THE reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
That pearl of wisdom belongs to the proverbs of Japan. It can now surely be extended to the New Zealand media, which with the stroke of few keys and the placement of a by-line has angered the Irish community due to a piece of sweeping generalisations, few confirmed facts and questionable journalism integrity.
Christchurch-based newspaper, The Press, with a 151-year-old history printed a story, which reinforced the stereotype of the Irish drunk, causing trouble and upsetting people in the process.
The publication of the Fairfax group and sister brand Stuff.co.nz, went to print with a piece suggesting that the Irish were the sole cause of drunk and disorderly behaviour at the second test between Ireland and New Zealand in Christchurch.
But they are not alone, 3news.co.nz, lead a similar story but without pointing fingers at either supporters, unless you look at the picture related to the story, which is an out focus shot of Irish fans being smiley and happy. This is taken from an accompanying video.
E.B White wrote, ““I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.”
Is there perhaps an argument that bias exists in all media?
This piece is bias, an argument and a defence of a seemingly faceless attack on my fellow country people.
What has been proved by online reaction to the Press inbox and the Irish People in New Zealand Facebook forum, is that the Irish will not accept generalisations and/or attacks on their nature, when they are in town to enjoy a sporting occasion.
Maybe that was the point, maybe the newspaper/journalist just wanted to provoke a reaction and generate hits to the website. To say the Irish partied in good spirits may have 60 likes and ten comments but inflaming an argument about the Irish stereotype equals 150 to 200 plus like on the Irish People in New Zealand Facebook page and at last count 55 comments on one forum topic.
The Irish, the world over are often praised for their fun loving nature, helping the local economies through their parting of hard earned cash. Only this week in Poland, a leaving party in Poznan was organised to celebrate the Irish fans contribution to the Euro 2012.
What is clear is that a debate about the behaviour of fans, anti-social or not, the unjust reporting and wrongful accusations against the Irish fans without an exact break down of figures is set to become a debate between Irish v New Zealand drinking cultures.
We are Irish, we do like a drink but most of all, we love the sporting occasion.
When Dan Carter composed himself for his three first half penalties, there was utter silence in AMI Stadium, on the other hand, as Sexton lined up his kicks, he was booed and hissed by a partisan crowd.
The scene was set for what was to come, when the new Irish reporter of the Press, once again, resorted to the lazy cliché of drinking Guinness to recover from spending time with the Irish community, while also questionably quoting a Ms Walsh, who said Irish like to drink and take the piss out of each other.
The whole argument about what has been said and what hasn’t, simply comes down to a sub-editing exercise learned in the fourth class of any year one journalism semester in University/College.
It is a topic for the sub-editors guide, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. The book based on a joke about bad punctuation is based on the description of a Panda in the dictionary.
‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’
So in our case, where do the quotation marks belong?
On the face of what Scott Banfield, head of Christchurch’s team policing unit, said in the Press piece, is an unprovoked opinion of the Irish community.
In reality and in a break down it appears to be the tired words of a police officer at the end of his shift.
He doesn’t say that most of the troublemakers were Irish supporters, he is not quoted as actually saying that.
The line by the journalist says it, but he doesn’t, the quotes officially start with ”demonstrated they can’t handle alcohol”, he said.
It is a fair point. People who are arrested cannot handle their alcohol and should not be allowed into a sporting venue for their safety.
He does remark and acknowledge in his quotes that there is a drinking culture issue in the New Zealand community, “which we are trying to sort out.”
It would appear the police officer is making a point about those who were arrested, there was a few Irish escorted from the pitch after the final whistle, that kind of behaviour is generally not acceptable.
There is also no suggestion from the rest of the quotes that the Irish were involved in the offensive language and bad behaviour.
His quotes state, “”There was pretty poor behaviour out there. It’s pretty sad when people say ‘look we’re out of here .. we’ve got kids and things and the language around here is terrible’.”
“It was disappointing. Overall [it was] a fantastic game, a real test, but to have people’s alcohol levels so high, it took a real shine off the game.”
No finger pointing at the Irish, just a down the line remark of what was encountered by stadium staff.
Again it goes back to quotation marks. What was said on a Dictaphone? What was scribbled down on a notepad?
There is a distinct differentiation between the numbers in the local media, with five arrests and a variance of 16 to 50 evicted. No break down of Irish/New Zealand supporters, and there has been suggestion but no confirmation that the streaker may have been New Zealand.
