[What follows is an edited transcript of a recent telephone conversation between the two authors of the Premier League Diary — they were on speakerphone and have identical voices — and Miriti Murungi, editor. We post this here as an insight into the fascinating world of Diary management, and certainly not because at least one of the individuals involved has had far too much Christmas.]
Diary: Hi Miriti, we just wanted to stop by for a chat, and talk a few things over. We know that over the last couple of weeks the standard of the diary writing has become unacceptably low. We know there have been problems.
Miriti: I admit, it’s not been great, but list-
Diary: No, there’s no point trying to turn us around and cheer us up. The last few weeks have shown us just how badly things are going.
There’s never any comments in the section below. Now, we used to get a few comments on each article. They’d often pick out a line that they thought was pretty funny, or carry on whatever riff we’d decided to run with. Or, more often, they’d say that they couldn’t believe it took two people to write this. Or they’d argue that, actually, that racist thing wasn’t racist, or that sexist thing wasn’t sexist. Or they’d just indulge in mindless abuse. This is the internet, after all.
But now, there’s nothing. It’s like the commenters have given up on us. It’s like they used to get what we did and engage with it, that it was at least a welcome break from what came before, even if it wasn’t ideal. It went well for the first year and a bit, but now it’s changed. Now, it’s like they don’t even care. They’re not interested in the philosophy we’re using.
It’s not like when we first started, when it took them a few years to adjust to the process. We could change gears from serious to funny knowing that the entire time, even if people didn’t get it, were in control of how we wrote the entry each week. But if nobody’s engaging, we’re not in control. If they’re not being entertained or outraged…
Miriti: Look, guys. When you saw out your obligations at the Mirror, we knew we should appoint you. The last weekly columnist was a disaster. It was too big a stage for him. We needed someone with belligerence, someone who would show their metaphorical testes when necessary. And you delivered, acceptably. I think if you’d just giv-
Diary: No, Miriti. It’s not going to work. We didn’t want to say this, but we’ve obviously lost the trust of the readers. They don’t read. They don’t click. They don’t send us nice, kind tweets, and they don’t send us constructive criticism or foul-mouthed, bigoted hatred anymore. We always said that when the readers didn’t buy into what we did, when there was no chance of them being enthused with things, it’d be the time to leave it. We had last season’s book, and we kind of assumed this would be the swansong. The last gig before our retirement.
But, maybe that sentiment was a sign. That we were planning to give up at a fixed date meant that we were already entertaining the idea of giving up. Perhaps the fire had left us because we were ready to stomach the end of the diary. That’s when you should have put us out of our misery, when it was clear we were offering up the bare minimum rather than anything special. Certainly, something should have been done before the whole thing imploded, and we were just writing any old shit. Any old tenuous riff or conceit that could be spun into 762 words. And’s that without even mentioning the fortune we’ve spent on running jokes that we don’t even know how to use.
Miriti: I’ll be honest. I’m not letting you go. I could tell you I could believe in you two and that I think you’re exactly right for Soccer Gods, but you’re not fools, and there’s no point me keeping up the pretense if this is how you feel. But, I appointed the last guy and he was awful. I’ve appointed you two and if anything, you might actually be getting worse than even he was. The readers don’t care, I know, but they’re not outright rebelling with petitions and boycotts. The advertisers see that that the site is still getting views, so they won’t be out for blood until you start hurting their bottom line (which is also when my bosses will start to care).
But really, I know there’s barely any chance of anything saving the quality of this. It’s probably a lost cause, but maybe—just maybe—there’s a tiny possibility that you can turn things around. There’s only one thing I know for sure: if I sack you after I sacked your predecessor, it looks like the fault isn’t really with you two, but with me. Then it’s my job in trouble, and there’s no way I’m risking it. So sit down and keep sending the blogs.
Diary: Yes boss.