Clicking into Twitter this morning the first thing I saw was Jeremy Bowen riding to the defence of a BBC sports journalist, Sonja McLaughlan.
She's been in the eye of a Twitter storm following her post-match interview with England rugby captain Owen Farrell after England's shock 40-23 defeat to Wales yesterday.
Toxic, embarrassing, disgraceful, appalling. Just some of the feedback I’ve had.Thanks for using @ sign so it’s all hit home.Now imagine getting inundated with abuse for doing your job.In my car crying. Hope you’re happy.
I thought it was a good interview. Sonja McLaughlan asked the right questions, the ones on everyone’s minds. Sometimes sports interviewing is way too deferential. This wasn’t.
Many others rode to her support, though lots also continued to take issue with her interview.
Here's one of those taking issue in a constructive way:
- thedeadballarea: The Sonja McLaughlin incident: a thread (a Long one I'm afraid). So I've been giving a lot of thought to this (I’m analytical can’t help it), going to split it into two things: the abuse & the interview.
- I would hope we can all agree that abuse of anyone online is abhorrent. The fact people like Sonja, Gabby Logan, Maggie Alphonsi and the many others who do such a great job delivering content in the sport get such abuse online is terrible.
- It shouldn’t happen and @’ing anyone in to tell them what you think of them is pathetic. Nothing can justify it. Now that’s out of the way let’s actually talk about the post match interviews, and more importantly what we the viewers got out of them?
- We need to be able to criticise TV punditry/analysis/panels in a respectful and considerate manner. The many journalists and fans, rightly, rallying around in support have said it’s right to ask “The hard questions” and I think they are wrong (in that aspect).
- I don’t think these actually are the hard questions, pretty much everyone who has watched sport will understand they are the questions that can’t actually be answered. Owen Farrell or Jones criticise the ref they are potentially on disrepute.
- Anyone remember Brenden Venter and his "three cheers for Sireli Bobo" interview? Well as funny as it is, that was entirely because he was up on disrepute for criticising the ref when his team lost.
- So knowing that Farrell and Jones CAN’T answer those questions doesn't make them hard, it just places the player and coach in a position where they can’t answer questions and makes the whole thing awkward and ultimately worthless. A wasted interview.
- We the viewer got nothing out of that, the player looks difficult and we end up with an awful interview used as click bait by the BBC. He gets criticised for not answering and Sonja gets a ton of abuse for asking.
- They were asked of, Alun Wyn Jones, Owen Farrell, Pivac and Jones. So both the winning and losing side had the same questions asked four times, or at least four similar interviews all opened with a question that simply cannot be answered. What's the point?
- There were 101 other stories in that game. Of Owen Farrell we got two ref questions (and understandably) and a question on Penalties. All valid only one could be answered openly and honestly.
- What about, England’s performance? Heading in the right direction (there attack was excellent yesterday)? What do the team do to get back to Number 1? What was going wrong out there? What was better? What do they do now? What will next week look like? Who knows?
- All, I think are questions the average viewer would have enjoyed and benefited from, they aren't super fan, analytical questions.
- Similarly when Alun Wyn Jones who won the game was asked his thoughts on the Ref’s decision he answered and was then asked to justify why he didn’t say something to the ref in England's favour?
- This is the Welsh, winning captain being asked why he didn't stick up for a losing England after his side have just turned in the best performance in two years. Again there were 101 brilliant stories in that Welsh team and we got almost the same questions as England.
- That's simply not good enough imo (and it is just my opinion).
- It’s important to remember pitch side asks the questions but a whole team in the background say press that point or move on, so understand they are only doing their job and that’s why the abuse is absolutely uncalled for. We should criticise the BBC team not the individual.
- Ultimately, the BBC, and ITV, need to do better, they need to ask better questions. There was a golden opportunity to generate something informative, insightful and peek behind the eyes of a struggling team.
- Instead we’ve now got a 1:30 clip of Owen Farrell being asked the same question over and over, him reacting badly, Sonja McLaughlin getting a ton of abuse and nothing of worth, nothing to discuss about the game.
- But hey the BBC social media account is up in clicks, the interview is the main point of discussion for many people and there is a huge fire to fight. Sonja, and other TV pundits deserve better protection, both online and from their employers putting them in those positions.
- We, the viewer, deserve a better product. That may not sit well with many journos but there is a lot of outrage because people are unhappy about it. Regardless of how they aired that view, respectfully or wrongly, read the room. Perhaps they weren’t the greatest questions.
- You can both be disgusted with the abuse someone like Sonja has received and still think yesterday wasn’t a great example of a post match. For me Sonja is an excellent journalist, I just didn't think yesterday was the right tone and questions. C'est la vie.
- Fans need to be able to criticise and say what they want the BBC need to look at what they produce and ask does it actually add anything to the game because outside of the broadcast what does it actually contribute?
Update: The BBC website has published a report about support for Sonja McLaughlan from the BBC and others. It's a 100%, back-her-to-the-hilt, wagon-circling piece - essential a glorified press release - that provides readers new to the story with very little context.
Further Update: As often, that modern Montaigne, Bruce Lawson, puts it well:
It’s not fair that Sonja received all that abuse, but before condemning it out of hand, the BBC, her employer, might want to have a look at themselves. What an earth were they doing furnishing her with a series of idiotic and provocative questions?