Mark Brophy

Home » Culture » Chronicle Capitulation to Wonga

Chronicle Capitulation to Wonga

A few weeks ago it came to light that the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle’s main local evening paper, had entered into a joint scheme with payday lenders Wonga to provide a £30,000 fund for local sports clubs to apply to for funding. Wonga are Newcastle United’s main sponsors and there’s been some discussion about the rights and wrongs of whether a company with their business model should be sponsoring the club. Even so, the Chronicle seemed to see no conflict of interest in entering such an arrangement with an organisation which was at the centre of controversy about sponsoring an institution so central to the city. That’s a controversy, not to put too fine a point on it, which the Chronicle should be informing and reporting upon to the citizens of Newcastle in a fair, balanced way. That involves examining the issues and providing their readers with the information necessary to understand what’s going on.

The suspicion quickly arose that the Chronicle’s editorial independence may have been compromised, and so it proved. The language used to describe Wonga in the Chronicle’s pages had subtly changed. No more ‘payday lender’, replaced by ‘digital finance company’ in all cases from a few days after the deal, certainly a less harsh description.

Further examination of recent stories provides evidence of the presence of a positive editorial line when printing stories about Wonga. View these two stories covering the same event, a meeting between Wonga PR chiefs, Newcastle United employees and fan representatives on Aug 19th. One is from the Chronicle, one from the Journal.

The Chronicle’s, despite having a picture showing a Citizens Advice Bureau representative and Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, doesn’t mention them or their contribution to the debate in any way. In 3 main sections, we are told firstly that fans are grateful to Wonga for turning up and secondly that the club are very happy to have Wonga as a sponsor. Finally, there are a series of quotes from the Wonga representatives explaining away their controversial image and concerns about their role as sponsor without ever mentioning what that controversy is about, or what the concerns are.

The Journal story is quite a contrast. From the off it has a completely different tone, while also covering the positive angle on the deal which is the only focus of the Chronicle story. We learn about a strongly-worded attack on the company by Chi Onwurah. There are quotes from Newcastle CAB’s Chief Executive expressing worry about the company’s presence in the city. There’s mention of a question from the floor about fan hostility. The reasons for misgivings about the sponsorship deal are explained clearly and at length, and a long list of prominent organisations who share those misgivings is provided, from the Church of England, MPs, Unite the union, Newcastle City Council, and the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The two stories provide a completely different spin on the same event. What is shocking is that the two papers they appear in are sisters, both owned by Trinity Mirror, the Journal being the morning counterpart to the Chronicle in the evening. Not only are the two papers in the same stable, the two stories were written by the same person, reporter Kate Proctor. The only explanation for the differing slant in the two stories is editorial instruction. Why would the Journal be immune from this? Who knows. It appears to be the case however.

In a piece printed in the Chronicle tonight as a reaction to the recent transfer window, the question is asked of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley how much do you pay the North East Press pack to write nice things about you?” The answer, in Wonga’s case, appears to be £30,000, the amount they provided for the Chronicle’s Wish Sport fund.

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36 Comments

  1. Rob Kirton says:

    Mark, fame at last. A link from nufc.com must have done you no harm! If I’d known that you had a blog and that the writing was this good, I’d have been here earlier. You’ve now picked up 1 more reader in terms of me, that’s for sure.

    Like

  2. Liam says:

    Strange that The Journal and The Chronicle have such a different tline on the CAB story. Considering it’s the same newsroom, same news editors, same reporters often, and owned by the same company.

    Like

  3. Chris Wilkinson says:

    Does anyone else think that the morning Journal piece was received with horror by Wonga and the club and instructions were given by the Editorial team for the writer to ‘dumb down’ the story for the Evening Chronicle afternoon and evening publication?

    Like

    • Rob Kirton says:

      Good point. The timing could be right and of couse it still fits in with the possible Chronicle agenda as originally outlined by Mark.

      Like

    • SWB says:

      No – although they have the same owner, the Chronicle isn’t the evening version of the Journal, they are different types of papers with different agenda’s/audience’s. The two papers quite often have different views on the same stories, with the Chronicle taking a more tabloid approach to the Journal’s more grown-up style

      Like

      • KCB says:

        Agreed. ‘The Evening Chronicle’ ceases to exist. There is now the single daily edition ‘The Chronicle’ which is printed in the early hours of the day and usually in the shops early in the AM.

        Like

    • paulos says:

      There is no such thing as “The Evening Chronicle” anymore. It’s now just named “The Chronicle” and it comes out in the morning not the evening.

      Like

  4. One thing is for sure if this was a Chronicle expose about someone else they’d be full of criticism for any company refusing to comment. This article is all over social media and they are saying nothing. That desire for “the truth” is suddenly not so strong.

    The Chronicle desperately needs to put out a statement on this.

    Like

  5. Davey Scott says:

    Alan Oliver was at one point getting paid by both NUFC (to submit a regular column for the official match program) and the Evening Chronicle.
    I contacted the editor at that time to suggest a very clear conflict of interest when under Shepherd / Hall some very serious questions went unasked into their running of the Club. The editor replied it was Mr Olivers own business. Seems little has changed at the EC.

