Is the pen mightier than the recorder?

While catching up on some of the old media gossip in Scotland recently, I stumbled across this debate about shorthand on allmediascotland.com

In it Mike Boyle, course co-ordinator of HND Practical Journalism and NCTJ Journalism at Cardonald College, Glasgow, extols the virtues of the art of shorthand after it was dropped as an option from the BA Journalism and Creative Writing degree at Strathclyde University.

I couldn’t help but wade in and you’ll see my tuppence worth as well as a few others at the bottom of the article. (I particularly like Dorothy-Grace Elder’s frisking anecdote in a Russian jail.)

When I left Napier University, shorthand was probably the only useful skill I had learned (other than a little bit of media law) and the rest I learned on the job – and very quickly at that.

I’m actually lucky I passed it to be honest because my attendance record at the shorthand classes with the Tartan Temptress June Stobie (she had a rather fetching tartan jacket) was less than exemplary.

It was first thing on a Thursday morning you see and Wednesday afternoon’s was when the university football team’s played followed by the obligatory night out.

My old mucker and flatmate Gordon Smart, now flying high on media power lists across the globe as The Sun’s Bizarre editor, also ran a Wednesday club night, Shark, at one our favoured evening retreats where the football team would generally drink the night and much of the morning away.

The result was, more often than not, a Thursday morning hangover and a big cross (isn’t that Teeline shorthand for accident?) next to the names Connor and Smart on June’s attendance sheet.

But we both passed and I’m so grateful to June for beating it into us. I couldn’t have got through those employment tribunals and Haddington Sheriff Court trials without it.

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Maintaining e-cred is hard work

Jings, crivens and help ma boab! Is that really more than a year since my last blog?

It’s amazing how much time it takes to maintain your e-cred in these new-fangled technological times – and I’ve not even bothered with the Facebook’s, Linkedin’s and Twitter’s of this crazy interactive world yet.

For the past year I’ve been tremendously busy uprooting my family, moving to Portsmouth, working with golf marketing company The Azalea Group and news editing golf magazine Fairway to Green.

It would be mostly true to say that I’ve been too busy to keep this blog up but the whole truth and nothing but the truth would also include the fact that sometimes I forgot and other times I just couldn’t be arsed.

Sadly my time at Azalea and Fairway to Green has come to an end but throughout the past year I have had the privilege to work with and meet some amazing people (and some not so), learn more about the golf industry and generally indulge my passion for the game of golf.

I’ll probably post in more detail at a later date about my experiences at Azalea and Fairway to Green.

However, what all this means – other than the fact that I’m looking for a job (note to all prospective employers and commissioning editors) – is that I can resurrect this blog and hopefully this time keep it going even when I do find a new job.

Here’s to pastures new……..

Tough tackling Raff puts his foot in where it hurts

As I was waiting on the Leith Athletic team bus to take us across Middle Earth and into the dark reaches of Glasgow on Saturday a forcible kick from behind me landed square on my posterior.

As anyone who is well-schooled in the art of football dressing room antics will know, such schoolboy actions are commonplace and therefore, on turning round I was already preparing myself for swift and painful retribution on the offending party.

However, rather than see the grinning face of one of my childish team-mates, I was instead greeted with that of former Daily Record and Scotsman crime reporting guru and now successful PR man Stephen Rafferty.

Raff is an old mentor of mine and he, along with other Scottish media stalwart Scott Douglas, stand guilty of launching my media career when they gave me a job at Deadline Press & Picture agency many moons ago. At the time I was suffering from post-university blues, working part-time at a British Gas call centre and being rejected from junior reporter roles at every local country bumpkin newspaper imagineable.

So it is always an enjoyable occasion bumping into Raff – either by chance or on the media social circuit.

This chance encounter, I am delighted to be able to report, is because Raff’s eldest, Liam, has firmly nailed his colours to the wall and signed for Leith Athletic’s under-17 side.

With his old man being a staunch Hibby, there was never any real chance that the Young Raff would be turning out for a team on the wrong-side of the city but it is always good to see young talent join the Leith ranks. The club has a fantastic youth set up catering from kids at five-years-old right up to the (even bigger kids) in the full amateur side so there’s no doubt young Liam has made a good choice.

I’m told he is a tough-tackling, no nonsense centre half who strikes fear into the hearts of opposition strikers. I can’t say that I’m surprised – his dad built his reputation on going in where it hurts, tackling Scotland’s criminal fraternity and digging up hard-hitting exclusives. And, as these pictures on Scott Douglas’ blog show, Raff wasn’t averse to sticking his feet in to get things done either.

