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Multiplatform News Analysis: Balmain Tigers Financial Crisis

The perilous financial state of the Balmain Tigers Leagues Club was revealed on the 14th of March, with threats emerging that the club may be forced to go into receivership. The Balmain consortium makes up and thus funds half of the Wests Tigers merger, and at present are struggling to do so. This blog post will analyse the media coverage of this story across five different platforms and discuss the similarities and differences in the way the story was covered. Not just any other sports story, this had implications in terms of business and finance as well. 

The story was broken on Twitter by The Daily Telegraph Sport at 10:16pm on March 14, 2014.

Just under two hours later the story was published online by The Daily Telegraph, the same newspaper that broke the story on Twitter via their ‘Telegraph Sport’ account.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/balmain-tigers-must-raise-4m-or-suffer-extinction-from-wests-tigers-joint-venture/story-fni3gpz1-1226855140991

Readers of The Daily Telegraph were greeted with the article that was posted online the previous night.

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Although the story was initially broken on the night of March 14, it took four days for the story to gain momentum. As the news spread, the popularity of the story saw it skyrocket from the back pages of the newspaper to morning radio and national news on across two major stations on television, in which it was played ahead of the sports section, highlighting the fact that the story was more than a sport story, as it involved business and financial consequences for the community and those involved.

The morning of March 18 saw 2GB Radio cover the story with Ross Greenwood speaking to Balmain Tigers great Steve Roach about the future of Balmain Leagues Club and the Wests Tigers NRL club, with Greenwood beginning by crediting the reports on The Daily Telegraph website.
http://www.2gb.com/audioplayer/36876#.UypmctGPiqs

The evening saw both major national news stations Channel Nine and Channel Seven simultaneously send reporters out to cover the story in a live cross. Channel Nine conducted their cross from outside the Balmain Leagues Club.

Channel Seven conducted their cross from outside the Supreme Court, where a decision on Balmain Leagues’ future was to be made.

These evening news reports were followed by an influx of online reports the following day, with Fox Sports attempting to ‘peel back the layers’ of the story and take a look at how the club found itself in such a predicament.
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Similarities and differences between the stories and platforms
1. Timeliness
Twitter was the first news platform to bring to light the dire financial state of the Balmain Leagues Club. The Daily Telegraph were the first to pounce on the story across various different mediums, and it remained as such for a few days thereafter, however one must recognise the sheer significance of the story for such a newspaper, with the story being so close to the hearts of members of the public, both in terms of proximity and human interest. The Daily Telegraph, in terms of sport, is predominantly a rugby league based newspaper, highlighted by the amount of coverage the code gets throughout. The Telegraph followed their Tweet with the posting of the article online, and then in the back pages of the paper the next day.

As the significance of the story was put into context, other news platforms took advantage of the story’s growing popularity among the media.
On the 18th of March, 2GB Radio capitalised on former Balmain player Steve Roach’s passion for the Balmain Tigers in usage of Galtung and Ruge’s 12 News Factors (Harcup & O’Neill, 2001) by organising for Ross Greenwood to interview him.
Major television stations then swarmed on the story that evening, with Channel Nine airing their take on the situation roughly a third of the way through the news bulletin, highlighting that this was no ordinary sports story, as it encapsulated both the business and financial contexts. Channel Seven’s placement of the story further emphasised this point, discussing the story a quarter in to their broadcast.
The story continued to receive coverage the next day, as the Fox Sports website looked to analyse the problems at their core.

2. Angle of the stories
All of the chosen stories on their respective platforms took relatively similar angles. The original Daily Telegraph tweet had a link to an article which was updated and expanded upon. This article was placed in the newspaper the next day, highlighting the poor situation in which the Club had found itself. Radio coverage of the story from 2GB looked to explain the story for those who were unsure of what was happening, whilst the input of Steve Roach referred to how it made him, as a club stalwart and fan, feel, and how the situation could be resolved. This interview provided an example of simplifying issues and avoiding ‘overloading’ (Paterno & Stein, 2001). It could be argued that Roach in this situation was speaking for rugby league fans in general. Television coverage, on both highlighted stations, analysed the story in terms of the court decision which could see the Balmain Leagues Club go into receivership. It could be said that Fox Sports took a slightly similar angle to 2GB Radio’s coverage, as the writer tried to simplify the story as best as he could in order to help people understand the situation.

