NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Gareth Bale of Spurs goes off injured during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on January 22 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
I assume, since you're here, you have a healthy interest in football coupled with some knowledge of the internet. You've therefore probably already heard about Ian Prior's Guardian 'exclusive' today, which was teased ninety minutes in advance and billed as a 'big transfer story', whipping Twitter into a frenzy and basically setting the footballing world abuzz. I was one of the many taken in - I presumed anything the Guardian would push this hard would actually be big news of some sort. A transfer of more than £20M that directly affects a Premier League team seemed like a reasonable thing to have expected given the ridiculous amount of hype the paper pumped into the story (my money was on Luis Suarez going to Liverpool, for the very little that's worth).
Instead, we got the hilariously anti-climactic 'exclusive' that Inter Milan are planning on bidding £40M for Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale in the summer, which met my £20M criteria but completely failed to meet the rather more important assumption that it was actually news that was being reported rather than mere transfer speculation.
You see, Mr. Prior there's a big difference between the two things, no matter how well-sourced the rumour. If Gareth Bale has actually gone to Inter Milan, that's news. If he may or may not go in the summer, that's not news. News should be about things that have happened. There's a fundamental disconnect between reporting rumour and reporting actual, solid truth, and given the Guardian's prior reputation of being worthwhile, I find it very hard to blame the entire rest of the world for expecting there to be something more substantial at the end of this little drama.
I'm sure Mr. Prior did his homework, got solid sources, and believes his story to be an important one. But the way this was marketed meant that everyone was expecting more - and now he's sulking because of the massive backlash that resulted. This would have been perfectly acceptable, I think, had there been no big building up to the reveal (one that Prior was definitely complicit in, what with revealing two teasers well before the story was posted). The Guardian has written on Inter Milan's interest in Bale before, so this was hardly an angle that nobody had ever thought of, and at the end of the day it doesn't actually mean anything. Tottenham's response was kind of funny, though - how on earth can they issue a statement saying the story is false when it's supposed to be Inter bidding?
Anyway, by teasing the 'news', Mr. Prior and his paper - I'm refusing to link them because this whole thing was so stupid - managed to raise everyone's expectations well past the point the story deserved. I'd have no problem with what they did if there had been actual news - Fernando Torres moving to Manchester City? Well worth the buildup. Luis Suarez going to Liverpool? Again, news, and rather major news at that. Hell, even David Luiz being finalised would have been news, albeit not very exciting news. Instead, we got this credibility-shredding exclusive. I think we've all learned something today, and for me it's that Ian Prior is a terrible journalist (I already knew that Twitter over-reacts to everything).
I don't think that it was unreasonable to have expected more out of this, despite the inflationary effect of words flying wild on Twitter. We were told that this was a big deal, that only one guy had it, and basically that it would change our lives. It didn't even come close.
Rumours are ok, Mr. Prior. Just don't try to paint them as important.