Many thanks to “ToonBano” from the Toon blog www.toonbano.com for his third guest blog here – wt.
A couple of weeks ago, the Evening Chronicle asked fans to take part in what they called ‘The Big Toon Survey’ on how they felt about Newcastle United’s season thus far.
Many fans did as they saw it as a perfect opportunity to have their opinion heard and expressed. As the results of which were counted up and shown in a pie chart form of percentages, what followed the survey was not what they were expecting.
Chief Sports Writer of the Evening Chronicle, Lee Ryder, took it upon himself to write a follow up article regarding the survey’s findings and ran the story some of you may have already seen, ‘Alan Pardew backed by 95% of fans Chronicle Poll reveals‘. If you need reminding or are yet to see it then if can be found by following the link above.
Now as you read on from the highly suggestive headline you will see he goes on to write ‘And it has emerged that 95% of fans see Pardew as the man to lead Newcastle to the next level – with a tiny minority seeing the need for a change in management.’
If you were one of the fans who indeed took part in this survey, then you may have read this article opened mouthed, with a slightly puzzled grimace and an instinctive question burning on your mind of ‘nobody asked me whether I back Alan Pardew or not!’ Because as you may recall, whilst you were giving your answers to the various questions in the Big Toon Survey, that particular question was never asked at any stage. I should know, because I was one of them.
Now I for one, who filled in this survey with good faith and with the mentality that my voice and opinion about the club will at least be heard on some level, was a little bit shocked and taken aback about what this story was saying and suggesting. For a start nobody asked me whether I backed Alan Pardew at any stage during the survey and they certainly didn’t ask me whether I thought ‘he was the man to lead Newcastle to the next level’
The only question I or any of us were asked about Alan Pardew was ‘if I was happy with him’. There were 5 options to choose from for this, which were:
a) Very happy?
c) Content but wanting results to change?
e) Time for a change?
I then gave my answer like the rest of you who filled it out. Under no circumstances was I under the impression that my answer would be taken in any other way then to show if I was ‘happy with Alan Pardew’. That’s it. That was the question and I gave my answer.
So you can imagine my shock as when I read this story claiming that 95% of fans who entered the survey ‘back’ Alan Pardew, that I am ‘right behind Alan Pardew’ and I think he is ‘the man to take us to the next level’ when nothing can be further from the truth. But what I actually think about him isn’t even the issue. The issue is taking fans’ answers to a question about happiness and then spinning it into a story about ‘backing’, ‘getting right behind’ and ‘believing’ in what Alan Pardew is capable of doing. Nobody asked me that. Did they ask you?
So moving on from this I took the opportunity to invite some of the fans who entered this ‘Big Toon Survey’ to enter one more survey and answer a few questions of my own. They were very straight forward and were a direct representation of the ‘results’ found in the Chronicle’s article. They were not designed to simply ‘disprove’ the surveys results and to score points. All I asked of the fans was to give their honest opinion and I would show the results for exactly what they were with no spin story to follow. The way it should be.
Now I stress not every single person who entered the Chronicle’s survey then also filled out this survey of mine. For me to get every person back involved is just not possible. For a start many would not know what my agenda was, or even who I was. However, a minority took the time to take part in this survey which is a clear and honest representation of some fans’ views and can be taken just as seriously as if every Toon fan had their say again.
The survey can be found here The Big Toon Survey – Survey and was made up of 10 questions with Yes, No or Undefined answers. There was also the opportunity to expand on your answer if you so wished. One big criticism of the Big Toon Survey were that the questions were ‘loaded’ with possible answers and could be manipulated one way or another depending on your own personal view. This survey does no such thing. You can find all of the questions, results and expanded answers which make fascinating reading on my ‘sister’ blog site that first created this survey at ‘Benny In The Hole‘. I would like to thank all those that took the time to take part and here are the findings:
The answers from the survey showed that 56% of fans felt that their answers to the Chronicle’s survey were misrepresented. Just 31% felt that they weren’t and 13% have an undefined opinion either way. To have more than half of the fans feeling like they have been misrepresented is a staggering amount from such a trusted source as their local paper. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for how the Evening Chronicle carry out their practices or their reputation amongst fans.
