Dearth Of Press Men

The Fantastic Four
The Poll Winners Party

And there there was one.

I know many of you were coming on to this site yesterday looking to the reaction I might have about the news that Mike Selvey is not being retained past September of this year. Many of you no doubt thought I’d be delighted. That I’d be revelling in the so-called downfall of one of this blog’s most prominent targets. That I’d be chuffed to see the ending of his writing. That it would be revenge for what happened to KP, and the part people like me thought he played in it. I think some might even have wanted me to gloat.

You probably think I’m laughing my head off right now. You probably want to think that this is something I wanted to happen. Well, you would have been wrong, because the clue was in a post I wrote a few months ago when Bunkers was getting the push from the Independent.

One other point. I know I’ve been a critic of Stephen Brenkley, or Bunkers as he’s known on here. Mr Aplomb was one of those guilty men who drip fed us some crumbs of information but never really told us what went wrong on that Ashes tour. I will remember the salt in the tea analogy as a particular Bunkers piece. Today he took to Twitter to say that he’s written his last piece as The Independent’s Cricket Correspondent, and that’s sad. He also said he has two weeks more to go and he’d write for the I if they wanted him to. I’m not rejoicing. Brenkley’s loss to the media coverage of cricket should be a bloody beacon of woe for the game. I’m not sure who will be taking over at the I, but I’ll bet it won’t be a full time correspondent. Let’s see. It didn’t seem the departure of a retiring man, but one of a paper cutting costs. Maybe things will become clearer.

That it is a disaster for the game when prominent cricket writers are dispensed with on cost grounds. It is a sign the game is losing its audience. A commercial reality writ large, so large, that the ECB can’t keep ignoring it and hoping for the best, can they?

Because I’m not a fan of someone’s writing (and I’m not) does not mean I want to see them sacked. That would be churlish, unsympathetic and nasty, and believe it or not, I might have a part of the first in me (relentlessly so, perhaps), I’m not either of the latter. At least, I don’t think I am. Selvey was (well still is) an integral plank of the written media and the cricket writing genre cannot cope with huge positions being downsized and big personalities being dismissed. It is the canary in the goldmine for the game. As each year passes without a meaningful, well promoted, cross-platform access for the majority to the big events, so another year passes with less people engaged in cricket. When I was growing up cricket was an integral part of the fabric of the nation. Now it appears like an elite indulgence. While the cricket writers of today aspire to the levels of those of yesteryear, anyone without satellite access might as well read Harry Potter, for all the tangible evidence they get of this derring-do. When Ben Stokes played that innings in South Africa, the ECB should have begged, scraped, whatever the BBC to play full highlights of it on their website or Iplayer. When Stuart Broad skittled out the Aussies at Trent Bridge, the patchy wicket highlights were an improvement on nothing, but nothing compared to seeing it live. And you see, as each of those people who have drifted away from the game are further distanced, so the needs for relatively highly paid “experts” diminishes.

It can’t be hard to see, for the likes of Selvey, Pringle and Bunkers, that the sport isn’t what it used to be in the public conscience, and thus as the audience diminishes, so does the need for their salaries. It is brutal, it is hard to take, but we are dealing with commercial realities. The 200 or so who have offered their lachrymose comments on the County Blog are not going to be enough to pay Selvey’s wages. Because, by and large, most of us don’t buy the Guardian (nor the Indy, nor the Telegraph) and read the content for nothing. The alternative for the vast majority is not to pay for access, it is not to read them at all.  The Telegraph limit the content you can access free, so I limit myself to that number of articles (and get around it when needed). That is the pure reality of the space we live in now. The free internet news access is a disaster for most, but taken for granted by many.

Of course, I’m taking a leap of faith on the financial rewards of being a journo. I simply have no idea what they are. But I’m wagering given seniority, reverence and output that Selvey was pretty well recompensed compared to someone newer on the scene. Those tasked with making money, which newspapers need to, aren’t going to see his faithful few supporters as anything other than collateral damage. A few might not buy the paper again in disgust, or not access cricket content, but the opportunity to pontificate below the line is always an alluring one, in the same way blogging is for me. They’ll be back, by and large. Do you thing wctt, palfreyman et al are going to up sticks and go somewhere else?

On a personal level, losing a job is a terrible thing, and on that level I genuinely wish Selvey well going forward. If that makes me a hypocrite in some eyes, well so be it. I can’t help that. Those people that think that are probably the first to misrepresent what I say in any case, so f for Freddie them. On a writing level, I was never a fan and that pre-dates 2014. I’ve said it many times when we’ve run the worst journalist poll, that I have not lost any faith in Selvey because I never really had any in the first place. But I do see how those that used to love his writing felt very let down by the post-2014 fall out. KP has made his feelings known in a typically tone-deaf tweet today, and in many ways I think that these incidents with Cook, Flower, Clarke et al were the beginning of the end. He saw one of his peers, Pringle, alienate his audience so much with his misjudging of the mood that it was no surprise when he was given the push. Now, a bit further on, the fickle finger of the feckless newspaper industry is pointing at Selvey.

I don’t actually believe it was the furore that brought him down. The interaction below the line post-2014 has been aggressive because of the Tyers Twitter Tendency (see glossary) that Selvey was one of the prime examples of, but it drove hits. We didn’t see what we thought we should be seeing – a journalist acting as our representative, not as someone giving off the appearance of being an ECB stenographer (and he did in my eyes), but it got people going. There was a consistent groundswell from “our side” that was almost begging Selvey to be more open, but he closed the door, and his plaudits loved him for it. So while some of his output was, undoubtedly, of considerable quality, it kept coming down to the KP question. The damage of 2014 has been very widespread, as you know, because I’ve mentioned this schism constantly.

When 2014 was ongoing, the likes of Selvey and Newman, Pringle and Bunkers provided me with tons of material to fisk. While Selvey was waging his campaigns, his picking apart of Adil Rashid, his defence of the realm, his pet theories of wind directions for ODIs and where to pick hitting boundaries, there was always something to react to, to provide material for the blog, and comments for the supporters of us here. Like him or loathe him, he provided things to react to, in much the same way as Downton did. Our material is diminished by his departure. But that’s me being selfish.

I’ve never interacted with Selvey (that I know of) and nor him with me. Fine. I don’t live and breathe for journo’s attention, no matter what some of them think. I have been critical of him, of course I have. I don’t share some of the love for him, there’s no doubt about that. But he is a position lost to cricket on a national level, and that can’t be good, and on a personal level, I’m not cheering his dismissal. I’d be surprised if anyone thought I would be. It’s indicative of a sport downsizing. If you are happy with that, then I think you are wrong to be so. But I suspect that’s not a universally held view.