I suspect had someone like John Lloyd been invited to speak he would have highlighted some glaring faults in the reporting of this story.
I’d cite two major issues: lack of engagement with specialist knowledge and the egregious use of single sources to generate sustained controversy, which in turn created a dangerous form of demagogic simplification.
The media in Northern Ireland, like much of the political class they report on, tend to see themselves and their work as being above critical analysis. This is in part a function of everyone’s knowing everyone else as much as anything more sinister. However, I suspect the public inquiry report will challenge their material if not their role scaling the crisis, implicitly if not explicitly.
Huge assumptions were taken as read in the early stages of this story which we already know to be utterly false. In larger terms, that maybe because it is generally axiomatically assumed that the DUP are guilty until proven innocent. In this case there is ZERO evidence DUP had anything to do with the spike in demand.
But more importantly, there’s very little journalistic premium granted to anyone who genuinely tries to understand and communicate politics via often not terribly complex policy issues (and RHI is really not that complex) to the public.
Result: high calorific values coupled with sustained public ignorance of the core facts at the centre of the story.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty