Well, you looked a bit like Frank McAvennie

READING the programme for Saturday’s game between Bolton and West Ham, I was reminded of a mini-argument I had recently with the comedian Richard Herring on Twitter about picture research. (Twitter, I think, was invented to allow us to argue with people we have never met.)

The endearing grumpy (and very funny) Herring took a local journalist from a paper in Lincoln to task on Twitter last month for not being terribly well researched when interviewing him.

By a process of elimination, I’m assuming the reporter was from the Lincolnshire Echo, although there is no trace of the article on their website, and I don’t have the time or inclination to traipse all the way to Lincoln Library and look through their back copies.

But I’m guessing it must be the Echo (a paper which recently described Lee Evans as a “rubber-faced funnyman”, as if he were a police suspect in a surrealist crime drama). That’s because the only other Lincoln-based newspapers I can find are the Chronicle, which shut down in 2007, and the intriguing Lincolnshire Gazette which, according to its website, is “the county’s only newspaper based entirely on the past”. (In what way is it a newspaper, then? Ooh look, they’ve got a wool shop.)

I thought Herring was a bit harsh in taking the reporter to task so publicly for poor research skills (although it would have made a great story for whichever paper she was working for – a story they seem to have missed). And so I reminded Herring of the time he got his facts wrong on live TV.

It happened during an episode of the seminal Sunday lunchtime late 1990s BBC Two comedy show This Morning With Richard Not Judy, hosted by Herring and Stewart Lee.

Herring delivered a funny, scathing monologue attacking Baroness Young of Farnworth for opposing legislation designed to lower the age of consent for gay men to bring it into line with that for heterosexuals. Unfortunately, Herring accompanied his routine by holding up a picture of Baroness Young of Old Scone, whose views were the exact opposite.

(There was a brilliant apology from Herring on the following week’s show, when he explained the mistake with a sketch presenting the two Baroness Youngs as a yin yang balance between good and evil.)

I wasn’t expecting Herring to read my tweet, let alone respond to it. But bless his little cotton socks (no doubt knitted in the Lincolnshire Gazette wool shop), he did: By claiming that the mistake was the fault of a picture researcher. If only that poor journalist in Lincoln had been lucky enough to have someone to do their research, too…

But yes, picture research is a minefield. (Not literally. I’m using metaphor in the same clever way that the Lincolnshire Echo did in their description of Lee Evans.) In the Bolton programme on Saturday was a feature on West Ham’s best-ever league season of 1985/86, when they finished third in the First Division.

The key to their success was the prolific goalscoring partnership of Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie, who between them scored 46 of West Ham’s 74 league goals. The article was illustrated with a picture of Cottee and one of a blond-haired chap in a claret and blue shirt. Look.

Someone putting together the programme must have seen that photo and thought: That’s McAvennie. Perhaps they didn’t notice the Aston Villa badge. McAvennie did play for Villa, briefly, but it’s not him. It’s Tony Morley.

Oops. Probably best to blame it on the Lincolnshire Echo, I’d say.


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