On the importance of content…

Daily Ireland and the Sunday Independent rarely get a mention on Slugger without someone having a go at the person who has written the piece. Such, it would seem, is the Irish custom – to dismiss stories by dint of who the teller is rather than by the content. Eoghan Harris had some useful things to say one the matter of man playing within the wider media. He takes several media figures to task for routinely dismissing some news stories that cannot be proven in court:

As soon as I heard that Kathy Sheridan of the Irish Times was on the panel I switched over to Today FM’s Sunday Supplement, mentally predicting (on the basis of a previous Newstalk performance) that she would take a cut at Jim Cusack, our security correspondent. When I whizzed through the tape later – I can bear bad politics better when not live – I was not surprised to hear her carping about Cusack’s report that the Provisional IRA had hired a hitman to murder Denis Donaldson. Sheridan wanted evidence. Maybe she should take up law.

Like Vincent Browne in Village – who also has a bee in his bonnet about Cusack’s crusading stories on Provo criminals – Sheridan seems to think that a reporter should only run stories that could be proved in court. Let me say three things.

First, most reporters know stuff that can’t be proved in court – and it is in the public interest to print their speculations. Second, the Irish Times would have blank pages if they only printed stuff that passed the Sheridan test. Finally, we can speculate (but not prove) that Sheridan might also be reflecting a snippiness in the Irish Times about Cusack leaving that paper to work in the Sunday Independent – where long before Michael McDowell’s revelations, he reported on the criminal empire of the Provisional IRA.

Meantime, over on Today FM, Eamon McCann – who had no hard evidence – was speculating that Donaldson may have been murdered by Provos who felt they were being pushed around by the CAB and ARA while spies like Donaldson got off scot-free. Made sense to me. So what evidence do I have for my firm belief that if Kathy Sheridan was in the same studio as Eamon McCann, she would not demand he produce hard proof to support his speculations? None at all.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty