In an earlier article for this site I wrote about how Hugh Keevins had written a chapter for a book. The book was for charitable causes, and each journalist had to pick out a specific highlight of his or her career. I said in the article that the choices from the Record and Sunday Mail journalists were particularly un-inspiring, and that if they offered a fair representation of what was in the book it would make a good advert for not buying it.
Far better to donate the money, and save shelf space for something a bit better.
My article pinpointed the piece by Hugh Keevins, in particular, because I thought it offered an insight into the mind of the man. Keevins had chosen to talk about the time he was kicked out of the Celtic Club in London Road, using the piece to highlight the fact he was, again, and remains, persona non grata at Celtic Park, after a series of vindictive and spiteful articles leveled at the club and its hierarchy. I did not specifically comment on the rights or wrongs of the new ban, merely pointing out that if you are going to consistently insult someone you shouldn’t be surprised if they tell you that you’ll no longer be doing it from a seat in their living room.
What I found instructive about the article was that, with a career spanning decades to look back on, Keevins had chosen to write about something petty, and small minded, and utterly irrelevant to any understanding of the journalistic profession in Scotland. To be perfectly brutal about it, I thought the piece was pathetic, and a tragic statement on the quality of his life’s work. I believed, then and now, that it was, and is, an indictment of Keevins’ as a journalist, a word I hasten to use in relation to him as I cannot see that it applies in any way to what he does.
Today, the Daily Record carried a column even more incredible, and, sadly, even more indictable. It is a piece by Jim Traynor, and what makes it especially notable is that it’s his last piece, not only in the paper, but in the profession itself. It is a scandalous article, the kind a first-year hack would be embarrassed by, full of malice and venom, and hate, some of it directed at some of the people in his profession, some at the bloggers and even more at the game he has covered for 30 odd years.
They say you can tell how loved a person was by the turn-out at the funeral; I have always taken issue with that, knowing there are, across the land, funeral houses packed out by people there just to watch the deceased burn. Traynor’s final words will be read far and wide, precisely because they are his last. He should reflect on that, because this is how he will be remembered forever; for bowing out in a blaze of un-glorious indignity.
Nothing in his recent career has suited Jim Traynor more than the manner of his farewell.
In the very first paragraph, he talks about wanting to remember the “good things” in his career, instead of the bad. This would be a damned fine start to a final column, and would have assured an exit carried through with some class, and dignity. But almost from the first, in total ignorance of those excellent sentiments, he veers rightward into a litany about the fans who spat on him, the directors who didn’t like him and the people who called him names and criticised his work, perhaps inspired by the fact it wasn’t very good, or that when you listen to him deal with callers on his radio show he comes off sounding like an ignorant, self-important moron.
There are a couple of paragraphs where he tells stories of his career; throwing money to starving kids in Romania, and the time he played a part in selecting a World’s Best Ever XI. There’s something about Andre Agassi, who, to the best of my knowledge, never played football, the game Traynor spent the better part of his life covering. He waxes lyrical about the other sports he loves, and, just for a moment, there is a hint that he might just be going to take a high-minded and positive note. Predictably, it doesn’t last.
In the end, what stands out in Traynor’s piece most is his anger. There is no positivity in his closing note, no “ending on a high.” Instead, he throws a gutter ball and hopes we all scramble into the dirt after it. For me, it is an appalling way to end a 37 year career in journalism , but coming from Traynor I actually could not think of one more fitting. In his closing piece, he has embraced every single negative trait we hold regarding him. He sounds pompous, self-promoting and arrogant. His tendency to let his fingers wander far ahead of his brain is faithful to the last.
First, what exactly is he angry about? Well, the bloggers, for one. Oh how he hates us, this man who’s seen our prominence and his own irrelevance rise as though they were twinned. It is not hard to understand why this man, who worked on the news desk which was beaten to exclusives on the Big Tax Case time and again, firstly by its rival newspaper, but mostly by people like us, is rushing to tell us all how we got it wrong, despite a scathing minority opinion and the near certainty of an appeal. In that sense, he’s picked a good time to go, as he won’t be around to eat the large helpings of humble pie which would come from HMRC successfully overturning the decision, should they care to try. His shrieking self-congratulation at a year of clumsy fence sitting is a disgrace to a profession that is supposed to be about the pursuit of the truth.
And what is the truth? In terms of the tax case, let me refresh his memory. Rangers were initially billed for monies owed. HRMC investigated this conduct, and said “We should have been paid here.” Rangers were, therefore, termed tax evaders by the government agency whose job it is to collect the cash. Rangers appealed, and it’s this fact hacks like Traynor seized on. How could Rangers be guilty when the case was under appeal? Is he right? Technically yes, but if he’s technically right on that then surely it’s way too early to be calling them innocent? He ignores that, as he ignored much else in his career, because it doesn’t suit the narrative.
