Be My Friend

It’s not so long ago that newspapers and broadcast media bestrode the world of information, disseminating news and comment to the public, explaining what was going on and read and watched by the public  in their millions.  The internet changed all that, mostly for the good and sometimes for the ill.  It allowed blogs like this one to take off, gave a voice to a citizen army of writers and broadcasters and fragmented an industry that in some sectors still struggles to generate an income and define what content is worth paying for.  New viewpoints could be heard, if sufficient numbers were prepared to listen, share and discuss, and the democratisation of opinion was held to be a “good thing” even while the established media lamented the loss of control and influence amongst the great unwashed who now had the means of answering back.  Fake news became both a reality, and a term of abuse used to dismiss awkward opinions and shut down debate, and the general level of intolerance toward contrary opinions increased.

But there was a different strand that is only now being discussed and publicly recognised in traditional media  – the centralisation of messaging amongst sports clubs and governing bodies.  In one sense, it’s little different to how business has always operated, advertising being the key means of getting messages across and PR campaigns used to establish a reputation and a brand.  The means may change, but the principles remain the same.  Where it differed in a sporting context was that while the media had always been their means of doing so, there were few methods of exerting control over what was said and what angle the reporting took.  The club or board might not like it, but retaliating against a media outlet was entirely counterproductive, as they could be starved of publicity or constantly referred to as an entity who didn’t like free speech.  The objections in print would reach a wide audience, and be more or less impossible to successfully counter.

What has changed is that a club or a sporting body can now be their own media outlet.  Football clubs have their own TV channels, where they proudly boast exclusive interviews with their own employees, and where the message can be controlled in its entirety under the guise of access.

Tim Wigmore, always one of the more thoughtful cricket journalists out there, and one prepared to ask the most basic and important questions has written an article about this very question, Manchester United’s expressed desire to increase the prevalence of its “news” app providing the catalyst, alongside an acknowledgement that the USA has been moving down the same path.  There are many good points within that, and from a cricket blog perspective there’s a certain amusement to be had given it’s been one of the central themes of the writing on here over the last couple of years.

The ECB certainly floated the idea of their own subscription channel when musing the broadcast options coming up, and the appeal is easy to see – the revenue accrues entirely to them rather than to an intermediary and they can completely control the themes and provide a direct link to their army of sponsors.  Something approaching that model has been seen fairly clearly in India, where broadcast criticism of the BCCI has been rather comprehensively shut down.  In the UK at least, there are laws preventing the subject of a broadcast exercising editorial control, but that doesn’t apply (currently) to online.  In any case, while the attraction is clear, creating a full on media company is a big undertaking and to that end the ECB realistically still need partners for the foreseeable future.

Of course, there’s nothing especially radical in wishing to control a message, businesses do that all the time though generally speaking, avoiding being in the news is the aim there.  But the creation of their own story is part of the trick, and for employees and members of the industry, it’s nothing especially new.  By way of example, working in the travel and tourism industry I will tend to be very careful about what I say in public – not just in terms of those I work for, but in general.  Becoming the story through controversial opinions is something to be avoided like the plague, except in certain specific circumstances where such opinions are in themselves the currency – viz. Michael O’Leary.

Yet a full on takeover of the message by an organisation like the ECB is unlikely to be the real problem.  When that happens journalists become much more critical anyway, and the example contained within Mr Wigmore’s article, when Newcastle United banned journalists, attracted lots of attention and even more criticism.  By trying to control the story, they lost control of it completely, and freed the media to criticise with no further cost in terms of their relationship.

The far more insidious and dangerous trend in recent years has been the use of soft power to try to direct the narrative.  Sports journalism of the day to day nature requires access to the players and other key people in order to provide copy and generate interest, readership and, yes, clicks.  This can be made more difficult, and the plum opportunities given to those who are onside and can be trusted not to cause too many difficulties.  Those that don’t follow the script find that it’s a little harder to talk to the right people.  This is extremely tough to combat and a fair degree of sympathy for the individual journalist – but not the industry – is warranted.  To turn it around a different way, the three of us on here have no compunctions about what we say for the very good reason that we know for certain there is no prospect whatsoever of us being invited into the ECB’s inner sanctum, or even within the same diocese come to that.  However in our case, we aren’t being paid to do this, and don’t have a boss who can fire us.  But our and other blogs’ freedom comes at a different cost – highly limited contact with those in any degree of power.  A few journalists maintain a back channel to us, and occasionally we are given a heads up on something that they feel unable to write about themselves, which is a curious state of affairs on the one hand, and entirely understandable on another – not least the commercial imperative.

Where it is different for a journalist is that if they lose their access they struggle to do their job, and given it’s their livelihood it’s a real risk to take.  A reluctance to rock the boat is the likely result, and the other side of the coin is that by keeping close to the ECB they can get even better access and thus even greater reach for their articles with obvious personal benefits.  This kind of behaviour is worse by far because the bias is harder to spot, particularly amongst those who only pay cursory attention to the goings on.  It’s for that reason it’s such an attractive way of working for the ECB, or for any other organisation in the same position – limiting dissent, encouraging promotion, and enabling the party line to be maintained.  It’s also the hardest to combat; many journalists are very aware of the problem, but being aware of it and trying to prevent it are two different things.

There’s no real reason to assume this will improve, just the opposite.  In order for sports reporters to do their jobs properly, they need that access and they need to be able to talk to people within the top levels of the game, not just for themselves but for us as readers to try to glean the truth.  From that comes much of the best journalism, whether from sources or openly in interview.  It is a problem for the truth if any time they report on something they’ve learned they are dismissed for daring to talk to people – that is their job.  They face a dilemma in attempting to both gain insight and obtain a good story, while at the same time being entirely aware of what the ECB are up to.  Equally, conspiracy theories about all of them are unreasonable – the vast majority have professional pride and wouldn’t allow it to happen to them and wouldn’t be party to attempts to restrict them.  There are exceptions to that, and those that behave that way tend to attract a degree of contempt for their output.  But it’s rarely a matter of open collaboration, but of being sufficiently vulnerable to rein any criticism in because of the possible consequences.

If much of sport is now nothing more than a branch of the entertainment industry, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the same kinds of rules apply to the reporting.  Interviews with members of the movie industry are almost always on the back of promoting a film rather than for the sake of it – and always remember few people would wish to open up for the sake of it, these interviews are a part of their job and one many of them greatly dislike.  The prevalence of a footnote stating that a player is being interviewed courtesy of a particular sponsor has been an unwelcome development, and creates the dilemma for the journalist as to whether to play that particular game.  It’s hard to criticise them for doing so, yet it remains something of a blight.

There are few material answers to all of this.  Either journalism as a body responds and reacts to the threat to their independence or they don’t, and as is so often the case some of them do just that, and others take the advantages on offer as a trade for their independence.  It will undoubtedly allow them to generate much copy and many readers but at the price of their integrity.  That is their decision, ours is how much trust we have in anything they might say.  Some have found that even when they are right they are no longer believed, to their clear frustration.  But it’s brought on by their own conduct, and the collateral damage of good journalism being considered guilty by association makes it even worse.  We need them, we need them badly, but the truth is that they need us as well.  And that’s what needs to be remembered.

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Meet Your Champions – The Annual Press Awards

Welcome, welcome, to the Annual Journalist Poll Winners announcement. While I look at you data for the supplementary awards, we all know one in particular gets the passions burning on here. BUt we’ll come to that after this year’s Best Journalist of the Year award.

Winners – 2014 George Dobell, 2015 – Jarrod Kimber

FIFTH – GIDEON HAIGH

FOURTH – NICK HOULT

THIRD – JARROD KIMBER

SECOND – TIM WIGMORE

FIRST – GEORGE DOBELL

Melinda and George
George thrilled with the news he has won this again.

And now, the top ten “worst” journalists as voted by the readers of this blog and the editorial staff. It is usually one of the most awaited posts of the year, for some reason, and I have no idea why!

From last year’s top 10 we lose Alec Swann (10th), Martin Samuel (9th), JOHN ETHERIDGE (8th) and Jim Holden (4th).

So, here we go, with a logjam at 8th!

8th = Stephen Brenkley (down 2), Peter Hayter, Mark Nicholas, Will MacPherson, Malcolm Conn (all new entries)

All garnered two points for the cause. Slightly surprised that Stocks wasn’t in there given your love for him on here, and slightly surprised a self confessed non-journo like Conn popped up. But there’s enough to get your teeth into here.

7th – Andy Bull (new entry)

Nominated by quite a few, the author of The Spin certainly gets pulses racing around these parts. Me? Never been on my radar.

6th – Oliver Holt (new entry)

A new entry, almost impacting on this poll like Jim Holden did last year, for one article/cause celebre. Unlike Holden, Holt has no track record worth a light on cricket, and his nonsense appeared to be bandwagon jumping rather than something set deep in his cricket soul. Placed this high because one of the editorial staff was really pissed off with him.

5th – Derek Pringle (Up 2 places)

Pringle Missing

Old habits die hard. Way clear of fourth, but due to lack of meaningful pulpit, he’s slipping down the table. Still can’t mention an intense cricketer without invoking Ramprakash, and still can’t mention anyone who isn’t a ra-ra team man without mentioning Pietersen, this plank of the Essex media has delighted us for year, irrelevancies that we are. He works, though. Without him, The Cricket Paper is bereft of something to give a toss about.

4th – Simon Hughes (down 1 place)

number-39

#39 was placed fourth on my chart, and he indeed finished clear of Pringle but well adrift of the podium. Despite placing higher in his own influential chart than the three winners, the thing is that we think he’s a bit of a joke. A conceited one, never failing to insert himself into stories, but a joke nonetheless. But enough of the pretenders….

So to the TOP THREE

THIRD – MIKE SELVEY (down 2 places)

selvey-book

Our champion is dethroned. He threatened the top spot, and secured a number of first choices, but he’s now not the figure he used to be, and the Pringle drop is sure to happen. Unless he sets up the long-promised blog. Selvey has been the bete noire of many on here, and many feel he has let them down, been a disappointment, had a fall from grace. Me? Never liked him, never cared that much about him, until he nailed his colours to the Giles Clarke / ECB mast, and now he’s just seen as a management stooge. I didn’t rejoice in his dismissal, but I also wasn’t putting a candle out in sorrow. It was a close fight between him and second, but the runner-up pulled it out…..

SECOND – ED SMITH (unchanged)

plagiarism

I placed him second. Selvey got more first place votes, but my weighting and the fact the editorial staff placed him very high meant he pipped the retired one into second. I mean, what can you say? Let’s keep this brief. You write long words. You read lots of books. You are educated. But you copied a piece and got caught. And your credibility will never recover. You may hope it goes away, that people forget what you did, that the New Statesman doesn’t care. But you did what you did and we all know.

FIRST – PAUL NEWMAN (Up 4 places)

champion-newman

More will be written on this award in due course (which rather gives away one of the Dmitris this year). It was a very close thing this year, and Newman has moved into the slot that Selvey occupied because of the tone, the outlet, and really, due to his consistency. His consistency in writing annoying prose. His consistency in attacking all but those who need to be attacked. His consistency in just not making sense. There always seems to be a personal edge to all of his work. The usual suspects cop it. Always right about Pietersen being sacked. Until very very recently, a supine, pro-Cook stance. There’s attacking Compton. There’s the illogical pushing for Buttler. And beneath the surface lays Andy Flower, and this year’s Jim Holden Article of the Year (as highlighted by nonoxcol). I had my say on that nonsense.

