Posted by: Ciaran | May 2, 2010

News in the nude: the week’s stories undressed

A tremendous splash from the News of the World today, alleging that World Snooker Champion (though only for another 24 hours or so, until either Graeme Dott or Neil Robertson takes his crown) John Higgins accepted the offer of a £261,000 bribe as part of a match-fixing plan.

By coinciding the timing of the article with the final of the World Snooker Championship, the NotW has managed to make an article about a popular but not mainstream sport very relevant. Unfortunately for the players, it’s going to cast a huge cloud over the final and subdue the celebrations of the eventual victor.

Higgins has already been suspended from the game in light of the allegations, and maintains he has done nothing wrong. He claims, along with his manager Pat Mooney, that he was in fear for his safety at the meeting and shook on the deal to get himself out of the meeting in Kiev and safely on the plane back home.

This is tricky territory for undercover journalism. Investigations in this way are going to contain an element of duplicity and manipulation, but obviously all that we have seen thus far is the edited video footage which the newspaper is carrying on its website.

The atmosphere of the conversation does not appear to be threatening or hostile, but we do not have the privilege of seeing what has gone on before it so it is impossible to give a perfectly rounded comment.

Journalists should never resort to threats to get what they want. Subterfuge, though, in cases such as this is acceptable. The question is where to draw the line. Higgins has said he wondered if the men were from “the Russian Mafia” – which begs the question of why he ever flew out to meet them in the first place.

But whether these allegations end up being proven or not, it has left an indelible stain on the reputation of snooker – and provided another fantastic exclusive for the NotW.

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