Wise Man Says: red faces in Newcastle over black and white jibe

Considered a swag image with the burglar in B&W but that would have been a slur
Considered a swag image with the burglar in B&W but that would have been a slur*

It wasn’t clever. It wasn’t funny. And while its impact was some way short of the unrest provoked in Muslim countries by the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, it was – as it was meant to be – insulting. Sense of humour breakdown or justified indignation? Nic Wiseman, co-creator and co-editor of the long-gone SAFC fanzine It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand (ITHICS), describes the resulting furore and says his magazine would never have run an anti-Mag version of the offending cartoon …

To mark Sunderland’s limp exit from the FA Cup, the Newcastle-based regional newspaper, The Journal, published a cartoon on the sort of page where a political cartoon might normally be found.

Yesterday’s cartoon, signed by someone called Nicholas (not me), featured two fat Mags, one saying to the other, in rather bizarre language and spelling, “Aye, the Makkems will have to go back to acqirin’ silverware in their customary manner!”

Where to start? If you were going to publish a cartoon commenting on our cup exit, then focus on the bizarre team selection, or the antics of Lee Cattermole, not slag off half of the paper’s football-supporting readership.

Twitter has been ablaze with protest and Mark Douglas, the paper’s chief sports writer, has been firefighting and appealing for calm among Sunderland fans.

The paper’s editor, Brian Aitken, apologised unreservedly in a statement released to BBC Look North.

He said: “The cartoon does not follow editorial policy, its inclusion was clearly misjudged and we regret the decision to publish it. The Journal has a proud reputation for being a champion for the North East region and there is no way we would intentionally denigrate any of the people who live here.”

Neil Farrington, a former sports editor of the paper’s stablemate, the Sunday Sun, suggests “it’s most likely a case of savage staff cuts meaning not enough checks being done”. “But even then, Aitken and Dougy [Mark Douglas] will be horrified,” he said.

In another tweet, Aitken says that the “cartoon should never have been published. Sorry to all SAFC fans.”

How could such a thing have happened? When editing ITHICS, though hardly the most bite-your-leg of fanzines, I can honestly say if the cartoon’s message had been turned the other way around and offered to us for publication, we would have rejected it.

Yet here we have a self-proclaimed regional champion doing the opposite. The cartoon isn’t even funny or clever. The language is odd, as if it was written by a sixth former on work experience. That’s probably not too far from the truth.

Some lucky lad found the cartoonist’s castaway scribbles and thought it would be a jolly jape to load it up for print.

With staff cuts biting hard, the page was signed off without so much as a cursory glance and when it hit the streets, it was too late.

Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper and it doesn’t seem to have been published online. But it’s a huge gaffe by Trinity Mirror.

An already suspicious Sunderland public will have one more reason to avoid buying the limping rag.

ps On Tuesday morning, The Journal published another cartoon in the same place as the offending one, depicting a Sunderland fan trying to offload a Newcastle season ticket on a bespectacled gentleman, (later, we are told, the cartoonist himself, not Mr Aitken), accompanied by another fulsome apology, entitled “we crossed the line” in its main leader column. The apology raises more questions than it answers by stating its aim was to “poke fairly robust fun at both Sunderland and Newcastle United fans”. In the words of the Hon Robert Halfon MP, don’t defend the indefensible!

* Editor adds: duty obliges us to reproduce the offending cartoon and today’s compensating follow-up. Readers may make up their own minds …

There good news and bad news: here's the bad
There good news and bad news: here’s the bad
And the good ...
And the good …

* Ian Black’s book, Geordies Vs Mackems: v. 2: Why Tyneside is Better Than Wearside & Why Wearside is Better Than Tyneside, is availablle atprices ranging from £5.47 to a penny (used but not swag) at Salut! Sunderland’s Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/184502320X/salusund-21

Join the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group – click anywhere along this line

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17 thoughts on “Wise Man Says: red faces in Newcastle over black and white jibe”

  1. Two days on from this furore, editor Brian Aitken sent this statement to us: “Not every Sunderland fan has accepted the apology but I am gratified that many have given us credit for the quick and honest response and are happy to draw a line under the whole sorry incident.

    “Many people remain sceptical that we are a regional newspaper but we are a corporate client of SAFC, we sponsor home matches and we work with the commercial team on promoting the summer concerts.

    “If we were a ‘mag rag’ would we really carry an eight-page supplement after the League Cup Final?”

    • That’s all very well Brian, but where was the apology printed in the paper? Additionally, where is the evidence that ‘Many’ have given you credit.

      The underlining problem is that this kind of act only reinforces the bile ridden comments form the lower level fanzines (go to Newsdirect Football) such as The Mag to perpetuate the offensive and unintelligent opinions expressed with regards to SAFC.

      In the first instance if the whole episode was a (commercial) mistake and that only humour was intended where were the corresponding jokes regarding horses, headbutts etc that have littered Newcastle’s seasons of late.

      I have moved on now I only get the Sunderland Echo and Shields Gazzette, both of which seem to avoid the editorial calamities of a supposed big Regional Paper.

  2. It’s a long time since I had even a modicum of interest let alone respect for anything that The Journal prints.

    Just another example which illustrates their true colours further. When they wheel Farrington our for a quote it just underlines it further.

    Loathesome rag.

    • Neil Farrrington replied to me via twitter, Jeremy. We’ve become twitter mates. He’s been a great sport over the lampoon we did of his column in ITHICS back in 1997.

  3. As is often the case, accusations say more about the accuser than the accused. Non-story. Move on. Plenty of good news stories coming from Durham and Sunderland these days. Focus on the positive for a happier life.

    • It doesn’t bother me one iota. I didn’t find it funny but so what. Not as funny as the Echo running the story about the police horse and the Paolo mints. Can’t see there’s a lot to get worked up about.

      The bottom line is we’ve been to Wembley and lost in the FA Cup Quarter Finals, neither of which the Mags had the opportunity to do so it’s all a bit ironic.

      • It’s all banter. How many Wembley finals have you lot been to? Neither of us have won anything in donkeys years but Newcastle will always finish higher , be the bigger club, have more fans and oh yes we also have the bigger & better city 🙂

      • But where did those fans suddenly appear from? That’s not a bite before you start , just a genuine question .

  4. Another appalling attack on the town, its football club and supporters. SAFC should ban it from press conferences until they have printed a front page apology and donated a large sum to a local Wearside charity.

    In the interim, just don’t pay to read its dubious journalistic worth!

  5. Never buy a Journal, Sunday Sun or Chronicle. All three remind me of the old joke about the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda (which means truth) and the Soviet news agency Izvestia (which means news). Those of a cynical bent said that “there is no news in the truth and no truth in the news,”

  6. Poor joke, bad taste, but I trust there were comedic cartoons over the years about multiple riots, pitch invasions, attention seeking marches and horse punching by that unbiased champion of the North East, wasn’t there?

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