‘Bona Fide’ Journalism


independent House, home of the Irish Independent.

‘Bona fide’ journalists are accredited and employed by a recognised media outlet. The copy they file is then processed through a layer of sub-editors, editors and, crucially, lawyers who ensure that nothing in breach of any restrictions ever hits the page.

It’s a rigorous, frequently onerous process, which can be the bane of a court reporter’s existence – but that frequently frustrating experience is also a lot better than collapsing a trial.

‘Citizen journalists’ on the other hand may indeed be citizens, but they’re not journalists.

Simply typing some words on your phone and releasing them to your Twitter feed does not make you a journalist. It makes you, at best, a concerned citizen and, at worst, an amateur who can wreck an entire case.

Court reporting, by its own inherently sensitive nature, is an almost forensic procedure which involves more rules and potential pitfalls than other areas of journalism.

It’s a frequently perilous legal tightrope which takes a particular skill set and expertise to master fully.

The people who spend their day angrily fulminating on Twitter may think they’re fulfilling some role, but they’re a menace.

After all, these rules haven’t been designed to cosset some gilded inner circle, but to protect ordinary citizens from having their right to justice denied by some fool with a Twitter handle.

Ian O’Doherty, Irish Independent, November 20, three days before an article and editorial in the Irish Independent forced the collapse of a rape trial.

Good times.

‘New court-reporting restrictions protect the rights of citizens from some fool with a Twitter handle’ (Ian O’Doherty, irish Independent November 20)

Yesterday: During Deliberations

20 thoughts on “‘Bona Fide’ Journalism

  1. Starina

    “processed through a layer of sub-editors, editors and, crucially, lawyers”

    ha! if only there were still sub-editor positions! I wouldn’t have to work in marketing! journos are expected to sub themselves these days.

    1. rotide

      I don’t know, looks like the remaining sub editors had an absolute field day witjh BallyBrac headlines today

      1. Martco

        c’mere you leave deh brack alone –
        I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation, hahahahahahaha

        1. rotide

          Well yeah, there is. They wanted to win the league so the manager ‘killed’ a player to get a game postponed.

  2. Eoin

    The practice direction prohibiting “live tweeting” has been published


    Nothing to stop anyone from popping outside the court-room to live (+5 seconds)-tweet, except for of course, the existing contempt rules. Nicola Anderson, the “bona fide” Indo journalist who wrote the article on Saturday which led to the collapse of the rape trial, wasn’t live-tweeting.

    The practice direction is a farcical attempt to destroy a fly with a cannon-ball. It applies to all court proceedings including non-criminal and non-jury criminal hearings. It even applies to a sitting where a judge is reading out a judgement. So, when Judge Kelly was ruling on inspectors being appointed to INM, all the “bona fide” journalists can tweet to their hearts content, but anyone else has to wait or pop out of the courtroom and miss a bit. Total joke, and a retrograde step for transparency in the judicial system.

    And as for the power of a judge to order a citizen to “(iii) surrender the electronic device temporarily,
    (iv) surrender any recorded material from the electronic device, as the court may direct or order”, good luck with that m’luds.

  3. phil

    I really hope I dont get called to a jury , Ive ready lots of things 5 years ago that might prejudice a future trial ….

  4. AssPants

    And here we all thought the operators of the Justice system ran a fair and transparent system.

    How is that one sentence can collapse a trial.

    What if one was to make notes and then pop out to the Papal Stand and shout via a loud haler their opinion of a trial; would it collapse then?

    This is a bullpoo and a deliberate attempt to perverse the course of justice at will and divert the gaze of onlookers to some novelty social media website.

    1. rotide

      Here’s an example einstein.

      Suppose a confession was co-erced from a suspect but the councel for the defence got it omitted. The jury is not privy to those legal discussions for obvious reasons. If someone were to tweet ‘the suspect confessed to the murder’ and a juror read that….

      Now, was that so hard to get your head round?

      1. AssPants

        Dr Rotide,

        I revert with a similar question:

        If the legal system is so enshrined in our society, and so important in day to day civility; then why is it so fubb’n sensitive to a red herring comment/tweet…..

        It is completely wreck-less of the State to collapse a trial of an innocent person seeking justice because of a third party opinion; and then knowingly allow the accused back into society without answer the claims of wrong doing.

        Even this is difficult to script as I am worried I may be help accountable in case there are soundings above which may relate to an ongoing trial that I am not aware of.

        1. rotide

          You should probably look into a spell checker. Wreck-less isn’t a word that usually gets autocorrected like that.

          Secondly, you are aware that they haven’t just said ‘oh well, lets not bother with a trial anymore’? There’s going to be a new trial. The accused will answer the claims of wrong doing.

          As to why the trial collapsed, I have no idea of the ins and outs of the evidence and neither do you. So neither of us can categorically say the judge was wrong to dismiss the jury.

  5. Ian-O

    While he has a point, it’s kind of moot when his own colleagues do that very thing.

    O’Doherty is a wanna be Kevin Myers but without his wit and wisdom (debatable I know but I personally find Myers to an incredibly interesting person that I happen to disagree with on a lot of things but still respect his opinions in the main).

    A would be contrarian is what he is (O’Doherty), at best.

    1. rotide

      He’s absolutely correct in what he’s saying.

      The subsequent cockup by the indo only proves his point even more. If a news organisation like the Indo can screw up that badly, imagine the damage someone live tweeting can do.

      1. Ian-O

        *News organisation like the Indo*

        I rarely use acronyms, but in this case, I think ROFL might suffice?

        Considering they hacked themselves and tried to paint an innocent Gardai as having skipped justice for abusing a child, I am not sure they count as news so much as a vendor of distorted opinion and advertorials.

        And the odd shouty rant from O’Doherty and Eoin Harris.

        1. rotide

          Exactly. you are proving my point for me. Like it or not they have a form of oversight.

          Twitter has none.

  6. kerryview

    Am I mad? The broadsheet post points out that it was the indo itself caused the trial collapse and not some ‘citizen journalist’.
    And what phalanx of sub-editors, legal eagles etc. is I O’D referring to? The original Indo article went through no such a procedure – ‘rigorous, frequently onerous process’.

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