Sport is not immune to the diva principle, I blame club TV

Clare Balding denied any diva-like behaviour
Clare Balding denied any diva-like behaviour
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Speaking of fearless seekers-of-truth, journo Ginny Dougary was appalled to discover her magazine interview with a well-known sports presenter had been doctored, with bits of text replaced with self-promoting words. And just about everyone else was appalled when the subject was revealed to be Clare Balding.

Speaking of fearless seekers-of-truth, journo Ginny Dougary was appalled to discover her magazine interview with a well-known sports presenter had been doctored, with bits of text replaced with self-promoting words. And just about everyone else was appalled when the subject was revealed to be Clare Balding, right.

Who, “lovely Clare” as she’s called in the BBC’s Corporation-set sitcom W1A? National treasure Clare? Champion of women Clare? The very one. Dougary was asked to add a description of Balding to her piece – that word “lovely” – and quotes puffing Balding’s children’s book appeared in the finished version which had not been uttered during the conversation.

Dougary called this a new low for journalism. Balding denied any diva-like behaviour, and made a joke: she would never have insisted on lovely; gorgeous maybe. But, as Balding will know from tramping the countryside for Radio 4’s Ramblings programme, muck has a habit of sticking. The next time she tries to jolly-hockey-sticks me on TV I might not be quite so willing.

Copy control irritated the hell out of me on the showbiz beat and I thought I’d left it behind when I moved over to sport. An actor or a pop star would insist on seeing my article before it went to print and demand the right to amend. This didn’t happen a lot but three or four times a year was three or four times too many. It turns out, though, that sport is not immune.

I wasn’t allowed to interview Steve Kean, severely under fire as Blackburn Rovers manager, without handing over my finished piece. The man had a bodyguard so I understood his anxiety. But this season a request from a Scottish Premiership boss to look over my copy was a surprise. In Bryan Cooney’s outstanding book Stand By Your Reds, Derek McInnes gets tetchy and asks to inspect the author’s words.

I blame club TV channels. Managers are given an easy ride and must think this constitutes journalism. Jim White once asked Brian Laudrup “Why are you so great?” Before long this might resemble David Frost turning the thumbscrews on Richard Nixon.