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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 20, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

    The irishtimes.com archive and Kate Fitzgerald

    Hugh Linehan

    Journalism is a messy, imperfect trade. In the course of producing a daily newspaper or operating a news website, hundreds of decisions and judgment calls must be made every week. We try very hard to maintain the highest professional standards, to make the right call, to spot the potential pitfalls and to be fair to the people about whom we’re writing. Sometimes we fail. And when we do, we should hold up our hands and acknowledge those failures to our readers. Sometimes these mistakes cause distress to blameless people. And sometimes they can have serious legal and financial consequences for us and for our newspaper.

    There has been a lot of highly critical public reaction, particularly on social media platforms, to the events surrounding our re-editing of an article originally published in the Irish Times’s newspaper edition of September 9th, 2011. The article had been published anonymously, but, as revealed in a piece by Peter Murtagh in the Weekend Review of November 26th, its author, Kate Fitzgerald, had taken her own life before it was published. The revelation of Kate’s identity in Peter’s interview with her parents, Tom and Sally Ann, set in motion a train of events: the re-editing of the first article the following Monday following legal advice; a clarification of the reason for that re-editing on Wednesday, and, on Saturday, an apology to Kate Fitzgerald’s former employers, the Communications Clinic, which stated that “significant assertions within the original piece were not factual”.

    The Irish Times has been heavily criticised for its role in this sequence of events, most recently and seriously by Tom and Sally Ann Fitzgerald, who have written of “ the insensitivity of the Irish Times and its inability to grasp how its position has compounded our grief, and attempted to stilt the national debate on depression and suicide.”

    It is neither appropriate nor possible for me to go into detail on the specific legal issues involved in this case. However, reasonable questions have been asked by readers about our policies on amending or altering the digital archive on irishtimes.com, and I hope I can go some way towards answering those.

    Editors at The Irish Times are duty-bound to ensure the work they publish does not expose the newspaper to potential legal hazard. This responsibility does not end at the point of publication; if an error has been made and published, it also applies to the range of online platforms for which we are responsible.

    When we make mistakes, we are often required to publish retractions in the Corrections and Clarifications slot on the Opinion page of The Irish Times, usually stating that our original assertions were not correct. Many of our writers have had such corrections published about their work, baldly stating its factual incorrectness, and offering apologies to those affected.

    Increasingly, though, those seeking redress from newspapers for perceived misrepresentations, inaccuracies or worse are as interested in the digital record as in the print retraction.. If there’s a serious problem with an article, that problem is arguably being perpetuated by its continued availability to online readers. For publishers, the pressing question becomes whether they are making a bad situation even worse in the eyes of the law by keeping that article available online.

    As a result, circumstances regularly arise where the digital record requires amending. Serious errors of fact can and should be corrected. If we have failed to meet our own standards of fairness to everyone involved in a particular story, we should redress that imbalance. When these issues are brought to our attention, we act on them (although we may not do so if the mistake is very minor; each correction takes a certain amount of time to carry out and we have limited resources).

    These corrections and amendments are firstly applied to the irishtimes.com archive, which is a digital record of all content published via the newspaper or as breaking news since The Irish Times went online in 1996. This is the format in which most users find and read our archived content. (The archive does not currently include blogs, audio or video, but we hope to include them in the near future.)

    When we make a correction, we try to make it as clear as possible to users of irishtimes.com that a post-publication change has been made; for the last two years, we have done so with a line at the bottom of the text indicating that this has happened. Recent events show that we need to be even clearer with that message, always including the date that the change was made, the reason for making the amendment and, where possible, marking the changed text.

    The same principles apply to amendments made following legal advice, which would normally be given on the basis that the newspaper and website are unacceptably exposed to a potential risk of action. Such advice is usually but not always given on foot of a complaint from a member of the public. However, we are often limited in the level of information we can give to the user in these cases; to go into detail is often impossible without repeating the information which caused the problem in the first place.

