Category Archives: Interviews

Ireland’s invisible, but omnipresent, right-wing

An Interview with Gene Kerrigan

The Irish news industry “strive[s] to establish the important facts in the rapidly changing environment“, it “provide[s] vigilance and challenge to assist understanding.” It is “primarily concerned with serious issues for the benefit of the community throughout the whole of Ireland free from any form of…control“. It has “endeavoured to ensure reporting was accurate and reflected the facts…reflect[ing] all shades of opinion“. And it aspires to “reflect the ever-changing panorama which is human life“.

We know this because a conga line of editors, former editors, CEO’s and directors from Ireland’s most prominent news making institutions recently told us so in evidence presented to the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. Any suggestion that this is not the case is a “conspiracy”, peddled by “conspiracy theorists” from “a[n unrecognisable] planet“. And of course, the Irish news industry doesn’t waste it’s time reflecting on the ever-changing panorama of life on other planets.

For a press so concerned with reflecting the world accurately and with account for it’s diversity of opinion, the inquiry was surprisingly interested in just one person, Morgan Kelly. To a visitor from another planet it must have appeared a strange state of affairs, that the credibility of such independently minded institutions, with access to a range and breadth of information and expertise, could be so contingent on the insight of one university professor. The very fact that Kelly’s name is as much a part of the crisis lexicon as NAMA, Anglo and the Troika, is a testament to the industry’s failure.

Continue reading Ireland’s invisible, but omnipresent, right-wing

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Separating the News from the Noise

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In all the talk about the future of news, it’s rare that you actually come across an innovation that alters the way you think about reporting and news gathering. Digital journalism innovations too often focus on how stories are presented to audiences. Social media is used to generate and sustain interest in news, rather than as a source of news. Where news is sourced from social media it is dominated by celebrity feuds or political gaffs. This type of journalism only scratches the surface of what is possible. Sentiment analysis, the virality of content, all measured through social media, overshadow the real evolution occurring, often imperceptibly, across the globe.

Consider the recent Guardian profile of Eliot Higgins. Higgins, a blogger, who from his livingroom in Leicester, “has put together a database of 491 videos of cluster bombs being used across Syria, together with map references and details of the type of weapons used”. Scouring “about 450 YouTube channels from Syria every evening” Higgins has managed to beat organisations such as the New York Times to a globally significant story nearly 5000 km from his front door.

Which is what drew us to the work being done by Storyful. Founded in 2010 by former RTE Prime Time presenter Mark Little, the organisation is a ‘news agency for the social media age’. Storyful’s raison d’etre is to draw actionable news from the noise of social media. Its journalists and editors curate stories about conflicts, natural disasters and elections by verifying social media events – tweets, facebook updates, videos, images etc.

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The web’s political rainbow

This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Village magazine (Part 1, Part 2).

The citadel of mainstream Irish journalism has been disturbed by the arrival of interactive, internet-based news and discussion forums that anyone can participate in. A vibrant network of websites has appeared and while they could be as much criticised as praised, many are a serious challenge to the status quo. And most of them are free. This phenomenon is not generally liked by the Irish media establishment which has had to make concessions to it by putting its own offerings online – albeit with strictly controlled opportunities for interaction with the hoi polloi, if there is any at all. There’s a lot of harrumphing about the need to protect professional journalism which in reality may be as much about a desire to keep control of the news agenda in certain hands as it is about any threat to the quality of journalism. Despite this, the mainstream media have been compelled to acknowledge facts and opinions they would much rather have ignored were it not for the healthy debates taking place on internet forums that frequently expose gaping holes in media coverage. Anyone who doubts this should visit the Ballyhea Bondwatch Ireland site, the NamaWinelake blog or The Story.ie to mention just a few of the sites which have stolen a march on mainstream journalism by researching and publishing information that the mainstream should have, but did not.

A survey of some of the main political news and discussion websites follows below but first a few things to be aware of for the uninitiated web-surfer. Most of these sites allow comments or news stories to be published by anyone who thinks they have something to say. The quality of what is published can therefore vary a lot. Keep an open mind and remember that joining the discussion is very often like taking a walk down Main Street – every sort of person is there. Some of it, it must be acknowledged, is just plain dross – and some of it is brilliant and original. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking the owners or moderators of a website are responsible for or endorse the content of posts and comments when they do not.

Continue reading The web’s political rainbow

The Forgotten Constituency: The Majority and The Irish Economic Crisis

Discussion with Kathleen Lynch, Professor of Equality Studies, Department of Social Justice, UCD

(KL – Kathleen Lynch, MB – MediaBite, Miriam Cotton)

MB: Can you say a little about your own background and what attracted you to Equality Studies?

