‘Tis The Season



From top: John Gormley in Summer, 2010 ; Dan Boyle

Politics and Journalism rarely find the relationship that is needed to bring about the best standards of accountability.

Especially in August

Dan Boyle writes:

August. That awkward month when the media shows its painfully incestuous relationship with political activity of any type to provide it with copy. Left instead with the option of cold turkey, media sources create stories to fill the void.

For the most part silly season stories are harmless with readers/listeners/viewers in on the deceit that such stories are more contrived than usual. Unless you are part of such stories they tend to be quite entertaining.

When you become the story, in the absence of more substantive narratives, it becomes more difficult to escape the perception that gets created.

By way of example I give you the White Van crisis of 2010. Within the Department of the Environment it was decided by civil servants that the motor tax renewal form should be redesigned.

Part of the redesign was to re-emphasise the section on the taxing of commercial vans, vehicles subject to a lower level of tax. The reason for the lower tax has been to restrict the use of these vehicles from carrying passengers.

The emphasis on the new tax form was seized on by a news story claiming this as a Green Party initiative. This created an hysteria where the bringing of children to school or helping an elderly parent to collect their pension was being stopped by the meany greenies.

It was a classic case of facts getting in the end way of a good story. There was never any Green Party policy on the issue. John Gormley as the Minister concerned, gave no direction that a form should be changed at his behest.

Usual journalistic custom would be to seek corroborating quotes from those concerned. The beauty of silly season is that in looking for quotes from people who are on holiday who usually can’t respond. And so the stories get run anyway.

Silly season becomes a year long activity in the tabloid world. On occasion we see a crossover from journalists seeking to enter political life, a life they had usually sought to portray pretty cynically.

Good recent examples of this would be Michael Gove and Boris Johnson in the Brexit referendum. Journalistic skills help in defining subjects that can pique the public’s interest.

Hang upon this interest a known substantial prejudice, then repeat, and you will find a certain formula for success in politics.

Politics and Journalism rarely find the relationship that is needed to bring about the best standards of accountability.

Too many journalists become embedded with the political world that some want to be a part of. At the other extreme the more cynical of journalists have determined that politicians are a sub-species all of whom are inclined towards corruption.

The best of journalists avoid being spoon fed. They learn to differentiate between those who dissemble and those who wish to be honest. The best of politicians know the more they can be open and honest the less they are likely to be misrepresented.

Sadly we are nowhere near that place yet

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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13 thoughts on “‘Tis The Season

  1. fluffybiscuits

    Media shapes our thinking, there is no real ifs or buts on that front. RTE are the prime example of an organisation that is bethroned to the establishment. They ran a piece this morning on 600 jobs from Lidl on Morning Ireland leading us to believe the economy is picking up, this was a headline. Nothing though was mentioned about Mary Boyle and the push by Gemma O Doherty to have the case looked at more closely and that programme that was aired in 1985 shown. Another thing that irked me was they did not show Dundalk in the Champions League but will happily fill Sunday afernoon with two teams of angry farmers and big fat red heads beating the head off one and other. In print media we have a {Redacted} controlled media who do very little to look at the corruption in Ireland and its links. The media is not missing out on slow news days, it is just not reporting news that is contrary to their own interests.Again Dan another post which scores wide of the goal…

    1. Dan Boyle

      I present a theme. I use my experience to highlight what’s being said. I don’t have an expectation that it will change the World.
      There has been comment on the Mary Boyle case – Michael Clifford in The Irish Examiner.

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        I always find it restful – in the context of Irish ‘News’ when there is sod all news because ” De Minister (hasn’t) WARNED” us about anything today. As for the rolling crew who stand outside Leinster House, or the Corner of Church Street and Smithfield …..PULEEZE, overmanning anyone?

    1. Dan Boyle

      Haven’t been aware The Green Party had brought down. It exists its support fluctuates. Nothing I say in this piece attaches any such importance to it.

  2. nellyb

    “The best of journalists avoid being spoon fed. They learn to differentiate between those who dissemble and those who wish to be honest.”
    Learning to differentiate the two happens even before secondary school. In the run to same sex marriage referendum the vote-eligible teens, who were still in school then, showed remarkable application of that very skill, which I observed with deep satisfaction and over many weeks. So, no, the premise that our journalist class is somewhat disabled on basic life skill is not a sound premise. Some are simply there to make a living, just like some politicians.
    If politicians are earning for quality journalism, why is there no support for Gemma O’Doherty? It’s no coincidence fluffy mentioned her too. If Gemma deceased prematurely (I wish her 100 year of healthy life, btw), a nasty political circus would have started among these who now pretend she’s a hedge on M50. Like the one around Veronica Guerin. It’s a shame dead can’t puke.

  3. bisted

    …ah summer 2010…those were the days…John Gormless, Gogo and the lads…when every season was silly season…

  4. Mulder

    Yeah a lot of sillyness and in fairness, a lot of ignorance and stupidity.
    Seasonally adjusted of course.

  5. ollie

    “it was decided by civil servants that the motor tax renewal form should be redesigned.”
    John Gormley was the Minister at the time, he was responsible for this change

    I have never met anyone like Dan Boyle for blaming others and shirking responsibility, Dan you are a modern day David Brent.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Ollie I now realise my mistake. I exist. I know know now much that fills your need to be angry.

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