Banning journalists and making Radio Waves

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I have a radio, which sits on the kitchen window sill. I prefer to call it a wireless, purely because I prefer the sound of the word, but I think probably everybody under 70 call them radios. It usually gets switched on when I'm making a cup of coffee or doing the dishes, a chore which has become less frequent after the purchase of a dishwasher a while back. Apparently dishwashers are actually more efficient and environmentally friendly than filling a sink, squeezing in a dollop of Fairy and leaving the bowls to drip on the draining board. Who knew?

The draining board, like the term 'wireless', is probably on the way out. I'm all for technology, but it's a bit unsettling to see the unremarkable kitchen ikons of childhood disappear one by one: the twin tub went years ago, and although my Granny had one well into the 80's, I feel I must resign myself to the fact that the 80's were, in fact, ages ago; the 'big jar' of salt is gone from most pantry shelves, as are the pantries themselves, slammed aside by the remorseless march of emotionless Swedish flatpack; and freezers have gone from the wee compartment at the top of the fridge - itself previously a modest, waist high machine - into slate grey behemoths, propping up your equally totemic fridge. They loom above puny humans to such an extent that you can hardly reach that never to be drunk bottle of toffee liqueur someone left at a New Year's party. It's like someone left the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey lying about the place and decided to fill it full of yoghurt, milk and beer and plug it in.

Everything changes, and he who tries to resist the tide of change risks looking foolish indeed. Not everyone agrees with every change, but rowing against the current - and currents only become so when the bulk of the population provide their motive force - tends to rely on articles of faith which the individual is unwilling to abandon. As time goes by, the person who resists is left higher and higher up the beach as the tide washes away from him, whether he be a Dixie lovin' Confederate in America's deep south, a Voortrekking Boer in the high Veldts, or a portly Scotsman clinging to the expression wireless when he means radio.

At any rate, it was on my wireless, or radio, last Saturday lunchtime that the unwelcome but still familiar tones of Jim Spence once more entered my kitchen. Apparently laid off by BBC Scotland a while back, it would take a special kind of person, one who sneers at Von Masoch as a lightweight, to take pleasure in another person's employment misfortune but I will admit to not being especially upset that Jim has moved on to pastures new. Seemingly he is carving a career as a freelance so I wish him good luck, something he was unable to offer my club when it was being butchered by all and sundry.

I confess to only hearing the last 15 minutes or so of the show he was on, so he may have revealed some earth shattering news earlier on. But in the portion I heard, a sad-voiced Jim lamented the change which has overtaken journalism of late, specifically the abilities of clubs to release news via social media and so cut out the media middleman, to wit, Jim. This is an interesting philosophical question, and comes in a week which sees Rangers play Sat-Mon, and so sees Rangers online types desperate for something to write about, so I seize upon it gratefully.

First, is obtaining news tidbits from a club's media liaison wallah really journalism? Certainly Jim made a career out of it, and so did the likes of Chick Young in Glasgow, Frank Gilfeather in Aberdeen, and a chap in Dundee whose name escapes me but someone will remember, surely. It's a living, but journalism? Really? I was given David Walsh's book The Program at Christmas, the tale of how Walsh pursued Lance Armstrong down the years until finally he was vindicated and Armstrong exposed. He also relates how he want after Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, all the braver since (a) she was a national heroine and (b) Walsh, too, is Irish, and so was exposed to much vitriol. Proper journalism, an unshakable belief allied to a lovely touch with words.

Can you imagine Chick or Jim hunting down a story like that over almost a decade, and presenting it to an astonished world? Me neither. Can you imagine them calling Ronny Delia or Stephen Thompson to ask them powder puff questions? Me too. If there's any regret that Jim is off air it's that I would love to hear how he would have justified Thompson's one man wrecking ball of a chairmanship at Tannadice. Always one to jeer at succulent lamb journalism, Jim never seemed to notice that he was being fed succulent bridie by Thompson. Fair enough if that's how you roll, but don't dignify it by calling it journalism. What we have in Scotland is people who leech off football clubs and fans and make a very comfortable living doing so.

