Birmingham City and Aston Villa football clubs might not be having the best of seasons, but that doesn’t mean the Birmingham Mail’s sports coverage is lacking interest.
The antics of certain players off the pitch have been creating a stir – and leading to claims of bias at the Mail.
When Birmingham City player Jermaine Pennant was thrown out of rapper Kanye West’s aftershow party at a local nightclub, the story was splashed on the Mail’s front page, written by sports reporter and Villa fan Lisa Smith.
Lisa (pictured) had been at the Kanye West concert – where two doormen were shot – and at the aftershow party, and managed to get pictures of the Pennant incident from a contact.
But sparks flew the next day with angry Blues fans sending in letters claiming a Villa bias by the paper.
“But we had lots of sarcasm on Lisa’s ‘bias’ with pages of letters and some pretty nasty comments on the web.”
Capitalising on the controversy, and in an attempt to set the record straight, Steve decided to run a piece on Lisa looking at the ‘woman behind the news’ – written by Blues fan Paul Fulford and pointing out she had written good and bad stories about both clubs.
She said: “I have never hidden the fact that I am a Villa fanatic but in my role as a news/sports reporter I am employed to cover the good, the bad and the ugly side of all teams on and off the field.
“I wrote about Jermaine Pennant because my contact saw his antics first hand – I would have done the same if it had been a Villa star.”
By coincidence, later in the week Villa player Lee Hendrie was convicted of assault – which the Mail of course covered.
Steve said: “Blues and Villa are big rivals and when we write something good about Villa the Blues fans says we are a Villa paper and when we write something good about the Blues Villa fans say we are a Blues paper.
“Some papers shy away from doing either but I think that is weak.
“We have Blues, Villa, Albion, Wolves and Walsall supporters in our newsroom, but all of them know that they must remain impartial in their work.”