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Sports journalist scores own goal with Twitter let down

Too much hype can be a bad thing if you fail to deliver.

You will no doubt already be familiar with the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

In it, the title protagonist is a third century BC Greek shepherd boy with a 21st century attention span.

Sadly, born in a time long before iPods, Playstations and Kindles the only way he was able to amuse himself on cold nights was to shout that an imaginary wolf was attacking his flock and so summon all the villagers from their warm beds to chase it off.

So amused was the shepherd boy by this early attempt at trolling that he repeated it, each time winding up the locals more with his false alarms.


How Aesop may have communicated his fable in 2011

Inevitably, as we all know a hungry wolf did turn up shortly afterwards and the villagers ignored the boys pleas for help, refusing to fall for what they assumed was another trick.

The tale has been told many times to warn children of the dangers of telling fibs and seeking undue attention.

It would appear from a modern interpretation of the story that the Guardian Sports Desk could urgently do with a copy of Aesop’s Fables (available for as little as £3.99 on Amazon).

At around 15:30 yesterday afternoon, respected Sports Editor of the Guardian Newsdesk Ian Prior tweeted that there would be a

Two hours was more than enough time for football messageboards to go into overdrive as fans hypothesised as to what the scoop could be.

Perhaps an announcement on the Olympic Stadium? Was Ferguson going to retire and Mourinho replace him? Could another Arab billionaire buying out a major club? Would Barcelona finally get round to offering a record breaking fee for Lloyd Doyley?

Or maybe as the other half of Zeitgeist prayed, Roger Federer’s defeat in the Australian Open had been misreported and he’d actually beaten Novak Djokovic – into a pulp.

As the deadline drew closer, F5 buttons were being smashed around the world and the Guardian homepage finally refreshed with the scoop.

It turns out that Inter Milan might make a bid for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. For £40m. In the summer. No sources at either club quoted.

There didn’t need to be. Within minutes both clubs had denied the story.

A scoop. But not anywhere near as major as people were hoping.

The let down and collective fury at such a mundane story getting such a build up lead to a mass venting against Prior and many rivals taking the opportunity to put the boot in.

The Daily Mirror back page references Prior’s imfamous tweet

Theories began circulating that Prior may have sacrificed himself in order to then compose an article on the power of social media or that the whole exercise was a critique of the hyperbole that surrounds football, particularly during the transfer windows,  but it seems unlikely that a Sports Editor would embarass himself for such reasons.

To his credit, Prior has taken the stick with good grace admitting that he was

retweeting a campaign to get people to stop following him

before accepting defeat

and announcing the end to a long day with

Indeed his positive attitude and willingness to take it on the chin has helped deflate much of the ire and avoided prolonging the situation. Prior isn’t the first person to mess up on Twitter, he can add his name to an ever-growing list that contains the likes of Habitat, Stephanie Rice and Courtney Love.

Though his faux pas was not as bad as the others mentioned, the lesson however is clear. Social media is a powerful medium to reach people with an interest in what you have to say.

But let them down and they’ll leave you to the wolves just like a bunch of tired Greek villagers.

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