However, next time Raff, I’ll settle for a tap on the shoulder rather than a boot up the jacksie!

Stupid interview questions leave me sick as a parrot

I feel that, at 27-years-old, I am too young to be a fully paid up member of the Grumpy Old Man society but sadly I often find myself shouting obscenities at the TV or radio when I hear sports journalists firing inane, random and completely pointless questions at the country’s sporting stars.

One recent incident springs to mind when, following Rangers’ victory against Hearts in the League Cup semi-final, captain Barry Ferguson was asked at the end of the interview whether he would prefer to play Dundee United or Aberdeen in the final.

Amid my wild-eyed rant at the TV I was just able to make out Bazza’s response along the lines of: “We don’t care who we play in the final. The most important thing is that we are there.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who could have predicted Ferguson’s asnwer before he had even uttered his first syllable which begs the question, why on earth was he asked it in the first place? The BBC journalist in question – unfortunately I can’t remember who it was – should have had an array of other more relevant questions to ask and, if he didn’t, should have done the decent thing and ended the interview early rather than waste precious seconds of both Ferguson’s and the viewers lives by blurting out the first pointless question that came into his head.

But amid the litany of stupid questions asked in post and pre match interviews, there are thankfully a few cracking answers which show the interviewer up for their ineptitude and lack of planning.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is well renowned for his quips and I have listed some of his best below.

The England football team also had great fun with the media during a World Cup campaign (I think it was in 1998) where the players had to mention as many song titles in interviews as possible without arousing suspicion. If anyone can get a hold of the clips anywhere it is quality viewing. I can’t find them anywhere.

But the all-time winner must go to Walter Smith when, during his first spell in charge at Rangers, he let rip at broadcaster Chick Young after taking offence at his line of questioning.

Thanks go to PR man and former crime journalist extraordinaire Stephen Rafferty who, on his blog (here) at Sure PR, reminded me of the clip. (the audio is slightly behind the visuals but you get the picture!)

If anyone has any other examples of great interview answers from sporting stars then please post them below.

Gordon Strachan quips:

1. Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?” Strachan: “Velocity” [walks off]

2. Reporter: Can I ask you about Augustin Delgado [an underperforming player Strachan had purchased for Southampton] Strachan: I’ve got more important things to think about. I’ve got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Augustin Delgado.

3. Reporter: Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are the right man to turn things around? Strachan: No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for the job and I said, “No, I think they should have got George Graham because I’m useless.”

4. Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result? Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.

5. Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you? Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.

6. Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it? Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.

7. On Wayne Rooney : It’s an incredible rise to stardom, at 17 you’re more likely to get a call from Michael Jackson than Sven Goran Eriksson.

8. Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie [one of Strachan’s players] deserves to be in the England squad? Strachan: I dont care, I’m Scottish

9. Reporter: You don’t take losing lightly, do you Gordon? Strachan: I don’t take stupid comments lightly either.

10. Reporter: So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were better than you today? Strachan: What areas? Mainly that big green one out there….

Sky Sports leaves me holding the baby

I used to love nothing better than my Super Lazy Sundays (as Sky Sports should call them) nursing a hangover in a darkened room, the only natural light – and reminder that there was an outside world – coming from the small chink in the venetian blinds while the rest of the room was bathed in the soft green glow from seemingly endless supply of live football on Sky Sports.

A glass bottle of Irn Bru (Scotland’s best hangover cure) and the leftovers from last nights’ pizza or kebab the only sustenance needed to make it through the day, while a mild overdose of paracetemol being just enough to dull the searing pain caused by Andy Gray’s excellent, if excitable, commentary.

Those were the days when I lived a batchelor’s existence. Lived for the weekend’s excesses and used Super Lazy Sunday’s to recharge the batteries ahead of the coming week.

Then I got myself shacked up with the girlfriend. This was no bad thing as it prompted me to live a cleaner life, making sure both the pennies and my liver were looked after much better than they had previously been. Somehow, and everyday I ask myself how, it meant moving in with her and not renewing my Sky Sports subscription.

I still haven’t managed to fathom exactly how it happened, but it did and to be honest it was no great hardship. A plethora of nearby pubs offered shelter, generous libation and access to that green glow every Sunday for my footballing fix.

I now, however, find myself in a dark place without the warming green glow (the hangovers and leftover pizza I can do without) and fatherhood is the reason. Fatherhood itself is not to be feared. It provides its own warming glow for which the TV can provide no substitute (no matter who is playing!).

