“journalists were sometimes told to hold back on a story in case they might do damage to the delicate administration”

Here’s a snippet from an Irish Times report on this year’s Parnell Summer School at Avondale House, Rathdrum, County Wicklow.

The media had not just a right but a duty to make things awkward for politicians, especially those in government, according to David Gordon, political editor of the Belfast Telegraph.

In the North journalists were sometimes told to hold back on a story in case they might do damage to the delicate administration, he said. While this was not a point to ignore, you couldn’t make exceptions, he said. [added emphasis]

If the doomsayers were correct about the demise of newspapers then society would miss journalism when it was gone, he said.

Already in an attempt to gain readers there was a danger of newspapers becoming hysterical and damaging good journalism. If things are overhyped and everything is a scandal, then nothing is a scandal, he added.

Told by whom, David?  I know it’s “a fragile flower which requires careful tending…”  But still.

As I’ve said before

I’ve no doubt of the contribution, but the “well-behaved witness” now needs to start asking “stupid” questions. Otherwise false, or partial, narratives will go unchallenged as those witnesses continue to ignore “the bits that do not suit particular prejudices”.  And when “agreed truth becomes accepted, the real truth becomes a lie”.

, , , ,

  • joeCanuck

    David Gordon is exactly right. If the politicos act in a proper manner, they should have nothing to fear from journalists asking the hard questions. Maybe some of them, the politicos, should be invited to have a chat with Stephen Sackur on “Hard Talk”.
    I’m wondering if this thread should be appended to the Chutzpah thread.

  • Christy Walsh

    This is disturbing.. how much has been farce?

  • William Markfelt

    All of it.

    It’s a quasi-totalitarian regime acting in a totalitarian manner.

    Let us steer the news. Let us suppress the bad news. Let us vilify individuals through a series of (ongoing) ‘show trials. Let us destroy families if we must, just to ensure the ‘party members’ at the NIA and the associated agencies keep on riding the gravy train.

    I’d suggest Uncle Joe seems like an easy-going, laid-back sort of bloke if it wasn’t for the fact that he murdered a lot of people whereas our lot..oh, wait. I need to rethink that last bit.

    And what does the fact that local journalists meekly accepted the advice? the orders? the instructions? from…who? say exactly about their morality? Not a lot. Local journalists are still playing this game, still being part of ‘the system’ as opposed to a brake on it.

    An example. Eamonn Mallie’s article right after Irisgate, the one-to-one interview, in which Peter Robinson was given an exceptionally easy ride. I don’t want to be overly critical, since Mr. Malllie maybe has a family to feed, and in a village as small as the Stormont circus needs to play the game to keep drawing a wage, but it’s a neat enough example of how the politicians have ALWAYS played the press. I reiterate, this is not meant to be criticism of Mr. Mallie in isolation. All have been guilty. All are still guilty. The nauseating Robinson interview and the equally vomit-inducing TV appearance with ‘selected journalists’, in front of carefully positioned family trinkets and photos, was just vile, the most recent examples of keeping journalists inside the tent, pissing out, rather than outside, pissing in.

    Played like a cheap violin, they should not ever consider themselves to have any real value when it comes to challenging the system they quite obviously perpetuate at every turn.

  • If journalists are not going to find the truth and report the truth, what use are they. Are they just another appendage to the PR machine.

    Looking back there have been relatively few good investigative journalists, we need more.

  • Christy Walsh

    Failing that we should all read the Beano –at least it might more entertaining

  • Christy Walsh

    Not the Beano! You mean Hello magazine..

  • Well there is the example of Lá Nua, which dared to raise questions about Sinn Féin’s failure to protect the Irish language Broadcast Fund or get an Irish Language Act which had been promised at St Andrews. For its trouble, the newspaper was denied funding at the next available opportunity by the Foras na Gaeilge board, on which four SF members sit. For all the ‘Irish langauge defenders’ guff we hear from SF, the SF members on the board of Foras sat on their hands as the only Irish language newspaper was closed.

    Now, in its stead, we have Gaelscéal, a newspaper which made no apology in a recent editorial for giving coverage to SF as it was one of only two parties (the other being Eirigí) to send it press releases as Gaeilge.

  • Christy Walsh

    why not that then, what does it matter so long as we remain in a self deduced delusion.

  • Christy Walsh

    The sad reality to what you have put out here is that those who have resorted to violent opposition to the GFA are in fact perpetuating it.

  • In a different life, these last few days I have been having a doo-dah with the editor of my London local. Our MP has just used her regular column to puff the ConDem government and her new position as a PuS (the lowest form of ministerial life). Hmm: a data overload already.

    I see the privilege of a regular column as an opportunity to report back to constituents: many MPs do that, and do it well. To forgo the editorial blue-pencil (or even the spike) over these pieces is unforgivable. He sees not to agree, and quite frankly (as my blog tells) I don’t see his point.

    Similarly, it is fair to request editorial discretion: freedom of speech famously does not extend to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded cinema. Demanding that media suppress stories is rank censorship. So, how far did the authorities go to impose and enforce news black-outs? That, in itself, is a story deserving the telling.

  • Christy Walsh

    I am not in a ‘self deduced delusion, and neither are you. Arguably if there had been the kind of good investigative journalism we are all entitled to expect from the news media, your case would have been handled far more quickly, and, satisfactorily.

    In America the media is supposed to be an important brake on government. It is not, Americans if they did but know it are amongst the most censored people in the world. And who are the censors? why the media.

    The same applies to a lesser and unwritten extent here. If the media do not investigate all the secrets are buried, sometimes literally.

  • A N Other

    Not only in the North …what about at the BBC…??

  • Christy Walsh

    Ahh gee why did you say all that… now I need some valium.

  • Christy Walsh

    LOL but, and, I hesitate to correct you twice but I think you mean Prozac.

  • Christy Walsh

    I have a page on my website and anywhere else it would be hugh news, not only for its interest value but its gravity, but in NI –well maybe you can take a look and decide for yourself.

    It is a matter being jointly investigated by both the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott and the Justice Minister, David Ford… anyway here you go;

  • Christy Walsh

    Ah christ, drugs are too complicated for me, I think the good old fashioned bottle of whisky and a loaded revolver will have to do.

  • Christy Walsh

    You just wiped the smile off my face. How dare you! You have a case. You need to be pursuing it. There are solicitors dedicated to your kind of cause. You do not need me to tell you how important FOI and real media coverage is.

  • William Markfelt

    Some of us believe that there is now an alternative justice system, one that circumvents the recognised legal system, and that agencies of government in NI pretty much operate their very own ‘Stasi’-like operations, with ‘due process’ reduced to that of a Kafka trial.

    The opening sentence of your Home Page comes as no huge surprise to some of us who post here and have personal and/or professional experience of a system of law that exists outside the proper law.

    The entire NIW saga is a prime example of civil servants operating their own flimsy version of due process or natural law.

  • Pigeon Toes

    So to protect our delicate government in the name of “peace”, the truth cannot be reported.

    What’s new?

  • Christy Walsh

    So you’ve been around a bit… It was excruciating to get to where I am now and to think there was talk of me getting only a 6 year deal if I were to plead guilty back in 1991-1992. As for Kafka –no kidding but there were times when I was convinced that I must be Joe K –the only difference being I would not lie down and assist in my own demise.

  • Christy Walsh

    You are looking too narrow… it is to what extent the permeation has seeped throughout NI society.

  • Ulick

    “hold back on a story” means what, delayed, like an embargoed press release? Aye that’s proper infringement on press freedom by a totalitarian regime.

    Anyone know when the silly season ends?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “However when they would subsequently approach newspapers with a story, a prerequisite tended to be that the story was uncomplicated, easy to understand and highly personalised, she said.

    If it needed a lot of unravelling many newspapers could not devote personnel and time to the work needed, she added.

    Ms Prone was speaking on the second day of the summer school at Avondale House, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, on a discussion about Irish media and scandal.

    The real problem with scandal for the media is if someone does not feed it or give it voice it will be treated in a way that slides off people’s mind, Ms Prone said”

    And they needed to attend a “school” to have this illuminating discussion?

    Looking at the cosy relationship between PR Companies, MSM and the Government would make them one of the last people I would voice concerns to.
    Then again, I wouldn’t be in a huge rush to tell all to the NIAO either…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I have always believed that with a few honourable exceptions our local journalists would say anything for the price of a pint in the Stormont Hotel.
    I have been saying this for months. That the “evidence” they held re Bloody Sunday or Jean McConville or whatever was held back because of their need to cosy up to either the NIO Press Office or local politicians.
    Suppress this story….and we promise you a scoop next time.
    Having done the bidding (and possibly been in the pay of) NIO for years they will still do their bidding.
    Its how Journalism works.
    Do we really need a seminar to work that out?
    A simple Google search will reveal interesting info on the links between some journos and the Security Services. And of course MI5 had an office in BBC building in London and Id assume that the same situation operated in Ormeau Avenue.

    The journos who say follow Manchester United or a mediocre club for the Daily Mail, Sun whatever need to be on the right side of Alex Ferguson or lesser managers. Otherwise they dont have a job.
    Notwithstanding the undoubted fact that many of our locals are beyond reproach, its equally obvious some are not.

