Mike Ashley Charges Newspapers and Brings End To Unbiased Reporting
A curious little story appeared on the Chronicle website on Wednesday afternoon, and attracted a good deal of interest, the story told of how Mike Ashley had decided, after banning some local papers, to charge national papers for something he called ‘exclusive access’.
There are going to be tiers of access; termed gold, silver and bronze. If a paper doesn’t pay, there will be no interviews with players, for example, in between matches.
Several questions arise and the answers are not at all obvious.
If a paper has bronze exclusive access, will that access be exclusive, or will it overlap with silver and gold rights holders, for example? In which case how is it exclusive?
If you buy exclusive access, will the club still be able to ban one of your reporters?
Will exclusive access be the same as exclusive stories? Or just hours and hours of exposure to boring public relations pap?
What is the point of buying access when newspapers like the Chronicle and the Daily Telegraph, who have been officially denied any kind of access, still get all the stories they need?
What would Ashley’s response be, in terms of Sports Direct advertising in the Daily Bugle, if the editor of the Daily Bugle decided he didn’t need to buy exclusive access to Newcastle United?
And crucially what does this tell us about the state of thinking inside the fraught and deep bunker in which Newcastle United’s strategic planning takes place? You know, the bunker which gave us the five year plan, and the sustainable approach to long-term development, and the director of football, and stability as a prerequisite for success?
Well, of course it’s another cheap little trick Ashley feels he can pull which has the merit of aiding club income without hitting the supporters. And he has already offended the local papers, the ones a club traditionally has the cosiest relationship with. Ashley might feel the national papers are fair game.
It shows contempt for the supporters too, because he feels no obligation to invite them into the club’s thinking. Access on a paid basis is no basis at all for unbiased reporting. Incidentally, Ashley also wants to appoint a media partner. That sounds like a media organisation which is prepared to be a little helper.
None of this is going to help the fans. None of this is going to produce a story the club doesn’t want to appear. Good stories produced via exclusive access will instantly become non-exclusive as they are written up by every other newspaper.
Perhaps the whole idea has been instantly ridiculed by everyone.
Perhaps it is another genuinely atrocious, authentically stinky wheeze that has been run up the flagpole and received not a single salute but a gigantic, resounding raspberry.
If so, the only conclusion is that the club is just as infantile and chronically incompetent as a lot of us feared.
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