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The Scottish Media & Dodgy Sports Sources

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When I read the Ryan Giggs rumour on Twitter the other night, my immediate reaction was to scoff. Ten minutes later, after tracking it to the source, I was able to dismiss it as totally groundless, the kind of thing that gives internet journalists a bad name.

I wrote an article saying just that, and posted it immediately.

Yesterday morning, I posted another piece, elaborating on the way in which leapt onto the bandwagon, to retweet the “story”, giving it another cycle of publicity, and managing at the same time to cast a shadow over Ronny Deila that he absolutely did not need, and that Celtic did not need, in the run up to last night’s game.

One of the replies I got on that article confirmed, in spades, what I had found out the night before, and it was also highly interesting in its own right, and I thought it was the sort of thing that this website should be sharing, properly, with the Celtic fans and with the wider world of Scottish football, just so everyone can see who, and what, our league sponsor and some of our mainstream media outlets were helping to publicise.

The reply – and thanks to Gussy for this – directed me to a guy called Darragh Murphy and a website called sportsJoe.ie, which is one of those sites that publishes 100 stories an hour and basically tries to rack up the hits.

I have no problem at all with those sites; we know what they are for, and what it is that they do, and every now and again they, like the Bampots, break Real News.

I wasn’t slating these guys in my article the other night; I know the difference between the trolls (who make stuff up) and these folk. These guys are proper writers, who work damned hard.

I want to congratulate Darragh for his article. It was Real News, a proper story with actual bite. It’s available to check out at the bottom of this piece, and I make no bones about basing this article on it, and giving the credit where it is definitely due.

It was an expose on an individual called “Simon Rowntree”, and the “news site” he “works for.” As the article points out, this “news site” appears to have a number of other “writers” on the team, and they all tweet and retweet each other’s work.

Which is where the other night comes in.

The Giggs “rumour” originated with a “freelance journalist” calling himself Jorge Hernandez. Less than 24 hours after he “published it” his account has been taken offline, formally suspended by Twitter. Such is the nature of the kind of people, and the story, the Scottish media devoted a full day’s discussion to yesterday.

And it gets worse for them.

Twitter suspends accounts for one of three reasons; the first is because its tech has reason to believe the security of said account has been breached. That’s not the case here. The second reason is for abusive behaviour. As we’ll see shortly, many of “Simon Rowntree’s” own posts fall into that category, and so do those of his “colleagues.” “His own” account has been suspended innumerate times, only to be resurrected again shortly thereafter.

The third reason is spam, or because they believe the account itself is fictitious.

I suspect, based on what Darragh wrote, that the suspension of the Hernandez account is because he’s not a real person at all, but a wholly fictional character either created by the “Simon Rowntree” persona or one of his cadre of similarly minded trolls.

So what happened to give the absolute unknown, and probably non-existent, Hernandez the boost he needed to jump into the big time?

His “report” was clearly utter guff, after all.

Three things, actually, and it’s the first of them that is going to haunt some people and is quite possibly the reason a lot of them are hopelessly scrambling today, in the hope that this will all be forgotten about quickly. Good luck with that.

Because what launched this into hyper-drive was a tweet, supporting the story, from none other than “Simon Rowntree” himself.

That tweet, like much else in this shabby affair, has vanished from the ether, but I saw it the other night and based my whole article on it.

A lot of people are scrambling to cover their arses here.

From Hernandez to Rowntree, and then BetFair then ran with the “story.”

And at that point, paying no heed at all to where it had originated, jumped into the mix. Since then, the “story” has gone viral on the BBC and other mainstream sites, none of whom appear, at first glance, to know what its origin is.

Except, I think some of them must.

All it took for me was a little digging when the “story” broke, to know what the substance of it was. Darragh’s article, which I’d have found with five minutes additional digging on the night – because it was written months ago – would have given everyone the measure of the Giggs story’s authors and origins, and saved them a lot of embarrassment.

None of this is rocket science.

I knew early on night that one of the points of origin for the story came from “Simon Rowntree” and one look at his Twitter feed and some of what’s on there – such as this gem about Andy Murray; “Murray: “I just wish he [Djokovic] would just catch AIDS and f@@@ off from this world.” – was the reason for my own piece, posted just after it “broke.”

That one comment ought to have been enough for any serious writer or news outlet to have rejected this story outright, but “Simon Rowntree” has a history of far worse comments than that, and it’s probably those which have scared people stupid in the last 24 hours because they were already in the public domain – and not just put there by Darragh – and they were just begging to have a big white light shone onto them as a consequence of these events.

It’s a journalist’s job to run a story only after his sources have been checked out.

Who was checking out the origin story of this particular “rumour”?