3. News Values
As has been touched on, the coverage of this story across five platforms by varying media outlets boasts many similarities. These similarities all act to highlight the same key factors in the story. These factors are the threat of the Balmain Tigers Leagues Club going in to receivership, and the knock on effect it could have on the Wests Tigers NRL club. These factors alone reflect the ‘Big Six’ news values as underlined by Lamble (2013, p45-52). A story such as this one encompasses all six news values, which are:

Significance – The impact of the situation on the area and the people involved. The Balmain Tigers could suffer extinction, which would tug at the heart strings of the game’s diehard fans, who would hate to farewell a foundation club. Further, the Wests Tigers NRL club could face relocation as their only viable option, which would have an effect on not only the league, but the people of Sydney, and the NSW Government.

Proximity – Geographical, as well as emotional location. As touched on earlier, this is a huge story in Sydney and New South Wales as rugby league is the major football code on the eastern seaboard. Seeing a Sydney team relocate would change the complexion of the game itself in Australia.

Conflict – Conflicting interests. If the Balmain Leagues Club were to fail to raise the required $4 million over two years, they would go into the hands of the receivers. If unable to pay come up with the funding to support the Wests Tigers NRL club, Balmain Leagues will lose its seats on the club board, and essentially dissolve within the NRL ranks. The Rozelle Village developers syndicate are out of pocket due to this financial strain, and have now called in an $8.7 million loan with the NSW Supreme Court to make a decision on the future of the Club.

Human Interest – The interest that members of the public have in the story. Rugby league fans have a genuine interest in the story, whilst business aficionados take interest because of the financial side, which is the core of the story. Football fans are interested in the story given that the Wests Tigers NRL club is currently having on-field success, and people are interested to see if the issue derails the team, as it provides a distraction to the players.

Novelty – New and interesting. Whilst it can be argued that news of clubs suffering from financial difficulties surface constantly, there is a case that this particular story is completely different. The Balmain Leagues Club is the lifeblood of the Balmain Tigers, one of rugby league’s last remaining foundation clubs. To see them fold would be a great disappointment for the fans of the game. The story also involves a business and the NSW Supreme Court, showing that it isn’t ‘just another story’ about such a topic.

Prominence – Placement in the media and the weight of discussion surrounding it. This story developed from the back pages in to a big business and financial story. The issue of the Balmain Leagues Club struggling for funds dates back to 2012, but the severity of it was not brought to light until now. When broadcast on the evening news of two major stations, the story was well ahead of the sports section, and covered early in the bulletin. When covered on morning radio on a major AM station, the story would have been heard by large numbers of people as they made their way to work, essentially morning radio’s version of the ‘prime-time’ slot.

4. Comprehensiveness
The original tweet that covered the story took advantage of the platforms ability to include links. The Telegraph Sport’s post covered a lot of vital parts of the story through the title of the article to which it had posted a link. “Tigers must raise $4m or fold: CASH-strapped Balmain have two years to raise $4 million — or suffer extinction”. The post shed light on what the issue was, who it involved, a hint of where (rugby league fans at the least would have known upon seeing the title) and a time frame (‘when’). If readers were to click on the link and read the article, which was the same that was placed in the following day’s newspaper, they would have learned where the issue was occurring, why it was occurring and how it had come about.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/balmain-tigers-must-raise-4m-or-suffer-extinction-from-wests-tigers-joint-venture/story-fni3gpz1-1226855140991

The said article contained all the relevant information, which was then expanded upon a few days later when the story gained momentum in the media.