    Like

  6. phil says:

    Easy answer — DONT BUY THEM !!

    Like

  7. John Preston says:

    You only have to look at the sports pages of The Chronicle to see how far that paper has moved from reflecting fans’ concerns to pedalling the same old “Toon Ace Aims For Top Ten Finish” rubbish. The period since the closure of the transfer window has seen no headlines mirroring the current concerns of supporters. Last night’s fish and chip paper?

    Like

  8. Alice Thompson says:

    The Chron is a dreadful old rag. Has been for some time, Some of the ‘journalism’ in the footie pages is, frankly, risible. The whole paper seems to aim at the lowest common denominator – cack celeb stories, anything featuring Denise Welch, really subtle footie stories along the lines of, “We’re going to hammer Team X, ” says Player Y and pieces on local ‘gangsters’ because someone or other clearly finds them cool.

    Like

  9. FJS says:

    Lee ryder has to be the most patronising condescending ncle reporter the E.C. has ever had and is a total embarrassment to a once great local paper which at one time reported it how it was, stopped buying it over a year ago

    Like

  10. wotever says:

    nothing has changed in 40 years and we still turn up and put up with this rubbish

    Like

  11. warjacqui says:

    you forgot about the obligatory daily disabled baby Alice…..

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  12. Ryder bound and gagged says:

    FJS – Ryder is not only an appalling journalist, he’s also a plagiarist and firmly in the pocket of NUFC. But, hey, you don’t bite the hand that feeds, except that if the Chron had a pair, and printed what is REALLY going on on Barrack Road, more people would pick it up…

    Like

  13. Dags says:

    Chronicle rapidly losing all credibility with regards to matters NUFC and by extension all news. Ashley doesn’t even bother talking to them and JFK can appear to have credibility when speaking about the local press having an agenda. Good article! Over to you Chronicle.

    Like

  14. Lee says:

    Great piece. The major reason why this is news though is because the press and even some Newcastle fans really do believe that Wonga’s business model “isn’t right for the club” yet if you look at all sponsors then depending upon your morals, lifestyle and opinion then no sponsor is ever right. Depending upon your OWN sensibilities:

    Newcastle Breweries and Greenhalls are either responsible for supplying the drink to give countless people a good night out OR supplied the drink which has caused alcoholism, death by drink driving & liver disease thereby ruining many families lives in the North East.

    NTL supplied cable and internet services and are either responsible for helping families by showing quality programs which they all would watch together and expanding the knowledge of people by giving them access to the internet, OR are directly responsible for not only creating a new generation of obese kids who are obsessed with the TV but also for creating porn-obsessed perverts.

    Northern Rock, is either responsible for allowing many people to save money for their future (and their kids future) and giving more people access to mortgages OR were a badly run, corrupt business who caused untold misery to thousands of people if they defaulted on their loans or mortgages, being directly responsible for people being thrown out of their houses and onto the streets. Ditto with Virgin Money.

    Wonga is either responsible for giving people short term loans to buy goods that they may not normally be able to afford, or to allow them to pay for an unexpected expense OR they cause untold misery to people who default on their loans because of the extortionate APR that Wonga charge.

    Wonga is the only one criticised – not a dissenting voice is heard for the others for the simple fact that everyone likes a drink, everyone watches TV/uses the internet and everyone uses a bank. Any questionable business practices or long term negative effects for the others are simply swept under the carpet.

    Funny that.

    Like

    • phil says:

      Spot on with details of sponsors — if you dont like wonga dont borrow from them !!
      That still leaves ryder and local crap wrags in the pocket of trashley

      Like

    • m says:

      Cosign. This argument is nowhere near made enough.

      Wonga is no worse any high-street bookie. And I don’t know how those crowing about the moral ills of Wonga reconcile their love of a Saturday-coupon with the knowledge that they are directly fuelling the increase in fixed-odds electronic roulette machines that are a far more visible, accessible, and toxic danger to people who are also susceptible to payday loans from companies such as Wonga. You can’t get addicted to payday loans, you can get addicted to gambling. But I guess that’s alright as long as you have somewhere close to put your goalrush on…

      Like

      • markbrophy says:

        The mystery man breaks cover!

        I don’t agree about the merits or otherwise of Wonga. As a payday lender they are probably the best of a bad bunch but that is what they are. The objection isn’t a religious one, on the principle of gambling or charging interest generally but on the high rates themselves and the ability for people in deep financial trouble to make things worse for themselves.

        I’ve heard it said that people should be allowed to make their own choices and suffer the consequences if they can’t make the payments, but do we really think people should just be cast to the wolves if they make poor life choices? It’s like saying heroin should be legalised because people can choose themselves whether to use it and it’s their own fault if that causes problems later on (not that I’m comparing Wonga to heroin….). I’m unhappy about the presence of these firms in their current form, not just as sponsors for nufc but in the market generally. Much stricter regulation and restrictions on their operation is required in my view.

