Archive for the ‘Ursula Halligan’ tag
This evening TV3 exclusively revealed that Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance, had been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his pancreas.
Sadly 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.