The radio coverage provided an in-depth look, including and elaborating on the information noted in the newspaper article, whilst it added more facts as they came to light in the days prior. Television coverage then took a comprehensive view of the impending court decision which would essentially decide the immediate future of the Balmain Leagues Club, whilst providing viewers with background information on how the situation came to be. Much of this information could not be included in the original tweet, due to a set amount of characters which are allowed in a post, whilst some of the information was new. This is especially true in terms of radio coverage, as 2GB delved in to the heart and mind of a former player who has a strong passion for the club, allowing them to provide one of the more comprehensive pieces of news coverage in relation to the story. Online coverage provided a simplistic view, which was comprehensive in that it covered all the major facts of the story.

5. Fairness and balance of the news reporting
All of these stories provide a fair balance in terms of providing the correct information, and not falsifying facts or condemning anyone in a feeble attempt to gain credibility. The tweet and news article which go hand-in-hand provide the base off of which other platforms can launch their stories. The article provided the facts, which thus resulted in other media platforms continuing to provide these facts and more as they were revealed. Had the article been unbalanced in terms of supporting a certain faction, other media platforms had a clear window of opportunity in which they could attack the opposing factions or the original writer or newspaper in which it was published. However, the article was fair and balanced, setting the tone for which the story would be covered in the forthcoming days.

6. Prominence
This story developed from being placed in the back pages of the newspaper to receiving prime time coverage on major radio and television stations. The story dates back to two years ago, but the magnitude of it was not understood until recently. When broadcast on the evening news, the story was well ahead of the sports section on two major channels. Channel Nine aired their coverage on the situation roughly a third of the way through the news bulletin, stressing that this was no ordinary sports story, as it encapsulated both the business and financial contexts. Channel Seven’s placement of the story further emphasised this point, discussing the story a quarter in to their broadcast. When covered on morning radio, the story was covered when many people would have been on their way to work. The story continued to receive large amounts of coverage online in the days thereafter.

Conclusion
The coverage of the Balmain Leagues Club’s financial struggles boasts many similarities in reference to the tone in which stories were discussed, and the headlines used. The major differences in terms of coverage were both the speed at which it was pounced upon by different platforms, and the detail in which it was covered. Twitter allowed The Daily Telegraph to have first crack at the coverage of the issue, as they uncovered it and did not have to wait until the next day to share the story. Twitter allowed The Telegraph to provide ‘real-time audience engagement’ (Posetti, 2013, p89) as the story broke. The Telegraph took advantage of putting a link in their tweet, which provided users with more detailed information. As Twitter and newspapers caught more information, radio and television took advantage of the issue when it was at its peak in terms of human interest and prominence. These mediums provided consumers with more in depth details about the story, whilst online news peeled back the layers to get the basics of the situation out there to anyone that had been caught up in the whirlwind of new breakthroughs. This is a fine example of the advantage of online news, in that it can continually send out new information, whilst television and radio have to take advantage of what little time they have by utilising whatever information they have.

As has been discussed, there are a large number of similarities between stories about the financial pressure suffered by the Balmain Leagues Club. All selected coverage boasted similar views on the issue and nearly identical news values. The story received coverage across a broad range of media platforms, and the differences lie in the timeliness and detail in which the story was covered.

References

Lamble, S. (2013). News Values. News as it happens: An introduction to Journalism (2nd ed., pp. 45-55). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Posetti, J. (2013). The ‘twitterisation’ of investigative journalism. In S. Tanner & N. Richardson (Eds.), Journalism research and investigation in a digital world (pp. 88-99). Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Alysen, B., Oakham, M., Patching, R., & Sedorkin, G. (2011). Reporting in the multimedia world (2nd ed., pp. 137-151). Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin.

Harcup, T., & O’Neill,, D. (2001). What is news? Galtung and Ruge revisited. Journalism Studies, 2(2), 261-280.

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