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Be first or be right? Tweet dilemma for old media

March 8th, 2012 No comments

Angela Long

In March the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint against the state broadcaster, RTE, regarding a Tweet read out on a current affairs programme. The problem was that the programme’s producers had not verified the provenance of the Tweet – which purported to come from political party Sinn Fein. But the bigger problem was that this Tweet was believed to have assisted in the downfall of then presidential candidate, Sean Gallagher.
The circumstances: a televised debate involving the five six candidates for Ireland’s presidency was held in October 2011. Sean Gallagher, a businessman and ‘dragon’ on the Irish version of Dragons’ Den, had healthy figures in the polls and was a likely winner. His rivals included the Sinn Fein politician, and deputy first minister in the North of Ireland, Martin McGuinness. During the programme, the host, Pat Kenny, said that a Tweet had been received from Martin McGuinness’s campaign office. This claimed Gallagher had received money from a Fianna Fail supporter some years previously ( a claim which brought up the recent spectre of political corruption, bribery, and ‘brown paper envelopes’). The Tweet, Kenny declared, also said a press conference giving full details would be held the next day.
Slight as it might seem, this was enough to seriously damage Gallagher, and in the event he polled poorly in the vote (which saw Labour Party candidate Michael D. Higgins elected).
Afterwards, Gallagher complained to the BAI about the use of the Tweet, citing unfairness and irresponsible journalism. He also complained of an interview Kenny did with him on radio the following day. Both contained unfair and partial material, it was claimed.
The BAI found in his favor.

Adjudication text

This brings up the issues of sources, verification and the competition traditional (legacy, if you like) media faces from the immediate, informal social media channels such as Twitter. Pressure is immense on legacy media workers to adopt and master Twitter. In the ongoing alarm and dilemma over how to switch the legacy business model to viability in the digital environment, media bosses are insisting that Twitter and Facebook be used – but often without thinking hard about the limitations of these.
As Ireland’s communications minister said, commenting on the BAI ruling, the national broadcaster is supposed to be the ‘gold standard’ for journalistic practice. Hence the mistake was a serious error, as the leader for ethical and professional journalism had been caught out in rushing to broadcast without any serious attempt at checking the facts.
Fact-checking is a fundamental of all journalism. Where did this information come from, why was it released, and who might benefit?
Indeed, the Tweet looked like it came from a Sinn Fein source – but a child of 10 could tell you that fake Twitter accounts abound, and in Ireland there are plenty of well-known examples (such as the account attributed to Geraldine Kennedy, former editor of The Irish Times, and first woman to hold that position).
RTE’s defence, according to the BAI adjudication, rested largely on the ‘but it was true anyway’ (that Gallagher had received money on behalf of FF interests.) This sounds a bit like ‘the dog DID eat my homework’.
As of today, Tweets are still unregulated, constant, opaque – and often break news. News organisations – in fact anyone using Tweets as a source – have to decide which is more important to them: to be first; or to be right.

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Women taking care of business in Ireland

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Emma Rafferty has ‘exported’ a great Australian concept to her new home in Ireland – the meat pie.

Bonza Pies, the company Emma started with husband Colin, has just opened its second outlet in Dublin. Now the couple have their eyes on “a new branch every year, and eventually we would love to set up a franchise,” says Emma, originally from Perth.

The couple was swimming against the tide when they set up their venture just as the Irish economy was taking a disastrous tumble, over three years ago. But with persistence, patience, and, above all, faith in their product, they are succeeding.

‘We’re flat out busy from about 11am to around now, ‘ Emma says at 3pm one weekday afternoon, in the rustic-looking Bonza 2, next to Mulligan’s famous pub in Poolbeg Street. “People come in, try the pies, and then they’ll be back for more!”

But it was Emma’s Irish husband who suggested the business idea. “Colin had been living in Australia for seven years, working in construction, and having pies for lunch every day,” said Emma. “When we came back here, intending just to spend a year, Colin found there was no construction work. And he missed the pies too!”

With Emma’s support, Colin retired to the kitchen for weeks and worked on recipes for pastry and filling. Every time friends or family came round, they found themselves eating – pies. “Colin was so enthusiastic – never got sick of it, always trying new things.”

As a result they have a long menu – 11 different varieties – which surprises the not-pie-savvy Irish, who come expecting one mysterious meat filling, and are impressed with the choice.
Read more…

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Desmond ethically-challenged

January 13th, 2012 No comments

For those of you not enjoying the Leveson inquiry in the privacy of your own homes, don’t miss these golden moments when master of the universe Richard Desmond sweetly admitted that he wasn’t sure what the word “ethically” means.