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/05/07/the-anatomy-of-plants/

I voted him number 1, a good number of you did too. It seems like he should have won it before, but he has now reached the summit. He benefited from Selvey’s release, and FICJAM’s relative (imposed) silence on cricket matters, and stormed through. He is this year’s Being Outside Cricket Worst Journalist of the Year, as voted by us on the site.

Until next year……will we have our first repeat champion, after Derek, Mike and Paul have taken one prize each? Will Dobell get his third award for best journalist?

More poll results around or after Christmas, but I know how much you all like this one. So have it now!

The Headlines

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Pipe Down Week

Good day to you all….

Not sure if TLG has a day’s play review coming up, but we’ll get something later. (UPDATE – He is. Don’t worry TLG, post as soon as it is ready…)

There’s been a bit of a break from me (again) this week or so. I have a rule with this blog that if I am off sick from work I do not write posts on here. It’s not right, and I am not about to take the mickey out of an employer, no matter how much the provocation. The odd comment here and there, but no posts. But I am back fit and well, so there are opportunities for me to get back into it. I do know I still owe the patrons the rest of the review of 2015, including the May entry which, as many of you might know, was the record month for hits. All in the future, when I get around to it.

I thought I’d pick up on some of TLG’s observations in his excellent piece on Day 1 of the test. The thought is that we (I) might have over-reacted to the witterings of an idiot or two on Twitter, but TLG was right to say, yet again (and if you can sense the frustration in my “writing voice” as I put this down for the umpteenth time) that neither he nor I have any desire whatsoever to be journalists. Before some smart arse thinks they can do it for me, I need to get something off my chest.

Not be a journalist? What does that mean? If it means getting paid then TLG’s assertion is about 95% true in my case, as I’ve long held a dream of being the English bloke who brought American sports to the UK in terms of writing as one day I might live out there, and perhaps be recompensed for it. I dipped my toe in the water just over a year ago. For a few weeks in 2014 I wrote a couple of pieces for a website, they never got published, and I never claimed for the work – basically, after tax on the earnings from it, it was not a great use of my time. I never bothered with it afterwards. So it’s not strictly true that I didn’t want to get paid for what I do, it’s just I never wanted to get paid for doing this blog. We don’t have donate buttons, we’ll never take on paid advertising, and speaking for myself, I’ll keep this going for as long as I can.

I have made absolutely no pretence throughout the life of this blog that it reflects my views in my posts. You can choose to agree or disagree. I don’t speak for anyone other than myself, or if the blog is challenged, the people who come on here and contribute in the way that they should. I do get annoyed at people who wilfully misrepresent what we say, act as some sort of gatekeepers for the media, or worse still, act like they give a shit on here, and then run off elsewhere and slag us off. I don’t expect everyone to like us, good grief no. I’m not that naive.

But if they want to accuse us of being journalists, then let’s have the evidence. Because it’s not new. My first ever blog was derided as being tragic. I thought it was nonsense then. We write on cricket here, but don’t want it as a profession, and don’t get paid, nor have access to players, administrators or, in many cases, those who do get paid to report. I don’t consider this journalism.

But what is journalism? The online definition when “journalism” is input to Google is…

the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.

We write, but not for newspapers or magazines and we don’t have broadcasting capabilities (although one day we might try to do a podcast – already have a name if we do it “The KCC”). The difference between blogging and journalism can be defined by the medium of transmission, but I don’t think that’s what the likes of Agnew and Etheridge, to name two, are on about. They are on about the years of “hard yards”, the slog to get where they are, the contacts, the ability to access information, the way they go about their writing, the time it has taken to develop these skills. I’m not denying that at all. But I don’t pretend to be that, and I don’t want to be that.

However, I also think they subscribe to the journalist Saleem Khan’s description (Saleem being a full-time journalist at the time this was published)

The blogger vs. journalist debate is (in my view) primarily an old-guard one promoted by traditionalists who regard bloggers as unreliable, non-authoritative sources of information vs. journalists who are viewed as reliable and authoritative under this model. (I believe it’s an argument that stems from journalists’ self-preservation instinct, meant to warn people away from bloggers and convince them to go to journalists to stay informed as traditional news outlets’ fortunes wane.)

The reality is not so black and white. Bloggers have diligently investigated and reported news stories that had been ignored and eventually made it to mainstream news outlets, and professional journalists have reported unverified, unreliable and ultimately false stories as fact.

Bloggers may be subject-area experts with deep professional training, experience and knowledge of a topic that is often greater than a journalist (or they may not be).

Journalists may also be domain experts with extensive training and experience, but are more likely to come by their specialized knowledge of a topic over time through sources they interview.

We write, by and large, opinion pieces. We delve into “facts” when it comes to some of the stats, and we try to piece together what is going on from the shreds of evidence we come across, but after all that, most of our pieces are our opinion of what we have gleaned. We don’t think we are right all the time, but judging by some of the reactions we get, we don’t think we are miles off the mark on much of our stuff either. If this poses a “threat” then I suggest those that feel that way get used to it.

Those from the journalistic side who now snort at us were more than willing, when times were very tough and a lot of shot and shell was fired around them, to come and talk on here, or DM me, or engage on Twitter. How odd it is, post-Ashes, that any of our interactions now tend to be short, have diminished in number, or are now totally ignored. No, I’m not begging them to come back, and no, I don’t get the hump if someone else talks to them. I just get amused by their transparency of motive then and opacity of approach now. As I said, The Ashes win saved more than just the England team, it kept the media corps in clover too. There’s the offers to explain what they do, as if it’s a huge secret, sure. But where there was regular contact and dialogue, there’s not a lot.

A blogger has to be more personal. Has to develop relationships with their respondents, take on board their views, have an inkling what people might want to read if they are to come back to read more. But it is also about being your own boss, your own editor (yeah, I’m bad at that) and having your own style. If it works, it works. Hey, this works.

