Previously On Denisty

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Stephen Rae (top) Group editor Of Independent Newspapers; Former editor of the Sunday Independent Anne Harris (below).

“One evening in November 2012 – a Monday, my day off – I was summoned to an “off-site” meeting. I had misgivings about attending. The previous Saturday, at edition time, there had been an attempt to pull a story about a statement issued by Transparency International Ireland, which had complained to a UN special rapporteur about O’Brien’s serial litigations against journalists.

“Accordingly, on alert, I asked if I should have somebody with me. No need, I was assured. The meeting was attended by two men, one of whom was a senior INM executive. Things were bad with the company, he said.

Certain “temporary measures” were necessary. Then we got to the core problem: O’Brien, the majority shareholder, was not to be written about in certain ways. Then he issued a specific directive: any reference to O’Brien was not to be handled by me, but was to be referred to the managing editor. When I pointed out that this was censorship, I was informed it was “sensitivity”. I later asked for the directive in writing, but was refused.

“I did get a series of emails which confirmed the directive but tried to revise what had transpired at the meeting. One ridiculously stipulated the stricture was to cover references to “all” INM shareholders (there are thousands); another said it applied to coverage of the three largest shareholders, O’Brien, Dermot Desmond and Tony O’Reilly.

Contact with O’Reilly elicited an immediate response: the stricture was “repugnant” to him. (I should add that in my three years as editor, the paper had no representations from Desmond.) At subsequent meetings with management, any pretence that the stricture was wider than O’Brien was dropped.

Contemporaneous with these meetings was the drawing up of a charter or code of practice for INM journalists with its infamous clause stipulating there could be no repeated, sustained, adversarial criticism of a person or organisation without the written permission of the managing editor. The charter eventually faded because a restructuring of the newspapers rendered it unnecessary.

“At one of these attritional meetings, I asserted that the managing editor did not outrank an editor. I was informed that an editor-in-chief would, and such a post could be created.

It was. On June 24, 2013, an editor-in-chief [Stephen Rae] was appointed, and within days the structure of the Sunday Independent was dismantled. From then on I never again held a meeting with my own staff that was not attended by persons with strange new titles taking notes furiously.

At the meeting to announce the appointment of the editor-in-chief I asked who, now, would make the decisions on coverage of O’Brien. I got no reply.

Copious correspondence asking the same question proved equally fruitless. But I did get an answer, a painful one, on July 19, 2014. In an article published in the early edition of the Sunday Independent, I referred to O’Brien and control of INM. Without reference to me, the editor-in-chief stopped the page and removed a crucial sentence.

I rang him to protest. The paper was delayed while we argued. In order to get the pages running again, several minor changes were negotiated. But I had no part in the removal of the crucial sentence. Did O’Brien have any knowledge of these events? I don’t know. I asked to meet him. I was told that wouldn’t happen.

Anne Harris, ex-editor of The Sunday Independent, in yesterday’s Sunday Times (behind paywall).

Previously: Continuity Rae

Denis O’Brien’s Editorial Interference: The Smoking Gun?

25 thoughts on “Previously On Denisty

  1. Starina

    wow. that’s some journalism warlord behaviour right there. makes me think [REDACTED] bought control of INM just to control coverage of himself.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      So…. when DOB and/or his lawyers come out and say ‘we dont interfere with editorial’ everyone can scream

      ” fupp off you interfering anti-democratic LIAR ! ”

      and for this reason, his lies and interfering, coupled with the findings of the Moriarty Triubunal are proof positive that Denis has no ‘good name’ to speak of and when his lawyers say he is defending a ‘good reputation’, we can all laugh and tell ’em to go and sh*te that Denis doesn’t have one to speak of.

      Of course, this is ALL due to his own doing and nefarious business practices as born out in the Moriarty Tribunal, and here.

      …and that’s without even mentioning the Clinton Foundation……………

  2. DF

    What has more media not picked up on this story? Surely RTE, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, the journal should be reporting this as their main story today? It seems they are still afraid of the big bad wolf. Well done to the Sunday Times, Guardian and Broadsheet again.

    1. Ronan Fitzgerald

      Don’t worry DF… they’ll have it rolling on every show on Newstalk…. Oh.. wait…. hmm….

    2. spunge

      Reminds me of the time Independent News and Media made a pact with a certain politician prior to a general election. Not many other organizations made a big deal of that either. The Tony O’Reilly regime was great in fairness like……

    3. rotide

      RTE , The Irish Times and the Examiner do plan on running front page stories that DOB controls what is said in INM newspapers. They just have to run the more shocking ‘Sky Is Blue, Produces Water Periodically’ revalations first.

    4. Caroline

      But then who would run front-page stories about Clery’s still selling vouchers online? You’ve not thought this through.

  3. Brian Hession

    Ah, the lovely Mr Rae, I saw him vomiting out some ‘please look at me, I’m a high flyer’ guff in Cara magazine this month. Vile individual.

    1. Lilly

      + 1 I suppose Rae, talentless weasel that he is, figures the best way to keep himself in clover is to become Denis’ bitch. He’s probably exhausted from years kissing Garda ass.

  4. Brian Hession

    I notice his remedial sidekick in the background of the picture too! Bless his out of focus head.

  5. Digs

    Sunday Indo. Made by slime and grime for slime and grime. Some chippers wouldn’t even wrap their fish suppers in it, if we still had chippers that wrapped their food in old newspapers.

  6. Joe the Lion

    I’m sorry Broadsheet

    No one cares about some paid for (insert former somebody, now nobody) here

    Tiresome media people stories are tiresome

    1. Sham Bob

      He’s got a real smug a##h[]le face, like a corporate villain from an 80’s movie.

  7. Truth in the News

    The Independent has lost all credbility, its time all the Journalists pulled the
    plug as if it keeps fumbling along with the present crowd in control it will soon
    fold

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