    The irishtimes.com archive is just one of the platforms for our content. The newspaper archive is a page-by-page version of all daily newspaper editions published since the foundation of The Irish Times in 1859. Some imperfections and gaps exist, but it’s a pretty complete record of the newspaper’s history. The epaper, the daily digital version of the newspaper, available to subscribers from around 4am every morning, is also based on newspaper pages. In addition to these, we send our articles to a number of syndication and archive services and we supply content feeds on a contractual basis to a number of third-party customers around the world. In all these cases, we’re contractually committed to alerting the parties when any legal issues arise. Similarly, the syndicated services we receive from the Guardian, the New York Times and others have alert systems in place when problems arise at their end.

    When we have reason to believe that the newspaper may be at legal risk due to something we’ve published, certain processes kick in. The most straightforward is the editing or correcting of content on irishtimes.com itself. A further decision may be taken to carry out a legal retraction of content from the other services mentioned. This is a more complex process in terms of the number of organisations involved, but for readers it probably seems much blunter as, since the newspaper archive and epaper are based on newspaper pages, the legal retraction takes the form of a redaction or crude blotting out of the relevant article on the page, with the words “Legal Retraction” attached.

    In the case of Kate Fitzgerald’s anonymous article of September 9th, following legal advice we were asked to edit it on the afternoon of Monday, November 28th. The original amendment line in the irishtimes.com archive read: ‘’This is an edited version of an Irish Times article originally published on September 9th, 20111″. Following complaints from some users, we re-wrote the line on Wednesday morning to read: “This article was originally published on September 9th in The Irish Times. It was re-edited on November 28th following legal advice.”

    The concerns expressed by readers about the clarity of the original notification were justified – although suggestions that we were deliberately trying to conceal the changes were not. Arising from this, we’re now implementing stricter guidelines for making such changes as clear as possible to the user.

    On the evening of Friday, December 2nd, we undertook a broader legal retraction across archive, epaper and other services, which took place over that weekend.

    Since those events, and the apology to the Communications Clinic published on Saturday, December 3rd, I’ve been reading and sometimes engaging with the angry debate on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere about the rights and wrongs of what was done and what has happened. I and my colleagues, including the editor, Kevin O’Sullivan, have been very aware throughout of the criticism of The Irish Times on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

    In my own personal view, as an organisation we can be legitimately criticised for not engaging more openly and immediately with public concerns about our actions. And people are entitled to their opinions about the rights or wrongs of those actions. We are to some degree constrained in what we can write about the details of this case, so it’s understandable if some readers believe we’re being self-serving or narrowly legalistic in responding (or not responding) to questions. Are there things that could or should have been done differently over the past few weeks? Yes. We need to learn from those to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again.

    However, unfortunate and painful though these events have been, we as professional journalists and publishers took what we believed to be the best action from an ethical and legal perspective. We believe that to have acted otherwise would not have been brave, but irresponsible. We acknowledge the hurt, bewilderment and anger felt by the friends and family of Kate Fitzgerald over what has happened, and apologise for our part in contributing to that.

    Hugh Linehan is online editor of The Irish Times

    • Kevin says:

      Two questions on the language used in Mr. Linehan’s article and the subsequent comments:

      1. Does the IT really believe it (quote from the last paragraph of Mr. Linehan’s article if you’d like to read it in context) “took what we believed to be the best action from an ethical . . . perspective”?

      2. Given the issue of defamation has been raised, and this quote from Mr. Linehan (from Comment 38, if you’d like to read it in context), “if an unverifiable claim is made which causes reputational damage to another individual, it does not suffice for a publisher simply to describe it as ‘unverifiable’”, I’d like to point out that under Irish law, you can’t defame a dead person. But you can make an unverifiable claim that has caused them reputational damage.

    • “Editors at The Irish Times are duty-bound to ensure the work they publish does not expose the newspaper to potential legal hazard”.

      I would contrast this approach with the manner in which the Irish Times sought to protect its sources in respect of Colm Keena’s work on the tribunals.

      What is very worrying about this saga is that the Irish Times has been publicly seen to row back on something it published on the basis of non-legal representations, i.e. a limited company, involved in the management of the media message of many in Irish public life, made its feelings felt and acted upon without having to have recourse to the courts or the potential exposure to any form of cross examination that the public could be witness to.