Personally, I’m just a fan of the sport writing about it, and writing about how it is reported. I choose to have just one title, if I was forced. Blogger. That is all.

The Poll Winners Party – Journalists

It’s that time of year. Here’s the rundown of the top 10 journalists, as voted by a combination of you and me….. The numbers in brackets relate to the last year’s poll.… The votes were collated from responses to the Poll in September, my scoring (counting a bit more) and some e-mail write-ins. It’s a bit arbitrary, and only one is a true outlier based on my scoring.

The “winner” scored 54. The runner-up 44. The third 24. A clear hierarchy.

I also announce the winner of the best journalist of the year at the end, as well – there’s rather a big clue! Again, voted by you (and me).

So, not to be taken absolutely seriously, but giving a guide to the thoughts of the blogging community on this site, here we go. Don’t like it, well….

Continue reading

We Know Nothing – Part 1

At the moment, we are researching a series of posts on the cricket media, so I thought I’d kick off with a little (ha ha, as if) historical perspective as regards this blog, and the predecessor that was HDWLIA in relation to comments on the media. Let us begin around ago….

In the middle of the furore over the Hong Kong cricket match, many of you on here will remember this tweet from a member of our press corps which said:

“You have no idea how cricket media works. I’ve offered to meet to explain but you prefer to spout nonsense form (sic) anonymous blog”

I’ll keep that one.

My frustration with much of the cricket media has been a common, and some would say (very) repetitive theme throughout the last two years. Of course, it was principally sourced from the incidents in the fallout from the Ashes whitewash, but it’s beyond that. It really is, and this scene setter seeks to explain why and how.

The predecessor to this blog, How Did We Lose In Adelaide (still available if you know where to look) had rumbled around for quite a while before it got noticed. For six or so months, probably from around April to November of last year, it hit its peak in terms of the pique it derived from the cricket media. While I would not be as so bold to admit I know entirely how cricket media works, my heavens, I had gained a jolly good taste of how it did, just by watching their reporting, their behaviour, and in some cases, their arrogance. Back then I would take an article, and tried to dissect it (fisking). I was angry. I may well have been off target, but it was from the heart. That blogging captured the drive within me. Sometimes I wonder where that has gone.

(I’ve always said my aim was to get to within three universes of the sort of stuff Fire Joe Morgan did for baseball, where journalists were routinely targeted. They were talented professional writers doing that. I was a sole muppet, with an anger issue…. whatever I did, it seemed to work)

Things died down in the New Year, as HDWLIA closed down and Being Outside Cricket started. There was a brief renaissance of interest during the KP furore of May and the Ashes, but the tone then was completely different. We were aiming at the ECB, and had, actually, been doing that for quite a while. After all, the press weren’t really trying.

But here’s a fact. I was absolutely more excoriating of the cricket media last year on HDWLIA than I have ever been on Being Outside Cricket. I read back my attacks on the big beasts of journalism not hiding behind a paywall from those days last year, and I go full on. Now, maybe that’s because I didn’t really believe journalists would read it, because hit rates then were less than 100 a day and very few people were picking up on it. I was just one of those annoying gnats that you could shoo- away. In many ways, that has not changed.

So, let me go into the way journalists have interacted with me. I had occasional tweets answered early on, and put comments on line. I had a regrettable debate with Jonathan Agnew after a “convivial evening”, which ended up with someone threatening me with physical violence, which was nice (I’d called Agnew obsequious, which  was out of order and we made peace). I think the starting point of more interest was at the test match at Lord’s against Sri Lanka last year.  On that test match night, Jarrod Kimber let me know that he was reading out the “10 Worst Journalists” column to the attendant media. In his words, some were mad at being on the list, some were mad at not being higher. What he did say, was that many there read the blog, including those I’ve been told by others never do.

It’s a bit intimidating really. But I tried to be fair, and probably didn’t succeed. So while I am by no means an expert on the cricket media – we’ll delve into this a little later – the opposite applies. The cricket media’s overall knowledge of social media is laughable, in my experience. They rely squarely on the comfort blanket offered by social media’s lunatic fringe, by lumping those in there trying to make a point as trolls. Ed Smith, in particular, is good at that one. Others ignore the well-made salient points made to them on Twitter, and just pick on a ranting one to have a pop. I’m not saying it’s easy seeing your work dissected by the hoi polloi, but if you go on Twitter, you know what you are going to get. I got some fearful abuse over the KP post last year. I got some this Ashes summer too. It’s not nice. But that’s the price you pay.

One thing struck me from when Jonathan Agnew tried to break bread with Maxie Allen last year on a podcast. He said something along the lines of “if you come into my house and started calling me names, I’d chuck you out. That’s my approach on social media.” Well, yes, fair enough, but how many people with serious points to make are totally ignored without kicking up a fuss, and I’m referring to a number of the selective tweet responses in the para above? I’m a case in point. I called him lamentable and obsequious, and got blocked – entirely up to him, but it came with consequences for me. He then made peace the following day, so we called it quits, and have got on OK since, although our paths do not cross nearly as often. But I wouldn’t have got to that point without being forceful to start off with. I’m not as down on Agnew as others on here, but that’s their right.

My raison d’etre is not to become in with the in crowd. I’d much rather be friends and get along with people than have steaming rows with all and sundry, but I’m not courting anyone. It’s not good for me to be angry and arguing, and after a while, screaming and shouting becomes annoying and self-defeating. So let me strike down casual myth number one about my interaction with the cricket media. I do not want to become a journalist / reporter. That is not my aim, and I don’t know how many times I need to say it. It is also not attention seeking (although I can do it very well as this blog proves), and the clue is in the use of a pseudonym and my unwillingness to meet people. Some people call this cowardice. Don’t bother with me then, because it isn’t changing any time soon. That is the antithesis of “attention seeking”. So my lack of knowledge about the cricket media isn’t keeping me going to get into the game. So perhaps we’ll leave that sorry canard alone, eh? Others have got into journalism, to newspapers etc, and got contacts along the way by blogging. Fair play to them. That isn’t for me. At Lord’s, this summer, I was stood five feet away from Agnew. If I was an attention seeker, I’d have said hello.

