The term ‘Off the Radar’ has become part of the Fitba lexicon.
Rather like ‘Succulent Lamb’ it has assumed a wider meaning than the original source of the phrase.
Last night Fitba Twitter reacted to this piece.
Then on the social media platform, there was an award-winning allegation Levelled at me that my story had been fabricated.
That I had invented it.
That is utterly untrue, and it goes against everything I try to do here.
I take my work seriously.
Consequently, fabricating a story is a complete abdication of what matters to me professionally.
The information came from an impeccable source who has an excellent track record of accuracy and reliability.
For the avoidance of doubt, it didn’t come from a press release.
Several of the putative attendees flatly denied that any such meeting had taken place with Mr Traynor.
You can make up your own mind dear reader.
For now, I’m sticking with the source of my story.
The wider question it raised though is the role of PR in framing the dominant narrative within the mainstream media.
I think there are many reasons for the rise in the influence of PR professionals in what the public gets to read.
One of them is due to the downward spiral of cuts that the traditional media sectors have suffered for over a decade now, perhaps longer.
In the course of my NUJ duties last year I came across a statistic that there are now five full-time PRs in the UK for every staff journalist working in the newspaper industry.
In the age of information overload, it was a fact that made me sit up.
It made sense of a lot of the churnalism that I saw in the course of my work for this blog.
In the Rangers story, especially in 2010 and 2011, there was very little fact checking going on.
Then with the creation of Sevco firstly Charles Green and then Mr David Cunningham King have received the Pollyanna treatment from the sports desks in Glasgow.
On Friday night I attended a meeting of local journalists in Donegal.
I was there as part of the committee of my local NUJ branch.
The journalists we were meeting work at a locally owned title.
They told an all too familiar tale of the long-term effects of swinging cuts to the staffing establishment in their workplace.
The picture they painted to the branch committee was one of being overworked to an appalling degree.
For the frazzled, overworked journalist, spinning far too many plates, the arrival of free publishable copy into your inbox from a PR firm is something that is hard to turn down.
In such a situation the perfectly polished press release often gets pasted straight into the page set up.
The employers have cut and cut until the working journalist simply doesn’t have time to check the facts on a press release.
Then there is a dominant view in many of the journalism schools now.
The students are taught that the press release itself is a trusted source.
I recall speaking to one of Mr Craig Whyte’s PR chaps back in the summer of 2011.
At this point, Whyte had handed over his £1 to Sir David Murray and had purchased Rangers Football Club.
This, dear reader, was in the days before there were “Holding Company Vehicles” or that wonderful creation of Martin Williams the “Engine Room Subsidiary.”
The man, who was an ex-tabloid journalist with a Scottish title, stated to me that he didn’t know what I was about.
He stated to me that I didn’t fit within his plan of how he would manage the news around his client, Mr. Craig Whyte.
Moreover, he said that realisation gave him a problem.
I told him that I was simply after the truth about Mr Whyte’s reported wealth and his plans for Rangers Football Club.
At that point, as I recall, he rather abruptly hung up on me.
It was undeniable that I was seriously off message apropos Mr Whyte and his putative riches back in 2011.
Then there were whispers in the Glasgow sports desk village that I was a crank and a fantasist and not to be taken seriously.
Perhaps those were PR generated too.
Of course, I can’t be certain, it doesn’t matter anyway.
Perhaps the originator of the smear thought I would take this personally and just go away.
The dominant narrative in the summer of 2011 was that Rangers FC was in rude financial health.
The journalists were assured that this was the case and they were happy to take the word of the PR folk on that one.
The newspaper buying public was told that Mr Whyte had lots of money and would spend it on Rangers Football Club.
Indeed, terms like “front loaded” were used.
It was all so exciting.
In the summer of 2011, the mainstream assured their readers that all was well at Rangers.
Consequently, The People were in buoyant mood.
Their club (it was just a club in those days as there was no need for any of this Holding Company thingy) had been delivered into the hands of a very rich Bear.
The message was relayed by obedient journalists that Mr Craig Whyte would bankroll the sporting dreams of The People.
Now, I believe that it was the PR firm that I spoke with in 2011 who had created the legend for Mr Whyte in November 2010.
The script was that he was a billionaire and the journalists provided with this ‘scoop’ duly obliged.
My information is that the “wealth of the radar” was a creative flourish from a promising young chap.
Of course, that debacle should have been the end of any reporter’s time in the trade.
However, there is a good living to be made spouting feel-good nonsense to the Ibrox demographic.
Quite simply this is what makes The People feel good.
I think that the dominant editorial belief is that Ibrox orientated folk won’t buy newspapers full of bad news stuff about their beloved Engine Room Subsidiary.
Since the Office Licence Putsch of March 2015, the “courageous journalism” of the Daily Radar has been almost unfailingly succulent in their gushing praise for the Sevco High Command.
Since then I have observed The People being regaled with tales of doors being kicked in at the Sports Direct HQ at Shirebrook in May 2015.
The fact was that a very courteous call was made by the Police, it was hardly a scene from the Sweeney.
However, the spin was that Mike Ashley was in some sort of serious trouble.
Moreover, he would need to take a step back from his conflict with the Sevco High Command.
He wasn’t and he hasn’t.
It is a strange “backward step” that has Big Mike in court next month suing Rangers International Football Club (RIFC).
Of course, the most effect PR professionals work in the shadows and never become the story.
My information is that a very high-Level PR firm has been tasked with managing the media landscape in the run up to the RIFC AGM this week.
Now, there are many important questions to be asked of the RIFC directors this Friday.
If any of the journalists who will be at the RIFC AGM presser on Friday have no idea what to ask, then please try these:
The recently published accounts did not set aside any monies for any major contingencies.
Does the Joey Barton pay off put a hole in those calculations?
Has the financial impact of the Barton pay off been raised at Board level?
Are there any directors who are concerned about this unforeseen liability?
Are they concerned that this payoff impacts of the cash flow calculations within the next twelve months?
What is the club’s relationship with the Lion Brand merchandising company?
Is the board aware of the claims made by this company regarding their monetary contributions to the club?
Is the club in receipt of monies from the Lion Brand company?
If so can the directors point to where this revenue stream in included in the published accounts?
How much external finance will the club require to make it to the end of this football season?
Has the Barton pay off had any impact on that figure?
Why does the club not have a credit line from a bank or a financial instruction?
Now, those of ye who have read Downfall: How Rangers FC self-destructed (2012 Front Line Noir) will know that I have been in AGM pressers at Celtic Park.
Asking difficult questions is what you are there to do.
Your task is to hold the powerful to account and not be a plant in the crowd for the PR guy.