But in recent months I have found myself missing those Super Lazy Sundays. The combination of Arctic weather and the responsibility of looking after a five-month-old baby every Sunday has seen me trapped in the house, a slave to both the TV and a screaming baby (whoever shouts the loudest usually wins).

As those with kids will testify, the pennies which were once frittered away on niceties such as beer and expensive Sky Sports subscriptions are earmarked for other things such as nappies and baby milk. In addition, the pubs which once provided salvation are now strictly out of bounds – although the wee man’s screams are surely only slightly more shrill than Andy Gray’s commentary?!

Therefore I have had to make do with the best sporting action council TV (terrestrial) can provide. Sadly, snooker, Ski Sunday and even the Six Nations coverage (good though it all is) can’t see the BBC and ITV compete with the big boys nowadays (although the BBC’s coverage of the African Cup of Nations and the recent Australian Tennis Open was excellent.)

This really hit home on Sunday just past when I had the wee man all day (usually it is just the afternoons). I had to be content watching Tiger Woods’ amazing back nine comeback in the Dubai Desert Classic on the live internet scoreboard, try to overcome a noisy baby and crackly reception to catch the Hibs v Rangers match on the radio and keep up to speed on the day’s three Premiership matches via the news ticker on Sky Sports News (available on Freeview and an absolute Godsend!) Later that night I could have treated myself to some Spanish football action had I been a Sky Sports subscriber.

The one top notch sporting event I was able to watch (Ghana v Nigeria) I ended up missing the crucial last 30 mins because the wee man needed his bath.

There is no doubt that Sky Sports and to a certain extent, Setanta, have got me and countless other sports fanatics by the short and curlies. To get your weekly fix you have to pay the going rate.

I’m off to get myself a calculator and pen and paper to work out how I can save myself £35 a month.Surely the wee man doesn’t have to eat eight times every day………………….

Poults happy for second best – but is the media to blame for furore?

It seems I made a gross misjudgement about Ian Poulter in a previous post.

Following his now infamous interview with Golf World where he was quoted as saying he was the only player who, on his game, could compete with Tiger Woods, I actually gave him credit for being one of the few golfers with the self-confidence not to be happy playing for second place.

Thanfkully Poults has now clarified his position and claimed he was misquoted in the interview. Unfortunately, he is now adamant that he, along with every other golfer on the planet can only play for Woods’ leftovers.

As long as Woods is playing, Poulter claims, he can only ever play for second spot – which, he believes he is good enough to achieve.

Can you imagine if that had been David’s attitude when facing the mighty Goliath? The plucky youngster would have been beaten to a pulp, the Bible would have been a fable light and sporting commentators would have had to invent a new analogy for the triumphant underdog.

Golfing mortals (ie, everyone apart from Woods) should never allow themselves to believe that they cannot compete with him, let alone say it in public, even if it is the truth. I see no point whatsoever in teeing up in the same tournament with Woods if they have lost before even hitting a ball.

Poulter’s admission is yet another damning indictment of the professionals who are satisfied to make a living in Woods’ shadow without trying to tackle him head on in the spirit of sport.

However, the interview also flags up a worrying and deep-rooted trend in the media to string up (or lynch if I dare say the word) those who are prepared to speak their mind.

Too many sportsmen, not only golfers, are content to give the bland, run-of-the-mill stock answers to journalists’ questions. But is this because we are now breeding sportsmen completely lacking in personality, humour or charisma? Of course not. It is because they are petrified that if they open their mouths – even with tongue-in-cheek – then they can and will be crucified in the media for daring to have an opinion.

Of course, the media craves sensational headlines and will use the material it has to builds up as controversial a story as possible – and note, I admit that I have been guilty of this before. That’s what sells magazines and newspapers and certainly Golf World will have benefitted in the short term from the publicity this has caused.

However, the long term damage will be that no-one, not even Poulter will dare to stick their neck out and we will be left only with the monotone production-line sportsmen and journalists who have nothing to write about.

Who will buy the newspapers and magazines then?

Beeb celebrates victory over ITV with Euro 2008 fixture list

It would seem that the BBC has managed to secure a major coup with the sole UK rights to screen the final of the European Championships in Austria & Switzerland this summer.

For as long as I can remember, the final of major football tournaments has always been shown on both BBC and ITV networks, resulting in a bitter ratings war between the two.

The upside to the double coverage is that it allows viewers, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to attempt to choose a channel where the commentators and analysts wouldn’t find reason to refer to England every other minute in a match between two other nations (in reality, settling for the one with the fewest mentions of England usually has to suffice).