A minor point of interest was that, while Jim felt his career downshift was more to do with this change in journalism, it might have been connected to 'a coterie of Rangers fans on Twitter' who, as we'll all recall, felt Jim was slightly less than objective in his reporting. Whether this be so or no, I was intrigued at Jim's claim that whenever he met Rangers fans in person, they were unfailingly pleasant toward him. This is a line regularly used by media types, which relegates the abusive tweeter to a gutless coward, unable to back up their online anger in person. It may well be true. But in this case, it's odd.

My rapidly failing memory seems to recall Jim, at the height of his role as Persecuted Speaker of Truth, claiming he was accosted by an uncouth Rangers fan while out walking with his family.

If that happened, it was yet another episode in the 'Things fellow Bears have done which really embarrass me and geez, I wish they wouldn't' file. But if Rangers fans were always fine with him in person, it seems strange. I could handle people being mean to me - it happens often enough. I'd find it a lot harder to forget someone being a dick to my family, though. That's not the sort of thing I'd brush off, no matter how magnanimous a chap I am. It was a curious, minor aside at the end of a radio show but one which sticks in the mind as atypical of Jim - just unreliable. Our very own Clive James, always unreliable.


Which brings us to the rather more important question of Rangers and journalists.

Since we've apparently banned the awful Chris McLaughlin, again, and since the BBC have responded by flouncing off to The Ubiquitous Chip en masse, declaring they're never going to darken the door at Ibrox, again, we can consider what it is we gain or lose by this. Certainly, we gain by not having to accommodate people who plainly don't like Rangers, and don't feel any need to pretend otherwise. If you can't stand your neighbours, you don't usually ask them in for dinner. We gain by not having to listen to BBC Scotland types talking about our club, something (with a few exceptions) they've been unable to do in any rational manner for some time now.

You gain little by attempting to work with people carrying such baggage - in yesterday's Herald, a sad shade of what it once was, a column by an SNP type which could be boiled down to 'stop bleating, Nats, if you want to be in government' was headlined 'Not all criticism of the SNP should be considered treachery', the implication being that some should. Never mind the writer said nothing even approaching this. It didn't stop a minor twitter storm, and the same thing has happened to Rangers often enough for no-one, on either side, to be very upset about the divorce. But what, if anything, do we lose?

Actually, nothing. Long ago, younger reader, when there was no mobile phones or internets and your only way of knowing the score, other than to go to the game, was to listen in to whichever station had the rights to the game. That simply isn't the case any more. Various TV stations run a rolling scorecard. Multiple websites do the same, even the SPFL website will keep you up to date with the action. All you're missing is filtering the game via the imagination of whoever is reporting on it for the BBC or whoever; call me jaundiced, but I can't think that's a great loss. Football has never attracted the Neville Cardus or the John Arlott standard of reporter-writer which cricket produces in abundance, and if now is no great shakes overall my lifetime has been no golden age - I grew up listening to Richard Park, for Heaven's Sake, a man whose late night music show was called Dr Dicks's Midnight Surgery. It's taken many years to come to terms with that. Thank you, Radio Clyde 261.

But there's an opportunity here, I think. Although you can and probably do get your match updates from sources other than the wireless, the lack of match coverage right now must surely inspire someone amongst the Rangers family to provide that service themselves. And not the club, the fans. Imagine an online feed with Gersnet forum members who can summarise, with a bit of panache, what's happened before throwing to, say, 'Brahim Hemdani' to tell us why Zelalem is a passenger, Clark will never make it and Zinedine Zidane secretly wishes he could play like Nicky Law. Perhaps 'Rousseau' could appear for tactical analysis, or 'Compo' to tell us why it was better in the 60's. Even one of the alarmingly high proportion of posters here who hail from the east might have a go. This last might require voice recognition software for those of us who only speak English, though.

There's a chance here for someone to step forward and provide the service fans want without bias and baggage. It might need some fancy footwork regarding licences and equipment, but it's do-able. No-one wants coverage which bangs on about how brilliant we are - it would need to be able to kick hard if needed. But it's not beyond the wit of man to do. I'd love to wander into my kitchen one afternoon when I can't get to the game and tune in to Gersnet Radio.

We could be more like the guy in the paper - less moaning, more doing. Let's not leave it to the likes of BBC Scotland to decide when they can and can't be bothered covering our games. Let's not bleat and moan about others. Let's get off our backsides and do it ourselves.

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