Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, amongst other things dealt with the rise of churnalism, and using news wires for stories. What this means with a lot of modern journalism is using second hand information and claiming it as your oWn, usually with an EXCLUSIVE tag attached to it. A common way of doing this is to report player interviews on foreign radio stations.
Only this weekend Cristiano Ronaldo has had to issue a statement on his official site citing a Sunday Mirror interview with him to be entirely fictitious, an interview seemingly carried out by a spurned ex-lover. Two minutes on google could have dug up this fact.

But everyone wants to be first with the news, time is very much of the essence, so to hell with checking out the story exhaustively before publication – after all, someone else might have broken the news in that time.

The Mirror tweeted a few weeks ago about the imminent appointment of Mark Hughes as the new Aston Villa manager. Shame it wasn’t true, especially as I told everyone I knew to put money on it as it was a done deal (serves me right). I’m still waiting for the Guardian journalist Ian Prior’s January exclusive, that almost caused Twitter into meltdown (@ianprior: Major – and boy do I mean it – football exclusive coming up on guardian.co.uk sometime around 5.30), of a summer £40m bid for Gareth Bale from Inter Milan. With every passing day that story looks more and more like the drivel many originally suspected it to be (though to be fair to Ian Prior, it wasn’t even his story!).

Chris Lepowski, a West Brom reporter for the Birmingham Mail recently penned an article commenting on the spread of false stories on Twitter and how he is criticised for not covering spurious rumours, as if he was failing in his job. He also added:
“A couple of websites report it in Italy and then it gets picked up and reported as news by the website branch of a national radio station – this much-listened-to radio station employ their own Midlands’ reporters, who would have swiftly put their own web colleagues straight had their opinion been sought.”

“People are in such a rush to break stories that diligence no longer applies. Nobody bothers checking with clubs to see if a story is true. They might check with an agent to see if it’s true – in 11 years of working in football I’ve come across about a dozen agents I really trust – but even then they might not bother.Social media has not so much changed the way we work, it’s shredded the rule book too.”

In the old days there was no such thing as Twitter, no 24-hour news channels, no world-wide web, and stories were in the morning newspaper and could be written up properly, researched and presented as a proper exclusive (though of course lies were still printed now and then). And despite the rise of social media, this is still the case for many.

As Lepowski commented:
“Let’s not forget that newspaper journalists are still working for print publications first and foremost. Some of us will sit on information for the sake of our newspaper deadlines – hoping that the story doesn’t break elsewhere.”

But when discussing the rush to release news first, to be there with the big stories, the best example of all has to be Sky Sports News, the absolute masters of breaking a dubious story before back-tracking quicker than it takes the contents of a yellow bar to scroll across your screen, until you reach the point of wondering if you had imagined the whole thing in the first place.

The most perfect of perfect examples occurred on Friday. It was approaching 5pm, and Sky Sports News’ twitter feed announced that on the hour the channel would break some SENSATIONAL news from Manchester.
What could it be? Sounded intriguing.

And then 5pm came. The breaking news? Manchester City close in on Samir Nasri. Sensational.
Within 10 minutes the yellow bar had changed to “expressed an interest in”.

Within an hour the Guardian had reported that City had shown no interest, and Sky Sports haven’t really mentioned it since. It was utter garbage.

City may well sign him. They probably won’t. Who knows? What is clear is that on Friday the club were not “closing in” on Samir Nasri. It was, as the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor called it, “sensational bull****”.

The approach of Sky Sports News is understandable. Twitter is making them partly redundant. You might watch the channel to ogle at attractive presenters, but the key to its success was to break news and be the go-to place for all updates on sports. But Twitter gets there first now, so the pressure is on for them to find their own exclusives rather than re-hash what they have read elsewhere. And the result is often to jump at any snippet they may receive without considering its veracity first.

I’ve heard so many false stories broken without being checked out this summer that I pray for September 1st. Transfer windows used to be exciting, but they are now a chore, surfing the internet for news feels like swimming upstream through a river of cow manure. Neymar was signing for Real Madrid. Manchester City were close to signing Gary Cahill. Manchester United had sealed the signing of Modric. Last week they were definitely about to put in a £20m bid for Nasri. And so on, and so on. And all this from established journalists, rather than wind up merchants on their school holidays. Were these stories checked out? Were the relevant people spoken to, or did they just run with it so the news could be out there before everyone else? After all, who cares about accuracy when the newspaper website is getting plenty of hits (in May 2011, the Daily Mail website got 77m hits)?

The only option is to wait for concrete news, now that rumours and so-called exclusives have become so dubious. Speaking of which, I’ve just seen Samir Nasri in Cash Converters in Manchester. Feel free to tell all your friends.


  • Josh
    4 years ago

    This is unbelievably rich coming from FFC.com considering how thin the majority of your posts are. Add that to the fact that they were clearly proofread by a small child, and we have a website that should probably stop throwing stones from their glass house.

    • shooy
      4 years ago

      Just because FFC is often cack as well, doesn’t make this particular article any less true or less relevant. Pretty spot on in my opinion. A good article.

  • Mr Angry
    4 years ago

    Oh no, surely not, journos making stuff up!
    Please don’t tell me that Man City are not going to sign the 50 odd players they have been linked with.
    What is it with your profession, you really ought to be writing modern day fairy stories, because that is what you are best at.
    Who cares who broke the story first, can anyone remember who broke the Ronaldo to Madrid story first, or Jones to Man United, or Torres to Chelsea, no we can’t.
    What I would Like to see is, a league table of sports writers, with points for accuracy, or make you journalists stick £50.00 of your own money on each rubbish prediction you make.
    If I did my job as poorly as you do yours, well pretty soon, I wouldn’t have a job.

  • CiTyBlUe
    4 years ago

    I run a City blog that is all about relevent information, uselful content and the opinion of a fellow fan, I dont break news but a lot of the time more analysis and knowledge sniffs out the real targets from the lest probable.

    ‘This is our City’, for me its not about breaking news, its about a service provided for my fellow City fans.

  • declan
    4 years ago

    My god this is a hypocritical article. This website publishes, sorry, republishes more crap and unsubstantiated stories than most sites out there.

  • Ian_Safc
    4 years ago

    This is the curse of 24/7 news. If you’re going to have all-day coverage, you’re going to have to fill in the gaps. And journalists will just make things up. I’ve been surprised by some of the transfer news related to my club Sunderland. I saw a few websites carrying the idea that we would sell Gyan to Spurs or Stoke (!)
    It just didn’t make any logical sense. At the time we had one fit striker: Gyan. There’s no way Sunderland would sell him, even for a golden pig.

  • Rookie
    4 years ago

    To those of you who are criticising this website…

    If you think it is that awful, then why come on here? Most normal people would leave the electric fence alone, instead of continuing to run into it.

    That aside, good article. With some of the stories they recite every 15mins on SkySports News, it’s no wonder they come up with so much rubbish. Sometimes I wonder whether those people running round in the background are just actors.

  • JonnyArdiles
    4 years ago

    Don’t normally like this site, but i really enjoyed this article… top notch

  • Un-named Transfer Journo
    4 years ago

    I remember the days when I used to write ‘transfer gossip’.

    I’d get to work, sit at my desk and when I couldn’t find anything that hadn’t already been said, I’d ponder… ‘What sort of player would Chelsea buy?’

    One such story ran on the back pages of every tabloid.