        That said, this blog isn’t about Wonga at all really, as alluded to by Lee, so it doesn’t really matter whether we personally view them as bad or good. It’s about the failure of the main local paper to provide the information people need to make up their mind for themselves on the subject.

        Nice to hear from you anyway.

        Like

      • m says:

        Don’t get me wrong, Mark – I agree with most intelligent criticism of Wonga, include yourself in that ;), and I agree with pretty much all of your reply / contents of the piece. I was just thanking that dude for saying what he said because I have always thought the same and not once read it offered anywhere. I have however seen plenty of people raving about their betting, and their alcohol consumption like it’s not part of the same problem. Gambling being the worst of the lot. I’d offer it’s far more destructive than any payday loan company will ever be; blighting whole communities, and not just individuals or, by proxy, their families. Knew I should have put an F or a S instead of an M.

        Like

      • Lee says:

        Hi Mark – apologies, I can’t reply to your comment directly. I alluded to Wonga because in the context of your blog, it very much is about them – if you read my comment, I am basically saying that the majority of sponsors have positive and negative connotations associated with them if you look close enough and where a sponsor might be a godsend to some, they are a nightmare to others – that is the same with any business. The fact that this is completely overlooked is one of the reasons why pay day lenders are treat with disdain in the press, and the very reason why this blog entry exists because if that wasn’t the case the conflict of interest between the EC/Journal/Wonga wouldn’t be there.

        Like

      • markbrophy says:

        I do agree with your point that if there were no concerns about Wonga, no-one would care how their sponsorship and business was being reported upon. You’re right there, and I agree up to a point that we are talking about shades of grey not black or white. Even so, I deliberately made the post without reference to the specific objections to Wonga that some hold. The point was supposed to be that whether you think Wonga is a good or a bad thing, hopefully people would agree that the press providing both sides of the argument is something we would like to happen. If the Chronicle then want to make your argument in print and also come down on the side of Wonga, then let them print that editorial, that’s their choice and fair enough. There’s a place for informed opinion in newspapers obviously.

        Like

  15. Great article.
    – nufc.com reader.

    Like

  16. Rachel Riely's Cute Backside says:

    Almost all UK media is completely full of shite and controlled by precious few individuals.

    They have no problem telling you what to think. It keeps you in your place.

    They have been happily doing it for years – your whole life in fact.

    People are actually staring to notice? Good.

    Like

  17. Bob Moffitt says:

    Remember that the chronicle is owned by trinity mirror newspapers and Sports Direct put a lot of money their way advertising their everlasting sale so plenty of leverage there too

    Like

  18. ToonBano says:

    Hello sir. Ive had my own issues with the Chronicle in the recent past…even had a case go through the press complaints commission regarding the following:

    http://www.toonbano.com/2012/12/new-survey-shows-56-of-fans-feel.html

    http://www.toonbano.com/2012/12/final-result-update-shocking-massive-65.html

    Chronicle and Mr Ryder are joke to be perfectly honest. Nothing but pander to the club.

    Like

  19. Joe says:

    I think that it’s more important to have this sort of fund in place, regardless of prejudices against legitimate money lenders like Northern Rock, Virgin Money or Wonga.
    It’s a shame that as much attention isn’t attached to alcohol & betting businesess promoting themselves through football clubs. As inconvenient as the facts are, alcoholism & gambling are a far bigger problem than the current trend of low-income households seeking finance without considering T&C’s. I’ve worked in the counselling of all of the above (alcoholism, gambling, debt), and can tell you first-hand which is the more destructive, and also which is the easiest to escape from.

    Like

    • markbrophy says:

      The importance of the fund is covered in the original post on the subject, which I’ve linked to at the start of this post I think. Funding for grass-roots sport is very laudable and the Chronicle have obviously taken that view also.

      See my previous response to Lee about the post not really being about Wonga but about the press not covering a story properly.

      Like

      • Ande Walsh says:

        The Chronicle and The Journal have absolutely nothing to offer a well connected and thinking north east. Blogs like yours Mark are thankfully putting the tin pot hacks out of work, which is something I would ordinarily disapprove of. However when the Thompson House paparazzi present themselves as local journalists with supposed concerns for the region you have to look at the space they fill and the majority of stories do not have any authentic merit or source. Conjecture we can conjure ourselves. Glib portraits of footballers trying to keep the fans happy with platitudes for the gullible Thompson House seems to have a boundless supply of. The situation with Wonga and transparent reporting is microcosmic of the national newspapers and their in the pocket dealings with interested companies. The Leveson Inquiry is the tip of the iceberg of journalistic integrity and conflicts of interest. Knowing we can all get together talk online is showing the door to those lazy and corrupt within journalism, but it comes at the expense of quality prose not that Ryder ever does that, like.

        Like

  20. Mikey says:

    Mark …thanks for a very thoughtful article…In my eyes Wonga are a scourge on society…HWTL

    Like

  21. Bloody gobshite!

    *good article

    Like

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