      This is precisely the sort of approach that institutions in this state have used down the years to cover up all manner of sins and misdeeds from the most venal to the most mortal. That this tactic is still alive in the 21st century and that the Irish Times can be cowed by it undermines the ability of The Irish Times or anyone to claim that it is a paper of record or one that is prepared to speak truth to power. The message that comes from this is that provided you know in whose ear to whisper and the right words to say that you can ensure that your deeds and influence for good or ill can remain hidden.

    • Michael Gleeson says:

      Hugh, your explanation about the clarifications process doesn’t really hold water. In the IT’s clarification re: Kate Fitzgerald’s article, the paper states that significant assertions made by the author were not factual, but it does not state which assertions were not factual.

      I’ve done a quick search of the IT’s corrections and clarifications for the past few weeks and it is common practice to state clearly which assertions from the original article were incorrect. Here are a few examples…

      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/1208/1224308740191.html
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/1217/1224309212531.html
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/1216/1224309149531.html

      The first link refers to a very serious, inaccurate and potentially libellous allegation against Sean Brady. The published correction openly identifies the inaccurate statement, and in fact the original article is still available online in completely unedited form – http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/1205/1224308582678.html

      Your piece above does not explain why the clarification re: Kate Fitzgerald’s article fails to identify which parts of her piece were ‘not factual’, as is common practice in the IT and all other newspapers.

      It would also be helpful if you could let IT readers know the extent and nature of any correspondence received from The Communications Clinic in relation to this matter. Do you not see how hypocritical it is for the Irish Times to be demanding openness and transparency from other institutions, while seeking to hide behind weak legal excuses when the spotlight is shined on its own operations?

    • Pedanto, The Hilarity Man says:

      Hugh,

      You are absolutely certain that your editor was aware of the negative reaction to his retraction when he claimed that there was no negative reaction. How can you explain the contradiction here? Is he not telling the truth?

      (ref. comments 45 and 50.)

    • Aj says:

      The inference I have from this article and after examining the original on broadsheet is as follows;

      1. Given the nature of the original article and knowing the facts preceding the publication, you decided after publication it would be more appropriate to edit the words of a person whom laid their thoughts, emotion and soul out for everyone to see, Whom then took her own life rather than request the complaint to prove their assertions.

      2. Given the content of the article, your legal advice was that there was a danger of legal actions being brought therefore, rather than object to such legal threats and highlight what was an excellent article and a large issue in Irish society, you decided it was in the papers own self interest to edit the words of a young dead person

      3. Given the content of the article, the original legal advice on it was it was fine to print. This was then changed, you have not mentioned this.

      The Irish Times was the last paper I would buy on a regular basis, however this is no longer the case. Journalists not only have a duty to their newspaper, but they also have a duty to the reader. They have a duty to themselves to be seekers of the truth, to highlight the joyful and the sad. But most of all, while their is no legal basis for slander of the deceased, there ought to be a part of the paper that shows respect of certain things, certain hard to hear truths. To let those without their voice anymore, have their say and lead by example of displaying ordinary decent humanity.

    • Trevor says:

      If you were not dependent on a salary would you have honestly written that piece?

    • Ruth Cannon says:

      I appreciate your efforts to clarify this matter but – as has been the case with each successive statement of the Irish Times on this issue so far – your post raises more questions than it resolves.

      You appear to be saying that the editing and excision of Kate’s article was carried out in response to legal concerns.

      However this is entirely belied by the terms of the initial apology of 1st December 2011 which specifically states – and I quote – “[n]o legal representation was made to us on this matter.”

      To date the excuses put forward by the Irish Times for its actions have been vague and unsatisfactory. Now it appears that they are also contradictory.

      The initial apology justified the editing by reference to the fact that “significant assertions” in Kate’s original article were “non-factual”. The term “non-factual” was not explained nor were the assertions identified.
      In his subsequent piece of 3rd December 2011, Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan stated that further information had come to light about the last weeks of Kate’s life which necessitated removal of the article on the grounds of “fairness”. No details of this further information were provided to readers or indeed, it seems, to Kate’s parents.

