Remarkable how the Invisible Journalist, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, is so little acknowledged by Scottish sports Media, despite his web site attracting over a million verified hits per month, making him more read, one imagines, than many sports pages. In fact, the only time he is acknowledged, ironically, is when a SMSM-type publishes an “exclusive” story in the sports pages that was in fact broken on Phil’s site, usually a few days, if not weeks, before. Backhanded compliments are better than no compliments I suppose.
Phil is rendered Invisible (except when his stories are being . . . err . . . re-presented) because he punctured a hole in the fantasy that insists the Emperor (or, the Empire club, 1872 – 2012) really still does have some clothes (except branded jerseys of course). See, it doesn’t do for anyone to upset the applecart, or in this case, the lamb gravy train. It doesn’t do to point out that the Emperor has no clothes when almost all Scottish sports reporters are interested in doing is dressing him up. The amount of imagination that goes into creating these elaborate garments is indeed impressive. And if your living depended on dressing up a corpse in order to fool people into thinking it was still alive perhaps the temptation to ignore the stench of death would be overwhelming.
Then again, you could do what you were trained to do when you were a learning about journalism. Hold power to account and be aware that power seeks to reduce you to a mere conduit of itself rather than someone who challenges utterances that range (in the case of The Rangers Story) from the doubtful to the bizarre. And if power threatens you with “lack of access”, ask yourself, “access to what?” Bullshit? You can get that anywhere.
I understand that reporters need a readership. And if that readership doesn’t want to read the truth, then of course that represents a challenge. But, if you are a person of character, rather than a cynical exploiter of readers prejudices, then you rise to that challenge. If you are a person of character, rather than a reporter who’s own prejudice (latent or not) is in tune with the sounds emanating from the subject of the story, then you hold the subject to account.
If you have the heart for it, you might find that far from losing a readership uninterested in the truth, you might just find those among your readership interested in the truth follow you. You might find that you create an extension to your readership as it becomes joined by people who never read you before but, knowing that you are causing a stir by reporting controversial stories fearlessly, want to find out what you are saying to it all.
Sure, those without character who chose to remain as part of the fantasy theme park that Scottish football reporting is fast becoming, may look at you with resentment and indeed, call you a crank. But, when they are reduced to first ignoring you, then insulting you, then you will know you are doing the right thing. And always remember, it could be worse. These characterless, almost zombie types, could like you. Then, you’d really know you were useless. Keep challenging. It drives them cranky off the radar.
So, if you are a young journalist wondering how to investigate, to challenge, to brave out the insults of a peer group beholden to power, then I suggest you read Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and indeed vote for him in the Football Blogger here http://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/about/how-to-vote-football-blogging-awards/