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Eurovision 2010: The mysterious case of Grant McAlister

January 26, 2010

A ponderous ever-so-slightly-patronising thoughs thundered across my mind as the lift made its short journey to the ground floor this evening.

The draft blog post I’d rattled off on the tube journey to work probably shouldn’t be published after all. The bravado I illustrated with various facial contortions in front of the other passengers in the morning was now a distant memory. In it’s place an expression of relief. Thank God I hadn’t committed a mortal pseudo-journalistic sin of reporting something which almost certainly hadn’t been corroborated. It have got me into trouble.

Mind you, it’s still worth blogging about. It’s too delicious to avoid.

Twenty four hours before I was sat in a room full of journalists fine-tuning their internet research skills to a fine degree. One had found his long-lost long-since forgotten father-in-law. Another had pinpointed the probable location of a fraudster who’d escaped his bail in South Africa and was either journeying to or already on one of the British Virgin Islands.

I, on the other hand, was investigating the latest piece of Eurovision news to get sucked into the entertainment news cheese grater. It was the earth shattering news that … an actor from somewhere in the North of the UK had been “put forward to auditon for the UK Eurovision final”.

There’s a reason I’m not a fully fledged journalist. I have a proven track record of being distracted by bits of fluff. Shameful. Tut tut.

But here’s the agonising dichotomy. All in the internet world – especially at the BBC – are tripping over themselves to underline just how important it is to link out to other websites in order to improve one’s ranking amongst the Gods of the internet. The reality is that merely repeating something you’ve read from another news source isn’t responsible journalism. You might as well say: it was reported by that dodgy bloke with one eye who stands on the edge of the North Circular, so it must be true.

That’s not to denounce the Rossendale Free Press, nor the journalist who wrote the story (and insodoing promoted Grant Bromley’s next gig at the Burnley Mechanics). Nor am I having a dig at the Manchester Evening News. Nor at it’s operating company Newsquest. No No. I wouldn’t do that. I’m lovely.

What’s interesting though (in my little world at least) is to what extent it fuelled my interest.

By the time I got home, I found it very difficult to keep away from the PC.

Who was Grant Bromley? Why didn’t ANYONE else know anything about him? There was nothing from the BBC Press Office either. And, given that Grant – the Principal of the “Valley Academy” no less – also happens to be gigging on Saturday 20 February, isn’t there a risk he was going to have a diary clash if he managed to get through the audition? 

And .. come to think of it… We all know – some of us from bitter experience – that the last thing you want to tell people is that you’re going for an audition for a TV entertainment project. Because when you do the first thing people will ask you is: “Grant! How did you get on?”

Look down the story and do a little bit of research using a few free online tools and you may well end up thinking the same thing as me.

Who is the Grant Bromley written about in the Rossendale piece? And who exactly is that in the picture in the news story – couldn’t that be anyone? Why does the Burnley Mechanics link at the end of the piece take me off to a website link to the band Mr Bromley sings in but where he’s referred to as Grant McAlister? Surely actors fresh out of college where they’ve had all sorts of media training (or should have) should be hot on making sure their presence on the internet is as blanketed as it is carefully honed? Mix-ups over names are not going to help your career.

My cub-reporter research leads me nowhere, but it’s probably still worth reading on.

Grant McAlister and Grant Bromley are almost certainly one and the same person leading me to speculate the journalist who wrote the news story which piqued my interest in the first place may well have made a mistake when he or she was typing the story.

And yet, take a look at ValleyAcademy.co.uk and you’ll see the same chappy pictured as principal of the drama thingymagig but with the name of “Bromley”. His mother presumably – Sally-Ann – is pictured below. What’s that about?

Only one thing to do, I think to myself. I’ll email the bloke. I’ve got his email address. I’ll ask him if he’s doing the audition.

You won’t be surprised to learn I’ve had no response. And, in some respects, I’m relieved I haven’t.

Why? Here’s the reasoning. Eurovision spawns all sorts of discussions. It fuels the ideas of academics desperately scrabbling around for ideas for a paper just as it maintains the constant stream of chitter-chatter on Twitter and messageboards. And when there are that many voices around all clamouring for attention a sense of intense competition isn’t far behind.

That’s why bloggers want to blog about Eurovision. That’s why fan sites are perfect for it. It’s an event rich in tittle-tattle. Rumour turns into fact. And with nothing more than a blink of an eye something can be reported as fact. It’s then just a short hop to a blogger thinking it’s OK to repeat something just because he read it on the internet. Soon after that reputations are ruined, jobs are lost and people start laughing.

Gosh.

And yet, there’s one other thing to consider. Cast aside the fact that this isn’t really important. Cast aside too Mr Bromley or Mr McAlister hasn’t been in contact. Suspend reality just for a moment. According to his Manchester Metropolitan University profile the boy can sing. It says it clear and simple: a strong musical theatre background. That would make him like another Jade only without the legs. Maybe then all he’d need was a decent song. And maybe that decent song would come from Gary Barlow.

Maybe, just maybe, Grant Bromley or Grant McAlister really is going for an audition for UK Eurovision. If he does and he gets through we might just see him in the first edition of the selection programme. If he doesn’t he’ll be a mystery begging to be checked out.

To find out I’ll have to go through one agonising process however. An experience similar to the one plenty of full-time BBC members of staff were quick to condescend with when I was banging on about getting a job at the Corporation. To find out whether Grant Bromley or McAlister or whatever did audition or not, we’re going to have to “hurry up and wait”.

And maybe that’s the point about UK Eurovision. It’s going to happen. There’s no point in trying to hasten it just because you want it to get here quicker. The fact that some of us do want to find out earlier than the rest of the pack only goes to show what sad, deluded individuals we really are.

Don’t get me started on the ones who reckon they’ve got insider information. They’re even worse.

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