The importance of precision in journalism.

If journalism is about anything it’s about precision.

It doesn’t matter the platform the journalist is providing content for.

Whether it is the print media or for broadcast.

Ambiguity is the enemy of good reporting.

I was sent this by a Facebook buddy it is from Clyde 1 Super scoreboard 4th January 2012.

You will note that he added some special effects to give weight to Hugh Keevin’s words.!

I can’t disagree with his insertion of the sound effects.

“Until revenue and customs tells Rangers how much they owe we’re shooting in the dark.”

I am simply amazed at the import of this short piece of radio.

I spoke to Mr Keevins at the AVIVA stadium at the start of the Dublin Super Cup  in July of last year.

I gave him the basic figures surrounding the tax case currently going through the First Tier tax Tribunal.

He appeared to surprised to  hear me  disclose the figures to him.

I was surprised that HE was surprised!

I had supplied the same information to his Radio Clyde colleagues, live on air, back in January 2011.

For the record Rangers FC have known the sums involved in the “big tax case” since early 2010.

The paper work sent to them by HMRC would have stated the assessment of the underpayment very clearly.

That figure is £24 million.

The people running Rangers were also aware then of the interest payments on that sum at that time being in the region of £12million.

The penalties sought by HMRC were £15 million.

So Rangers DO know what Revenue & Customs (sic) think they’re owed.

The club, of course, have appealed that and are now going through the First Tier Tax Tribunal.

These figures were put into the public domain in the Scottish edition of the News of the World on May 17th 2010.

I know because I wrote that story.

In the studio with Mr Keevins on the 4th January 2012 was Graham Speirs.

I provided these details to him personally at the Carling Cup on May 25th 2011 in Dublin, a full year after the News of the World “splash”.

Graham didn’t believe that the tax case, should Rangers lose it, would threaten the club as he was of the opinion that Sir David Murray would be “morally compelled” to pay the bill from his private funds!

I found this Pollyanna assessment to be staggering.

So what are we to believe?

What is the memory span of a pundit on Clyde 1 Super scoreboard?

This piece of broadcasting infers that the figures are a mystery.

No they’re not.

What IS at dispute is whether or not Rangers owe them.

Another bit of loose talk I have heard from some radio pundits recently is that:

“Rangers will know in January what the tax case result it.”

The tax tribunal will conclude this month then it will be time for the three judges to consider their verdict.

Piece of string estimate, but it would be unlikely if there was a deliberation given before March.

No one expects sports journalist to be fluent in the technicalities of UK tax tribunals.

However they do have colleagues on business desks and they do know this stuff.

Having met both these men I instantly liked them. They’re both intelligent, insightful and clearly love what they do.

However I have a question.

Almost two years on how is it possible for any sports journalist in Scotland to be apparently so badly informed about the biggest off field football story since Fergus McCann saved Celtic from going out of business?

When you’re following a story of such importance it is vital that people are precise with their words and their utterances.

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