  • Christy Walsh

    As I stated further down the page to Malcolm Redfellow, “As for Kafka –no kidding but there were times when I was convinced that I must be Joe K –the only difference being I would not lie down and assist in my own demise.”

    While I am not throwing in the towel it is hard to figure the next move, yes there are good lawyers( I have one) but their use is limited.

  • Christy Walsh

    It is too much to hang upon even the obliging journalists who are easily swooned into having a drink in the Stormont Hotel. We all buy into it, some swallow it all, others peak between the lines and the rest just wish things were different.

  • Christy Walsh

    What about Cherie Bliars bunch. If they can wax lyrical for someone in Iraq they can get off their well padded arses for you. Worth a try. The last stop these days is not Diplock or the shiny new ‘supreme court’ its Europe. Good Luck.

  • alan56

    The problem with your analysis, which is interesting, is that many decent jobbing journos are all tarred with the same brush.(in the view of many) Look closer at news editors and editorial policy people. Therein may lie the explanation. But don’t assume that all journalists were part of some great conspiracy because that would be unfair in the extreme.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Pippakin, paying for that legal battle is the problem. Especially when those same government agencies can throw the might of other peoples money at it….

  • Pigeon Toes

    I am very aware of the extent…In a very ridiculous situation myself!

  • Christy Walsh

    Thanks for you support -things I hope start to materialise within the next few weeks -a judicial review is on the cards, that will clear the way for some direction.

  • funnyoldworld

    It’s a bit rich to find David Gordon of all people pontificating about “making things awkward” when in the case of his coverage of the NOrthern Ireland Water story he seems to have forgotten his own advice>

    As an example of abject,pathetic devotion to the line propounded by DRD, and others with regard to the dismissal of the NEDS from NIW ,Mr Gordon’s coverage takes some beating.

    When he is made to look like the sycophant he assuredly has been to the altar of DRD and the C.E.O of N.I.W ,(when the real story breaks),I hope people recall this exercise in hypocrisy at the Parnell Summer School..

  • Pidgeon Toes

    Who pays for all those poverty stricken Iraqi claims.

  • andnowwhat

    Who was the guy that represtented the Bloody Sunday families, Madsen or something like that.

    He might be interested Christy.

  • Christy Walsh

    andnowwhat thanks for the suggestion. I have a lawyer, all the evidence, all the facts, right on my side but all that still isnt enough.

  • andnowwhat

    Robert Fisk wrote in the wake of the Saville report, in self disgust, how he and other journos accepted the intel they were given by BA press conferences.
    I’ve watched the propaganda on populous media such as the BBC’s One Show, the propaganda by the current administration ranging from coverage of “our boys” to the BP fiasco (2 reports on 2 consecutive nights and in an interview with Boris Johnson the next night).

    Good reportage is poorly funded (look at The Indepedant, the English one that is) and tucked away (eg, C4’s Dispatches which is excellent) in favour of red tops and “Look at this shit builder”.

    We live in a world where the word “intellectual” is actually an insult (see the republican line calls every Sundays on C-Span)

  • Christy Walsh

    It will be enough. The most important thing you need in these cases is patience. The all powerful wait, knowing that many will give up. Its a game they have played for decades. Be patient and do not give up.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘a prerequisite tended to be that the story was uncomplicated, easy to understand and’

    cut and pasted from the Independent or the Irish Times, if you work for the Belfast Telegraph.

    Does anyone else get those stupid, stupid phone calls where they ask you to get it delivered? I just say no, thanks, I’ll pick all your stories up earlier in the day from a proper newspaper.

  • andnowwhat

    Ok Christy.

    The legal world seems obsessed by money today (ie. not paying out by any means possible).

    A mate of mine is ex RUC (if you knew my background, you’d laugh at that) but they have a group action claim against the chief constable.
    Their reps have cut them loose and in the last hearing the judge told them to find 20 grand each or (basically) eff off.

    BTW, I’ve heard sod all of my mate’s case in the media. Odd that.

  • steve white

    ah more cryptic posts from slugger

    I’ve no doubt of the contribution, but the “well-behaved witness” now needs to start asking “stupid” questions. Otherwise false, or partial, narratives will go unchallenged as those witnesses continue to ignore “the bits that do not suit particular prejudices”. And when “agreed truth becomes accepted, the real truth becomes a lie”.

    what the hell does all mean, say it, don’t infer it

  • “In the North journalists were sometimes told to hold back on a story …”

    Many of the same journalists were being hauled in for a long time to be told what the line was by ‘security sources’, etc? They never seemingly had much of a problem with it (they did run with whatever they were told after all). Why suddenly decide they want to be independent now?

