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Brentford’s Local Press Coverage Has Become Yesterday’s News

Brentford’s Local Press Coverage Has Become Yesterday’s News
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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.

Jim Levack
@jimblee1

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About The Author

Dave Lane

Beesotted Editor Since 1990

6 Comments

  1. Ken Luckett

    I may be wrong, I rarely am, but if my memory is correct, George Sands was reporting Brentford matches in the thirties.

    Reply
  2. Ken Luckett

    I am pretty sure that George Sands reported Brentford matches in the late Thirties. It may just be my memory.

    Reply
  3. Paul

    Such a shame. However, that’s what our world has become now. Online media platforms, twitter and Facebook for example, and online message forums, GPG etc. Most news is out by the time a local “rag” gets hold of anything worth publishing now. It just makes you wonder how the future researchers will cope!! Nothing like going down to a library and turning on the old micro fiche machine!!
    Here’s a piece on the late George Sands by MC
    http://www.brentfordfc.net/george-sands/
    Sports reporting shouldn’t be forgotten though, I hope it continues and someone takes up the mantle of reporting of Brentford FC again.

    Reply
  4. David Carney

    Sorry Jim, but the world really continues to change, even though it is clearly heartbreaking for you to see your chosen profession decimated by modern technology. Resisting the impact of the digital world is quite impossible. The only solution is to embrace it and it is for people such as you, who are immersed in media and media distribution because most of us have no idea which platform to use or how to effectively communicate on each platform.
    The reason why local media (and national print media) is in rapid decline is because the majority of people just do not read it anymore. Circulations have declined, advertising revenues have declined and the speed of delivering news is painfully slow and expensive compared to digital. Local print media is in mortal decline everywhere in the world and very soon it will not exist at all.
    So many young people just do not read a newspaper of any sort at all, so a local report on Brentford would not be read anyway.
    Brentford have a small supporter base – bought about by (at best) mediocre results since before I started supporting Brentford in 1954. The supporter base will only grow by firstly, continuing to play well and get to be a leading Premier League Team. Secondly the supporter base will increase by attracting young supporters. Older age supporters will not change because we have all endured many, many years of mediocre football, yet refused to even consider supporting another team, nor for that matter considered it was possible to accept we could follow QPR after the failed 1967 takeover fiasco. The only way is to attract new young supporters who will read and keep up to date with Brentford on digital media, because, quite simply, that is the information source of choice for them.
    I now live in Australia, I never lived anywhere near Brentford local media in the UK, but it did not diminish my support for nor the interest in finding news about Brentford.
    Once in the Premier League Brentford will play to a global audience, not just an English or even European audience and that will provide a truly large supporter base, together with all the benefits commercially that go along with that. Local Print media and national print media really is quite irrelevant to the audience and supporter base that Brentford will soon play to.
    I have no idea how the Manchester United and City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus of this world communicate with their world wide supporter base, but they do and most likely very effectively. That should be the focus for Brentford, Beesotted, you, the Nick Bruzons of this world and others because you all have a major role to play alongside Benham and all of his on field and off field staff in promoting, informing and creating awareness of the news in and around Brentford FC so that the Brentford supporter base continues to grow locally, nationally and Internationally.
    Benham and his team are getting it right on the pitch, but there is just as much work to do to embrace the digital world and get the word out about Brentford.
    Jim, you have done it before for Brentford and rather than bemoan the reality of the demise of local print media the greatest service you can provide to Brentford is to use all your vast experience and knowledge so that you can lead the Brentford Gospel that needs to be delivered on digital media to the Local, National and International audience and ever growing supporter base.

    Reply
    • Jim Levack

      David, You’re missing the point slightly. I’ve got no issue with the digital world and agree 100% that the print media is dying on its arse due to the fact that it can’t possibly compete with the immediacy of digital. The point of the article – and the biggest regret – was that no local media bothered to have a representative at the game, irrespective of which channel they chose to use. Print is dead yes, but digital isn’t so why would the Chron et al not bother sending a reporter with good knowledge of the club and a bond with the players and Dean Smith. Makes no sense at all.

      Reply
  5. jon b morris

    My Mum used to cut out the articles in the Chronicle in the early 90’s when I was at University, and would send me them every week, even when I spent 6 months on a placement in France they wold make their way over the Channel. Sadly The Chronicle hasn’t even entered my thoughts regarding Bees for at least 5 years.

    Reply

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