Wot is efficks

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Ireland – and the world – in middle of media storm

December 16th, 2011 No comments

As 2011 limps to a close, many newspapers face that ‘c’ word (close) in the next few years.

Circulations of the print product are going down everywhere in the West. Optimists who point excitedly to rising newspaper circulations in India or China are deliberately overlooking cultural and market differences. How has the Irish media coped with 2012?

There were the great gifts of not one election but two: all the fun of the fair at the presidential poll, and earlier the rather more serious, but foregone conclusion, of the general election.

Queen Elizabeth graciously descended in May, to be met equally graciously by Mary McAleese.

Then it was President Obama’s turn to give Ireland a chance of a moment in the world spotlight – though the fleeting nature of his visit, Moneygall, College Green, and goodbye, left the taste of burnt rubber in the mouth.

Ongoing stories were the space- and attention-grabbers. Recession horrors, ineffectual European Union action, and vague dabs by the new Irish government (JobBridge, for example) were constant themes, if not always given illuminating reporting.

The sad story of clerical child abuse, and the mishandling of complaints, continued – and continues. Patsy McGarry’s story in The Irish Times about complaints against Archbishop John Charles McQuaid were a fitting if appalling coda to the whole saga.McGarry story December 8

The Sunday Tribune closed in February, on the heels of the rather less lamented Sunday Star. This left the serious Sunday market to the Business Post, although its circulation still languishes around 50,000. However, the Post has at least shown a smaller decrease in its sales than the Irish average – it went down by about 3 per cent in the first half of 2011, about half the average decline for print titles across the country. (ABC figures)

The journalistic workforce is shrinking – even on the large employers, such as the nationals . The Irish Independent outsourced most of its subbing several years ago, with little reported complaint (or even notice) from readers, and The Irish Times, which has already slashed, combined and downgraded its subbing desks, is said to be looking to cut subs’ numbers by another half-dozen. Read more…

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Enda’s address to the nation

December 5th, 2011 No comments

Angela watched Enda Kenny hint at how bad it is all going to be forever…

In the end it was a fairly damp squib. But at least he did it.

Enda Kenny, leader of the country, sat down and eyeballed the nation, albeit via a TV camera from his office, and told them the bad times are here to stay.

At least, the Taoiseach said, for ‘several’ years, perhaps a benign interpretation of a figure closer to 15.

And he acknowledged that the Irish state is spending €16 billion more than it has in the kitty per year.

The Taoiseach’s address to the nation last night, though much anticipated and now much analysed in the media, was never going to be a stirring experience. Even at the best of times, the polite gentleman from Mayo is not the type to get people leaping from their chairs and pumping air. (He used to be known as ‘Mayo’s answer to Prince Charles’.)

But, as one started to drift away on the sofa in the post-prandial haze, a couple of Kenny’s statements did stand out. Firstly, and rightly, he told us all that the savage recession is not our fault.

Then, and most importantly, he virtually said that the Irish government is prepared to accept any fiscal arrangement to keep the country in the euro. Whether that means total control of the finances, one Euro-wide policy on taxing and spending, the government is up for it. The Taoiseach indicated this with his statement that ‘Ireland supports stronger governance… in the euro zone.

‘In fact, the Irish people are paying the price now for the absence of such rules in the past,’ he added, perhaps to make the alternative seem more palatable.

Us little people here on the ground can only hope that the much-vaunted Euro leaders summit next Friday (Dec 9) will actually do something, even if this governance project takes away more autonomy. It’s nice to be autonomous, but better to eat.

Anyway, Kenny’s attempt to steady the nerves of his people was laudable, on the eve of a Budget so bad, so hard, that it had to be spread over two days for fear of killing the patient with delivery on one. Brian Cowen was much criticised for his on-going failure to communicate with the electorate in the midst of drastic upheaval.

And speaking of communication, it was a pity that on the day Enda advised us all to tighten our belts till 2015 – he hopes – it was revealed that one of his own communications advisers is to get a pay rise of €35,000. Ciaran Conlon, variously described as an old friend and a key adviser to Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, will see his salary burst through the government’s alleged cap on such pay, going from €92,000 to €127,000. So handy to have that extra cash at Christmas!

If you were too busy or asleep to watch the Taoiseach’s address, here it is…
Enda Kenny addresses Ireland

And from, a bit more on lucky ol’ Ciaran Conlon…

Ministers overruled to give adviser €35,000 pay hike

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