Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Journos mere relayers as Twitter drivel takes over

Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters and Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters and Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Konrad Hurrell versus Sonny Bill Williams turned into a fizzer, like all of SBW's boxing extravaganzas.

But the dust had hardly settled on the fight that never was, than it was resurrected on Twitter via a language only partly familiar to those of us old enough to remember black and white telly.

"I respect that toks. My bad I was in the wrong," announced the current New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion.

Warriors hulk Hurrell, meanwhile, called all "Tweeps". Manu Vatuvei, who didn't play in the Eden Park NRL match between the Roosters and Warriors, also weighed in.

"Goodluck on yah nek game."

This was faithfully reported by the traditional media minus the old (sic) to denote original errors. Tweeting is now so commonly reported that to do that any more would lead to papers and websites with sic all over them, so to speak.

I can, to be fair, still understand most of this Twitter lingo, although if pushed I would have picked a Tweep as being a short furry thing from the The Hobbit. Having looked up Tweep on the net, I find it means a rookie Twitter user with a low number of tweets, although in tweet-land low is a very subjective word.

Twitter has changed many things in short order, including the public's access - perceived or real - to sports stars.

This is not to be scoffed at, even by those of us in the media game who have spent years begging unsuccessfully for the phone numbers of All Blacks, and asking for a bit more than five minutes to do interviews.

Blokes who didn't have time or were too shy (ie, they hated or distrusted the media) are now all over the net, detailing the minutiae of their lives, to the point that we are getting very close to bowel movement updates. For many fans, this is nirvana.

The mainstream media's faithful reporting of tweets violates what used to be fairly basic journalism principles, of course, but nobody seems to care.

For one, there is no secure evidence that the person quoted did actually write those words. It might be a hacker. It might be a manager. It might be a mate. Often they are ramblings rather than genuinely held opinions.

Second, the statements are largely reprinted unchallenged and unquestioned, not that this is anything new in sports reporting.

The answers might be bad enough, but what do you expect when the questions are fully loaded.

"Well, Dave, you must be disappointed to be 40 points down at a halftime, but you must be awfully proud of how your boys won those two lineouts."

Back to Tweeps-ville. Twitter-reliance encourages media laziness and is just another step towards abandoning any genuine direct contact between journalist and player, something that used to yield important contacts and allow slow and subtle forms of intelligence-gathering.

The under-resourced media is in a savage ratings game these days, one that apparently rates as a desperate fight for survival. Twitter's high-profile, controversial content can't be ignored. The mainstream media has been turned into something of a relay station.

In a nutshell, the loonies are over-running the asylum, having discovered they can control the delivery of their own sound bites. We are only at the gates of this revolution.

Who knows? Twitter and its siblings might actually become the mainstream in the not too distant future. The big stars learned long ago that they have a right to remain silent, that they can spout platitudes, that they don't really need the traditional media (although almighty television is usually irresistible).

This attitude extends all the way up to the Manchester United supremo Sir Alex Ferguson, who will even banish the mightiest of broadcasters for perceived slights and instead make pronouncements via his club's own channel.

Twitter et al mean the subjects are kings of this world, and they are taking to the new medium with relish.

Are we better off for that? It's a case of swings and roundabouts perhaps, to be a touch defeatist.

Or as I feel like saying: "Awg gobledy nek lol bro fibbly squat."

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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