What this (Being Outside Cricket) blog did less than the last one was to hold the cricket media to some sort of account in my own style. Again, Jarrod has said to me “why do you blog about people the vast majority of the cricket world don’t give a shit about?” Because it was fun. Yes. Fun. I adored the way they tripped up over themselves in knifing a cricketer they clearly did not like (and if they did, they did a passable impression of hating him), while being on the same side as an organisation headed, at the time, by a bloke I’m confident many of them can’t abide, bigging up charlatans, propping up a captain who, on form and captaincy ability at the time should have been dropped, and giving a passable impression, as Mark frequently comments, of being the ECB’s “stenographers”.

What I got to understand rapidly, is that the one thing that got cricket in the papers was something to do with Pietersen – look how many times his Tweets are converted into news stories. In their own way, this was their attention seeking. Even now, KP makes the papers. I’d wager he’s still the most famous cricketer in England, and only Cook might rival him. His exploits in over-the-way T20 competitions still get mentions. I understood this about the cricket media. A story with KP got hits, got comments below the line where applicable and sold advertising. It still does. Vic Marks alluded to him in his recent piece on Jason Roy. Fomenting antis were over it like a bad suit (remember, we’re obsessed). So chalk that down as something I know about cricket media. And you didn’t have to be Einstein to work that out.

The cricket media have their own jobs to do, and it was something that I was criticised for in Brian’s review in Wisden Almanack (and jeez, I will always have that little gem….) in not seeing their side of the story. Well, I’m awfully sorry about that, but when an organisation (ECB) treats its own fans with such utter contempt, it’s hard to see their side when they won’t see our’s. Our hopes were pinned on at least some of them asking the right questions and having a feel for what a good constituency of their readers might be feeling, at the right time. At the time he was sacked. Instead, they slept. Or stuck the knife in. I never sensed that they cared about that sacking, and said so. Suddenlt there was a wave of people who came along for the ride. Those that read, or read (in past tense) the blog over the past 18 months felt, and still feel incredibly let down by our fearless press have, in some instances, turned their back on England. This doesn’t matter in a world of small-minded administrators. Those that care a lot can be disenfranchised. I can’t watch England in the same way again.

The ECB are never going to give access to bloggers (not sure that I’d want that, but Chris, perhaps, would be more  up for that as it suits his personality better than mine), so our hopes were pinned on the cricket media. We were appallingly let down, whether they like being told it, or care. How we saw the cricket media work there was putting access above adjudication, prejudice above pressure, long-term comfort over short-term revolt. Coming to mind, especially, was the fact it took 10 questions to get to KP in Downton’s first conference when we’d been waiting two months for any answers. Then, hilariously, more than one of the media were falling over themselves to tell us how great JPM’s finest was. The re-writing of history over Downton has been to see how the cricket media works. Not many of them were thinking “blimey, he’s out of his depth” until the end of the summer of 2014 at the earliest. A fair few of us were. We recognise that sort in our daily lives.

Since then, the pressure has died down on the media, and I’ve not been doing the fisking I used to. That’s fisking (analysing an article line-by-line). Why? Well, for the first thing they are quite time consuming and some newspapers make doing it a real tedious affair. Second, I’ve not felt the need to. Much of the fisking was because people were pretending there were no leaks (hence the repeated use of the “good journalism” meme on here – as in here’s another piece of good journalism “such and such is set to be dropped, we understand”) and also that ridiculous contentions were being put up about KP in particular without tangible evidence to back it up. The relationship between the journalist and reader should be that we either enjoy their style, or we trust what they say, and I was pointing out that I (me, and I write for me alone) liked neither their style nor trusted them in many ways.

I’ve also not issued the results of polls on the worst journalist, and thus not added comments to them. Why not? Because, to be frank, I don’t read much of what they write any more. It used to be fun picking up on their contentions blatantly accessed from sources we’ll never be a party to, or some of their ideas they’ll stick to come hell or high water, but it gets a bit repetitive (another Wisden criticism). The name of our recent winner is at the bottom of the post. It’s no surprise.

A few weeks ago we saw them, briefly, at their finest. A piece of good journalism here, a breaking of an embargo (an embargo, for heaven’s sake, it’s not a top secret report for God’s sake) there, and all round tut-tutting about it. These are the last throes of the dinosaurs. An ECB edict, issued under embargo to a press in need, protected from the punters of course, who don’t need to know before someone with a commercial imperative, and it’s leaked on social media. They haven’t a bleeding clue. Then, hilariously, the big story (Bell’s exclusion) was missed.

You see, the reason I like reading George Dobell and Jarrod Kimber and Gideon Haigh is that I trust them. They have their opinions, and I will listen to them and decide based on what they say. Sure, they have their favourites, because they are human beings, and we all have biases. I don’t believe (well, in some cases I have no doubt) they take dictation from the ECB or other authorities. They call it as they see it. This blog regularly votes them in to the best journalist poll, and we waxed lyrical about George in particular last year. Indeed, I think a sign of how highly he should be regarded is that in some cases, people were disappointed in some of his stuff, and voted him in the worst poll this year. That’s interesting to me.

TLG and I will be talking more about the media in the short term. In the years I’ve been doing this blog the reactions to a couple of recent events really piqued my interest. The golf day stuff, which I stayed out of by and large, and the Hong Kong game. It piques Tregaskis’s enough to write his epic published yesterday.

