I’ve never been there but I can write the copy boss

In recent years many media outlets have been pulling experienced reporters out of the north of Ireland and closing offices. While Dewi has highlighted today’s focus in the Independent on issues here, he missed a major factor that should colour any opinion on the value of much of the coverage now provided by English based media and their reportage/editorial – it had awful bullshit posing a journalism.

Hence a ‘Real’- UFF attack on a Catholic school was given the headline:

School evacuated as MI5 warns of growing threat from former IRA men

A headline so bad it surely indicates a publication using people with no idea on the subject they report?

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  • White Horse

    Interesting how the article is written in such a way to avoid implicating Sinn Fein and PIRA in recent violence but still manages to leave the impression that the author thinks they’re in there somehow.

  • Michael

    I particularly liked the references to ‘Ulster’ and ‘The Mainland’. Target audience and all that I suppose.

  • Mark McGregor


    It is possibly the worst piece I’ve ever read on the situation here – disjointed, inaccurate, contrived and misleading. I know local journalists with ability now doing ‘cake competition’ coverage while this rubbish gets a decent rate-per-word when it deserved straight to the bin.

  • Why should British national papers, especially the red tops, hang around now peace has almost taken over? The north without the republican/loyalist violence is not worth keeping top people here and the days when it made reputations and careers are just as gone.

    Hard as it may be for some to believe the north does not sell newspapers, from my point of view whats worse is it does not even feature much in Irish news papers or tv.

  • Mark McGregor

    How often its reported isn’t the issue – its it being reported so inacuarately, with headlines so wrong that it isn’t news – its misinformation.

  • Mark McGregor

    That’s what happens in the real world of newspapers. Remember: Lies, lies and Sun headlines.

    The British would not send top reporters, or even plain old fashioned accurate ones to report on a subject their readers are not interested in. More likely todays stories are relegated to juniors in between their tea making duties.

    I see it as a good sign. Outraged of Tunbridge Wells, much???

  • A.N.Other

    It is amazing how few people, not least posters to the Tele website, do not seem to realise that the Irish Independent and the Telegraph are both owned by Independent News & Media. Some of them seem to still believe that the Tele is the organ of the Unionist State….

    The Indy has for months hailed an economic recovery that has not come; it is a paper very much in the pocket of its paymasters; part of the general apparatus that allowed Ireland to become engulfed by crony capitalism. It has always liked to have the Provos as the big bad boys in the corner. If the dissidents were to go away they would not know what to do with themselves.

  • John East Belfast

    Mark McGregor

    Who are you to criticise the shoddiness of any journalism on Northern Ireland when you cant even bring yourself to write its proper name.

    Were all those journalists who were pulled out living at the Giants Causeway or thereabouts ?

  • Mark McGregor

    See the point – its over there. The thing you miss every time with your inanity.

  • Mark McGregor


    I suggest you do a ‘find and replace’ if it annoys you so much.

  • Well, yes. “Target audience”. Ahem.

    Outside the big Belfast newsagents, when have you seen an Indy? Dammit: you’re lucky to get a Times in Portadown, let alone my regular Guardian

    Targets work both ways. All those who proclaim the “Union” assume it (and their daily news-diet) ends at 124-144 Royal Avenue, BT1 1EB.

    Of course, all the major print media are cutting back, viciously, on staff. They can always contact one of those “citizen journalists” on the net. Equally, the pressure is on the radio and tv types: advertising revenues are in free-fall; the Beeb is under the cosh of the ConDem conspiracy.

    Cui bono? Ah! The Dirty digger will provide.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Yes John, republicans are obviously not allowed to comment on anything to do with the six counties, because they have a different political outlook on what the areas identity is, despite it being a completely unrelated subject being discussed. How dare they.

  • John East Belfast

    I doesnt annoy me “so much”.

    I am just pointing out the irony of your criticism of the ignorance of GB based journalism on Northern Ireland when you approach your own pieces in denial that the place even exists

  • John East Belfast


    Where did I say that ?

  • Mark McGregor

    The north is no longer worth solid journalism outside Ireland and even in Ireland it is no more important than Connaught, that is relevant and long overdue.

  • lover not a fighter

    The British Islanders are not really interested in Irelands Northern six counties unless the IRA or some other wannabee’s are bringing it to their attention.

  • Cynic

    Dont be so hard on yourself. I have seen you write worse

  • All of you have got the message, then.

    Now think yourself 21st century – not Northern Irish, or Irish, or British, or from this archipelago, or european. or even outside the county (let alone outside the State). You’re in a motel in the mid-West or the South of the US. You switch on the CNN News. In despair and deprived of real information, you head down for a copy of USA Today. Aggggh …

    That’s the realities of life outside the circle of addicts to the drug of “news”.