But that is without confirmation so the fence must be sat on.
Five arrested, 16/50 evicted with 28 turned away is quite a result for any sporting event in any country. There was a low arrest rate during the Rugby World Cup last year, but one would suspect five/six is below the average number.
This is all the hallmarks of a journalist, rushing to make deadline, complete with tinkering by a caffeine pumped sub-editor or the piece was put on line without any editing.
This spot of reporting falls under the category of safe copy that is found in the file with underage drinking following exam time, the rise and/or fall of teen pregnancies or the feature on early sexualisation of children when it is back to school, then you have the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day and how the Irish love to have the craic.
In Los Angeles, on St. Patrick’s Day 2006, I stumbled out of Irish bar to be greeted by an American reporter with a video camera, who was staining his pants at the thought of getting me to speak on camera.
True to form, I ticked the boxes as the drunk Irish stereotype.
It is nearly safe to assume because the Irish like a drink, there is two courses of action to take, look to praise the Irish for being the best fans in the world or talk about how anti-social the Irish get with a few alcohol beverages in them.
The majority of the headlines Sunday in New Zealand highlighted the brave, the fighting Irish, Dan Carter kicking the pot of gold – all the available tedious clichés.
It all goes back to stereotype. The English are drunken hooligans spoiling for a fight when they go to football tournaments, Americans are loud mouthed ignorant people with little to offer, Asians are quiet, nerdy number crunchers itching to take over the world and finally Muslims are plotting to blow up the world in a war on the west.
Some call it the “Daily Mail” school of writing but in truth it is all meant to be a safe page filler and close relative of what written the gossip magazines week in, week out reporting of Kate Middleton being pregnant, not pregnant and pregnant again.
One of the reasons that The Daily Mail website is very successful is that they’re very efficient. They get stories out quickly, and they get stories out often. It’s an excellent business plan that allows them to rack up hits like they’re going out of fashion. And indeed, what could be more efficient than simply copying and pasting a story from a rival newspaper!?
The following appeared on The Daily Mirror’s site late on Saturday evening, and in their paper on Sunday, written by Simon Bird: ’Everton are trailing Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic – and could land him for a bargain £7million.
The Croatia hitman, one of the stars of Euro 2012 so far with his three goals in two games, could be paired with team mate Nikica Jelavic at Goodison Park. ’Mandzukic is on the radar of other Premier League sides too, because he is available at a “fair” price from his German club, Wolfsburg. The 26-year-old was signed by Wolfsburg’s then-coach Steve McClaren – a friend of Everton boss David Moyes’ No2 Steve Round – for £6million and has two years left on his contract.
And here’s what appeared on The Mail site at 17.46 on Sunday: ’Everton are trailing Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic – and could land him for a bargain £7million. The Croatia hitman, one of the stars of Euro 2012 so far with his three goals in two games, could be paired with team mate Nikica Jelavic at Goodison Park. ’Mandzukic is on the radar of other Premier League sides too, because he is available at a ‘fair’ price from his German club, Wolfsburg. The 26-year-old was signed by Wolfsburg’s then-coach Steve McClaren – a friend of Everton boss David Moyes’ No2 Steve Round – for £6million and has two years left on his contract.’
I am guilty of pressing Ctrl+V on that example from the football365.com website but it helps highlight how journalism has mutated from an art of quality and deadlines to quantity over quality in the face of evolving technology.
Back to the Irish and New Zealand controversy, as expected, TV3 went for the battle between drinking cultures.
A vox pop carrying a few Irish saying they like a few drinks is coupled with a publican saying that Irish can handle their drink better New Zealanders.
The statement is countered with a professor saying, but not appearing on screen, New Zealand needs to look at its own drinking culture. Again this expected, down the line reporting.
It was never about Ireland versus New Zealand drinking contest.
Still no actual quoting from the horse’s mouth/police officer, just words from a reporter, except the figures have changed from five arrested, 16 evicted to over 51 arrested or evicted according to three.co.nz and that 90% of those evicted/arrested were Irish.
Still no solid figures but a definite portioning of the blame, so TV3 have produced a space filler piece that was expected.
New Zealanders will go back to their dinner, saying the Irish are making a fuss about nothing, what is the problem?
It appears the art of genuine digging for stories appears consigned to the ages in turn for space fillers.