Oppositional journalism, the Irish way

Ireland’s finest political correspondents weren’t too happy with Vincent Browne’s ‘Christmas Snarl‘ in the Irish Times last week. Both Harry McGee and Deaglan de Breadun took issue with Browne’s ‘irony-stroke-cynicism’, rubbishing the idea that the political corrs are a ‘cosy lobby’ and questioning his own credentials when it comes to confrontational journalism.

Browne’s snarl went like this:

“THE POLITICAL correspondents are a rough crowd. At the annual Taoiseach’s lunch for them on Monday they really stuck it to Brian Cowen. One put it to him straight up: how the past year had been for him personally. That was a humdinger. I bet that set him back in his tracks. “For me personally, it was the most difficult year I faced in my political lifetime,” he was forced to concede.

Under further pressure, he conceded: “I think that everybody is finally beginning to come to terms with what was a very difficult time for a lot of people.” He found some consolation, however: “I have been lucky to have had good colleagues who were equally determined to put the country first.”

Of course, whatever about Browne’s alleged contradictions, he couldn’t be more accurate on this issue. Jody Corcoran’s piece in the Irish Independent today is a great example – a 25 minute one-2-one interview with Cowen, over 3,000 words and only 2 questions. Still though, Corcoran isn’t completely oblivious…

“I decide I had better try to rattle him a bit — I am aware that I have been getting too pally with him lately — although, I suspect, I’d have more success trying to rattle Bhudda.” [Jody Corcoran, Irish Independent]

Which must have been exactly the kind of thing David Leigh was thinking of when he described the function of oppositional journalism in the Guardian:

“It’s important that the various media behave as countervailing powers in a democracy: in fact it’s absolutely necessary. When Jeremy Paxman says of a politician “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” he is actually articulating (in admittedly uncouth terms) a sophisticated understanding of the nuances of democracy. This isn’t a moral argument. It’s a practical one. Oppositional journalism punctures self-serving gibberish and exposes unwelcome facts. This helps make democratic society self-correcting.” [David Leigh, The Guardian]

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