  • andnowwhat

    Hi John.

    Journalists are now up against blogs and other independant media. I personally subscribe to site such as The Young Turks and Representative Press, I also choose to get my news from Al Jazeera and Russia Today (as well as C4 news in fairness). I’ve no time for the BBC, SKY and such.

    If journalist (print media especially) are not giving us more than fed reports, why touch them. Just look at the Wilileaks saga. Would Panorama or World in Action would have been all over this 30 years ago.

  • iluvni

    The whole Maze stadium saga was as bad as anything, where the whole damned lot of them were nothing less than NIO stooges….faithfully re-printing the PR guff, without having the gumption to question anything about the whole farcical plan.
    Reporters, not journalists.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I don’t..

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Anyone know when the silly season ends?’

    Probably never. In NI the political classes will always have journalists in their pockets.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    which is why my post contained the qualifications that it contained.
    Notwithstanding tragedies like Martin O’Hagan, journos have had it easy……because they are so useful to the powers (NIO, politicians, paramilitaries) that they claim to be monitoring.

  • Christy Walsh

    In fairness not all journalists held that position though they were restricted by editors who maybe did. I have met journalists who have been just as disheartened as anyone else here.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    They havent decided that they want to be independent. Their paymasters are dictating a new narrative.
    When the Peace Process was the the prime objective, journos went soft on the paramilitaries.
    Now that the Process is embedded, its open season on DUP and Sinn Féin and the journalists happily oblige.

  • Pigeon Toes

    At a guess ,,ME? Your point?

  • Brian Walker

    Can anybody actually quote a diamond-hard specific example of “censorship” in recent years in our field “- ie banned from reporting a story ( how?) or even “self censorship” ie voluntary restraint? The latter happens all the time, sometimes for good reasons.Stories have to peak.

    You must also remember the context of hope and optimism that the Troubles were winding down. This was the defining fact of the period, although no excuse for ignoring awkward lesser facts.

    I can think of delays and soft pedalling but no blatant or wilful holding back for a considerable time.. Can anyone contradict me? I ‘d genuinely be grateful as I’m no expert. .

    Pity David Gordon wasn’t more specfic. He won credit for pursuing the MPs expenses story, political dynasties and and the Swish family long before it gained major traction. But nobody can deny its impact

    In papers, it is also necessary to distinguish between the editorial line and the columns on the one hand, , and the news reporting on the other.

    Some commenters have a quaint idea of the relationships between officialdom and journalists. There is a trading relationship up to a certain point but no overall system. Some are closer than others. Diversity is the eventual corrective to groupthink which indeed can sometimes take hold..

    People mistakenly blame the messengers for repeating what they call “propaganda. ” Would you rather not know about the lies the army were telling on Bloody Sunday? The line held for at most a few hours. Elements of the truth, lies and distortions run concurrently all the time.It’s important that we know about them – and first versions which are inaccurate and need to be corrected later.

    One criticism has not been sufficiently stressed,is the sectarian basis of much of the press down the years which all too often defines what a story is about. Not lies but selection and slant..The Newsletter line, the Irish News line, for instance. This has much eased and matters less, now that the Troubles are over. But the media don’t exist in a bubble purely as Valiant For Truth. They exist for their public and their market. The antidote to one sidededness is diversity, which in the digital age is inescapable.

    Who can deny that the likes of Rusty Nail and Pensive Quill are part of the wider media and influence the mainstream?

    . The peace process -a 12 -14 year journey. Was reporting easy on IRA disarmament ,republican splits, SF generally and splits within the UUs? I seem to remember we heard about them, endlessly, but sometimes later than insiders, inevitably.

    Some people love to truffle for conspiracies where none exist: others hate the very idea of even handededness. Do some commenters enjoy scolding the media to parade their inside knowledge and thus their own superiority? Could this be true? Do their own versions matter quite as much as they think? And remember facts need to be checked and this can take time,often a long time, like with the Disappeared .

  • Christy Walsh

    I appreciate that journalists do not deserve much of the venting being expressed here –though from various areas throughout NI much of what has been hyped and over played is now splitting at the seems. I do not support or condone any violent opposition to the GFA but obvious neglect of real grievances are manifesting in some people seeing the resort to violence as the only option. Maybe if things were being ventilated more openly those frustrations might be relieved.

  • Brian, have you any thoughts as to why the shortfall in PSNI numbers and the withholding of some PSNI statistics are not being reported in the MSM? Such information is readily available.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Can anybody actually quote a diamond-hard specific example of “censorship” in recent years in our field “- ie banned from reporting a story ( how?) or even “self censorship” ie voluntary restraint? The latter happens all the time, sometimes for good reasons.Stories have to peak.’