KL: I founded Equality Studies here in UCD in the late 1980s. Ireland was not unlike it is now. In the mid 80s we had the moving statues, we had the abortion referendum – a very controversial time. It was Ireland with the influence of Thatcher and Reagan – when they became extremely powerful politically and ideologically. There were a number of us here in UCD who felt we had an opportunity. I was always interested in equality issues and social justice since I was young. I had this idea for establishing Equality Studies. We had a women’s studies forum here. People often forget that the librarians in UCD were very involved in setting that up – more than the academics – but the women academics did get involved later and I participated in that in the mid 80s. Then I felt that while I was interested in women’s issues, my interests were bigger than that. I was interested in human rights, global justice and especially in class and equality. I felt that Ireland was a very class divided society. So I wrote a proposal. I got the support of colleagues in Law, Sociology and Business and eventually after two or three years – in 1990 – we got approval to start a masters degree and that’s 21 years ago this year.

Continue reading The Forgotten Constituency: The Majority and The Irish Economic Crisis

A curse on the zombie establishment

An interview with filmmaker Eamonn Crudden

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This interview is published together with another post  here, which provides embedded video of Crudden’s cinematic commentary of Ireland’s property crash, Wallets Full of Blood.

A compelling narrative of Ireland’s crisis of capitalism is very difficult to find. Those provided by economists, contemporary philosophers and mainstream documentary makers rely heavily on figures, graphs, ominous stringed instrumentals and thunderous voiceovers. But the transfer of economic and social wealth orchestrated by the government and banks in the last few years is not simply a consequence of state policy and intricate financial market formulae; it is also a story of primal greed and connivance.

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Israel and its influence on world politics

An interview with Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon is a world renowned saxophonist and musician with a deep political passion for humanist issues and concern for the fate of the Palestinian people.  He has written extensively about the issue and been published widely.  As a self-exiled, former Jewish Israeli and IDF soldier, Atzmon’s perspective within the raging public discourse on Palestine is relatively unique.  His views are bitterly opposed by some among anti-Zionist Jewish groups, who accuse him of anti-Semitism and of being a ‘self-hater’.

Atzmon fiercely resists the charge of anti-Semitism and insists that he is concerned with a proper and thorough examination of the ideology of what it is to be Jewish – in particular about how the notion of the Jews as ‘a chosen people’ has led, as he sees it, inexorably to the rise of Zionism and its present disproportionate influence on world affairs.

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The ‘Rock Star’ Economist

An interview with David McWilliams

David McWilliams rock star

An edited version of this interview appears in the June – July issue of Village magazine.

I recently met up with David McWilliams in his Volvo Estate in a church car park in Dalkey. In case that sounds more intriguing than it actually was, the purpose of our meeting was to conduct an interview on recording equipment that does not cope with background noise in public spaces like restaurants or coffee-shops. So, somewhat surreally, in his car it had to be.

McWilliams has a strong personal presence and is possibly one of the most cheerful people you are likely to meet.  He is greeted warmly in his locality where he appears to know many people in person, if the sample of people we saw while having a cup of coffee is anything to go by.  His work rate is extraordinary – during the last year alone he has traveled the world on a punishing schedule while making the documentary ‘Addicted to Money’, chaired a series of the comedy show ‘The Panel’, finished writing his book ‘Follow the Money’ and organized the controversial Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh, among many other things.

Continue reading The ‘Rock Star’ Economist

‘Balancing’ the Climate Consensus – Part 2

An interview with John Gibbons, formerly of the Irish Times

In Part 1 of this interview John Gibbons identified his personal ‘turning point’ on the subject of  climate change. He went on to describe the resistance he came up against in the Irish media when he attempted to bring that information to a wider audience, even 20 years after the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report.

In this second part of the interview we ask whether the mainstream media is in some way limited by certain structural factors, such as financial considerations, in turn compromising its ability to provide an accurate picture of the world, one that is not shaped in a large part by strong corporate and political interests.

Continue reading ‘Balancing’ the Climate Consensus – Part 2

‘Balancing’ the Climate Consensus – Part 1

An interview with John Gibbons, formerly of the Irish Times

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John Gibbons has covered the issue of Climate Change for the Irish Times for the past two years. Several weeks ago his weekly column abruptly came to an end. In his final piece Gibbons took the mainstream media to task over their climate coverage:

“Ireland’s most senior climate expert, Prof John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth, acknowledged last week that climate-change deniers were “winning the propaganda war”. Chief among them, he added, were deniers from the ranks of journalism and lobbying.

“A media and telecommunications industry fuelled by advertising and profit maximisation is part of the problem,” Lewis and Boyce point out.

Continue reading ‘Balancing’ the Climate Consensus – Part 1

An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 2

Continuing our interview with Harry Browne – journalist, activist and lecturer.

[HB – Harry Browne, MC – Miriam Cotton, MediaBite]

MC: To discuss the Irish media more generally, could we talk about the Irish Examiner, for example?

HB: I’m going to make a terrible confession here. There is no Irish newspaper that I read fairly regularly – and certainly not in print form. I will make sure to pick them when I’m going into a class to talk about them or check them out online to see how they are covering particular stories but I am now one of these people who doesn’t often buy newspapers. But yes of course I’m familiar with the Examiner.

Continue reading An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 2