THEM AND US:
Nottingham Forest took a step out of the local goldfish bowl this afternoon as they faced Watford away on Sky television. As Forest motored to an early lead in a first half performance filled with commitment and endeavour, the Sky commentators were effusive in their praise of our team and what a good job Billy Davies had done in developing them. One mentioned the 'talk of media blackouts,' before making a neutral observation we seem to have scarcely considered - that as forming part of a wider 'siege mentality' and a 'them and us' attitude, that restricted media exposure might help Forest as a team to succeed this season.
In recent days, Erik Peterson of the NEP has implored us to stop giving our 'small' 'joke of a club' money, and posters on Vital Forest including the Editor have compared NFFC to a North Korean dictatorship. Given the outrage, we should be clear in what we are outraged about. The term 'media blackout' is a misleading exaggeration in common with small-minded journalism in general. The terrible injustice meted out to our media friends is that our players will no longer be trotted out to face compulsory mechanical queries on whether they enjoyed the match and are looking forward to the next one. To any professional footballer, the media represents nothing but an unwanted distraction. Until his career starts to wind down, what a footballer wants and needs to focus on, and for those under contract to NFFC, what will benefit the club. Having been subjected to hundreds such interviews, it would come as no surprise to learn that most players would rather not do them. In those minutes before and after games, are there more productive things first-team players could be doing than chatting to Robin Chipperfield?
The only thing Forest fans should take note of is the threats that underlay the local media's carefully orchestrated outrage. When the results change, we will turn on you. Your manager and your small club cannot succeed without courting our favour. The question comes to mind: do we really need the local media as much as they need us? If we as a club are to satisfy their demands to our detriment, what irreplaceable service do they offer in return? While we dream of promotion, those who run our club must take a broader view and look to the future. The strategy is clear - a modern focus on digital media and catering for an international market, including a historic television deal with Al-Jazeera met with a resounding silence by media friends closer to home. In recent years, the circulation of the NEP has collapsed and listeners to RN have dwindled. As budgets are cut and interest wanes, these historic providers of broadcasting contents become less and less of a concern to NFFC, both financially and as a means of communication with the fans. The onus is on the local media - firstly, to rebuild bridges and their fractured relationship with the club. And secondly, to justify their existence as journalists. Readers and listeners have drifted away from RN and the NEP to the internet, where they find instant information, healthy debate and knowledgeable opinions on the game. What they have left behind in the local media is an endless procession of recycled interviews, half-baked analysis and fictionalised rumour-mongering.
The most vocal critics say now the club cannot be 'held to account,' whereas the sole example of this to hold up has been a recycled two-year-old Scottish newspaper article. Incisive investigative journalism to compete with the internets content requires more than a working grasp of Google search terms. Ask not what Forest can do for the local media, ask what they can do for your club. And if the siege mentality requires there to be a 'Them' and 'Us,' which side are you on?
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