Reporting on Strauss and Pietersen

It’s interesting that so many people took yesterday’s post at face value. We’ll come clean: it is not our actual stance on the Pietersen issue. There are bits of it we might agree with to some extent, but for the most part it’s an extreme position we adopted in order to make an entirely different point.

It was intended as a parody of recent newspaper pieces covering the Strauss-Pietersen issue. We wrote it because we don’t like it when the boundary between news and opinion is blurred and because we don’t like it when the media as a whole seems to favour one particular version of events.

It was written as if we were a Little Englander. However, the twist is that in this parallel universe, Strauss is seen as the villain while Pietersen is portrayed as an England hero. The facts are the same, but they are presented differently.

Opinions

It’s wrong to say that every writer has an agenda, but they do all have opinions. We’re seeing a great deal more opinion than news regarding Pietersen and Strauss. That’s fine, but we don’t like it when opinions are sneaked in on the sly. There’s a certain amount of insidious rhetoric on display when it comes to this particular story.

The point we were making with yesterday’s post is that the same information can be presented in different ways. Clearly there are differences between the backgrounds of Pietersen and Strauss, but you could, if you wanted to, make an issue of Strauss’s place of birth – or Andy Flower’s for that matter.

Similarly, Strauss took a holiday in the middle of the season and in the middle of a crisis. This wasn’t a massive crime, particularly in light of what followed, but we can only imagine how the press would have reacted if Pietersen had done the same. Strauss took a break. Pietersen would have ‘controversially’ taken a break.

That use of ‘controversially’ is the kind of thing we’re talking about. Certain vocabulary can give rise to subtle, perhaps accidental, attempts to persuade the reader that one party is ‘right’ and the other is ‘wrong’.

Word use matters

In The Sunday People, Dave Kidd outlines how England’s “South Africa-born star” criticised James Taylor during the Lord’s Test. No real details are given, but this doesn’t stop Derek Pringle from saying that it “plumbs new depths of obnoxious behaviour” in The Telegraph. You read those two pieces and you can’t help but have a certain perception of what happened – but based on what?

We know many writers are paid primarily to provide opinion, but that’s not necessarily how people read their articles. Report on a new development and it comes across as being ‘news’. It is then possible to colour that news through the words you choose to use and the related events you choose to recount.

Who cares?

Clearly, there are far more serious media problems than how a feud between two cricketers is being presented. However, at the same time, the issues this raises and the methodology being used are common to other, more significant stories, so it pays to be aware of this kind of thing. You shouldn’t read ANYONE’S words and assume they are fair, balanced and well thought-out. After all, most writers and opinion-formers are complete idiots.

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25 Appeals

  1. Mmmm. I was with you until that last line, which seems unnecessarily spiteful and crude. Was that another “extreme opinion” in order to make a point?

    Another issue that this whole sorry saga has highlighted is ‘off the record leaks’ to the press. It’s become common knowledge among journalists exactly what Pietersen said to Taylor, but because they can’t attribute it all they can do is write around the subject. The same with the texts and the tweets and the dressing room tension. Hard facts have been replaced with anonymous speculation, It’s not going to end because grumpy players want the truth to come out while maintaining their professionalism and media persona, while the press – and the readers – feed on “exclusives” and scraps of gossip.

    • King Cricket

      August 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      That’s a very good point about the vagueness of these stories. Something may be true, but if you can’t back it up in some way, you shouldn’t write a story about it. It does no-one any good.

      Regarding the last line, you might be right. If anyone seconds that opinion, we’ll remove it.

      Someone somewhere once said that the final sentence is almost always redundant. It’s there where you try to sum up your point most forcefully and you’ve generally done that more subtly and satisfactorily by the previous sentence. Wise words.

    • King Cricket

      August 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      After much umming and ahhing, we’ve left the sentence but removed the swearing, because the word didn’t really add anything.

    • Seconded.

      You are making good points.

      Those points don’t benefit from a textual battering ram.

  2. *correction – that should be what he said ABOUT Taylor.

  3. This definitely counts as an opinion KC! And a remarkable critique of a serious problem at that!

    But I must say the Pieteren-Strauss post was funnier. And it is a sad day when when Kings are forced to issue clarifications, especially when they were abundantly clear to their loyal subjects at first proclamation. I am forced to reconsider the value of being a loyal subject.

  4. Is a predjudice a sub-type of the opinion?

  5. Prejudice would appear to be the maternal grand-uncle of the opinion. Distinguishable enough to seem unrelated to the opinion at first, but identifiable by the bad genes that have skipped a generation on closer inspection.

  6. May we please have the funny KC back tomorrow, your maj?

    I promise to return to quip mode myself.

    • Seconded. Now the season is almost over, let’s return to pictures of cats and cricket bats in unusual places. Or are you adopting this more serious tone for good?

    • When was the last time we saw a pet being conspicuously indifferent to cricket?

    • Perhaps we should form a breakaway website. A kind of rebel tour, a World Series for the web generation. It would consist purely of whimsical match reports, indifferent animals and ankylosing spondylitis jokes.

    • King Cricket

      August 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      We have cats for tomorrow. That’s a promise.

    • Indifferent cats or stuffed cats?

      (great post; your grace has been in top form all throughout your ‘coverage’ of this debacle)

    • It occurs to me now that stuffed cats would be rather indifferent to most anything. One would hope.

  7. I also like the fact that the Pringle column from which you quoted is based entirely on the premise that Strauss was to remain captain and play in a 4 day match for Middlesex this week, neither of which happened. How can we expect Pringle to “report” on the minutiae of what is going on with KP when he obviously has no fucking clue that the captain is about to resign his position? No matter where you side on the KP issue, the stuff in the press on this whole saga has been pretty disgraceful. Here’s the Pringle column by the way: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/9501026/Kevin-Pietersen-in-trouble-again-as-talks-with-England-captain-Andrew-Strauss-held-up.html

    • King Cricket

      August 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      The inclusion of James Taylor’s height’s a nice irrelevance. It better sets him up as the young innocent being bullied by the “diva”.

    • Ahhh, wow!!

      Could someone provide a version of the famous Jefferson/Taylor picture with the Jefferson head replaced with a “monster Pietersen” instead?

      As well as cats, not instead of.

      Pretty please?

    • A different Pete

      August 30, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Love the way Pringle says the two will be unable to meet because Strauss will be “practising at Lord’s with Middlesex before travelling to Worcester for Tuesday’s Championship match at New Road. Unless Pietersen is prepared to meet him there after a day’s play…”; if Pietersen can drag himself away from lying on the sofa, gobbing Toffos at the Union Jack and watching Loose Women. At least that was what I took away from it.

  8. Ged, your wish is Ceci’s command

    http://wp.me/pEv9Z-23e

  9. So where are these cats? #wewantcats

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