Monday, 18 March 2013

The media and Nottingham Forest - the defence

Forest are on a fantastic run, with 6 wins in their last 6 games; unbeaten in 7. Billy Davies return has, so far, been an unparalleled success; creating a collective sense of belief not just within the team, but back on the terraces. I must admit, even under SOD, I could never have seen such a run being constructed. Billy Davies deserves all the praise being heaped on him from fans (and I must say, as a sceptic of 'the return of the King', he has proven me very much wrong). Despite all this positivity, there has been an undercurrent of discontent at the portrayal of the club, the manager, and the owners. This has been fairly summed up in this article; but I, as a fan, disagree with swathes of it. This article will be my defence of media with regards to Billy Davies; the Al-Hawasi's; and the club in general.

I'll start off by saying, I agree that with the Al-Hasawi's tenure at the club, there has been an undercurrent of xenophobia in some of the reporting, such as the 'non-payment' of wages story earlier in the season. I do agree that the British press do cling to the romanticised image of football clubs being run by the local carpet warehouse magnate, born in the shadow of the football ground. This leads to a scepticism of any foreign owners, with them usually being portrayed as bad, mad or dangerous. However, some of the actions of the Al-Hasawi's, especially over the Christmas period, were questionable. Regardless as to whether or not it was the right decision with hindsight, the sacking of SOD after a 4-2 victory over Leeds, being 1 point off the playoff places at the time was widely attacked. It wasn't just attacked by the media with an 'anti-Al-Hasawi' agenda; but was roundly criticised by fans for being a kneejerk and unjustifiable reaction. Other potentially questionable decisions and actions (the abrupt dismissal of a number of backroom staff including FC; the George Boyd transfer debacle) quite rightly were picked up and critically examined in the press. 

My second real point is regards the relationship between Billy, the club, and the local media. It's widely known that the relationship between Billy and the old regime was toxic at best; and Billy will always feel hard done by in the circumstances in which he was sacked originally. But that happened almost 2 years ago, all the major 'actors' in the cold war on the club side are no longer with the club. This should be a new, fresh start for Billy and the club. Which is why the decision to not talk to local media outlets is baffling. BBC Radio Nottingham and the NEP have been full of nothing but praise for Billy since his return; and whilst there have been a number of 'anti-Billy' pieces in the media; these have to be expected. The circumstances in which Billy left were murky, and therefore he media have a right to investigate it. I'm sure the press did stray from investigation to speculation, and which they shouldn't have done, but they weren't alone. In the vacuum of information when Billy left, rumour filled the void. As for BBC Radio Nottingham, I rarely heard anything bad said about BD since his departure or during his tenure; except when fans rang in on Matchtalk.

Maybe the biggest point I want to make is in response to the line "Billy, consequently, has been far less co-operative with local media outlets second time around, bar a loyal journalist from East Midlands Today, Natalie Jackson." Journalists shouldn't be 'loyal' to anything but the truth. I don't want local media fawning over every decision made by the manager or the owners. I don't want dodgy decisions to be glossed over by journalists for fear of losing access to club personnel (as has apparently happened with BD and Radio Nottm, which I see as a childish tit-for-tat manoeuvre if it is in retaliation for 'bad PR'). A good journalist is like a sceptical fan. As the article above notes, we are fans of Nottingham Forest, not the current owners, managers or playing staff. That's why, for me, a journalist has to be loyal to 'Nottingham Forest', not loyal to the owners or staff. This requires them to hold the owners to account when any decisions or actions are carried out. This means questioning the manager when rumours are spreading. Local media has been far from perfect in the last few years; but the club has been even worse over the same period. The club needs to be open to the press and media; as by doing so, it's being open and honest with the fans. That's why we need the media to continue questioning the club. 

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