Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

If you’re annoyed at how RTÉ cut off Vincent Browne’s questions:

with 8 comments

  • Watch TV3′s special edition of Tonight with Vincent Browne at 10:30pm, instead of The Week in Politics. They’ll be airing the video, including the censored questions.
  • Email complaints@rte.ie.
  • Contact the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (which has incorporated the function of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission):
    • info@bai.ie / complaints@bai.ie
    • Write to:
      • The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
        2 – 5 Warrington Place
        Dublin 2
    • Telephone: (+353) (0)1 644 1200

Update: From RTÉ’s own website:

RTÉ is obliged under Section 39 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to ensure that

(a) all news broadcast . is reported and presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views

(b) the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of his or her own views, except that should it prove impracticable in relation to a single broadcast to apply this paragraph, two or more related broadcasts may be considered as a whole, if the broadcasts are transmitted within a reasonable period of each other

Written by Gav

November 21st, 2010 at 10:56 pm

On Cowen and potentially being drunk

without comments

The discussions today about Brian Cowen and whether he was drunk or not during his Morning Ireland interview seem to be missing one point.

Simon Coveney, tweeting about the idea, is not the thing that has set this story off. It was the fact that Coveney were merely one of dozens of people who all had the medium to record similar observations at the same time.

Written by Gav

September 14th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Journalism’s not dead – just newspapers

with 2 comments

I’ve got some time off this week while UCD’s on a mid-term break so in my lazy bedridden mornings, I’ve been catching up on reading, watching, and generally consuming things that I’ve had on the long finger for a bit.

One of the big things on the list – well, not that I considered it a major point, but ‘big’ in the sense that it was 90 minutes long and substantially larger than I’d anticipated – was Steve Jobs’ iPad keynote address.

This brought me nicely to a post on MediaGuardian’s PDA blog featuring five videos on how different magazine or newspaper publishers might use the touch-screen platform that the iPad will offer.

There’s a few varying approaches but these two are my favourites, showing exactly how phenomenal the power of a versatile large, touch-screen interface when combined with the fluidity of omnipresent online connectivity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Gav

March 16th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

So that’s blogging dead, then

with 10 comments

Like a lot of Irish bloggy types I’ve been keeping an eye on the discussion over at Twenty Major‘s blog where a guest post by Una Mullally (formerly UnaRocks) has triggered a massive, and predictably sometimes overtly personal, discussion about whether the “Irish blogosphere” is over the hill.

As with most discussions, there’s good points to be made on both sides – even if both sides can get a bit grouchy and see a personal insult where there isn’t one to be seen – but feeling that I made a pig’s ear of my comment on the piece and wanting to address another point that isn’t being addressed in the comments, I thought I’d have my tuppence here. I’ll start by rewording my original comment and maybe going from there – the probably length of this post has led me to post it here rather than leave another thesis in the comments on the original.

Overall I think Una’s is a interesting piece and includes a few desperately-needed home truths – the fact that it’s provoked more than a few endorsements from commenters who are happy that Una has called the bluff of some circlejerky types where bloggers produce bad content but are encouraged to do more because of the backslappingthey get is a testament to this.

However, I think the comment left by Joe hits the nail quite squarely on the head: the notion of a ‘blogosphere’ is in itself a very cliquey phenomenon. Nobody refers to newspapers or broadcasters as existing in their own semi-autonomous platform and blogging shouldn’t be thought of in that way either. The problem with perpetuating this concept – that the ‘blogosphere’ is an independent platform where the values of what’s worth reading are somehow skewed from the rest of the world – only ends up endorsing this chasm of quality.

Personally I’d be uncomfortable with declaring Irish blogging being ‘over’ – as I wrote my comment on the piece, I noticed Suzy’s post revealing that Bertie Ahern’s book earnings have been declared tax-free, a piece that deserves to be picked up by the mainstream media because of its sheer newsworthyness. Blogs are only relevant as news sources if bloggers notice this kind of thing before a paid professional journalist can do it, and Suzy in one swoop has managed to proof that there’s life in the young dog yet. Likewise what the lads over at TheStory are doing in pointing out the abuse of public spending by certain people, and the attention they’re getting from other people for doing so.

There’s a world of difference between blogging being ‘over’ and the staple figures of early Irish blogging – Twenty, Rick, Una herself, Blogorrah – all moving on or finding their lifestyles changing as lifestyles inevitably do. For someone like myself who’s dabbled in it for about three-and-a-half years, the demise of Blogorrah or Twenty’s retirement were akin to a longrunning TV show being cancelled or the death of an elder statesman. Of course it changes the landscape a bit when a respected senior contributor disappears, but TV wasn’t dead when Gay Byrne quit the Late Late Show, nor was soap opera declared defunct when Brookside was cancelled.

Ireland exists in an unusual and somewhat perverse circumstance, where because of the everyone-knows-everyone-sure-isn’t-it-a-small-world culture we have in real life on this island, some people have an instinct to only read content that’s written by Irish people. This would be akin to people making a principled point in ignoring British TV or newspapers – it’s just too small a pool for many people of real impact to make any significant following.