So be prepared for some more nonsense, and I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, I can exclusively reveal here the winner of this summer’s worst journalist award, as voted for by the readers of Being Outside Cricket. It’s Mike Selvey. No shock there. The rest will follow…. a new entry at number 2, and at number 4 for instance.

Selvey was a landslide winner because he exemplifies how we see the cricket media “working”. In the past 18 months he has been contemptuous of those who dare to challenge his view, has undertaken some of the most appalling briefing against a player I’ve seen in ages (Adil Rashid – it went beyond opinion on the pace he bowls at when he went after him at Lord’s this summer) and his world class tweeting. Just recently Tim Wigmore alluded to something a little more concerning, and no, we didn’t miss it, and nor did you, commenters. He’s number 1 for a reason.

This post was written, mostly, a fortnight ago. I’m sharing it now in the light of Tregaskis’s piece. We’ll be discussing that for days to come, an important blogging milestone of undoubted depth. It took a chance, and his style of writing, leaning towards FICJAM but without the ego, and thus superb in its nature, is beyond what I could possibly achieve. He has sought to be honourable when no such honour is reciprocated by most. I wonder where we go from here. TLG and I will pick up on it more and more, because it has not gone away.

Violence Through Silence

I think it shows how weary I’ve become that when I saw the article (quite early in the evening) on KP and the commentary stint I thought I’d leave it be. Nothing surprises me with these clowns any more. That is should go through the conduit of the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday is little surprise. That Patrick Collins thinks it’s great is little surprise. I’ve no doubt the likes of Pam, who was probably jumping the moon after her little Andy came in and we’ve had this massive turnaround (drawn series at home to New Zealand), and is calling us all KP fanboys, is happy too.

There’s a super piece by Maxie over at TFT if you want to comment. I have and so have other familiar traitors posters (I jest). But I’ve just re-read the Mail article and two bits in particular make my blood boil.

The ECB were outmanoeuvred by Pietersen and his advisors, led by Piers Morgan, during a sustained public relations campaign on his behalf after he was sacked following England’s 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia last year.

and

Pietersen has previously impressed as a television pundit, but pressure from the ECB to keep him at arm’s length this summer indicates that they remain extremely wary of his capacity to polarise public opinion and potentially alienate England supporters with his outspoken views. (my emphasis).

Listen here, journos. I don’t think we had everything to do with it, but it wasn’t you keeping “outside cricket” going, and it wasn’t KP either. There was no sustained PR campaign throughout last year when KP kept largely silent on the matters of his dismissal, as he was bound to do. They had a strategy. Stand back and let the morons at the ECB, aided and abetted by the compliant media to do the rest. Just wait, and thou shall deliver.

The ECB did itself in by appointing Paul Downton, and all the campaign had to do was keep quiet, let some of your lot throw themselves in front of the mighty Paul, and call him Lord Aplomb, and then allow him to open his mouth. I miss Downton because he was useless. He had all the suitability to the job as I have of being a court jester. There’s nothing sustained about the PR Campaign. He wrote a book and you lot took out the bits that mattered to you, and ignored some pretty salient points. And you can’t go f–king anywhere without Piers Morgan’s name coming up. Grow up you morons and admit it. Some of his fans, and many who hated the way he was scapegoated, didn’t buy what you fools were selling. Now some of you have buyer’s remorse on Downton in particular, and Moores as well, you want us to say sorry? Do one.

Which leads to the second point. His commentary may alienate some of the cricketing public. I’ve seen it all now. What do you think his sacking did? Do you think I’ve been writing this blog because I love it and accept it? Do you think I care enough to spend all the hours that I have on this and HDWLIA because I’ve not been alientated by this. And you care about those who have done nothing but insult us all the way because of it? Because we were right over Downton, over Moores, over Cook’s position in the ODI, and yes, over his leadership of the test team. You worry about alienating the people who have stuck their heads in the sand?

It would be hilarious if these chumps weren’t serious. Well done Sam. Paul would be very proud.

Bruised

Evening all.

Personally it has been a tough week for me. Nothing that ends the world, but the sort of week that knocks the confidence, hits the self-belief and makes you question what you think you should do. I did, at one point, think that I might give the blog up for a while, at least until the Ashes, but that was but a fleeting thought. There’s the brilliance of thelegglance to support on here, and there’s also lots more I want to say. So, while bored out of my mind on a training course this week, I jotted down some ideas for future posts and direction. thelegglance and I will get together to discuss some changes to the blog, and perhaps some of the ideas I have and he has. We will let you know what is decided.

The one thing with this blog that amazes me, still, is how from small incidents, major stuff happens, if only at the blogging level. Without the throwaway two press men reviews in the post last week, one of our number would not have tweeted the link to the top five mentioned, and then we would not have had Pringle calling me irrelevant. I’m not one to ever let a snippy comment go unblogged, so off I went, then followed by thelegglance last weekend, and now by Maxie’s opus on The Full Toss, which it goes without saying, I recommend to this house.

From little acorns do these blogging oaks grow, but what’s the relevance? I had a discussion on Twitter DM with a well-known (I think on here) figure in the reporting game who said he wished I dealt more with the actual cricket than journalists who no-one really gives a shit about. Like all constructive comment aimed my way I considered it. A lot. Then came being told I wasn’t strategic enough to build a brand identity and push a plan through cost me a promotion (how I laugh inside at that, not) and I begin to question myself. Am I aiming in the wrong place? Am I just becoming a stuck record? Have we peaked (hits are noticeable on this blog when the news is bad) and could we sustain this blog through “good times”? Is it worth sustaining? How do we do it?

I’m not satisfied. I used to be easily satisfied, but not now. This is too precious to me to give up.

