The Rights and Wrongs of TV3 and Brian Lenihan

TV3 were right to report that finance minister Brian Lenihan had been diagnosed with cancer.

Unfortunately, just about every other decision they made in covering the story was wrong.

What TV3 gave us was Ursula Halligan, seemingly ill-prepared, at one point stumbling over tenses (“Brian Lenihan was, um, is…”) and saying not very much after the first sentence.

(As an aside, why do television news editors feel the need for faux actuality, going over to ‘our reporter on the spot’ just to show a journalist shivering outside some anonymous building, when the same information could be imparted by the reporter in the studio. That’s an issue beyond this one report though, so we’ll let it pass for now.)

TV3 then spoke to a doctor who said a lot about cancer and not much about Brian Lenihan.

The report closed with what mounted to a political, if not an actual obituary.

Online, a consensus quickly emerged that TV3 should not have run the story. Major newspapers took the same line the following morning.

John McGuirk got it right when he argued that the news should be reported, given Lenihan’s position.

But he admits he didn’t see the report himself, and could not know it did not address the effect on government stability, the price of Irish bonds, or banking shares, to name just three issues.

Instead we got this:

Interviewer: “Is it too early to talk about political consequences?”
Halligan: “Yes it is…”

Wrong. Political consequences were the only reason to broadcast the story. Instead, we got morbid curiosity.

  • georgieleigh

    I think the criticism of TV3 is harsh.

    Though I don’t know the details of exactly who said what to whom, when.

    When stuff like this happens, sympathy for the victim can quickly turn into a hunt for the guilty.

    Ursula Halligan got her tenses mixed up. And is criticized in cold ink for something she stumbled on, on live TV.

    If she was a heartless uncaring newsrat I think we would have heard about it before now.

  • Maybe. But they had two days to prepare the report, and it still came across as amateurish, rushed and unprepared.

    D minus.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s a very difficult call; the right to privacy versus a public figure.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    Not a difficult call at all. It’s news. It’s how you report it that is the difficult call.

  • Hogan

    In fairness to TV3 i watched it as the story was breaking… It was around the same time as RTE’s Nuacht and News for the Deaf… The fact that at (approx) 5:45pm they weren’t reporting on it at the same time as TV3 had a full item on the news came across as TV3 clearly stealing a march on them.

    Yes the American airline was big news but it was recycling earlier item for the headline…

    RTE did actually include an item on their main news bulletin but it was just as a brief.

    Whether their restraint was as a result of a considered culture in determining editorial finely honed over the years or due to a clunking ethics committee approach to news is best for others to speculate.

    I know which news caught my attention the most that night…

  • Fabianus

    “As an aside, why do television news editors feel the need for faux actuality, going over to ‘our reporter on the spot’ just to show a journalist shivering outside some anonymous building, when the same information could be imparted by the reporter in the studio.”

    Er, because the Americans do it and Irish TV-makers slavishly follow?