It also means that if the smarm of one channel got too much, you could at least swap over to the other side so you only had to endure 45 minutes of continual annoyance from the one commentary team.

Perhaps this is ITV admitting that, when it comes to the big occasion, the Beeb do things that little bit slicker. Maybe they have been trounced by the Beeb in previous Finals’ ratings wars (I have no idea if this is true). Or maybe, and much more likely, they have decided just to save a few pennies because none of the home nations have qualified.

Nevertheless, I still think it is a major coup for the Beeb and and unbelievable capitulation by ITV, made even more incredible by the fact they have issued a joint press release about it, see below.

As part of the agreement, ITV gets its pick of the semi-finals but surely this is not adequate compensation for losing out on the big event? The BBC are showing four out of the first five games live, while they also have the rights to the last group games in the most high profile group containing Italy, France, Netherlands and Romania when two of those teams will be knocked out.

ITV need to take heed and be careful they hang onto their jewel in the crown in terms of football coverage. If Sky Sports or Setanta were to take the Champions League off them entirely they risk being cast into the wilderness in terms of top level football action – a position they would find it extremely difficult to recover from.

The ITV/BBC press release and full TV fixture schedule foir the European Championships is below.

BBC And ITV Agree Euro 2008 Games Split     

The BBC and ITV can today confirm plans for shared coverage of the UEFA Euro 2008 Championships in Austria and Switzerland.Live coverage of the group stage will begin on Saturday 7 Jun with the BBC broadcasting the opening match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic at 5.00pm and ITV broadcasting the later match between Portugal and Turkey at 7.45pm.During the latter stage of the group phase, where matches are played simultaneously – games will be shown live on BBC One, BBCi, ITV1 and ITV channels. Both broadcasters will simulcast all of their games online.

Both broadcasters will show live coverage of two quarter finals and will show one semi final each – with ITV taking first pick.

The final will be shown live on BBC One on Sunday 29 Jun, with highlights on ITV1 later in the evening.

Roger Mosey, BBC Director of Sport, said: “We’re confident many millions of people will enjoy the tournament on BBC television, radio and online. There will be plenty of familiar faces on the pitch, and some great matches in prospect.”

Mark Sharman, ITV Director of News and Sport, said: “Euro 2008 is one of the highlights of a huge year of live football on ITV and, with some of the world’s best players taking part, we are looking forward to an exciting tournament.”

Full schedule of games (this is the best format I can publish it in. The first game mentioned in each section is being shown by the first broadcaster mentioned in each section): 

Date

Matches (UK kick-off time) Group Broadcaster Venue
7
Jun
1700 Switzerland v Czech Republic1945 Portugal v Turkey AA BBCITV BasleGeneva
8
Jun
1700 Austria v Croatia1945 Germany v Poland BB BBCBBC ViennaKlagen
9
Jun
1700 Romania v France1945 Netherlands v Italy CC BBCITV ZurichBerne
10 Jun 1700 Spain v Russia1945 Greece v Sweden DD BBCITV InnsbruckSalzburg
11 Jun 1700 Czech Republic v Portugal1945 Switzerland v Turkey AA ITVBBC GenevaBasle
12 Jun 1700 Croatia v Germany1945 Austria v Poland BB ITVBBC KlagenVienna
13 Jun 1700 Italy v Romania1945 Netherlands v France CC ITVBBC ZurichBerne
14 Jun 1700 Sweden v Spain1945 Greece v Russia DD ITVITV InnsbruckSalzburg
15 Jun 1945 Switzerland v Portugal1945 Turkey v Czech Republic AA ITVITV BasleGeneva
16 Jun 1945 Poland v Croatia1945 Austria v Germany BB BBCBBC KlagenVienna
17 Jun 1945 Netherlands v Romania1945 France v Italy CC BBCBBC BerneZurich
18 Jun 1945 Greece v Spain1945 Russia v Sweden DD ITVITV SalzburgInnsbruck
19 Jun 1945 Winner Group A v Runner up Group B QF ITV Basle
20 Jun 1945 Winner Group B v Runner up Group A QF BBC Vienna
21 Jun 1945 Winner Group C v Runner up Group D QF   Basle
22 Jun 1945 Winner Group D v Runner up Group C QF   Vienna
25 Jun 1945 Winner QF1 v Winner QF2 SF   Basle
26 Jun 1945 Winner QF3 v Winner QF4 SF   Vienna
29 Jun 1945 Final F   Vienna