How to make sure you get bad news

I believe in the right to work.

Moreover I do not believe in that right just for the people I approve of.

On the morning after the 2012 All-Ireland final, the winning manager Jimmy McGuinness gave a press conference as is customary.  Freelance journalist Declan Bogue was there, ready to do his job.

The lad who had led Donegal to the Sam Maguire refused to come out. He sent a message that there would be no press conference if journalist Declan Bogue was in attendance.  Unfortunately, Declan left and his colleagues continued to sit there.

It wasn’t their finest hour.

This is what should have happened:

There should have been no presser that day and the splash should have been McGuinness’ failed ultimatum to the GAA Fourth Estate.

Declan is a member of my NUJ branch and he received the full backing of the NUJ after the fact.

For the avoidance of doubt I consider Mr Bogue to be a fine journalist and so do the Belfast Telegraph who hired him onto their staff.

I share this two year old vignette with you to show that it is not just in Glasgow or in association football that an authoritarian attitude to the free press can occur.

Of course Mr McGuinness is now part of the coaching set up at Celtic and I suspect that since he stepped down as Donegal manager last week that he will become more central to the first team set up at Lennoxtown.

Shortly before he left the employment of the Daily Record veteran sports writer Hugh Keevins was allowed back into Celtic Park.

He had been a banned person at Paradise for almost two years.

When I spoke to him earlier this year I got the impression that he didn’t fully understand why he had suffered this treatment.

Similar situations are extant in the North East of England among the big football clubs there including Newcastle United.

I noted last week that the rumour, it was no stronger than that, of the banning from Celtic Park of a Glasgow based sports journalist was met with air punching triumphalism by some in the green half of the city.

Dear reader this is not grown up behaviour by the club and the fans should be careful what they applaud.

Anyone who has read Downfall may recall a passage in the introduction to the Media Section where I outline in some detail my, ultimately successful, attempt to get into the 2011 Celtic AGM presser.

I suspected that I was not welcome at the press conference because they feared that I might ask questions that the Parkhead hierarchy did not want to be asked.

Of course they are the only questions worth asking anyone in a positon of power.

Anything else is succulent lamb stuff.

The job of a journalist is to hold the powerful to account in the public interest.

For the avoidance of doubt I asked questions of the newly installed Celtic Chairman Ian Bankier that appeared to make him rather squirm in his seat.

He had been presented to the Celtic AGM as a chap with excellent Celtic supporting credentials.

I had been a good hack  and had turned up with my Ian Bankier homework all done.

Subsequently, it did not take me long to shred his legend.

To the onlooker it may have appeared cruel, but it wasn’t personal, it was just business.

The interrogatives I then presented to Peter Lawwell appeared had the same effect as he floundered to bat away my inquiry about the club’s financial strategy.

It was clear that he was accustomed to more gentle, more respectful questioning from the Glasgow based hacks.

Some of the mainstream hacks in the room shot me glances at my lack of gratitude by asking such questions.

A key component in the demise of Rangers (19872-2012) was a lack of serious journalistic scrutiny, but it would be a crass mistake to believe that it was only at Ibrox that tasty morsels were on offer.

When a sporting organisation decides to ban a journalist then merits of the reporter in question are utterly beside the point.

If a system is put in place whereby it is generally acceptable that journalist can be banned from the Parkhead club on a whim then Celtic is also in the succulent lamb business.

That is a deadly pathogen.

Anyone on the green half of Glasgow who is applauding this move by the Celtic is complicit in creating a scenario whereby they will be the victims of disinformation by the club.

My work on Rangers was on the money because they couldn’t hold that sanction over me.

I didn’t have a oppress pass to Ibrox and I didn’t want one.

We now know from various sources just how much of a thorn I was in their side, especially during the Craig Whyte period.

Of course large organisations have the means to go to law if they are libelled.

If the copy is legal then they do not have that option.

People of modest means do not have that avenue open to them even if they are libelled.

My copy on Rangers (1872-2012) was never actionable, it was well sourced and I had the free assistance of several people who were in legal practice.

Ditto my reportage of Sevco.

The answer to bad journalism is good journalism.

The Hacking scandal at News International was uncovered by Nick Davies at the Guardian.

It does not matter if the journalist in question who is being banned is worthy of a genuinely prestigious journalism award or resembles a drunken Mr Bean on work experience.

Banning journalists, any journalist, is an attack on journalism.

And that dear reader is bad news.

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