Una comments that Ireland’s blogosphere has never been as vibrant as those of other countries to begin with, because

There’s no Gawker, no Perez, no Huffington.

I think if Ireland was bigger, there most certainly would be all of those sites – we’re a very gossipy race in Ireland. The problem is that for there to be  an Irish Gawker or a Perez, we would need there to be an enormous talent pool of Irish celebrities to ensure a reasonable turnover of content, where there simply isn’t. An Irish Gawker would be an electronic form of the Sindo Life magazine – God saves us all. There’s no HuffPo or Guido-type character because Irish politics is nepotistic, petty and severely underresourced. Too little happens and when it happens it happens on a scale that’s of very little use to anyone. What’s more, if Ireland had a HuffPo or a Politico – and maybe that’s what Mark Little’s new venture might ultimately produce – there’d be very few people to read it, because with a population as small as Ireland’s, not only would current affairs coverage have limited appeal to begin with, but the nature of Ireland’s tech infrastructure means that there’s still only a limited proportion of people who actually have the means to read it. We often forget in Ireland how few people outside of the Pale and the other major cities have a decent internet connection; your average active citizen in Donegal, Roscommon or Clare might be very interested in the content of a Politico but simply doesn’t have a decent connection to read it. (They might have dial-up but they’re not going to use dial-up to check a site or an RSS reader every couple of hours without paying through the nose for it.)

Ireland is simply too small for this kind of stuff: it’s why we don’t have a Guardian or a real political spectrum of print media; why we don’t have any major domestic professional sports; and it’s why we have a constant chip on our shoulders about people telling us what we do is insignificant.

Blogging won’t ever be ‘over’. Bloggers just eventually do other things, just as journalists and broadcasters and people with any kind of hobby. There is no small irony that Una’s post was published on the blog of someone who has quit blogging before, by a former blogger themselves.

Una’s remark that 98% of blog content is rubbish is probably true, but that’s the same with most media. I used to read the Irish Independent but got bored of its constant editorialising. I now read The Irish Times but not on a daily basis, because I wish it would be more honest about its blatant pro-Labour agenda. The only paper I read regularly now is the Guardian because I admire its design and the resources it affords its writers, but even still I still largely read online so as to filter out a lot of what I consider crap (I had no interest in its Copenhagen coverage, and on the iPhone app I’d selected only content relating to football, other sport, media and technology to appear on the home screen because the rest doesn’t concern me). Perhaps it’s ironic that this isn’t an Irish medium but such is the world that all media, including blogs, now live in. Ireland’s Sunday papers are all quite poor too; the Sunday Times is too full of irrelevant Britspeak, the Sindo is only ever one nude Amanda Brunker picture away from exploding in a ball of its own semen, and Una’s own Tribune appears to be unable to decide what it wants to be, other than a permanent Government-basher (aside from the unfortunate fact that with dropping circulation, it has to keep cutting its pagination to stay alive). But again, TV isn’t dead; radio isn’t dead; journalism isn’t dead (it’s newspapers that are dying, not journalism itself).

One other point that Una made in her post that hasn’t been dissected in some way – and one that relates most personally to me, as someone with airs of trying to get a foot in the door of a paying job in some kind of media – was this:

Many seem to use blogging as their first stepping stone for getting on in other forms of media. Because of this, blogging will always be seen as rung number one on the media ladder, unless you work for the Irish Times or something and you’re dragged by the scruff of your neck into blogville. I think it’s only unfair in exceptions to describe blogging as anything else. The Irish blogsphere is populated by wannabes using a blog to broadcast themselves in the hope of latching on to other gigs, branding themselves as if their opinions or writing or indeed their ‘selves’ as a product is worth branding, and publicising various projects/work/whatever they’re undertaking outside of their blog. Why would anyone want to read that?

Student journalists and people like me are constantly being told that in order to set ourselves apart from the crowd in the quest to get recognised as a worthy contributor and picked up by ‘the mainstream’, we need to be jacks of all trades – we need to be able to produce copy, to edit it, to cut video, to record and treat audio, and to understand the platforms that all of this content uses. Essentially, we’re told we need to master all media, and the way to do this without being part of the bigger entities is to be users of the ‘new media’, of which blogging is the archetype. It might seem cheap, but for people in my shoes we’re expected to blog, and certainly don’t seem to be entertained for very long if we don’t.

I suspect that Una might be overstating it a little, but there certainly are a lot of Irish bloggers who want to latch onto other gigs and who brand themselves as being an entity. UnaRocks herself was one (albeit one that Una herself admits she got tired of, and one that she has abandoned by changing her Twitter username) and admitted in her final post that her online presence got her some gigs that her journalistic one wouldn’t have; Twenty is another, and was given a book deal for his work. Mulley is one too; he’s now able to make a full-time living out of it, and all credit to him. But again, that’s no different to other media.

