When is criticism healthy, and when destructive?

I hear we got a passing mention on Monday’s Nolan Show during Stephen Nolan’s ‘fightback’ against the accusation by Belfast Telegraph man Ed Curran of appealing to the lowest common denominator. In fact he went so far as to describe them as “Crude, rude, offensive, irrational, bigoted, vulgar, seemingly unwilling to listen to anything other than their own voices?” I can’t say I listen that often. No slight to Stephen, it just doesn’t fit in with my day. But even Ed Curran doesn’t doubt the talent of the presenter: “seven gold Sony radio awards. You’ve won two Royal Television Society awards.” In fact, Nolan does raise local issues that are often neglected elsewhere. But Curran lodges some interesting questions that bare thinking about more widely than just one radio show:

“…there is a world of difference between a constructive, critical appraisal of the Stormont folks on the hill, or of the inadequacies in our police, health or other public services, and the approach of the Nolan Show. A question to you, Stephen, and to the BBC. To what extent are you allowing yourself to pander to the lowest common denominator? Where do you and the BBC draw the line in terms of taste and tone on our airwaves? Or do you bother?

Constructive criticism of what the powers-that-be are doing is one thing, to be commended. Deeply disparaging and abusive tirades against them, from THE PEOPLE, (all too often a hallmark of the Nolan Show), are hardly likely to inspire public confidence, especially at a time when Northern Ireland is trying to establish a new order. Giving power to THE PEOPLE needs careful handling either in print or in the spoken word. It shouldn’t be a knocker’s, whinger’s destructive charter.

These important questions are better spoken about amongst journalists rather than, as we have seen, passed down from politicians.

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