    The problem is with that ‘recent years’ comment. Sometimes we don’t actually hear what was censored until some time afterwards. The 30 year (now 20 year) rule.

    ‘Self censorship’ simply demonstrates that the media move, phalanx-like, on the instructions of….someone. No one breaks ranks. So much for independence of the media. They’re taking orders from someone in order to produce such a singular course of action.

    Examples of censorship? Didn’t a former SF member, Larry O’toole, get censored from RTE under Section 31 of the Republic’s Broadcasting Act?

    As I recall it was because his voice couldn’t be heard for the offence of being a member of a party whose voices couldn’t be heard, despite the fact that he was speaking as a trade union official in the capacity of negotiator in some industrial dispute in a Dublin biscuit factory. I hope these details are fundamentally correct, it’s a bit of a blur in the dustier recesses of memory. I’m sure google will provide the essential notes related to state censorship being abused and meekly followed by a national broadcaster.

    RTE didn’t challenge the silliness of the situation, they censored O’toole’s contributions. So some self-censorship there. And I suspect the BBC, in SF ‘actors voices’ examples of Gerry or Marty or whoever, probably didn’t broadcast any of them talking about GAA, the West belfast Festival or whatever. They just went along for the ride and played the government’s game.

    So there’s plenty of examples of ‘voluntary restraint’ without any attempt to challenge that moronic little Thatcher law. (which itself too its cue from the RoI’s censoring.

    While not the fault of journalists, media’s easy acceptance of Sammy Wilson’s ‘climate change advert ban’ (if one squints hard enough) is an obvious example of censorship being meekly accepted by, I would imagine, UTV, and no attempt to broadcast the advert as part of the coverage. Ditto Marie Stopes abortion adverts. It’s wholly evident that journalists accept the censoring status quo in these relatively minor matters (‘relatively minor’ being a subjective phrase).

    Not exactly the diamond hard fault of journalists, but a pretty obvious example of journos playing whatever agenda Sammy Wilson, or anyone else, pursues.

    Earlier this year, the Sun censored a yougov poll which showed support for the Lib Dems. In journalism, it’s happening all the time.

    Eileen Flynn. Unmarried mother-to-be in Dublin, whose unfair dismissal was censored by RTE.

    ‘At the edge of the Union’ a Panorama(?) programme censored by Leon Brittain, temporarily, but at least journalists had the balls to strike in support of its broadcast.

    Censorship? Or distortion? Eamonn McCann wrote a book about it in the early 1970s which examined the distortion of reporting by different GB newspapers to suit their own individual agendas/ Effectively ‘censoring’ the truth, in other words.

    This blog’s very own Eamonn Mallie, once wrote (of the ‘Broadcasting Ban’)

    \Because of the ban, we will now have to advise ourselves, like the Diplock judges, of the law. The spin-off effect, because we’re not allowed to carry these people on the air, is that what will creep in will be self-censorship and I think broadcasters will be more reluctant to carry the (second hand) statements of these people (Sunday Tribune, 23 October 1988).’


    is worthy of a look at the extent of being censored and self-censorship.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh Mr Walker you under-estimate your expertise. You were/are (?) a BBC employee of many years standing and the MI5 man in that office in the BBC has prolly seen your file and put the Christmas tree stamp of approval on it.
    No harm in that of course.
    But surely …..aww come on you probably know better than me…..that the BBC bureau in the Middle East or Moscow or Tehran might have contained/still contain a few spooky types.
    Unless of course Im completely wrong that the BBC has been used by the Intelligence community and the BBC has facilitated it.
    And yes youre right again.
    “There is a trading relationship….up to a point”.
    A point chosen by the consumer of the news.
    A point chosen by the Press Office/ contact and the journalist. A form of collusion to withold as much as fearlessly expose.

    It is of course a “long game”. And no doubt journos are happy enough when they are released from these bonds. Those highly expensive parties organised by Jeffrey Archer for example had many journos on the guest list.
    And the same journos happily kicked poor Jeffrey when he was carted off to prison.

    I dont suppose its much better in the Grand Hall of Stormont. (Actually is it just me or does the Grand Hall seem to be getting smaller).
    All those Press Conferences there…..the journos seem too pally with “Martin”, “Gerry”, “Peter” etc. And the politicians seem to pally with the Press Corps.
    Not to mention that notice on the “Lobby Door” at Westminster. The “rules” of the Lobby. Are/were you a member of that Lobby?
    How exactly does witholding information facilitate the Truth.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘is it just me or does the Grand Hall seem to be getting smaller).’

