Martin McGuinness, Liam Clarke and the Big Picture

A different aspect of  Martin McGuinnness’s latest from Mick’s. (I’ve started so I”ll finish). I know from my own experience and observation of long ago that it makes you a better reporter if you have two outlets: the daily skirmishing for the local audience and the  bigger field for clearing away the smoke of battle to try to explain what it all means to the wider world.

How do the benefits accrue?  The devil is often buried in the frustrating and repetitive detail of daily coverage and there’s no substitute for close observation. But there’s a trap waiting for local reporters however. They and their editors can so easily become jaded and fall into the temptation of simply topping up the narrative without bothering much to put it into context. On the other hand the purely national reporter can seem extravagantly judgemental or oversell a story to compete for scarce space.

The redoubtable Liam Clarke now enjoys the best of both worlds. His recent appointment as political editor has given a boost to the Belfast Telegraph, while he continues to contribute (even if, inevitably, less frequently) to the Sunday Times.

Clarke has squeezed maximum value out of his first face- to face interview with Martin McGuiness in which they seem  to have buried an old hatchet. By contrast with Gerry Adams, McGuinness  never beat about the bush about his  IRA membership but he used that bald admission  to try to draw a line under what it was he precisely was responsible for. It was this  more sophisticated form of obfuscation that  Clarke and his wife Karthryn Johnson challenged in From Guns to Government (for which they received scant thanks from the police and others).  Now in a mini-peace process all their own, Clarke and McGuinness have made it up , no doubt out of mutual interest.     

For the Sunday Times courtesy of Newshound, we get Clarke on McGuinness’s world view  of this  “game changing year” with early comparisons  to other watersheds like 1989 and 1968 “ the year of revolutions” ( all of which failed, mind you). The message coming through in the  Sunday Times and the Bel Tel was one of  McGuinness  speaking with magnanimity through strength, offering to finesse  the great  FMDFM issue by simply rebranding  the posts as Joint First Minister. But still no give yet on voluntary coalition.  Who knows, that could come when or if SF’s leading nationalist role is confirmed.  Either way at this moment,  it looks like win:win for the  newly unencumbered leader of Sinn Fein in the Assembly.

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  • Local hack

    What happened Davy Gordon ?

  • Can’t be that local LH as Davy is now working on the Stephen Nolan radio show

  • Brian

    A good point about all the better if a reporter have two outlets, what would you describe the Westminster parliamentary lobby as, a local or national outfit, as it seems to me to have all the possible pitfalls you mentioned which local reporters can fall into.

  • The Big Picture is that Sinn Fein’s leaders have grubby secrets, skeletons in cupboards and in unmarked graves, brown envvelopes, criminal friends, split loyalties, split personalities, dysfunctional families, blood on their hands, no education, no business experience rackeeting excepted and that journalists should be following up these stories and why, to take but one example, Peter Sheridan got three years for perjury and Sinn Fein and FF leaders can waltz around as if they have been other than malign forces in Irish society.
    In as much as the media ignores the hidden picture and concentrates on mini celebrities and far away countries and issues of which we know nothing, the media will remain part of the problem and not the slution.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Most unbecoming in a journalist, this burying of hatchets business. Not that there was that much at issue in the first place – Clarke’s book was poor and for all his endeavour he’s never really landed any knee-buckling punches on McG that I can recall. Says a lot for the class of the Belfast Telegraph, frankly.

  • I liked the investigative bent David Gordon brought to the BT’s politics coverage, but I must say Liam Clarke has lent gravitas to the paper’s analysis.

  • Brian Walker

    David Gordon is an excellent reporter. I know nothing about his move but I note the BBC pay more than the Tele – although nothing like the dreams of avarice some suspect.