Would a more honest journalism make a difference?

Well, it hasn’t gone away you know. Ed Moloney, author of a useful essay on the peace process and what he believes to be a kind of Stockholm syndrome effect it has had on Northern Irish journalism wrote to the paper on Saturday:

Are we to take it from Ms O’Connor’s confident assertion that the cat is now out of the bag, as it were – that Tommie Gorman has rescinded his denial or at least allowed it to wither on the vine?

He argues:

This, he argues, would have far reaching implications for Irish journalism:

The traditional and valued principle that underlies all journalism everywhere is that reporters must never cross the line between observers and players; if that line is crossed, then the inevitable consequence is that reporting becomes fatally suspect, all the more so when the line-crossing is crossed secret and kept hidden from the public. The public needs to have trust in the integrity and independence of the media and their professionals, or civil society is undermined. In the country where I now reside and work, a journalist who crossed that line would face instant dismissal and the censure of his peers.

The Troubles in Northern Ireland have had, I believe, a terribly corrosive effect on Irish journalism, with reporters under constant pressure to take sides in the conflict and to shape their coverage according to the diktats of official, unofficial or self-censorship. The peace now enjoyed by Northern Ireland is to be cherished; but how ironic if its arrival has been heralded by an acceptance of the idea that journalists could and should be players as well.

The traditional standard needs to be protected and re-asserted. A debate about all this would be certainly healthy, but in the meantime RTÉ and Tommie Gorman badly need to clear the air.

In his essay, Moloney declares that his is a “purist journalistic stance on censorship. It is perhaps a Utopian view, but a good yardstick nonetheless. But there is another more civic-based reason why in general, and in the particular case of the Northern Ireland Troubles, censorship should be resisted. In the long term it doesn’t work. It can actually be counter-productive.”

The residual point behind his thesis is that journalists should have more confidence in the latent power of their craft, and resist the temptation to be drawn into fix what politicians, not journalists, are mandated to fix:

It is impossible to say whether more honest journalism would have made a difference, but it might have. Is it possible that a better informed Unionist electorate, one made aware by the media of the huge compromises that Adams was making, might have been more ready to temper demands for IRA decommissioning, and more willing to believe that the war had ended on terms they previously could only have dreamed about? Would it have made any difference if the Provos had been put under greater scrutiny and their more flagrant lying exposed? And if all that had happened, would the power-sharing executive at Stormont have survived, and with it the centre ground of Northern Ireland politics?

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  • Garibaldy

    Ed Moloney talking about the importance of journalistic objectivity. How interesting.

  • Sam Flanagan

    How many “HONEST” journalists do you think can be found in the USA, Britian and Ireland?

  • Mick Fealty

    Gari,

    Care to address the ball, rather than the man?

    You too Sam. That’s a ‘punch to air’ if ever there was one.

  • Garibaldy

    Well Mick the thing is the topic at hand, as I understand it, is whether journalists have allowed their own political investments or agenda – or those of their owners -to influence what they have written. Moloney discusess it in terms of a specific individual. The whole topic itself is related to individuals, and I don’t think it would be illegitimate to raise the question of the individual actions of journalists, including the author of the piece.

    As it happens, I think the whole journalistic objectivity thing is nonsense anyway. We all carry our own prejudices, and newspapers all follow a certain political line. Ask any journalist, and they will tell you that the way they write their reports differs for different newspapers. So the whole topic is and of itself une question mal posée.

    Even if Gorman did play a facilitating role, say by carrying messages back and forth, so what? I doubt he’s the first.

  • GavBelfast

    Surely the “so what” is that Gorman flatly denied having such a role.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Many journalists think they are the story or they feel it is important to relay the story through the prism of their opinions. See John Simpson in Baghdad, Maggie O’Kane in Bosnia, Fergal Keane and many more.

    More locally, Jeanie Johnson’s loathing of the Shinners and pro-union stance was comical during the Drumcree stand-offs. Stephen Nolan is hardly a journalist but is entirely self-absorbed and devoid of objectivity. In NI they just seem to get away with it a lot more and therefore singling out Nolan and UTV is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • Garibaldy

    Could we see the denial as an extension of protecting sources?

  • Sam Flanagan

    Does anyone remember Geanette Oldham? was she really a journalist?

  • ulsterfan

    Irish journalism has a lot of soul searching to do. In the past it has not covered itself with distinction.
    In Dublin CJ Haughey strut about the political stage without a word of condemnation about the origins of his wealth and romantic liaisons. There was no real investigation carried out and I got the impression journalist /editors lived in fear of his threat to use the laws of libel to protect his privacy. Journalists failed to see this as a subject of public interest.
    The same criticism can be made re sex scandals within RC Church and Industrial schools. It was by and large left to British based TV companies to lift the lid.
    Once a journalist moves away from objectivity and expresses a personal opinion or becomes involved in the debate for other reasons he has not lived up to his calling.

