I turned on the RTE iPlayer on my iPad last night to watch the nine o’clock television news to see what coverage the national broadcaster was giving to the political crisis caused by the PSNI admission that the Provisional IRA had been involved in the slaying of Kevin McGuigan.
To my surprise, nay shock, there was not a single word or picture devoted to a story that has the potential to bring down the power-sharing government at Stormont and imperil not just the Good Friday Agreement but the peace process itself.
If proper news values had been applied, the story should have led the broadcast. But instead it was appallingly and completely absent.
So, last night I wrote to RTE public affairs to ask why and this morning the nice lady there sent me this reply:
We did not feature a report on the story on last night’s Nine O’Clock News but it was carried on our website from earlier in the day and featured on Drivetime. We don’t comment on individual editorial decisions as general policy. The story and related developments have featured throughout our news coverage today.
In the absence of a coherent explanation for what is at the least a devastatingly poor editorial decision or at worst blatant censorship, I am driven to wonder myself what the real reason was.
There is, and has been a tendency in Irish journalism, which has been around as long as I have been in the business – and which has probably intensified in the peace process years – to believe that ‘if we don’t report it, then it didn’t happen’.
The decision to pretend that the PSNI statement was just not newsworthy enough to put on the main national television news programme smacks of that type of thinking.
The arrogance behind that attitude is staggering. When journalists believe that by manipulating the news they can shape events then a door is opened to all sorts of horrors, distortions, fictions and outright lies.
Thanks to Denis O’Brien and his grip on the media, Ireland has enough problems on its journalistic plate without going down that road.
Someone needs to get hold of RTE news and give it a good shake. And I know where I would start.