I wandered around for a long time in the wilderness until I got noticed. I then set about keeping the limited audience I had in a flurry of furious posts, each one dripping with anger at the press, the ECB and yes, Alastair Cook. I’m over none of that. Not one bit. Without that anger the well runs dry. I now almost hate the game I love for the fact that nearly every facet of it brings me to rage. The lack of terrestrial coverage, the patronising of New Zealand as if awarding them just two test two years after awarding them just two tests is somehow ordered by some Cricketing authority on high rather than the ECB’s actual choice of oppenents. The victories in the ODIs, and the manner of the defeats, are laudatory, but for the love of all that’s holy, it’s 2-2 and there has been enough dumb nonsense in this series that we now seem to think it is OK to overlook because we are playing positively (and the bowling looks absolutely clueless). There is the very good point thelegglance made about how this rush to gush is now overtaking the inquest that should have taken place about how the team played in the World Cup. Instead we’ll have it all laid on Moores’s door for the failure (Farbrace was in that dressing room, so don’t give me all that) and no doubt the C–tmaster General’s door for the brave decisions. One of our scribes rightly said that we don’t look to the players for the successes, but at the coach, or someone who puts in place strategies. I’ve always said with strategies, that when they are successful they have many parents, but when they fail, they are orphans.

I’ve just read Steve James’s “The Plan”. I might do a review of it when I calm down. It has some interesting nuggets, especially in his willingness to blame anyone but his Zimbabwean colleagues, and some insider stuff that if true, casts an interesting shadow over some of the decisions taken after the book. But it was a throwaway line on Moneyball that got me.

I’m a massive baseball fan, and both the book and the movie of Moneyball omit one incredibly salient fact that is missed about those Oakland A teams. It wasn’t about value for money and all that, but it was about the fact they had a brilliant pitching rotation. They had great pitchers in their midst to start games. The Red Sox this year have, on paper, a really good hitting team. They absolutely stink this season because their starting pitching is atrocious. I go on a blog where they ask you to predict the record of the team for the season. I was the only one who didn’t have them down as having a winning season. It is, in baseball, a lot about getting bang for your buck. It is also about your scouts, your player development, your drafting ability to get good players of your own.

Peter Moores loves this book. According to Steve James, he passed a copy to Flower who also liked it. It’s a good book, tells an interesting story, and pretends that Billy Beane is some sort of out-there genius. It tells the story of running a sporting franchise where the As didn’t have the most money (far from it), didn’t have the best stadium (very far from it) and didn’t play in the best city (I can’t comment on that, but no-one really mentions Oakland in the tourist guides). So he had to look beyond the athleticism and at the numbers to see if he could get value. Beane got older players with a couple of good years left (stop laughing at the back) who may have been looking for one last hurrah. Beane got players who didn’t necessarily have the best physical condition, or who had individual styles that the trainers and physiologists would have kittens over (Samit Patel……any England fast bowler that goes to Loughborough) or develop his own players quickly and get them in the team to trade them for other pieces – which is what a club team does, but not an international one. The thing I believe Moores would probably have taken out of this is the data. The numbers. Not the traditional ones, but the things like WAR or OPS+ that the statsguru’s of baseball love. But that doesn’t really translate to cricket. Take KP, who is berated for having an average of just 47. He has precious few not outs as he’s a risk taker. In my view. How is that translated to the press? “It’s the way he plays….” “A player of great innings not a great player” or the best of all “inconsistent”. I didn’t see anyone try to get behind those numbers too hard.

Moneyball is about running a business, that is why it’s written by a prolific business writer. England are if not the wealthiest team in cricket, than they are second. And they just lost a test in May to a team without a pot to piss in. I hope the new man has nothing to do with such trite twaddle. Sadly, I think Strauss would probably melt into a warm puddle at the very mention of it.

I have rambled off, which is usual, but the point I’m trying to make is that this journalist probably thought Moneyball was some wonderful text because Flower liked it. It needed investigating. I read this stuff. I’ve read virtually every self-congratulatory tome about the Red Sox winning it all in 2004 due to these techniques (of course, buying up one of the best pitchers on the market and having the second highest payroll in the game had sweet FA to do with it). I’m a sports nut who laps this stuff up. But not with an uncritical eye. When someone tells me a book like that helped shape a couple of England coaches’ philosophies, I want to know why.

I’ll never be able to scratch that itch completely. I’ll always be searching for the right point, even if I find out it is wrong. I want to know. The pieces recently by much more precise, beautifully crafting authors like Maxie and TLG than I, hone in on their targets like laser guided missiles, and we are all the better for it. I’m far less accurate, but hope I make up for it in my desire to find out. I’m still not satisfied that I’ve found out what I want.

So it gets to the point, where, yes, I confess, I hope Alastair Cook fails as a batsman, because he’s a wretched leader of men. I get to the point, where, yes, I confess, I see England wins as something to dread for the stupidity of the reaction they garner from people who should know better. I hope Strauss falls on his arse for backing a Giles Clarke line on KP (for that is what I think it is) and he leaves that post with the ridicule his predecessor garnered. I will not forgive those who branded the likes of me as “outside cricket” for turning me off an England cricket team. Even one with players like this.

I’m not falling in love with them. Not one iota. Until that whole top edifice is cleared, Clarke has absolutely nothing to do with the ECB, that there’s an apology to those they insulted, I’ll despise them with every f–king fibre of my being.

When I was a child, I played cricket in the street. I played with 10 other kids on a council estate in Deptford. I watched Botham’s Ashes. I watched the great 1980s West Indies teams. People talked about cricket all the time. Going to my first test match was a thing I will always treasure (1997, Oval, Day 2). I have this game in my soul. I come from an era where it mattered to kids of all social classes. Now?

Yeah. I’ve no right to be angry at all. No I’ll carry on with all of them. And now I don’t have to play the good little foot soldier role in the office, I’m ready to up the ante.

Night.