    Look: I’ve taught 14-year-old kids in metropolitan Essex, twenty miles from Westminster, who have never ridden a train (curiously enough, I found a septuagenarian in Vermont who hadn’t either). Even in the early 1940s there was a small but identifiable percentage who couldn’t name Churchill as the PM. I’ve been into their homes where no printed material was evident. Outside our loop, when a news or current affairs programme comes on, it’s switch channels.

    NI has been different only because, for a quarter of a century, you ran a hand under the pub chair, just in case. Now, it’s back to the normalities of the wider world.

    Don’t complain about the quality of the reporting, just be grateful someone’s taking a passing interest. And remember: we are likely to be the last literate generations.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Mark, just read the Indy article, seems to be sloppy laziness, and possibly by an editor rather the journalist, I’m guessing the article was already written when word or the Antrim incident came in, the editor shoves in a paragraph and alters the heading on the existing article and bobs your uncle story covered.

  • Drumlin Rock

    and Geordies arent really interested in Cornwall… although most people of the British Isles (the 2 big ones and all the wee ones) are very interested in Albert Square, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

  • Big Maggie

    Oh, come on! Print journalists, who will miss them when they check out their chips?

    Yes, those who’ve benefited from the cosy little I’ll-scratch-your-back set-up.

    The journalists are the people who try to convince the rest of us that we should be for or against certain non-people whom we normal people couldn’t give a toss about. It’s their raison d’être.

    God bless the internet and this wonderful opportunity to give a voice to those who were denied it so long by the little self-serving clique of journalists. Slugger is just one example—and long may it rain on their parades.

  • Malcolm Redfellow

    “Don’t complain about the quality of the reporting, just be grateful someone’s taking a passing interest. And remember: we are likely to be the last literate generations.”

    I really hope you are wrong about that.

  • Pippakin @ 11:43 pm:

    So do I.

  • Munsterview

    I have been friends with a fair few journalists in my time, and I still am with some of them, very useful people to keep the Branch at bay. However the lesson quickly learned is that unless reporting is in accordance with editorial policy, issues just do not get covered.

    One English reporter dropped off in Shannon on a regular basis and called to me for ‘background’ which meant I verified that he spend a few hours with me and he got to spend a paid weekend in Ireland for interviewing ‘a leading republican. No complaints this end, he was good company and always good for a fine meal out.

    We got quite friendly, but as there was not a hope in hell of fair, or indeed any other coverage from his paper, we never wasted time discussing politics except in a general way. Instead he had somebody call him back at my place, very hush, hush old chap sort of thing with his editor etc. and then got down to enjoying himself.

    Then, his expenses taken care of, we had a night on the town with the local press lads and lassies. When the calls were not producing results I and a few of local press arranged an incident where he was detained in my company for all of ten minutes before he was released and the branch disappeared like scalded cats when they found out who he was.

    Complaints all round, his editor bought it hook line and centre that he had connections with the ‘heavy end of things’ especially when some local reporters contacted his editor expressing concerns for his safety. Truth is there was always more serious drinking than reporting done in press circles back then whether it was North or South and it is hardly likely to be much different now.

    G-d how I miss some of the Old Days!

  • Clo

    I’ve generally found that trying to understand Northern Ireland and her politics through British newspapers an exercise in futility. An infuriating one at that.

  • Would this headline be more accurate…

    “Dissidents constant baiting of the loyalist community finally pays off”

    or how about:

    “Loyalists fall into the dissidents’ trap. Dissidents can now claim centuries of oppression and victimhood at the hands of loyalists.”

    I’m a nationalist and sick and tired of these scum dissidents trying to stir the pot and inflame the other side. Unfortunately, in this case, they’ve apparently succeeded.

    Memo to loyalists: it’s best to avoid the tantrums of the bawling child that’s screaming for attention/relevance. They more attention you give them, the worse they become.

  • Alan Maskey

    Mark; The story was not about the yobs lobbing some home made crap into the school. It was a rambling bit about MI5, the organisation which runs the Six Counties and the main parties and players there.
    The piece was written by their defence correspondent and the emphasis was “our James Bond MI5 boys” and n ot on the little brats or the drug dealers who attacked them.
    Your gripe is more against the sub editing rather than the article itself. The journalist and the sub editor would generally be two different people.
    This school attack would only have been a story in itself if they had killed or injured a goodly number of kids.
    John East Belfast is right: You should call the place by its proper name: something like: the Six Occupied Counties of Ireland run by MI5 to keep a pile of Orange spongers and the Green equivalents happy might be neaqr the mark.
    It would then be up to the sub editor and copy editor to see if that was ok by them.
    The British press, to take an example, insist on calling Myanmar Burma. As Myanmar is the name of the place and the name all its neighbours use, why cannot the former colonial power, which raped its way around Myanmar until the Japanese sent the savages packing, call the country by its proper name? Well, that gets us into murky waters: P Sinn Fein, counter gangs, agenda and the rest.

