You too can be a researcher for the Belfast Telegraph…

From Robert McNeill’s column in yesterday’s Tele:

Worse happened to another Manchester colleague, Darron Gibson, whose misspelling of his own first name was not a hopeful sign.

He had to delete his Twitter account after just two hours when it was inundated with allegations that he was not particularly good at his chosen profession and complaints that he’d chosen to play for the Republic rather then Northern Ireland. Many of these latter criticisms came from citizens with a strong intellectual interest in 17th century theological disputation.

Mr McNeill (who also seems to be under the impression that Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney play for a team called “Rovers”) is repeating an allegation made by his colleague Amanda Poole in Tuesday’s paper edition of the  “Northern Ireland’s Newspaper of the Year

 NORTHERN Ireland-born Manchester United player Darron Gibson has been subjected to a campaign of sectarian and personal abuse within minutes of joining the social networking site Twitter. The attacks forced him to close the account less than two hours after opening it. The chief executive of the Irish Football Association has now called for an end to sectarian abuse in football after the attacks on the footballer.

In 2007 the Derryman was at the centre of a dispute over his international football allegiance. His decision to play for the Republic of Ireland instead of Northern Ireland infuriated some fans. IFA chief Patrick Nelson told the Belfast Telegraph the abusive Twitter comments were “unacceptable”. “This is very disappointing. I do not condone any negative comments,” he said.

Curiously, the Telegraph has refused to either print or provide evidence of that “sectarian” abuse to the several people who have contacted the office. Bearing in mind that no other paper has seen fit to list abuse of the player which could in any way be construed as “sectarian”,  one must then wonder if the journalists (or, more probably, whoever dictated the editorial tone of the articles) had actually read the twitter feed in question. If they hadn’t (apart from being an example of diabolical journalism), then why did they automatically decide to label the abuse/banter as having  such a motive? Was it purely the old N.Irish MSM’s maxim:

“Sod the facts, Sectarianism is sexy and Sectarianism sells”? 

If they did read it, then which “Darron Gibson”  feed exactly were they reading?

Interestingly enough, Gibson’s colleague, (that’s his Utd, not “Rovers”, colleague for the benefit of Robert McNeill) Rio Ferdinand, gave this reason for Gibson doing an online runner:

 ‘Darron Gibson says he came on to see what the lads were up to… he came off because he couldn’t be bothered with it, not [for] any other reason.’.

The Telegraph, again curiously, has been quiet on that particularly relevant (you would have thought)  quotation. 

But, hey, bloggers can make “mistakes” too occasionally with the truth. So, bearing that in mind, I’m more than happy to help out both Ms Poole and Mr McNeill, by issuing this challenge to Slugger readers:

 If anyone can produce a message of a sectarian nature sent to Gibson in the period between the opening and closing of his twitter account on Monday, then I will forward them post-haste onto the Telegraph’s (assuming it exists) “Research”  Department, so that they can update their reports with what I believe is generally termed in the news-gathering business as “evidence”. 

Please Note: I know this is a Slugger Football post but it is not one asking for your thoughts on whether N.Irish fans are sectarian or, indeed, whether you think Darron Gibson should be thinking about a career change- quite frankly, this time, I couldn’t care less what your opinion is on either subject.

 No, it’s much more important than that- the Ulster institution that is the Belfast Telegraph is obviously badly struggling at the minute in the “fact” department, it is our duty as potential/present/never-again readers to help them out the best way we can.

 Get cracking.