When asked if the fans thought their opinion had been compromised by Lee Ryder’s article a massive 62% said ‘Yes’. 28% didn’t feel like it had and 10% had an undefined answer. For almost two thirds of the fans feeling like their opinion has been compromised by the Chief Sports Writer’s article says a huge amount about what they think about his sports reporting techniques. Most of the expansions of answers expressed say as much. Some accuse him of pandering to the club and manipulating the results to suit his own opinion. I will not go down that road personally but this view from others towards him doesn’t cry out as trusted journalism.
As the headline to the Chronicle’s article declared that 95% of fans back Alan Pardew, it seems only fair to ask them that very question. ‘Do you back Alan Pardew?’ was the fifth question in my survey and 54% of them declared ‘Yes’. Now I am confused. It was made aware to all of us that 95% of fans back Alan Pardew was it not? So why are only 54% saying that they do? Are they changing their minds? No they aren’t changing their minds, they’re simply expressing their opinion. At no stage were they asked whether they back Alan Pardew during the Big Toon Survey and if they were then around 54% would have answered ‘Yes’ if these minority of fans’ opinion is anything to go by. Its certainly more to go by then some loaded question about happiness. So if this doesn’t show the fans’ answers were manipulated and opinions were compromised I don’t know what will.
For a start, the term ‘backing’ Pardew can mean many things. Do you back his tactics? Do you back his philosophy? Do you back his line ups? If it is meant as a direct option of backing Pardew or sacking Pardew then that is a totally different question all on its own. Asking someone whether they ‘are happy with Alan Pardew’ and having one possible answer out of five being ‘time for a change’, then claiming that person ‘backs’ Alan Pardew off the back of it, is totally absurd. Basically a person who answered ‘Unhappy’ with Alan Pardew for that question has been placed in the ‘backing Alan Pardew’ column, directly competing against the ‘Time for a change’ column, as the source of justification for Lee Ryder’s article. It’s a fine example of outrageous manipulation at its best.
Arguably the most ridiculous content of Lee Ryder’s article was when he claimed it emerged that 95% of fans see Alan Pardew as the man to lead Newcastle to the next level. I didn’t know whether to laugh in disbelief or cry in anger at this ’emergence’. So basically I asked the fans very straight forwardly ‘Do you feel like Alan Pardew is the man to take Newcastle to the next level?’ 51% said No. That’s just over half that said categorically ‘No’ they don’t. With just 26% of people saying ‘Yes,’ this is way off Lee Ryder and The Chronicle’s claim. Which was only just above the 23% that have an undefined answer either way. I don’t know where this ’emergence’ as to how many fans think Pardew can lead Newcastle to the next level has come from because it’s certainly not in their survey. Pure fabrication that nobody can deny under any circumstances. Seeing as just a damning 10% of the fans agreed with Lee Ryders article conclusions in question 7 of my survey, I think that pretty much speaks for itself.
For the rest of the survey, 46% of fans said ‘No’ they didn’t wish they had never entered the survey in the first place, with 41% saying that ‘Yes’ they indeed wish they hadn’t. 49% of fans said ‘No’ they don’t want to have an apology from The Chronicle and Lee Ryder, with 38% saying that ‘Yes’ they would in fact like one. When asked if they will be entering The Chronicle’s next survey 41% said ‘Yes’ they will be, with 38% saying ‘No’ they will not. All in all the survey is pretty conclusive as to how the fans feel toward the Chronicle’s ‘Big Toon Survey’ and how the results were perceived. None of my questions’ possible answers were ‘loaded’ and at no point were the answers suggestive to one side or the other. Yes or No, it’s your choice, your opinion. If in doubt be ‘undefined’. If you wish to expand on your answer then do so. All of which is the way a survey should be.