  • paul kielty

    ” Would it have made any difference if the provos had been put under greater scrutiny and their more flagrant lies exposed?”
    Who knows?

    Would it have made any difference if ‘journalists'(political commentators) had been put under greater scrutiny and their flagrant lies exposed?
    Absolutely!

    I hope that this thread, finely, kick-starts a wider public discussion on the conduct of the ‘journalists’ who work for the public broadcasting stations, namely the BBC and RTE.
    ‘Journalists’ like Maloney/Clarke/Myers etc…, are all in the pay of extremely rich and powerful people, all with an unashamed right wing agenda. Fair enough! We don’t pay their wages.

    I believe that the politically motivated doctoring of information, via BBC/RTE, supplied to us mere mortals (who just happen to pay their wages!!), helped prolong this conflict.

    It is long overdue that the political sages, Mr Gorman and his ilk, are held to account for the overt propaganda-shoving down the throat, exercise that they have over-indulged in these last 40 years or so.

    Are there any anti-establishment journalists in the pay of the BBC/RTE?

  • Sam Flanagan

    Paul;
    Are you implying we ought to have a “truth commission” for journalists?
    Do you think journalists should have to disclose if they belong to any “secret societies”?

  • paul kielty

    Sam Flanagan,

    Interesting concept that, a ‘truth commission’ for journalists. It wouldn’t work for one maybe two reasons.

    1/ They are too far gone in terms of their arrogant intoxication with their own self importance to even comprehend that they may well have been more interested in mis-information rather than information.

    2/ The cost of any inquiry into their activities would be astronomical, due to their political masters thwarting, at every step, any serious legal scrutiny. A enormous bill that the tax payer would have to cough up.

  • madeline

    paul kielty
    you’re an idiot, on two ground! first, liam clarke just got laid off from the sunday times and ed moloney works as a freelance in new york. of the three you named only myers could remotely be considered be ‘in the pay’, as you put it, of rich and powerful people, in his case tony o’reilly. you wouldn’t know this of course, since your head is too full of prejudice to make room for facts, but the bulk of journalists earn very normal wages. the second reason you’re an idiot is that if you read or listened to what people like moloney and eamon mccann are saying it is precisely their concern over misinformation from the media that has motivated what they say, in this case tommy gorman wearing two hats. but then i expect you’re just too dumb and fat-headed to take that in!

  • Sam Flanagan

    Madeline;
    And who does Tony O`Reilly work for? Would you like to take 3 guesses?

  • Nic

    Conor Brady of the Irish Times listed his proudest moment as the decision to support the Peace Process. RTEs Tommie Gorman invoked “the hand of history” at every IRA publicity stunt.
    The Sunday Independent, for all that it is sneered upon by the noodling classes, took the editorial decision to criticise and challenge the Peace Process.
    No prizes for guessing which source of news won my respect. The heroes of the Peace Process were not Conor Brady or Martin Mansergh or Tommie Gorman or any of the other “useful idiots” who nearly sold the entire country to a bunch of vicious, self-regrading thugs with nothing but contempt for them or the Irish people and their wishes.
    The heroes, accidental or otherwise, were the columnists who prodded the conscience of decent Ireland by daring to be skeptical, and a Justice Minister who took a stand at great personal political cost and preserved our integrity – just about.
    Of course, as always happens in such circumstances, the useful idiots and intellectual elite chose to preserve their own standing rather than accept their error. And so we have quietly reinstated the useful idiots in key positions and continue secret meetings and secret deals.
    At least that is my suspicion, because these journalist have shown that they are in love with (to use Ed Moloneys terms) playing, and are no longer content to merely observe.

  • 6countyprod

    The traditional and valued principle that underlies all journalism everywhere is that reporters must never cross the line between observers and players; if that line is crossed, then the inevitable consequence is that reporting becomes fatally suspect…

    That line is continually crossed, by all shades of journalism. Many journalists in the major media outlets have become mere conduits for their respective interests.

    Reporting in the current political cycle in the US makes it patently obvious that journalists no longer value the traditional principle mentioned above, and consequently a growing majority are becoming increasingly suspicious of them.

    Something to whet the appetite:

    http://www.helium.com/debates/150523-are-citizen-journalists-more-trustworthy-than-professional-journalists/side_by_side?page=1

    http://scholarsandrogues.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/the-end-of-objectivity-sr-special-report-on-journalism-education/

  • madeline

    to sam flanagan: tony o’reilly works for himself, of course, otherwise what is the point of your stupid question? because one of the three mentioned works for a press baron are you trying to say that all of them are tainted? or do you even know what you are trying to say? or better still are you paul kielty using another nom de plume, in a vain effort to pretend that his stupidity being more widely shared is somehow acceptable??

