As avid followers of the Boston College subpoenas saga will know, there has been one guy on this story from the outset whose reports have become required reading. Chris Bray, a PhD student at UCLA first began blogging about the case on a history site called Cliopatria back last May or June when the story first broke and has doggedly followed it ever since, more recently on his own blog.
Chris Bray is living proof that conventional journalism is dead and that if you want the real scéal then you’re far better off consulting the web and blogs like his. I’ve never met him and don’t know whether I ever will; I don’t think we’ve ever talked although we have shared thoughts and ideas by email. But I’ve come to regard him as being a lot like that little kid in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, you know the one who steps out and, to the horror of the crowd, pronounces the King to be stark naked.
That was what journalism is supposed to be about and it is what always attracted me to the job. But there’s a price tag attached to playing the role of that kid. Far better and much more profitable to be one of the outraged crowd; that way you never get in any difficulty, you’ll always have a job and there will always be food on the table.
When I was covering the Troubles on a daily basis I liked to think of myself as that little kid but I ended up instead full of loathing for the crowd, which is why, I guess, I now live in New York and not Belfast. I used to joke that in the Irish version of that story the crowd would turn on the little kid and beat him to death, except it was never really that funny. I hope that doesn’t happen to Chris, becoming angry and cynical like me, or having his head metaphorically bashed in.
Anyway Chris Bray has just written another piece which marks him out as America’s version of that little kid, or at least one of them for, unlike Ireland, there are many kids here like him – all on the web and so few in the mainstream media I couldn’t count them – who happily say the King is stark naked. I’m not saying there aren’t any like that in Ireland, just so few of them.
Anyway Chris has this knack of cutting through the crap and in this story about the Irish Times’ coverage of Barra McGrory’s recent speech he does it superbly well. Incidentally, I had reason to speak to another Belfast reporter the day after Barra McGrory’s talk and I asked what impact it was having. “What speech?”, came the reply. This is Chris at his best, savour and enjoy!