Digital Transformation

Guardian writer and journalism professor Roy Greenslade accuses Scottish media of failing readers over Rangers coverage

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By The Drum Team | Staff Writer

August 23, 2013 | 5 min read

Professor of journalism and Guardian media blogger Roy Greenslade has accused the Scottish mainstream media of “turning a blind eye” to leaked material relating to the financial crisis at Rangers through the @CharlotteFakes Twitter account.

Revelations: 'Charlotte' has been revealing documents

Professor Greenslade said he believed there was a clear public interest in reporting the information, which appears to reveal the depth of the relationship and influence of PR company Media House on the Scottish press, and questioned the failure to go after the story.

Revelations: 'Charlotte' has been revealing documents

“If this involved any other big business which wasn’t football the press would be all over it asking questions,” he told The Drum.

“Even if they weren’t able to reveal the intimate details of the material, they’d have a formula for dealing with it – ‘Although we can’t reveal the content… the revelations are explosive… there are deep questions about what was going on at this company…’ and so on. Yet they’ve just turned a blind eye to it.”

Police confirmed last month that an investigation was underway into the Charlotte Fakes leaks but have revealed no further information into the progress of the investigation.

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The mysterious Twitter account has for months been releasing streams of correspondence between some of the main figures involved in the crisis at Rangers, including former owner Craig Whyte and founder of the club’s former PR agency Media House, Jack Irvine.

It’s unclear how the Charlotte Fakes material was obtained but the documents are widely considered genuine within the media community. Some of the documents have even been removed from hosting sites at the request of legal firm Levy & McRae.

In one of the emails, from Media House founder Jack Irvine to "Craig" - thought to be former Rangers owner Craig Whyte - Irvine apparently detailed his plans to take charge of the PR situation at Ibrox – and beyond.

“Equally the morons in the media need to know they are dealing with somebody who takes no shit from them and knows every one of their editors and their little secrets,” the email read.

Irvine has declined to comment on the leaks and the Scottish media has so far refused to give the information much attention. Media House recently lost the PR contract with Rangers and the club emphasised in a public statement last week that Irvine no longer spoke for the club.

Professor Greenslade said the media must be held to account and the information in the Charlotte Fakes documents pointed towards a serious problem with the influence of PR over the Scottish media during the course of the Rangers story.

“I think it’s in the public interest to reveal that PRs acting for a company were influencing what newspapers were saying and were influencing the debate about something that is in the public interest, namely the liquidation of a company.

“There is a public interest in the doings of the mainstream media. If we are holding power to account – and that is what we say we do – then we ought to hold ourselves to account as well, we need to be transparent. And these emails touch on whether journalists were doing their jobs impartially and therefore they are in the public interest.

“I’m not being overly critical of Jack Irvine because we know what he was doing, he was acting on behalf of the company that hired him, but it’s the tame acceptance of what Jack Irvine was giving to journalists that is more worrying.”

However, sportswriter at broadsheet title The Scotsman, Tom English, defended the Scottish media's reluctance to touch the material.

“Some of the documents have been very interesting, but I think accompanying that there has been a level of hysteria,” he said.

“As journalists we have to separate what is interesting and what is relevant. There has been stuff on Charlotte Fakes that has made me think but has not yet made me act.”

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