What’s the difference between the ‘brand’ of Twenty Major and of Fintan O’Toole, or Vincent Browne, or Charlie Brooker or Richard Littlejohn or Terry Wogan or Pat Kenny or Ryan Tubridy or Gerry Ryan or Jeremy Clarkson or Perez Hilton – or, indeed, Una Mullally? There isn’t one – these are all people who make their living out of being a name, a brand themselves that people want to read. This is the nature of all columnists; they’re given the platform to write pretty much whatever they like, and the mere placement of their byline or headshot beside it is what gives it its prestige. There are people who read their output who wouldn’t read anything else in the platform in which it’s presented – Brooker readers who aren’t Guardian readers; Littlejohn readers who might never buy a copy of The Sun; and people (like me) who read O’Toole and Browne on irishtimes.com and Una’s column on Tribune.ie without buying the paper it’s printed in.

Blogging, therefore, shouldn’t be bastardised or stigmatised because there are people who trade and present themselves as being an entity of esteem, or a brand that people should be attentive to. It’s the basis of all media to have names that people will be attracted to, and that’s what keeps the world going around. Not only is it the prescribed mode for someone like me if I want to be taken on board, but seeing names like O’Toole and Browne is some of the reason people keep picking up the Irish Times, and seeing names like Mullally is one of the reasons people keep buying the Tribune, and keep Una employed and living in a swanky city-centre apartment with a turret.

That’s damn close to the lifestyle I’d like – so what’s an aspiring wordsmith to do?

Written by Gav

January 6th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Just how tactless can TV3 be? Answer: very.

with 11 comments

This evening TV3 exclusively revealed that Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance, had been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his pancreas.

lenihanSadly TV3 don’t see fit to allowing their videos be embedded elsewhere, but the piece they did – it’s the first 7 minutes out of a 7’30” news bulletin – can be seen here.

It’s difficult to know where to start with a piece like this. TV3 say – and, to be honest, it’s a commendable choice – that although they became aware of the news on Christmas Eve, they chose not to reveal it due to the sensitive timing of the news.

There are, however, a few serious problems with the piece. I’ll start with the meekest one and work upward.

Ursula Halligan, completely aside from the merits of the piece in question, is quite possibly the worst reporter I’ve seen ever. She stumbles, leaves dead air, and struggles to grasp words so badly that sometimes she make Bertie Ahern look like Dickens. Her interviews are inane, bland, and ask so few questions that the subject could admit to serial murder and still come out smelling of roses, such is Halligan’s inability to string up a subject. Bring back Miriam, all is forgiven.

The striking absence from Halligan’s report is not only that Lenihan, the Department, or the Government have declined to comment on the matter, but that Halligan doesn’t see fit to mention this. All in the sake of getting the scoop to beat all scoops. Why would you say “We asked the Department of Finance for a comment, but were told it’d be inappropriate for them to comment on a personal issue” in a piece when it de-sexifies the piece? Lenihan (in a statement) has said he has no plans to speak to the media until the New Year. Clearly that’s a public domain fact. But try telling that to TV3.

It’s tough to imagine how TV3 could have had any less tact in handling this subject. ‘Is it too early to talk about the political impact of this?’, wonders Colette Fitzpatrick live on air, when most viewers are going “Jaysus, I hate him for the pay cuts, but that’s terrible”. Yes, Colette, it is too early to ask who’s getting his job. Frankly it’s too early to talk about the issue at all.

“How do you get pancreatic cancer?” she asks later. Jesus, Colette, it’s not like he got it as a Christmas present. The respondent, Prof John Crown, is hardly any better, essentially implying that because the symptoms of pancreatic cancer tend to strike when it’s too late to do much about it, when it’s diagnosed there’s little that can be done to assist recovery. While TV3 tried their best to demarcate the Lenihan content from the medical analysis, the line was so thinly-drawn as to be blown away the second that Prof Crown drew breath.

Following the interview, the piece featured a retrospective on Lenihan’s 18 months as Minister for Finance. There is very little to justify this. The video reel didn’t need to say anything about the end of Lenihan’s tenure out loud for the implications to ring clear. To do this is galling enough – in essence the reel is an obituary – but given that TV3 had two days to put together the reel, it means that at some point in the last 48 hours, someone – anyone – with editorial authority could have put their heads in and thought, ‘maybe we shouldn’t run an obituary piece’. Again, tactless and horrible.

I don’t think one can be so quick as to condemn the reporters involved – all they can do is get the story and give it to the news editors to use it as they see fit – save for Halligan, who when presented with acres of dead air in which she could have explained that everyone else had declined to comment, rather than choosing to give off the impression that the story was so fresh that they simply didn’t have time to ask.

The kicker is that whatever about his public responsibility or profile, this isn’t really news. Brian Lenihan and his family are the ones to whom this matters most; it’s not as if he’s been incapacitated for some time and that should a bank fail on Monday morning (especially when everyone’s forgetting that Monday’s not a bank holiday) he won’t be around to act. It’s just simply a matter of extreme insensitivity to deny the man with the country’s toughest job a bit of space to come to terms with a debilitating condition, and even if the piece wasn’t as tabloid and grotesque as it ultimately was, there’s simply no forgiving that.

To think they wonder why the mainstream media is falling apart.

Edit: Elsewhere, Suzy Byrne contemplates the impact for ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ between politics and the media.

This post was edited to correct the spelling of Ursula Halligan’s surname.

Written by Gav

December 26th, 2009 at 9:29 pm