The Daily Mail haven’t exactly got a stellar reputation amongst football fans, largely because of articles like the one they published on Saturday evening, regarding the future of Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha.
The 25-year-old academy graduate has been the focus of mountainous speculation over the last week or so, given the interest in him from Tottenham, Everton and Borussia Dortmund but on Saturday afternoon, he was named in Roy Hodgson’s starting XI against Oxford United and shone throughout, opening the scoring on 55 minutes and playing a part in both of the Eagles’ other goals as they ran out 3–1 winners.
Despite his committed display, The Mail decided to run with the headline “Wantaway Wilfried Zaha sparkles to help Palace beat League One opponents” regardless of the fact that the player himself has never said a thing about wanting to leave Crystal Palace FC. In fact, Zaha spoke to a fan directly shortly after the game and distanced himself from any suggestion that he was hoping to move on saying: “Why does everyone think I’m leaving? Nothing’s happening.”
Quite why The Daily Mail didn’t choose to print those words from Wilf is up for interpretation but on first impressions, I’d suggest that it has something to do with the headline “Zaha sees no reason to leave Palace” not being likely to generate anywhere near as much traffic for The Mail’s website; call me a cynic if you wish.
In essence, their decision to print such a headline merely shines a light on the way the sporting press looks to manipulate situations regarding a player’s future. Had that conversation with a concerned Palace fan not taken place, our supporters, as a collective, would still be in the dark as to Zaha’s intentions, allowing mainstream media outlets to print whatever they lack and sit back smiling as the clicks rolled in.
There is no need for independent journalism in a world where traffic is king. As long as one “source” prints a story, others will happily jump on the back of it and use it as justification for their teasing words for a week or two at the least, creating the very definition of a storm in a teacup and leaving supporters feeling battered and bruised from a month or more of daily uncertainty over the future of their most prized asset.
There’s a good chance that the headline will be changed or the article deleted completely in the coming days, which is why I’ve screen-grabbed it and attached a copy at the top of this piece. It may not seem that bad in the grand scheme of things but as someone who likes to believe in the romantic notion of journalists doing their best to retain a sense of personal integrity, this particular example of shoddy headline writing just didn’t sit right with me.