    I think it just looks smaller due to the calibre of the people in it who drag down its grandeur.

    Although I’m not sure if it qualifies as a Grand-let Hall or a Grand Hall-let.

    Anyway, it’s full of intellect-let.

  • William Markfelt


    references Ed Moloney’s remarks on journalist self-censorship.

    ‘If the reportage of the peace process can be characterised by any particular quality, it was the willingness of too many journalists not to ask the hard questions that ought to have been asked. The peace process heralded an extraordinary, but deeply puzzling and confusing transition in Northern Ireland’s troubled history and it was vital that journalists should have attempted to explain all this as best as they could. Never was there a time in Northern Ireland’s painful and bloody history when information was more necessary or potentially socially useful. But in practice many reporters shrank from doing their jobs, and were – and still are – content to be mere stenographers of the peace process for fear that they could be accused, at the very least, of being ‘unhelpful’ to the process, and at worst, of being actively opposed to it.’

    Journalists failed to ask the hard questions and shrank from their jobs, is a summary of Moloney’s paragraph.

  • Up to a point, Lord Brian Walker @ 11:15 am.

    (Sorry to come late to the party. A tough, tough day. Will need to open that second bottle, I fear.)

    It isn’t just the imposed D-notice (or whatever the weapon of choice is these days). It’s the threatened withdrawal of conjugal privileges, or as Lord Walker puts it: There is a trading relationship up to a certain point … and Stories have to peak.

    What that may mean is a certain narrative emerges as the massed ranks of Lobb Luds and Lunchtime O’Boozes determine what will be the story, and therefore how it must develop. In which case I can think of numerous examples. The huntings of Cherie Blair or Ken Livingstone (any untruth and slime will do)? The Ozymandias phenomenon experienced by every PM and England manager: build ’em up … Oh, look! feet of clay! … knock ’em down: like buses, there’ll be another along in a while. Justification: it sells papers, doesn’t it?

  • Alias

    Control of reporting in the ‘Irish’ media is a little bit more organised and top-down than can be blamed on a few cowering or careerist hacks:


  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well yes Mr Redfellow.
    But have the Bloggers have undermined that cosy relationship (as they may claim) or strengthened it.

    No doubt in the past, lobby types would have known which politician was living a lie (constituency wife/westminster mistress etc) but the widening of politics to include news journos as well as bloggers has put some pressure on that.
    No doubt news journos hang around Blackpool and Brighton hotels to expose conference leg over activity.
    But this was considered out of bounds by political hacks who were no doubt themselves engaged in Conference hanky panky……on expenses.
    Rather like football journos knew what happened on away trips to Stockholm or Vienna in a bleak January night and kept their notebooks firmly in their pockets…..until the cosy relationship was broken up by news reporters with a different agenda.

  • aquifer

    Journalists did not hold back covering the high news value violence as propaganda generated by the provos, maybe they feel they now owe us a period of piece and quiet.

  • Brian Walker

    … not much so far…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Journalists really need to address the fact that they are not trusted to tell the truth.
    The Veracity(sic) Index for 2008 reveals some interesting facts.
    Most trusted professions
    Doctors 92%…Teachers 87%…Professors 79%….Judges 78% and Clergymen 74%
    Most untrusted.
    Govt Ministers 24%….Politicians 21%….Journalists 19% (lowest ranked and most reviled profession).
    Makes ya think

  • William Markfelt

    But more than the idea that journos are paragons of truth and hoesty.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    youve convinced me Mr Walker
    ……but can you convince the 81% of respondents who think journos are not trustworthy.
    I know youre a big supporter of polls in the Belfast Telegraph.
    So presumably you agree with the one I posted on.

  • Cynic

    You Never Can Bribe or Twist,
    The Trusty British Journalist,
    But When You See What,
    Unbribed He’ll Do,
    In Truth There’s No Requirement To

  • Brian Walker

    fitz.. well done, less cynical than usual.. Journos like politician are least trusted- well. easy to say and in the case of journos, a form of venting I’d say. People love to scold as we know – part of their frustrations with remote rulers and perhaps with life. Everyone thinks they can do better – indeed some can, it’s not rocket science of brain surgery. The achievement of the professionals is to do it every day in public. Some feat, I tell you.. Overall they deserve better, so there. I’d like to add that despite all the criticims hurled at it, the BBC is still far more trusted than politicians ( retired staff, no fee).