Nobody in the straight press, it appears, but plenty of busy folk online.

This is the third piece I’ve written slamming that story since it was published, yet as late as five o’clock last night the BBC was polling on whether or not Celtic fans believed it, and whether or not they wanted Ryan Giggs as boss.

The Scotsman still has the “story” making news on their “rumours” page today; with the caveat that it is definitely not going to happen.

As if we needed telling that.

Not a single person at the BBC – one of many news organisations that initially leant no weight whatsoever to the sterling research being done by the Internet Bampots on goings on at Ibrox – thought to wonder if this looked remotely credible.

They leapt aboard with unrestrained pleasure.

And so too, of course, did our league sponsors and their Scottish PR arm Level 5.

Did any of their social media genius’s fact-check this, or try to trace it to the source?

The best you could say here would be no, that they were lax, that they were lazy, that they saw a shot and took it, regardless of where it came from.

Because, of course, no-one would run such nonsense if they knew it had been put into the public domain by a guy with a history of inflammatory, and libellous, comments, right?

And irony of ironies, I think they’d be especially cheesed off to discover they were promoting a guy who frequently posts glowing messages where he comes out as a keen supporter of the IRA and who uses the H word with reckless abandon …. and all the while with his history of promoting a tweet accussing Ireland fans of holding up banners supporting ISIS.

Oh yes. Jack of all trades, this guy.

A troll who gets his jollies abusing everyone, and who’s peculiar “affinity” with Celtic (oh yes, he allegedly loves us) has made him a minor celebrity on some of the sites.

I kid you not. They love this guy, as their perfect example of the “bigoted pro-IRA Celtic fan”, clearly believing every word.

He’s not exactly a stranger to Scottish audiences … it really is difficult to believe our media outlets didn’t twig this …

Yet, Scottish fame aside, “Rowntree” is particularly notorious amongst English football fans, because on 4 November last year, he crossed a very big line when he tweeted, in the aftermath of Bayern Munich’s thumping victory over Arsenal “FULL TIME AT THE ALLIANZ. #FCB 5 – 1 #AFC. Just like their rivals Spurs, Arsenal have now experienced what it’s like to be gassed by Germans.”

That led to the suspension of his Twitter account, which was soon back up and running.

And this is where I find this thing really gets fascinating.

Amongst the many “stories” he ran afterwards was one that appeared on 1 September last year, linking Manchester United’s James Wilson with a move to Celtic – a tale The Scotsman was running by 7 October, and which the Daily Record was floating by the 15th.

It appears to have had no substance to it at all.

Then, on 8 November, “Rowntree” was at it again, this time suggesting that Moyes was on his way to Celtic after being by Real Sociedad.

As coincidence would have it a similar story appeared in The Daily Record just two days later, under the headline “ Moyes Favourite To Be Next Celtic Boss After Real Sociedad Axe.” The upshot was that “bookies” had installed Moyes as the favourite for the job, a job that, of course, was, and is, still being done by Ronny Deila.

There appeared to be no earthly origin for this story other than “internet rumours.”

The Record story led to another round of social media speculation, and all the while the name of the “bookies” in question was never actually mentioned in any of the pieces.

I wonder who it could have been eah?

Just last night, in the aftermath of the Aberdeen game, “Simon Rowntree” was once again linking Moyes to the job at Celtic Park, under the banner of “Breaking News.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

I think I can now trace the inspiration behind at least three “mainstream media stories” of the last 6 months to “Simon Rowntree” and his fake news company.

And this was after only digging into his own Twitter feed; I learned last night that the Javier Hernandez to Celtic story, which so consumed our media for a while back there, originated with his “namesake”, the guy who tweeted about Giggs.

It really makes you wonder how many other stories that have appeared in our “mainstream press” over the last couple of years have originated with these people, or those like them.

This one was particularly juicy and potentially embarrassing to Celtic – and some at LadbrokesSPFL must be cringing after running with this crap on the same day their own organisation had given Deila the Manager Of The Month award for January – and so they jumped on it without even bothering to wait a couple of days until the trail had gone at least partially cold.

But that wee bubble has been well and truly burst by this affair.

Aside from helping to cast a very welcome light on the relationship between The Daily Record, Ladbrokes, and Level 5 PR, this has also shone a light into other media practices in Scotland.

Those of us who’ve long wondered where the media gets some of this crap now have several interesting reference points for our own “fact checking” endeavours.

It’s going to be a lot of fun tracing much of the garbage we read in our press back to those who’ve put it out there, and drawing the connecting lines between these libellous yahoos trolling for hits and lazy hacks who simply don’t care where their next “story” comes from.

To read Darragh Murphy’s story on “Simon Rowntree” click here.

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