I want this issue to be as fair and open as possible, so before I published this article I have been in touch with Lee Ryder asking him whether he would like to have his say on the matter. He pretty much declined the request and passed me onto other people. Even before my request we had already had an exchange which wasn’t anything special. The only thing he said to me with any meaning was that he read my stuff and respected my view (always nice to meet a fan at least), whilst defending his article by going off what he hears at away games and says there will be a new poll in the New Year. None of which refers back to this Chronicle survey or the issue at hand. But like I say, I gave him a chance and he chose not to take it.
I also got in touch with the person responsible for any queries with the survey at The Chronicle, which brought a better response thankfully. I let them know what I was going to publish and gave them the same chance to add their input. They have said they are unable to comment at the moment but will get back to me in the next day or two when the editor, Darren Thwaites is available and will hopefully make a comment on their behalf. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and it will be added to this matter in due time if received.
Now what drove me to write this article and to create this survey is not just down to what I felt from reading how the findings were written myself but what others like me have felt. You cant go anywhere regarding the Big Toon Survey being mentioned without negative comments. You only have to look at the comments sections of the article itself on The Chronicle website here. I would say 95% of them are negative and attack what has been written. The same can be said amongst Newcastle based websites such as Nufcblog.org’s article on it here, and what some nufc forums think about it here and here. It goes on and on…
So taking all of this and everything else into account about what the fans think about this survey’s findings, it is clear to be seen as misrepresentation. Now as long as I have been a Toon fan there is one thing that is sure to get most fans backs up and that is when the national hacks and footballing media have these ideas and assumptions about Newcastle fans that simply aren’t true. They constantly announce things about us and our club to rest of the nation that simply don’t represent what fans actually think or believe. The Newcastle fans unrealistic expectations or God given right for a trophy being a couple that spring to mind. So when a local newspaper does such things, then that isn’t on. Not one little bit.
We have also all heard Sky and BBC alike make reference to some local surveys about this that and the other regarding our club. We get reminded every now and again that only 1.8% of fans thought Alan Pardew was the right man for the job after Chris Hughton’s sacking in 2010. Why should we stand for this latest poll to be used in the same way when it clearly isn’t true? It is clear 95% of fans don’t ‘back’ Pardew, whatever that actually means, so this gives off a false sense of reality amongst the Geordie public which can be taken wrongly by many. Even the manager himself.
If he reads that 95% of fans ‘back’ him then he may be influenced by this to stick to his guns and not change things he usually would if he felt the fans were turning on him. Spreading false messages can be a dangerous thing at times and for sake of what? Web page hits? Publicity? Propaganda? Why has Ryder written this article in the first place? What is his objective? The headline, which is usually decided by the editor, is clearly suggestive to grab your attention. The article actually written is just as bad if not worse. All of which is backed by nothing but spun and misrepresented answers to ‘loaded’ questions from their own survey.
I have suggested to The Chronicle and Lee Ryder himself that the best way to put this to bed would be to have a follow up article in which could/should involve two things
a) A new survey regarding their original survey and findings that is very similar to mine and:
b) An apology to the fans who feel misrepresented.
I cannot see why they would refuse to do so. I mean what have they got to lose? If they believe their story of ‘95%’ then the results of the new survey will show it. If they don’t, then an apology is the best thing they could do to try and gain back some reputation amongst the Newcastle fans. Because as it stands, the fans are not happy one bit. Whether the Chronicle and Ryder will or not is highly unlikely, which is a real shame.
Why let what the fans actually think get in the way of a story? It’s not like they are the ones who are going to be reading it…
Please feel free to take part in the the Big Toon Survey – Survey yourself to add to this article and to what has already been said, whether you have entered the Chronicles original survey or not. All answers are taken into account and any significant updates will be released in due time. All that is asked is that you are honest. Good luck. There is no time limit. ; D
Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano