott from 3AW will be getting a much tougher ride in future after his lazy correlation between the Etihad seat debacle and the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people lost their lives through no fault of their own.

The media in general has a responsibility to have knowledgeable people in place to discuss an issue, and not just shock jocks or blow-in writers who can generate a few extra listens or clicks.

Ultimately, the Herald Sun sums up both what’s right and wrong with football coverage in this country.

In Davutovic they have a good writer who is respected by all in the game, while it’s unlikely that football pundits will be calling on Panahi for expert analysis any time soon.

Personally I would like to see them adopt a single stance and stick with it. Sadly though, it’s sensationalism that sells so we can probably look forward to more uneducated commentary in the near future.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.