A year ago this week end I broke the Dallas email story.
In the weeks that followed the story of how the head of the SFA’s referee’s development department had forwarded on an offensive email linking the Pope with child abuse ,on the day of the Pope’s state visit to Britain, would dominate Scottish football.
The story was a good one.
The reason the story got “out there” was that it didn’t fall into the hands of the usual suspects in the mainstream media in Scotland.
I reckon he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this pesky Fenian.
The Dallas email story is worth revisiting because of what it tells us about the football hack pack in Scotland.
Since last November I’ve mingled with the laptop loyal on a couple of occasions.
They’re even less impressive when you meet them…
It is very clear to this journalist that they are part of a lobby system.
This is a well-known phenomenon in the media.
The term originates from politics because certain journalists at Westminster are granted access to the members lobby.
“Lobby terms” means anything told to them there by MPs are never attributed to that MP.
Being in the Lobby is invaluable if you want a cosy life as journalist.
Some journalist couldn’t work in the trade if they WERE NOT in a lobby.
Outside it is tough, you have to dig for stories, cultivate sources, and basically you have to WORK.
Inside the tent you are handed what you are to write. You are basically a secretary for a powerful individual or organisation.
Rangers’ financial troubles have called on those in the lobby to ignore more and more evidence.
What you read on the back pages of the Scottish tabloids is not journalism, but “Churnalism.”
It’s a wonderful term to conjure up the process by with journalists stop working on stories themselves and simply recycle and churn out press releases given to them by PR people working for companies and politicians.
BBC journalist Waseem Zakir has been credited for coining the term “churnalism.”
A while back I asked readers of my website to use the Churnalism.com search engine to detect churnalism on the Scottish back pages.
The results emailed to me were very interesting.
The reason that the Malcom Tucker character (played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi) is so funny is that it is so near to the truth.
Journalists, with very awkward, difficult, stubborn exceptions are a very easy bunch to bribe and bully into line.
Mostly it is done with freebies and little “exclusives.”
The succulent lamb is a good investment.
The Scottish press pack is no different.
The Dallas email scandal was the biggest story to hit the SFA since the Jim Farry/Jorge Cadette affair.
It wasn’t a journalist that broke that story it was the Bunnet and his lawyers.
If Celtic didn’t have a pesky litigious owner then Farry would’ve gotten away with it!
The Farry story is the stuff of journalism awards. This is the sort of story that any decent reporter should be chasing like a bloodhound.
Instead Churnalism rules ok!
The press releases are regurgitated to a public that in increasingly seeing through this rubbish.
At the click of a mouse they can access social media for free content that is of a higher quality.
It is little wonder that the circulation figures of Scottish newspapers continues to go south!
AS the bad news piles up for the controlled of the lobby then life becomes more stressful for the lobby hack.
They have to keep spewing out the party line.
Ultimately the lobby becomes irrelevant as those that control the journos ask them to adopt an increasingly unrealistic position.
They end up like Comical Ali announcing that the Americans have had their arse handed to them with the entire US Marine Corps coming into view behind him!
A lobby journalist is, in effect, a public relations worker for a powerful individual or organisation.
It is an easy life being a lobby churnalist when everything is going well for the people to whom you are subservient to.
However when the smelly stuff starts to hit the air conditioning the lobby poodle gets more than egg on his face!
The orders coming out of the Ibrox bunker are increasingly at odds with reality.
Those spoof Downfall videos are not that far off the mark.
We have witnessed Sheriff Officers on the premises, funds seized in bank accounts because the judge believes that the club are on the brink of “insolvency.”
To the outside observer all of this looks very very bad.
However if you were relying on the traditional media until recently you would not be any the wiser.
When Celtic nearly went of business in the early 1990s we were VERY well informed by the media just how bad our situation was.
Not so for the Dignified neighbours across the city. They have been told for the past 18 months that everything will work out. This is what the club wants put out and it is what the average Bear (never the smartest) wants to read.
When I got the original story stood up on November 6th last year I then sought more and the story, as we say in the trade, “grew legs”
It culminated with Hugh Dallas being sacked by the SFA later that month.
An American cousin of mine regularly tells me that everything in life can be explained by some line or other from the move “The Godfather”.
Maybe he’s right.
With Dallas and me it wasn’t personal, it was just business.
One of the instructive aspects of the Dallas email saga was the fact that there wasn’t a single mention in the Scottish media of the journalist that broke the story in the first place.
Only in the London media was the originator of the story given the credit. Indeed this was commented upon to me by very senior journalists in newspapers like the Guardian.
Another aspect of a lobby system is that those “inside the tent” become detached from the outside world.
Another example of this the way they have been in denial for so long about the seriousness of the tax case facing Rangers.
Now as the Tribunal nears the end of its deliberations they are forced to play catch up.
Pesky Fenians were writing and researching about the Rangers tax case in April 2010.
People in the tent don’t touch the stories that might get them into trouble.
However those are precisely the stories that the public want them to go after.
Everything in life has a cost and it is the public that pay the price for journalists having a quiet life in the tent doing the bidding of the powerful.
The Dallas email story broke because someone outside of the Scottish media “tent” got a hold of it.
The lobby system exists because those stories that would give the establishment a problem are meant to stay hidden from the public.
A journalist should always remember their primary responsibility is to the public not the powerful people and their PR flunkies who spoon feed them succulent lamb.
Everything in life has a cost and the final tab for a lobby system is that the public are kept in the dark to protect the reputations of the powerful.
Earlier this year I asked a leading Scottish sports hack the following question:
“If you had gotten hold of the email story instead of me would the public know about it now?”
He studied the floor and said nothing.
Had I not broken this story then “Hughie” would still be in charge of the SFA referees.