I was sitting on the toilet in work when I first realised the email I had missed all those years ago had been caught in my spam folder. I realise this isn’t the most glamorous start to a column I could have given you and the image of me sitting on the throne with my jeans around my ankles isn’t one you particularly wanted, but if I start off by lying to you and telling you I was in some swanky beach bar in Miami then we begin on very shaky ground.
Not only would it not be true, but you could also check by taking a look at my Twitter feed to see if I was indeed in Miami. I’m not.
So, there I was “interviewing a plumber” as we say at work, when I checked my spam folder and saw the missing email, buried at the bottom of 147,961 unread messages offering me free ink cartridges, penis enlargement patches, all sorts of porn, and cheap holidays to somewhere that definitely wouldn’t look like it did in the photographs.
I’ve been a journalist for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve started doing the job on a full time basis rather than being freelance. And, for that reason, it seems I was overlooked by the clear media agenda that surrounds Manchester City – specifically the one in which the controllers of all things press tell me what I can and can’t say about the club. Had I gone straight into the media following my graduation, instead of sitting around writing nonsense and talking rubbish, then I might have been CC’d into the mailshot sooner than I was.
I work for a local independent radio station. As well as reporting what happens on a local, national and international level, it’s my job to look at our local football teams: Manchester City and Manchester United being the optimum ones, but there are a few others. As part of my induction to the job, the big media boss that oversees everything we do in the industry – whether we’re BBC staff, whether we’re independent staff, whether we’re writing for newspapers or magazines, whether we’re on the TV… everyone – informed me that it’s my duty to talk up Manchester United at every given opportunity, while laying a boot into their Blue rivals.
‘Why?’ you might ask. Certainly, I did ask. And the answer was clear: Manchester United are the bigger revenue bringers, so their fans need to have their egos massaged.
I was as surprised as anyone. I had always remarked upon the absurdity of every single media outlet being in collusion with each other about reporting negative stories on the Blues. I had always passed it off as common sense that each and every journalist supported a team of their own and were able of coming to their own independent opinions when commenting on football. Tasked with writing an opinion piece, I had always (rather naively) believed that the writer judged the situation and gave their assessment; sometimes they were right and sometimes they were wrong.
I had always assumed that pundits on live football coverage were giving their thoughts on situations, having arrived at the conclusions based on the evidence they’d seen. Again, often right or wrong, with those watching at home able to disagree.
For years, I’d assumed that all of the negative reporting balanced itself out with the sparks of positive press that would surface from time to time. I thought those that dared go against the grain and praise what the Blues had been doing were brave – but I didn’t realise HOW brave. Having since seen the sanctions (which were attached to the email in my spam folder), I can confirm those men and women are indeed heroes of their time. They’ve definitely not just had an opinion based on the evidence they’ve seen.
It had always been my belief that those who felt the whole of the British press were out to get Manchester City were barking up the wrong tree. Little did I know that, of all the conspiracy theories that exist in modern life, the one I was closest to was the one I couldn’t even spot.
When I had opened my spam folder and saw the words on my mobile phone screen, an overwhelming sense of embarrassment filled my body. I had never realised that every working journalist in the country had been in cahoots to maintain the comfortable status quo for no reason whatsoever. How wrong I was.
The truth is simple. We journalists need Manchester City to be the bad guys. More people hate the Blues for their money and power than like them, so it’s for us to pander to the masses and earn ourselves more readers, listeners or viewers. Think about it logically – who would trust a media outlet that reported a truthful opinion instead of what the consumers wanted to hear?
We’d be laughing stocks worldwide if we gave the club a fair ride.
I know what you’ll be thinking: ‘David, what about when it’s a news story rather than an opinion piece? Surely that the news is based on facts means that positive stories can’t be presented negatively?’
Again, that’s what I used to believe. Attached to my email from the leader of all things journalism was a manual, outlining just how to go about sticking the boot in. For instance, whenever we have to report on a Manchester City win, we have to contextualise it and explain how easy it had been made for the club to do it; while a Manchester United victory is always against the odds – in broadcast media, this can be done simply with the tone of voice.
When it comes to what others have said, providing it matches the agenda we all must stick to then it’s reportable. We mustn’t question anything said by those connected to Manchester United about youth policy for instance or how they had earned the money they can spend through winning title after title; but when a Manchester City voice claims the club is doing great work in the community, we must constantly explain how much money is being spent on wages that would serve the world better elsewhere.
For my part in this pushed agenda, I expect I will no longer be allowed to work in the British press – not that I’d want to continue to be a part of the corrupt organisation anyway. This whistle-blowing is, effectively, my resignation from all things media.
The establishment is out to get the club I love – and I can’t stand for it any more.
And, of course, if this whole thing sounds mental to you, imagine how it felt for me to write it. Imagine how ridiculous life would be if anything in this column was actually true.
Written by David Mooney