    Malcolm stretches the theme further to set.’em up, knock,’em down.. I would only say that political corrs offered a fairly pale imitation of the reality of Blair/Brown. Likewise the story of Charles Haughey until late in the day. Politics is an intense business, producing lots of emotional detritus. 24/7 News increases the pressure. It creates a vortex. Brown, himself a hands-on briefer for decades, got sucked in out of control Pols and other leaders must learn to ride it better and dare to resist it sometimes. Big subject.
    One person’s resistance to the news vortex is another’s suppression

    nevin, on PSNI figures, I haven’t a clue. Are you arguing from the particular to the general?

  • Brian Walker

    Flagging energy just now makes me avoid the complete span of the Troubles where there were of course legal and voluntary suppression and delay in various forms.

    The fundamental problems especially for broadcasters were : The difficulty of dealing with the oxygen of publicity argument. How to include as a matter of course paramilitaries in the political debate when they were trying to advance their cause by blatantly undemocratic means and were in fact, illegal. How to validate “facts” when fierce secret ( dirty) and propaganda wars were being waged

    Free debate by definition should of course extend beyond the confines set by the state but those confines cannot be completely ignored. And so persistent struggle was waged between thre state and the broadcasters – with much of the public in both islands on the side of the State.

    I can only come up with the unsatisfactory conclusion on a subject I know pretty well- we didn’t do badly, pity we didn’t do better.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    No Mr Walker…Journalists are even less trusted than politicians…….the very people that Journalists monitor.
    The mystique of journalism has been exposed by the Citizen Journalist.
    The Expenses.
    The nice little earners of the motoring journos…….like to test drive the latest sports car.in an exotic location…….bring your wife.
    Or the rock journos…….reviewing the latest album in…….oh the West Indies……bring your girlfriend.
    lets read the latest tearful confession in The Sun…..(sympathetic because we showed him the videotape and paid him £100k). Ah wait the Sun isnt journalism…..not like the Beeb.
    But remind me…..who were the BBC couple (with a line in consumer programmes) that Private Eye exposed as negotiating a discount with a car manufacturer.

    The rather odd fact is that while Sluggers Blogging “team” represent disparate shades of political opinion, they are united in believing the trustworthiness of the journalistic profession. On the other hand, the commenters while representing disparate views on many issues hold a different view about Journalism.
    Its not exactly rocket science as you say.
    And many of the commenters are not journalists.
    But I suspect many commenters here missed their vocation.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Walker….you appear now to be agreeing with the basic premise of the headline above. And further inviting us to believe that the back stairs deals (hmmmmm maybe arrangements) between source and journalist are in the better interests of the ordinary punter outside the loop.
    The ordinary punter is after all the person that both politician and journalist claim to be serving. Or do they?

    No doubt this arrangement is well understood within the wider freemasonry of journalism but leaves ordinary people feeling ill served.

  • andnowwhat

    Fisk first became aware of the way in which centres of power control
    debate by influencing the terms of the discourse as a correspondent
    for The Times in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, when the trust in
    authority instilled by his public school education quickly leached
    away. “We Brits went to Northern Ireland not very well educated about
    Ireland,” he says. “I think we had, faintly at the back of our minds,
    the Punch cartoon images of the drunken Irish with cudgels, wanting to
    kill for no reason, and we grafted that onto the way we reported. It
    was only when you saw what the Brits were doing on the streets that
    you realised there was a different story there.

    “The British army had a set of words that it used and that we used as
    well, and which defined the war in the north. The cliche we were
    expected to use about the paratroop regiment, for example, was that
    they were tough, whereas in fact they were brutal and a rabble. In
    addition to that, the army lied. When I went to the north first, I
    didn’t regard the British army as being people who would lie, but I
    realised very quickly that they did lie, because I went to incidents
    and found that their version of events had no bearing on what I saw.
    Of course, the IRA lied, the UVF lied, the UDA lied; but it was upon
    finding that ‘we’ lied, too — the army, the RUC, the British

    Though the authorities complained repeatedly to The Times about Fisk’s
    reports, his desk editor, Charles Douglas-Home, who later edited the
    newspaper for three years, backed him steadfastly. “They complained
    bitterly about me, but Charles said to them, ‘We’re printing the truth
    and you’re lying.’ From then it became very important to me that what
    you wrote was what was printed under your name.” Fisk resigned from
    the Times in 1989, after cuts to a report of his on the Lockerbie
    bombing altered its meaning by omission. He inferred the influence of
    forces more powerful than the editor who handled his copy.

    From an article on Fisk in the Sunday Times

  • William Markfelt

    ‘faithfully re-printing the PR guff, without having the gumption to question anything about the whole farcical plan.’

    Exactly. A flick through this morning’s London (or Dublin) inkies will pretty much reveal this evening’s Belfast Telegraph in all its glory. Cut ‘n’ paste. Cut ‘n’ paste.

