The start of the new season has certainly been a positive one for Brentford after the opening day demolition of Rotherham United, however, you’ll probably only be able to read about it online, following the demise of our once flourishing local news outlets. Experienced Sports Journalist, and Beesotted regular, Jim Levack, shares his thoughts on the demise of the local press.
It might have been an emphatic start to the season on the field, but yesterday marked a very dark day in the history of Brentford Football Club off it. For the first time in the club’s professional league existence there was no local media representation at the game.
It’s a damning indictment of the lack of investment in local and regional media, but also a tragedy for the club and its fans at a time when the side’s potential has never been greater.
Sure, we now have Beesotted (you can read our match report here) and Westlondonsport.com but the likes of the Ealing Gazette, Hounslow Chronicle and Richmond and Twickenham Times now no longer bother sending reporters to Griffin Park.
Fair enough, the need to fill column inches in print probably isn’t as great these days with online presence far more important, but to not send a reporter to the game is a disgrace.
Trinity Mirror, owners of the Chronicle for which I was proud to work for almost two decades, have pulled the plug on anything worthwhile journalistically… and it breaks my heart.
Their sole contribution to covering the Rotherham curtain raiser was a live twitter stream which they presumably took from the excellent ifollow coverage. If supporters unable to make the game want that, the club and Beesotted do it already.
The company, now well advanced down the insulting and loyalty losing clickbait route, are far from the only guilty party though as cost cutting and clickbait copy take precedence. And I’m sure – in fact I know – their journalists are as frustrated as I am by the cuts.
Bottom line is that if you want news about Brentford you can trust these days, the local media – and I don’t include the Standard in that – is not the place to go.
It’s all a far cry from the days of George Sands, the Chronicle’s sports editor from the 40’s to the 70sn who attending a total of 1,126 uninterrupted Bees games between December 1953 and May 1976.
He missed just one Brentford match in all his time with the paper when he was in hospital over Christmas in 1953.
Back in the bad old Noades and Webb days, I worked very closely with Beesotted’s Dave Lane to hold the pair of them to account.
The allegations the Chronicle made were brave and on one occasion led to me and people close to me being threatened by the former Palace man. We knew we were printing the truth and so did he. And he didn’t like it one bit.
The Chronicle’s then sports editor Ron Lewis trusted my judgement and my sources, which were impeccable and came – sometimes – from people within the club furious at the way it was being run.
It was a scary time too, being summoned to a meeting with Webb at a hotel near Heathrow to reveal my source and having Noades issuing legal threats at me down the phone. But I held firm because this was my club.
Fast forward more years than I care to count and we are incredibly fortunate to have an owner that has nothing but good intentions for our club.
But we don’t now have a local media presence to analyse, question and go into depth about anything with the passion that we once did, and that is very sad.
I’m a great believer in accountability and genuinely feel that had there been a strong local media presence in Kensington, the views of the families living in Grenfell Tower whose pleas for help fell on deaf ears would have been picked up and taken higher.
Football clearly isn’t as important as life and death despite what Shankly once said, but it’s a terrible shame that the once vital local reporter no longer exists at Griffin Park.
We are lucky that a decent number of the national media or agency staff who come along week in, week out have a soft spot for the club and do a great, professional job.
But there’s just no substitute for that ‘under the skin’ passion and knowledge that a local reporter like George Sands can have.
The best we can hope for is that Brentford reach the Premier League. Then I’m sure the local media will be all over us again.
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