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Truth And Consequence
Why the continuing fallout from the UK phone-hacking scandal should prompt deeper reflection about journalistic standards on our own turf...
The Whole Hog, 27 Mar 2012
The same might well be said in Ireland, but for quite different reasons. Here too a culture has grown, in which there is scant regard for privacy or principle, for deep research or time-consuming trawls for evidence. Media here have moved well beyond reportage too and, are now engaged in news-making.
Here, the impulse to go beyond reportage and into news-making has its roots in the widespread frustration felt at the slow pace of political movement in Ireland. There’s also the need to compete with web-based news platforms and social media...
But making the news happen (as opposed to reporting it) and becoming self-styled game-changers takes the media way beyond the safety of long-established good practice. Controversy can be pursued for its own sake. The boundary blurs between news and entertainment. Ratings rule.
As we know, the Broadcasting Authority recently upheld Sean Gallagher’s complaint about how RTÉ’s The Frontline handled the bogus tweet during the final presidential debate. It was an unfortunate error and certainly should not have happened.
There have been other allegations about grooming audience members, though these have been robustly addressed by RTÉ. And in this instance they are right. It is standard practice for programme makers to work with the audience – or indeed with contributors to a programme – to ensure that questions are well framed, to the point and test the mettle of the politicans or others who are up for questioning.
Leaving aside any issues to do with the programme itself, however, there is a growing awareness of the degree to which the media in general have loved social media not wisely but too well.
Many of the characteristics of social media, and Twitter in particular, are perfectly tuned to the habits of news and gossip junkies. A whisper becomes a babble. ‘Trending’ is the objective, even before anything is known for sure.…
The process can be just as cavalier and invasive as intrusion by News Of The World hacks – and that’s before you get into the sheer viciousness of so many tweets, comments and chats.