Now, I do not profess myself to be a good writer, nor do I claim that my knowledge of sport outweighs the greater majority. I am after all writing for a blog – unpaid, unprofessional, and a bit of fun – so no-one could possibly have such expectations of me. If, however, I was writing for the Observer Sport Monthly, one of the most respected national sporting publications, I would probably feel justified in making these assertions, and I would expect there to be truth in abundance in both.
I am, therefore, at pains to explain the latest cover article of this esteemed magazine, which features interviews with Serbian tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, and also some of the worst and most offensive writing I’ve ever seen from a supposed ‘quality’ publication. The two interviews, conducted separately, are of such opposed standards, and are presented so differently, it almost reads like an example taken from a training manual for journalists on interview writing technique – on the left how to do it, on the right how not to do it.
The item on Djokovic contains informative and interesting material, revealing some little-known facts about the player’s childhood and family life, giving an insight into the impact that tennis stardom has had on his life off-court, and explaining how much he has raised the profile of tennis in Serbia. It’s a well presented piece too, appearing as an informal conversation written up into article form.
The piece is not without its faults, lapsing into the mundain and irrelevant with questioning concerning a possible relationship with Maria Sharapova, seeking Djokovic’s opinion on the best body amongst the players on the men’s tour, too much reference to his own ‘sex-symbol’ status, and of course attempting to find some non-existent romantic link between him and Ivanovic. This, however, is nothing compared to the inanity of the questioning fired at Ivanovic in the other half of the article.
Where as Djokovic’s celebrity status and sexual attractiveness are irritatingly alluded to by his interviewer, Ivanovic’s are the basis for almost the entire piece written by hers. The result is the worst kind of innuendo-filled tripe, of the kind that you would expect to find in one of those soft-porn mags that dominate the ‘men’s lifestyle’ section of your newsagent. What’s more, the interview is presented to us in an anodyne question-and-answer style which offers nothing revelatory. Of the twenty-five questions posed by the interviewer, about five are of any value at all. Here is a selection of the rest:
Who, to your mind, is the most attractive woman on the tennis circuit?
Are women attracted to you?
Do you prefer men to be philosophical or funny?
Could you ever date a short man?
Why don’t you just marry Novak Djokovic and have unbeatable tennis babies?
Are all Serbians good-looking?
Would you ever play tennis drunk for fun?
Can what you wear affect your game? (Borderline worthwile, interviewer’s motives are questionable in this context)
Are you able to jump the net?
Is there anything you wouldn’t do in order to win Wimbledon? (The following suggestions are offered) Sell your soul? Sell your Grandmother? Eat a dog?
So there you have it. An exclusive interview with the world number four, and that’s the best they can do? Placed in amongst that lot, the question Ivanovic was asked about her recollections of the war in Serbia seems terribly insensitive – I mean, like he cares?
The OSM, it seems to me, have no other motivation than using the sex-appeal of these two young people to bump up their circulation by shifting a few copies to the mass market that wouldn’t ordinarily go near The Observer. The OSM cover (well actually covers, there are two of them) tells you everything you need to know – a style shot of one of the two subjects with the headline “THE NEW PIN-UPS” emblazoned all over it. Even the players names are in small print – suggesting their insignificance to the article.
In times when the media is weighed down with cheap titillation and gossip, it is so disheartening to see a publication of this nature trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s clear that Ana Ivanovic is the real target here, despite OSM’s pathetic attempts at political correctness by printing glamour shots of Djokovic as well. The interviews reveal all, whilst Djokovic is quizzed mostly about tennis, Ivanovic is asked about anything else, but mostly about things connected with sex. Anyone can see that Ivanovic is a beautiful young woman, and no doubt there will numerous fashion & style (and soft-porn) magazines eager to point that out to us for the next few years, so do we really need a serious sports magazine to concentrate on this too? Who’s going to talk about the tennis?
To take a top sportswoman and reduce her to the level of a glamour model, whilst at the same time talking to her male equivalent about his sport, is offensive in the extreme. This junk is basically telling us that the men are there to provide the sport, whilst the women are there for us to gawp at. It’s the kind of thing I expect to avoid reading in The Sun.
If you think I’m overreacting, then answer me this: If this is an article about Serbia’s top two tennis stars, where is Jelena Jankovic? Since she and Ivanovic started playing, Jankovic has consistently been the higher in the rankings and won more tournaments. Ivanovic in fact has yet to depose her as Serbian no.1. Jankovic however, isn’t in anywhere near as much demand for photoshoots as her compatriot, and, as the cover tells us, this article is about the snaps.
Sorry, who’s Jelena Jankovic? Oh you know she’s the bird that Andy Murray’s brother was snogging at last year’s Wimbledon. I don’t know, they won a mixed doubles or something.