Lament

Well, good morning/afternoon all. It has been an interesting one to wake up to, I have to tell you. I’ll leave “proper” politics because there’s a ton more places to look for it than on here, and it divides rather than unites which is never good in my book. So let’s talk about the sort of politics we all love to indulge in and that’s from the good old ECB.

I think you all remember the aftermath of the Ashes debacle when in the infamous February press release, the most heinous crime anyone could perpetrate in the English cricket firmament was to breach the sanctity of the dressing room. There were certain journalists who were said to be “anal about leaks” but that didn’t stop them talking out of that orifice on a daily basis. The people on this board, out there in the world aren’t stupid, and they know these stories don’t just appear out of thin air. These journalists have contacts, have their way to read the runes, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. I’m not sure it is, as John Etheridge I believe once said “more good journalism than leaks”, but it’s something that annoys us all.

So we can’t be all up in arms because the news leaked regularly about Kevin Pietersen and not be when it affected Cook (in December when his sacking from the ODI captaincy got out) and now seems to be for Moores. I know the journalistic corps will accuse me of naivety and all that, and that this is how the world works, but it doesn’t make it right. I’m going out on a limb here and say that although I didn’t support the appointment of Peter Moores (reeked of a pre-ordained Flower-inspired stitch up) and don’t particularly rate him as an international coach (this progress we are making seems rather ephemeral to me – as Grenada / Barbados seems to indicate) he comes across as a very decent man trying his best, and the one thing that those people deserve above all else is to be treated with the same decency. If this is proved, and I note Lawrence Booth for one is saying this didn’t necessarily come from the ECB, to be from high-placed official sources then more shame on them. This is not the way a new and improved organisation does business, and if it is one of the exiting old guard doing it, well….. you know what you should do about that.

The responsibility for a leak goes to the source of the information. So if the ECB told someone in confidence that the decision had been made, and then this gets out, it’s the ECB’s fault for trusting that confidence. The fact is that if this is the case here, and that’s the message coming out here, there’s always the convenient “plausible deniability” on behalf of this organisation which seems to make key decisions ahead of appointees taking up their roles. Indeed, Strauss hasn’t even been officially announced yet, and he’s supposed to be the one either doing the sacking or rubber-stamping it.

I see one of the commenters BTL on the Guardian is going on about us conspiracy theorists again. I’m glad these people are so trusting of those in authority to think that way and just let those running the game to do as they please, no questions asked. Trust those inside the game. But from the outside there seems to be a bit of a power struggle within the ECB and I have no idea how it is going to pan out. The deserved sacking of Downton, a man who should never have been appointed, seems more and more like a piece of meat thrown to us “slobbering hordes”.  We then replace his role with something not yet defined, and when they found out that not many people were interested in a Downton-lite role, the new revolution stumbled across an old pillar to effect whatever it is Harrison and Graves think is needed, which at this stage, we don’t have a clue about. Memo to all here, I’m not buying what Harrison is selling, not at all. Now to appease the hordes again, we are going to fire a coach AFTER a series where we could have looked at new players, but the coach and captain were too keen to bolster positions and didn’t try much. This isn’t a new bold strategy, but something else too familiar. Clueless, aimless and now heartless. The absence of a decent media strategy, treating people in their employment with dignity and class, and allowing things to just get out there, however they get there, isn’t great. It really isn’t.

Lawrence Booth, Jonathan Agnew and Ali Martin can all put their side of the story any time they like – they are more than welcome to here, but I would not expect that. How this news got out there matters to people. It speaks of an organisation seeking to regain our trust, to re-engage with us, to make us proud of the England cricket team again and to bridge the divide. This is not what is happening. The divisions aren’t now a simple chasm down the middle framed by a decision to sack Pietersen. They are becoming fractures, along familiar fault lines, but fractures nonetheless. Those that were original members of the outside cricket club see more of the same. Those who were more attuned to the ECB way of thinking see appeasement of the great unwashed. Those of a more sceptical bent than the ECB line to takers see increasing incompetence and doubt creeps in, like rot in a wooden building. The Cook fans see devilment in every utterance on the doubts in his form. The KP fans see an ECB talking out of both sides of its mouth. The ECB are further away than ever from gaining public trust. Their ultimate test was to keep their traps shut and do this the right way. They haven’t. It’s a bloody PR disaster.

Just one thought, that could negate much of this, but not all. The only explanation that gets the ECB partially off the hook is that the leak came from Peter Moores himself, or someone close to him. In which case we can make our own judgements on him. That said, it would seem a little out of character, wouldn’t it?

Election

Well, I’m over here, and most of you are over there, so let me just set down a quick message. In the next few days, please try to avoid political talk on here. We all have our own views, and once the votes are cast tomorrow, that’s that for us as the electorate. I like you all on here without us getting into tedious political debates that divide more than unite. Yes, it’s the “can’t we all get along” speech. I’m out for most of tomorrow, to visit the home of the Lakewood Blue Claws for their crunch Single A clash against the Augusta Greenjackets. Before that, I might be going to a location of an (in)famous TV show. So on your best behaviour and all that….

Right, with that over with, I’ve got some work to do. I’ve begun the (in)famous Journalist rankings piece, and thought I’d seek your input. You get to nominate one of the following for the top prize – Selfey, Newman, Pringle, Brenkley for the top prize – but also I’d like two or three others that you think merit consideration for the top 10. The focus should be on this calendar year, and on something or other that really got to you. We are talking quality over quantity. You can nominate anyone, as long as they write regularly and the main reason for putting them forward is their written work (spoken words can be taken into consideration). Less weight should be given for those employed as recently retired internationals.

At the end of the day I have my own views, but your’s will be taken into account, and the votes actually count when we repeat the exercise for the awards at the end of the season. Particular articles that really riled should be put forward. You also know that if last year is anything to go by, some of the nominees read the piece. I know, because Jarrod Kimber told me. So fill up those comments and help me write the piece.