To Journalists

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By Tom Fitzgerald

After our letter published here last Friday Sally and I sent this press release out to a number of reporters. It was not picked up by any traditional paper. The Irish Times wrote a response in its Saturday paper and there has been an avalanche of response on its Facebook page.

The Irish Times ignored the input of hundreds of its own readers until Tuesday.

Hugh Linehan, IT online editor, responded to those who felt that it was cowardly to call a dead young woman a liar, knowing she was no longer able to defend herself.

The readers of the Irish Times saw Hugh Linehan’s article for what it was, a wandering of worthless words. It was neither adequate as an apology nor as an explanation.

The general view from those responding was that the Irish Times had let itself down, and had devalued journalism as a whole. They raised serious questions about who controls the press in Ireland.

What is quite disturbing to me and to Sally, as Kate’s parents, is that this important story, while creating an unprecedented online storm, has been totally ignored by the traditional media. One senior Irish Times journalist said that “one dog does not eat another”. That is to say that one newspaper does not attack another. Does this explain why other media do not cover this story?

Is it not in the interest of the whole profession to have higher standards in journalism?  When the icon of journalism fails to meet basic standards of journalistic ethics, surely the rest of the press should talk about it. It tarnishes you as well.  Surely, the basic tenet of journalism is that when there is huge interest shown by the public, it is a bona fide story and you cover it.  Beyond journalistic ethics, a tested story sells papers.  Must everything move online as traditional media falters?  So where are you on this?

To me, this appears to be a battle between traditional journalism where feedback is limited, and online journalism where feedback is both instant and relentless. So far, traditional journalism is losing badly.

I’d hate to see the Irish Times go down because of this.  We need an icon, we need a standard and the rest of you journalists need to ensure that the Irish Times keeps that standard going.  It’s time you stood up and voiced your views on the ethics of journalism in Ireland.

Tom Fitzgerald, December 22.