  • When I was still quite fluent with Latin, I had a memory stuffed with “principal parts” of verbs: amo; amare; amavi; amatum (present tense, infinitive, perfect tense, past participle).

    That way of remembering can be applied to national charateristics:

    An American is a martini;
    Two Americans form a corporation;
    Three Americans constitute an invasion.

    One French is a Hugh Grant nightmare;
    Two French are a love affair;
    Three French are an orgy.

    Carry that on, as they say, at your own convenience.

    Applied to Northern Ireland, three individuals add to the alphabet soup of political organisations. To an outsider – and, by definition (as Munsterview @ 1:54 am says) most reporting of things Irish and Northern Irish in the London media is done by outsiders, between return flights, on expenses – those acronyms are multitudinous and bewildering. Hence “IRA” and “MI5” become all-purpose hold-alls.

    But you knew all of that.

    Now here’s a solution.

    I keep getting cards through the letter-box from mini-cab firms. For no obvious reason, there frequently is printed on the obverse an annual calendar. Here we are, approaching the autumn equinox, and yesterday’s doormat reminds me that 1st Jan 2010 is going to fall on a Friday. See? Useful, that! Very!

    What we need, therefore, is a laminated aide-memoire, to be distributed through the Fleet Street diaspora, listing all the Northern Irish three- and four-letter acronyms. CAIN can already provide the outline.

    So, next time you’ve got a couple of mates, you’re well on the way to a new “organisation”. Get yourself an acronym. We’ll then be able to put you on the list. Just supply a small financial consideration or a major atrocity.

    Y’know: I can keep this blathering nonsense going all day. I’m nearly as good at it as Maskey.

  • fin
  • DoppiaVu

    Seems to me that the headline ties together the two main themes of the piece that follows i) the specific event that has just taken place (i.e. the pipebomb); and ii) the general backdrop to the incident in terms of increasing terrorism generally.

    The piece does make it clear that loyalists were assumed to be responsible for this specific incident.

    I suspect the real reason why you are upset is that the headline doesn’t explicitly point the finger at themmuns.

  • Dewi

    I didn’t miss anything by the way – it is a poor headline but the article does point out the responsibility for this particular incident but concentrates on the pattern.
    It’s not always great but the Indy at least makes an effort – the rest of the London Press has given up…

  • Driftwood

    Has David McKittrick left ‘The Independent’?

  • Alan Maskey


    Der Spiegel has a piece about Nazis trying to take over kindergartens. Are Irish Nazi political parties active there too?

  • Dewi
  • Dewi

    I meant No !!!

  • Driftwood

    So, that kind of leaves the thread in a bit of a limbo since the hypotheses is flawed?

  • jtwo

    ITV’s 6.30 news the other night was reporting on events in a place called County Lurgan.

  • Dewi

    “….. you ran a hand under the pub chair, just in case. ”


  • Years ago a I asked a wise old bird how will we know if the Peace Process has stuck, he replied when politics in the north becomes as boring and godawful of that in the English shires, if he had thrown in corrupt he would have been spot on.

    “Look: I’ve taught 14-year-old kids in metropolitan Essex, twenty miles from Westminster, who have never ridden a train”

    There are two reasons and neither are as you implied to do with a lack of intelligence. Firstly it is much harder to hop the fares on UK trains these days than it was in the past, in my day even the most honest amongst us youngsters rarely paid full fare, thus most were able to use the trains without paying a dime, these days this is less easy. And as Train fares are, due to privatisation, very expensive in the UK, it is hardly surprising youngsters prefer to use the bus, bike, or steal the odd car.

    The lack of decent tabloid ‘newspaper’ is a sad fact of life in England, what we have exist on a diet of PR powder puffs, personality centric sports coverage and political propaganda based on his masters voice.

    All of which results in a very putrid mix, the fact the potential new leader of the LP will be to answering a summons to dine with the Murdoch clan says it all. The only sound reason for meeting this monstrous clan, who have become a carbuncle on life in the UK, would be to shoot the whole bunch of them.

    By the way, is it correct to call the likes of the Sun, Express, Star and Mirror newspapers?

  • If there was anything there, you ran like hell.

  • I never suggested that “lack of information” or “lack of interest” or “lack of experience” equated to “lack of intellect”.

    As for TWOCing (“taking without owner’s consent”), we had the experts. Two wiped themselves out on the Barking by-pass, pursued by police, early one Sunday morning. Another, barely able to see above the dashboard, one afternoon was arrested in Slough, having driven through the centre of London to get there. To our acute embarrassment, when the police phoned to say they had him, we found he was registered “present”.

    In the Greater London area, under-16s need an Oyster i.d. card to travel free on buses. Must take all the pleasure out of it.

    But then, Yes Prime Minister defined for all time the political bent of the readers of different newspapers. That one has gone round the world: there’s a not-quite-as-funny, lacks-the-punchline US version out there.

  • Malcolm

    Sorry, did not mean to put words into your pen.