Rule # 1 of any self-respecting journalism course should be: if you’re going to write something unpleasant about fans of Liverpool FC, then get it right! Liverpool footy fans take unjustified criticism very personally, and err, stop buying your newspaper, en masse. And, the rest of the city closes ranks and does the same. It’s not good for sales.
So, when writing your story about LFC fans, check your facts, steer well clear of stereotypes, and avoid unnecessary references to Heysel and Hillsborough. If you do mention them, then make sure you know the difference between the two. Once you’ve finished, take a break, then come back to it and check it all again. If it holds water, then publish! If not, then … don’t.
Rule # 2 is, if you break rule # 1, apologise quickly. Proclaim that the offending article does not reflect the proud traditions and views of your newspaper and announce an inquiry into how such a piece of abject drivel could ever have seen the light of day. If you prostrate yourself quickly enough, you might just get away with it.
Express.co.uk last week broke rule # 1 with a piece that appeared to criticise LFC fans for the violence outside Anfield and wondering why they attracted trouble like bees to honey. Oops.
However, when it came to rule # 2, they played a blinder; as the first grumblings started to be heard from the Mersey, the new management team leapt into action with a fulsome grovel; it disowned the article completely, apologised unconditionally, announced the suspension of the ‘freelance’ (that’s handy) journalist involved, and announced an immediate inquiry. Textbook.
There’s no sign of a ‘Shun the Express’ campaign to rival that waged so unrelentingly against The Sun. That paper, of course, broke both rules and has been paying the price for the last 29 years. Liverpool does not forget.