The Journal v NUFC: The ban that got the North East talking

The Journal and sister titles The Chronicle and Sunday Sun have hit the headlines after Newcastle United Football Club banned the newspapers

St James Park, the home of Newcastle United Football Club
St James Park, the home of Newcastle United Football Club

The Journal is not the first newspaper to be banned by Newcastle United Football Club and, sadly, it is unlikely we will be the last.

The ban on The Journal and our sister titles The Chronicle and Sunday Sun was actually imposed last Wednesday.

We decided to keep the news to ourselves for fear of the sanction becoming headline news and an unwelcome distraction in the run-up to the important derby match with Sunderland.

We didn’t want to be the news, nor should we be.

The only reason the ban has been in the headlines and all over social media since Sunday evening is down to the fact that the football club’s head of media prevented manager Alan Pardew from answering a question posed by our chief sports writer at a post-match Press conference – inside Sunderland’s stadium.

So why are we banned? Good question.

The club are unhappy with the way the ncjMedia titles covered last Saturday’s protest march by supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out of the club.

They said our coverage was unfair and negative and, considering less than 300 supporters took part, that it was disproportionate to the turnout.

Considering that their main issue is with the preview coverage in The Chronicle on the day of the march, you would have needed a crystal ball to decide what was proportionate.

There is no doubt from the communications we have received from the club that their sights have been fixed on The Chronicle – but the bullets have also been fired at The Journal and Sunday Sun.

Some have taken to social media to express surprise at how quietly The Journal has taken the ban

The fact is we have been in this position before, and not just with the current regime.

And every time our response to Newcastle United has been the same: You do what you think you have to do – but it won’t make any difference to how we do things.

If people inside St James’ Park think that denying us access to media facilities, players and the manager will affect the quality and quantity of our coverage then they should re-read our sports pages over the past few days.

Informative. Analytical. Insightful. Challenging. Questioning. That won’t change

The Journal is a campaigning champion for the North East. We want people and businesses from this region to be a success and today, as always, that includes Newcastle United Football Club...

No matter what damage they do to the freedom of the Press.

Timeline of events

Saturday, October 19: ‘Lack of ambition’ sees fans take to the streets - an article on Page 16 previewing that day’s protest march.

Monday, October 21: Fans are United in their opposition to Ashley - an article on Page 4 reporting on Saturday’s march.

Tuesday, October 22: The editors of The Journal and Chronicle receive an email from NUFC’s head of media thanking The Journal for an excellent write-up on the club’s reciprocal pricing initiative but taking issue with the newspapers for our ‘unfairly negative’ coverage of the protest march. The only Journal headline or article that is complained of is our Page 4 headline from the Monday.

The Chronicle editor responds by defending our coverage and offers Ashley a right of reply.

Wednesday, October 23: The Editor of The Chronicle, who is also Editor in Chief for Trinity Mirror’s North East region, receives another email from the head of media informing him that Mike Ashley, Joe Kinnear, the board and the manager have unanimously decided to ban The Journal, Chronicle and Sunday Sun from St James’ Park with immediate effect for an indefinite period.

The email said our coverage was “completely disproportionate” and went on to say: “It is our opinion there was an underlying message of encouragement and support provided by your titles in the lead-up to the day and on the day itself.” The email ends: “We do not require a reply to this letter, our position on this issue is not up for negotiation.”

Thursday, October 24: The three ncjMedia editors discuss the ban and decide to say or do nothing until after the derby match to avoid any accusations of being a distraction in the run-up to such an important match.

Friday, October 25: The editors of The Journal and Sunday Sun write separate emails to the Head of Media pointing out our balanced and proportionate coverage of the protest and requesting an explanation as to why the ban had been applied. To date no response has been received from the club.

Sunday October 27: News of the ban breaks when NUFC’s Head of Media prevents Alan Pardew from answering a question from The Journal’s chief sports writer at a post-match Press conference at the Stadium of Light.

Click here to read the full text of the letter sent to ncjMedia

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer