The End of the Scottish Press?
Late last year, Rangers played host to Hibernian. Both teams are currently in the Scottish Championship, the second tier of Scottish football – after going into administration in 2012 Rangers had to work its way back up from the bottom division. The two first played more than a century ago; this time Rangers won 4-2. I watched the game on a dodgy internet stream, but could still clearly hear the fans in the Ibrox stands singing ‘The Billy Boys’ (‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood/Surrender or you’ll die’). Two days later, on 30 December, Graham Spiers, a freelance sports writer, filed his regular online column for the Herald, and it appeared the same day under the headline ‘Rangers must uphold progress by resisting return of the old songs’. Spiers, a lifelong Rangers fan, had been banned by the club in August. No reason was given, but there had been unhappiness with his criticisms of the board’s behaviour since the club’s financial collapse. His column questioned whether Rangers had the ‘mettle’ to tackle sectarian behaviour during matches. It also included an allegation about a member of the Rangers board. Magnus Llewellin, the Herald’s editor-in-chief, told Spiers his column ‘struck exactly the right tone’. Rangers disagreed and lodged a complaint. A month later, the Herald published an apology; Spiers refused to endorse it and issued a counter-statement accusing Rangers of putting pressure on the Herald. The story didn’t end there. Angela Haggerty, a young journalist who had recently started a weekly column on social media for the Sunday Herald, tweeted her support of Spiers. A Rangers representative swiftly contacted the paper, adducing her tweet as evidence of a breach of the agreed apology. Within an hour, she had been fired.
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