  • Cure E. Ss

    If you work for a newspaper do you not by default work for a press baron? So does it merely come down to a matter of some press barons are better than others? Which ones are the acceptable barons to work for, pray tell?

  • Sam Flanagan

    Madeline;
    I think your are becoming a little paranoid.

    Tony definitely does not work for himself. Tell him to sue me if you like.

  • paul kielty

    Madeline,

    It is really nice to meet you also, thanks for the intro’!!

    Mr Clarke and Moloney carved out a long and prosperous career spitting out this tosh. So they have moved on to greener pastures, so what!
    Maybe i’m stupid or something, but i thought i said that i didn’t care less about them as, unlike BBC/RTE ‘journalists’, i did not pay their wages. I am sorry you missed this point.

    So finally, mccann and especially moloney, are on the road to Damascus. Fair play to them, it only took 40 years! Or is there some (hahem! Dare i say it!) political motivation for their new found defence of freedom of speech and the impartiality of the state media?

    Nic

    You must be joking. You must be!!
    Is this the same justice minister (mcdowell, i presume), who launched an unprecedented attack on a daily newspaper, before it was even published!! So much for freedom of speech!

    These ‘columnists’ as you accurately describe them( ‘journalists’ conferrs a decency they do not warrant), are the very same people who blatantly lied about the whole issue of collusion for years upon years.

    Yip, people of the highest integrity.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    You want to get sued, then make your speculative statements on your own site!

  • paul kielty

    Madeline,

    I can assure you that Sam Flanagan and myself are indeed two seperate human beings!!!LOL!

    Is it a wee bit past your bed time?

  • Sam Flanagan

    Mick;
    lol

  • madeline

    paul kielty, every time you put finger to keyboard you confirm what an impossibly stupid idiot you are. you write: these journalists, e.g. moloney, “are the very same people who blatantly lied about the whole issue of collusion for years upon years” – like, where have you been recently? ed moloney nearly went to jail because of his efforts to expose state collusion in the murder of pat finucane and he was the reporter who exposed the truth behind the loyalist-udr gang/state cover up of seamus ludlow’s murder – get your facts right before you sling shit at people, you pathetic nobody!

  • paul kielty

    Madeline,

    You are absolutely wrong about moloney regarding the Finucane and the Ludlow killings. He only jumped on the bandwagon YEARS after these events. In the meantime, he rediculed anyone whom, he suspected of being a republican, for saying exactly the same thing years before!!
    Please get your facts right!

    Moloney is just one of a whole generation of political cadre. He is not a stand alone political commentator. I never paid his wages so i don’t care about him. That was not what the original post was about.

    Madeline, i am adamant that i will not occupy the ground where you obviously feel most comfortable, the land of personal abuse.

    So all the best, it was a pleasure conversing!!

  • Sam Flanagan

    madeline;
    “cover up of seamus ludlow`s murder”

    I know Samuel Carroll, he lived across the street fom my grand mother`s house in the old Cultra st.

  • madeline

    as i wrote before, paul kielty, and you continue stubbornly to demonstrate, every time you put a finger on the key board you show everyone what a blithering idiot you are!

  • Sam Flanagan

    Madeline;
    I think this situation is making you feel very uncomfortable. “you show EVERYONE,” you are clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur if you think “everyone” reads or pays any attention to what is written on this obscure website.

    As PKielty put it on his earlier post;
    “1/ They are too far gone in terms of their arrogant intoxication with their own self importance to even comprehend that they may well have been more interested in mis-information rather than information.”

    Sounds like he has got you right down to a T.

    You could try getting in touch with TumbleDown Iris`s “very lovely Pscychiatrist friend” before you say anything more.

    What is wrong with being “a blithering idiot?”
    You get DLA for being “a blithering idiot.”

  • Dave

    It’s due to a lack of principles and surplus of self-serving expediencies, Madeline, alas. They support a partial media when that media is partial to an agenda that they support, but if that media is partial to an agenda they don’t support, then they’ll be the first to complain about the lack of impartiality.

    Tommie Gorman, allegedly a protagonist in the process who failed to declare his partisanship due to a lack of integrity, produced a documentary on the ‘peace process’ for RTE a few months ago that opened with Luka Bloom telling the viewers that the image of Gerry and Ian sitting beside each other (that ‘famous’ image) made him cry and was the happiest day of his life – awww, bless. Luka who? Just some ‘nice guy’ folksinger that viewers would identify with and whose otherwise utterly irrelevant presence was designed to encourage others to share the nauseating sentimentality of his endorsement of the process. It had nothing to do with critical documentary and everything to do with hagiography and propaganda. Tommie Gorman has been pumping this pap out on the process for years and passing the pap off as journalism. Indeed, RTE’s coverage on it would be a goldmine for research for an updated edition of Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.