ANTON RIPPON reports on the consequences of social media posts which have come back to haunt a football reporter
There were quite a few opinions that I expressed as a callow youth that don’t in any way reflect the person I am now. But if I had committed them to print, and then, years later, someone had unearthed them, they might well have disqualifed me from some of the roles in which I later prospered.
Thankfully, when I was prone to making indiscreet remarks in the four-ale bar, the internet was in the realms of science fiction and social media was a phrase that I had never encountered.
So I would never have fallen into the trap that has ensnared the Sunderland Echo’s Liam Kennedy, who has been removed from covering Sunderland after someone did some digging and discovered that not only was Kennedy a Newcastle United fan, he also held a deep contempt for the club he was now covering.
At least, that is what was inferred from a series of old social media posts that contained expletive-ridden references to Sunderland fans.
Kennedy recently joined the Echo from the Dundee Evening Telegraph, expressly to cover Sunderland.
Now he has had to issue a public apology after a number of the posts – now labelled “pathetic and infantile” by Kennedy himself – referred to “Mackems”, a nickname for people from Sunderland which is apparently regarded as derogatory by Wearside folk.
In a statement, Echo editor Joy Yates wrote: “We have received a large number of complaints about comments made by journalist Liam Kennedy before he was employed by the Sunderland Echo. We have taken these concerns from our readers very seriously.
“The Echo has a dedicated team of staff writing, gathering and overseeing sport content – Liam is one of these journalists. For a number of reasons, the decision has now been made that Liam will no longer be covering SAFC.
“We are always happy to take on board feedback from our readers. I hope we can bring this issue to a close and continue to provide unrivalled and award-winning coverage of the club that is as important to us as it is to our readers.
“The level of response on this issue from our readers highlights how important our coverage is to the fans and the city and for this we are appreciative and proud.”
In his apology, Kennedy said he was “ashamed” of the posts: “It embarrasses me to see my name against such abhorrent language online. The pathetic, infantile posts were penned before I was a professional journalist. I am a different person now. It was a long time ago.
“Not to make light of the situation, but they were seen as jokes among friends. The subject matter may have been derogatory, but it was not ever directed towards anyone in particular
“I was young, daft and trying to be clever. It turns out, putting things like that online was not so clever at all.
He added: “In the time since those social media messages I have started a family and have a beautiful fiancee and three amazing children.
“I took this job not only because it was a fantastic, rare opportunity to work at a brilliant title, and get my teeth into the coverage of a massive Premier League club, but also to make a better life for my family. To bring my kids closer to home.”
Kennedy denied that his love of Newcastle United had ever “clouded his judgment” and that he had been “100 per cent committed to providing Sunderland fans with the best possible coverage of their football club.”
Alas, it’s all too late now.
The moral of this sad story is obvious: Think before you post. One day, maybe years later, it might come back to bite you.
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