A trawl through the archives of his local newspaper in Derby has convinced ANTON RIPPON that football clubs have long had a problem with journalists “nosing around”
There’s a fine line to be trodden by reporters on local newspapers with a brief to cover a particular club.
On the one hand, they have to be fair, balanced and, most of all, objective. On the other, they have to remain at least on speaking terms with owners, management and players. It can be a tight rope act.
In recent months, several clubs have fallen out with their local newspapers. Newcastle United, Southampton, Port Vale, Crawley Town and Nottingham Forest have all taken umbrage over something or other. Reporters have been banned and photographers have been shut out, all of which generally proves to be a shortsighted response from prima donna managers and directors.
Of course, in Forest’s case there was the added dimension of Billy Davies, a man who, you always felt, could start an argument in an empty room.
Sixteen miles down the A52 (“Brian Clough Way”, as the stretch between Nottingham and Derby is now called officially) in my own backyard, the relationship between the Derby Telegraph and Derby County has generally been a good one. Over the past 50 years, reporters like Wilf Shaw, George Edwards, Gerald Mortimer, and the incumbent Steve Nicholson have each managed to do their job properly without having the door slammed in their face.
But it wasn’t always so. One the most successful managers in the Rams’ history had a big falling out with the local press.
Back in March 1929, the Telegraph carried a front-page headline that read: “George Jobey attempts to muzzle the Press.” Sub-headings told a bleak story: “Annoyed with Derby papers”, and “Reporters told to ‘Get Out’”.
What had so irked the Rams manager? Well, it was all to do with Derby’s evening newspapers – there were two in those days: the Telegraph and the Express – publishing the transfer fee that Burnley had just paid for Harry Storer, the wing-half or inside-forward who would one day manage the Rams.
A week earlier, when Storer moved to Turf Moor, Derby County had issued a statement to say that the fee they had received was £3,000. But “an authoritative source” later told local reporters that the Rams had actually received £4,250, a figure just shy of the amount that Derby had paid Grimsby Town for Storer’s signature eight years earlier.
George Jobey was livid. Quite why the Rams’ boss took exception to the publication of the actual transfer fee for Storer, who had developed into an England player while at Derby, is open to debate.
But he summoned to his office at the Baseball Ground reporters from both newspapers. At the very least they were expecting learn of that weekend’s team selection. Instead Jobey tore a strip off both. According to the Telegraph’s man, the Derby County manager said that he would give out no further information to them.
“I asked for the team for the next match, but Mr Jobey said: ‘The Derby Daily Telegraph will not get it at all. You can go and tell your editor that the Telegraph will receive no further information from Derby County Football Club whatsoever. You have busied yourself with a matter that does not concern you and nosed out the transfer fee that is entirely a matter between club and club’.”
Jobey then turned to the Derby Daily Express reporter: “The same applies to you. You have nosed about until you got the transfer, and you have published it. You will receive no further information.”
Both journalists pointed out that the size of the fee for Storer had been obtained from an outside source and they had every right to publish it because it would be interest to supporters.
At that “Mr Jobey said: ‘Get out!’ and the door was slammed”.
Presumably peace was eventually restored because subsequent editions of either newspaper aren’t obviously short of news about Derby County.
But journalists “nosing” about? Apparently it’s not a new thing. Whatever next?
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