An excellent piece by Ian Herbert in the Independent today, warns Newcastle United that they could become as much of a laughing stock as the Washington Redskins did, when it comes to media access.

The Washington Times were the standout example, once upon a time respected for their critical and objective coverage of the NFL team, before getting into bed with them at the expense of the rest of the press.

Ian Herbert reports that:

‘Trinity Mirror tell me that the club’s new-found friendliness with their paper stems from efforts to “rebuild relationships and bridges” at senior executive level, though when I asked them if they ruled out any commercial arrangement with exclusive journalistic access attached, they said they “won’t be drawn into speculation on what will or won’t happen in the future”.’

Making The Mirror the only newspaper to meet Steve McClaren on the day he was unveiled as Newcastle Head coach might ‘rebuild relationships and bridges’ with that particular title, but surely it is a drop in the ocean as at the same time you are antagonising every other title.

In the Independent piece, Herbert says that Trinity Mirror told him that they are ‘being more creative’ in terms of how they work with other companies but wouldn’t comment on ‘any particular arrangement’….

“There are increasing commercial overlaps as we are being more creative but we work with a lot of companies we write about and editorial integrity remains separate,” Trinity Mirror’s spokeswoman tells me. “I won’t comment on the details of any particular arrangement.”

Ian Herbert warns Newcastle that they are playing a dangerous game, especially when it comes to exposing the new manager/head coach to accelerated criticism. Saying that if United make a bad start to the season, then they could reap what they sow with the likes of The Sun being a dangerous enemy to make.

‘You hope, for new manager McClaren’s sake, that the many intelligent people at operational level for Newcastle will persuade Ashley that exclusive content deals with the Mirror will make a very dangerous enemy in The Sun….McClaren will require understanding and empathy when he sets about his formidable task next month. If Ashley has taken a partner, those qualities will be in short supply. Wally, brolly and all that will never be far away.’

media access

The shabby nature of any ‘preferred media partner’ arrangement is summed up in the Independent piece, with comparisons between newspapers that paid police offices for information not being that different to potentially The Mirror or others, getting exclusive media access in return for free adverts given to Sports Direct and/or the rest of Mike Ashley’s retail empire.

You hope, for the sake of the Mirror’s integrity, that its senior executives will see the importance of solidarity – one out, all out – in the fight against owners like Ashley and Snyder. What, you might ask in a post-Leveson environment, is the difference between paying police officers for information and paying a football club – perhaps in cash or free adverts for its owner’s sports shop – for information? Not much.

We are all now sadly resigned to Mike Ashley giving free exposure to his retail empire at the expense of Newcastle United’s revenues via all the free advertising at St James Park, at press conferences and training ground photo shoots and TV footage.

However, it would be taking it to a whole new level if it ends up with exclusive interviews with Steve McClaren and his players being traded against free adverts for Mike Ashley’s shop.

Really interesting reading Ian Herbert’s account of what happened with Washington Redskins, go HERE to read it in full.

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