Is he right to slam the bloggers for asserting that Rangers were guilty? Absolutely not. He’s kidding himself on to criticise anyone for that. The latter part of his career has been built on writing opinion pieces, usually badly. How dare he criticise us for stating our own views?
Based on the evidence some of these guys have seen they had every right to predict a verdict in this case. These people were not taking shots in the dark, making stuff up to suit their argument. These guys weren’t doing Charles Green style stuff, sitting pulling “facts” out of thin air and stretching the truth until the elastic snapped. They had facts at hand, and their interpretation of those facts were perfectly in line with those of one of the three eminent judges who heard the evidence and gave their decision. We said Rangers would be found guilty. In the same way he and other hacks have said Craig Whyte will be, when his day in court finally comes, and in the end we may still be proved right, and he wrong, and in my considered opinion that’s exactly what will happen.
There’s a bigger issue than just the legalese, however. There’s a moral issue at stake here, one that to the best of my knowledge this man hasn’t even touched on, and I don’t mean here in his farewell. He’s never tackled it. He has never even bothered to discuss it.
Where, in all the words that he’s written since the FTT verdict, and that’s a lot, is the notion that, legal or not, what Rangers did was wrong? Why, in a world where governments are falling over themselves to destroy the structure of the welfare state which is there to help our infirm, our elderly, our poor, where austerity is costing lives, where tax evasion is inflicting monumental damage on the country’s people, is Traynor foaming at the mouth over those of us who say that what Rangers did was wrong? Because legal or not, legitimate or not, what Rangers and Murray did was about as wrong as you could get. I do not care, I do not give a solitary damn, what two judges said, and I never did. Just because they dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, because someone has said it was within the law, that doesn’t make it right, and that is what this issue is about, and that’s what it was always about. The question was never “did Rangers pay their share”. The question was, and is “will they get away with not paying their share?”
Traynor either does not know that or he does not care. Now he’s no longer burdened with the responsibility of having to confront this issue, but to be blunt his voice will not be missed when it comes time for that debate. It’s been absent since the start.
He then turns the big foamy guns on some of his own colleagues, including a nod in the direction of the brilliant Mark Daly, who put the facts about Rangers tax affairs on the small screen. What is Traynor’s problem with that? What’s his problem with the journalists who had balls, and guts, and the determination to dig for the story he wanted to ignore? Traynor will never be remembered for breaking wide open the can of worms. He was inside the can. He was one of the worms. He is the man who brought the phrase “succulent lamb” to the world, and that is the legacy he leaves behind. That is the real mark of his contribution to a profession that, frankly, is better off without his being part of it. His cheap shots at those who actually stood up for the principles that profession is meant to espouse is disgusting, but not surprising.
I am impressed by his defence of Rangers, and his assertion they were treated harshly. They, in fact, were treated far better than were Airdrie, allegedly Traynor’s own club, put out of business at the whim of the man he spent so much of his career pandering to, a club who gets not one word in his final farewell, although he was around to cover every single moment of the crisis which engulfed, and then destroyed them. This story, a story which should be explored for its personal, as well as professional, impact does not even merit a mention. Instead, his sympathy is poured onto Ibrox.
At best his article is snivelling hypocrisy. At worst, it is contemptible, cowardly garbage, from a guy heading out the door. It is the journalist equivalent of those childish games people play when they need to get the last word. It is infantile, and the complete opposite of courageously taking a stand, which is probably what he thinks it is. It is ring and run.
It is the fitting end to a futile, wasted career. He leaves behind no credible body of work. He leaves behind no achievement of note. He leaves behind no history making story, no game changing exclusive. He leapt from a ship he helped run onto the rocks, a sinking ship. He left a newspaper he helped bring to the very brink of death. His was one of its loudest voices, and it was those voices the fans on all sides of the divide came to view with contempt and distrust. He gave us little reason to do otherwise. He made a career out of crawling up the arses of the powerful, whilst shouting down the voices of the powerless, and what stands out most in his attack on the bloggers is his angry sense of entitlement, his fury, that we dared step onto his turf.
Jim Traynor’s final article is a remarkable piece of writing, but not in the way he intended. His 37 years ended not with an inspired appeal to hope, as would have brought a proud end to his career, but instead was centred on brutally attacking people and stirring the pot of hate. He called us bigoted, but his closing note is one of the most loathsome and intolerant ever to appear in the pages of his newspaper.
He leaves behind a profession still mired in the scandal of Leveson, struggling to cope in a new world of instant news and smart, dedicated bloggers who are light years ahead of the tired hacks taking up space in newspaper offices throughout the land. He bows out on a note of smug superiority, exactly what destroyed the industry which made him his living and which he and others have routinely disgraced. He and his circle of friends will undoubtedly label him a legend, a heavyweight. But the former leave proud legacies, and only those who might have had to help him home after a night on the expense account would ever have called him the latter.
The industry should not mourn him. The public will not miss him.
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