The Last Word: When no news is bad news

When Chelsea announced Grant had indeed been appointed, there were collective sighs of relief in newspaper offices across Israel and England.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
When Chelsea on Sunday announced the "much anticipated" news that Avraham Grant had indeed been appointed as the club's director of football, there were collective sighs of relief in newspaper offices across Israel and England. Reports of Grant's impending move from Portsmouth to Stamford Bridge had been so widely featured in the media recently that some papers seemed to think he was already working alongside Roman Abramovich more than two weeks ago. In England, the summer months are known in the journalism world as the "Silly Season," a time when there are so few real news stories happening that reporters and editors find it difficult to fill their pages with anything other than often unlikely rumors. With politicians and most other institutions on summer vacation, this affects the news sections of the papers as much as the sports sections which have no regular season games to cover other than cricket, which interests far fewer people. The English sports press is therefore continuously full of stories claiming that this and that soccer player will definitely be moving to a particular club within the week, claims that often turn out to be nothing but false. The Israeli sports media is definitely not immune to similar activities, so it was with much excitement that journalists in Israel read in a late June edition of the UK's Independent newspaper that Grant would be announced as the Chelsea director of football on July 1. Sports web sites and newspapers in Israel wrote extensive stories welcoming Grant's forthcoming appointment as if the date were set in stone, all seemingly based on on article in one English newspaper. As the day drew close the excitement grew. And then when July 1 became July 2 and 3 the sports editors were left scratching their heads in bemusement. 'Could the Independent really have been wrong?' they thought. Now we know that the Independent wasn't so much wrong as slightly off the mark, but the whole episode illustrates a wider problem within world of sports journalism. It is difficult to ever ascertain what really happened. Perhaps the Independent had a reputable source and Grant just changed his mind. Or maybe it was just a less than reputable rumor which had been published to fill some space. Either way the newspaper clearly misled its readers, whether on purpose or by mistake. There are enough other examples of this practice to fill this entire page, but one which springs to mind was the reporting of the Omer Golan saga in Israel last week. The Israeli striker was widely reported to be moving from Maccabi Petah Tikva to Maccabi Tel Aviv, so much so that when the predicted day came the Sports News on Sport5 opened with reporter Maya Chason standing at the Maccabi Tel Aviv training ground reporting the shock news that Golan was not there. Turned out the reports had been wrong, and even that evening when one web site proclaimed that Golan would be moving to Maccabi Haifa instead of Tel Aviv they were also mistaken, especially now that he has extended his contract in Petah Tikva. Clearly there was a basis to the reports, but rather than explaining that the move was a possibility, the media played it up so much that it came across as it if was a done deal. In England these rumors are sometimes even planted in the press by the player's agent just to encourage his club to increase his salary. This is not to say that the media should stop doing its job. Of course, if a journalist has an exclusive tip from a reputable source it is his responsibility to report it. But these journalists should sometimes consider acting a little more responsibly. A shaky rumor which turns out to be nothing but hot air only serves to damage the reputation of the journalist, the paper, and the media in general.