    Chuck in an ‘oh dear, aren’t these dissidents awful’ editorial and some Irish League/GAA/Ulster rugby news the verbatim reprint of a Linfield/Antrim Hurling/Team Ulster press release, ghost write the views of a striker who can’t get a game at Sunderland, FFS, and you’re done.

    Not much different in the Irish News or News Letter. A few columnists spouting ‘analysis’ which is sometimes laughably inept, poorly thought out and just as badly written in a big wax crayon, seems like.

    Not much different on the BBC, which is merely the aural reporting of the latest PAC press release about how awful those nasty corrupt people under the witch hunt’s microscope are, without ANY attempt at balancing the view with a statement or interview with those being hounded. No attempt to EVER say ‘well the PAC (or DRD or NIW or whoever) said this, but the person who they’re saying it about says it’s a crock’.

    That’s not ‘news’, it’s a daily half hour from the Stormont Ministry of Information.

    And I suspect that others, living under the cosh of Dail Eireann or the Palace of Westminster would have the same to say about their local media. It’s not just an NI thing.

    Even a columnist who, daily, challenges Stormont’s propaganda by airing the views of the oppressed or maligned, would be a start. Not even any real need to even ‘investigate’ the veracity of their claims. Just air them. Because that’s tjust a counter-balance to the free propaganda being aired on behalf of the nastiest, most corrupt little administration in Europe, based at Stormont, day and daily. So why not level the playing field? Why not permit the oppressed or maligned an opportunity to air their side of the propaganda? It would certainly make for more interesting reading than anything else the BT or BBCNI can offer.

    Without knowing the ins and outs of Christy Walsh’s story (although his blog makes interesting reading), I suspect that this is just one of hundreds of tales wherein the system has failed an individual, a body or a business, and hitherto a brown-nosing media has scurried to meekly report the ‘findings’ of that system, as if it’s tablets handed down to Moses.

    Christ knows that few of us will agree with the variety of views being presented on ‘Slugger’, but I’ll tell you one thing. The depth of knowledge, and quality of writing, often surpasses anything that is uttered by ‘professional’ journalists, and for who the word ‘profession’ only really applies on account of the cheque they pick up, without blinking, each week.

  • William Markfelt

    ’24/7 News increases the pressure.’

    Does it?

    Take away the exciting news of Robbie Williams’ wedding, factor out the Daily Mail readership who have a fast dial button set to ‘Radio 5 phone ins’ where they can fume about dirty foreigners, and there is no such thing as ’24 hour news’. It’s just a phrase. It’s 24/7 crap, essentially.

    I’m not convinced that ‘pressure’ exists by Sky or News 24 spending an hour or more looking at an Easyjet live at East Midlands airport because Madeleine McCann’s parents are on board. It’s not even news. It’s voyeuristic plane-spotting.

    What we got, that morning, was a bunch of clueless journalists who couldn’t answer anything definitively talking shite for an hour or more. Anyone with the good sense lie in bed and scratch their nuts for that hour got the kernel of the entire story, in 30 seconds flat, at lunchtime.

    The only pressure involved in 24/7 news is the trick of making what we’re seeing/hearing appear remotely interesting. Sadly, it’s pretty much a 24/7 failure, and the last event worthy of 24/7 coverage was 9/11. I don’t imagine there will be another event in the UK worthy of 24/7 coverage until the day of the Queen’s funeral. So it’s all a once-in-a-generation thing, and hardly worth the effort and cash put into it.

  • Brian Walker

    You have to realise that the authorities, then and now are not a news agency. While their PROs should not lie, they were bound to put the best construction on what they did often in searing circumstances, cover up sometimes included. You can hang a whole indictment on Bob Fisk’s testimony if that pleases you. For my taste, although he has much to say down the years that’s valuable and I used to know him pretty well, he is now too much the moralist , and his own feelings are too much of the story. I prefer greater astringency. But as I say, a matter of taste.

    Every journalist, every policeman, even every solider who may have served in Aden, Malaya or Cyprus and I daresay even very budding paramiltary was taken far our of their experience by the Troubles.

    People can argue from the particular to the general if they want. I prefer a bit more context and general understanding. Where else was it done better? Did the young Fisk read James Cameron I wonder? I’m sure he did but like us all, he had to make his own mistakes and should not now reproach himself too much for that. For in the end, much of the truth came out. Whataboutery about the media can be as arid a game about the media as about the principal actors and events.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “For in the end, much of the truth came out.”
    How very reassuring…(Not)

    “Journalists were sometimes told to hold back on a story in case they might do damage to the delicate administration”

    Waiting on the eventual truth to come out, to come out has created victims of the “peace process”.
    What kind of peace is that?