      Last Saturday the Irish Times published an article by Carl O’Brien in which Mr O’Sullivan again justified the removal of Kate’s article by reference to “fairness”. No explanation of what was meant by fairness was given. Mr O’Sullivan also indicated that the removal of the article had been prompted by the concerns of readers. The comments on the Irish Times facebook page to date would indicate that the concerns of readers are entirely otherwise.

      Now it appears that a further excuse – a legal one – is being put forward, despite the fact that legal considerations were specifically ruled out by the terms of the initial apology. It seems that we have come full circle on this and that the Irish Times is simply chasing its tail at this point.

      It should be noted that Kate’s original article was not in any way defamatory. Her employer was not identifiable, and in fact only became identifiable by reason of the subsequent disclosure of Kate’s identity in the Peter Murtagh article. Yet it was Kate’s article, rather than this subsequent article, which the Irish Times chose to excise.

      Under Irish law, an author has moral rights in their publications and it is an interesting question as to whether or not civil law considerations arising from the subsequent conduct of someone other than the author provide satisfactory grounds for limiting these rights.

      I appreciate the constraints that defamation law may impose on newspapers but the way in which the Irish Times has handled this matter is entirely unsatisfactory. There must be some calling to account (in more than one sense) here if the Irish Times is to maintain any credibility as a newspaper of record. If this is not done, I greatly fear that there will be irreparable damage to the professional reputation of the Irish Times, its editorial staff and columnists.

      In this dangerous and uncertain climate, we need a free, open and transparent media more than ever. The Irish Times has stood for many years as a shining light of honesty and transparency in the Irish media. The light is now flickering. Don’t let it go out, please, for want of an explanation here.

    • Hugh Linehan says:

      Ruth. Thanks for your detailed comment. There is an important general point to make in response and I hope it helps to clarify matters a little. The Irish Times takes legal advice on a range of issues on a daily basis. This may be about articles in pre-publication or matters arising from the publication of certain articles. In the case of post-publication advice, the issue may have been drawn to our attention by a reader’s complaint, by a letter or phone call from somebody mentioned in the piece or by a more formal legal representation. Or a problem might have been spotted by someone within the newspaper. In considering what actions to take, legal advice will form one part of the decision-making process, but we also must have regard for our own ethical guidelines which require fairness to all parties we mention in a particular story. Taking all this into account, the final decision on what action, if any, to take is made by the editor or his nominated representative.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Shame on the Communications Clinic. Suicide is such a problem in this country and one aspect that is rarely looked at is an employers role in dealing with depression and related matters. As an employer, I would welcome such discussion. The Communications Clinic could have addressed the issue, without necessarily admitting any fault on their behalf. Doing so would have honoured Kate and could have started a healthy discussion on the topic. Instead they hide behind legal threats.

    • RPE McCarthy says:

      There is a passage in “The Insider” where 48 Hours legal division intervenes under threat of commercial consequences from big tobacco.

      I don’t think it matters how many times you try to clarify the procedures you operate under of whose decision it is. That is the Pontius Pilate defence.

      Ultimately, this is about transparency, decency and what is morally correct.

      You have altered the record and changed the paper of record in the process.

      What you are dealing with are competing versions of events with a terrible outcome. No matter what PR companies suggest subsequently, no matter what additional information they provide to the Irish Times, these events are contentious matters and it is just as difficult for you to conclusively state that some items are not factual as it is to say that they are factual.

      If anybody else did what the Irish Times is doing at present – including other newspapers – I can only imagine the moral high ground your paper and staff would be seeking to claim at the moment.

      At a time when whistleblowing legislation is coming into effect in Ireland, why would anybody trust the Irish Times if you have so little backbone.

    • Brian says:

      Dead person vs. most influential PR company in the country inextricably entwined in the establishment, the government, RTÉ etc.

      Irish Times picked their side. Shameful.

    • Brian says:

      no comments approved after 11am this morning?

    • Grace says:

      This isn’t over…….

    • Nat says:

      Shame shame shame. Weaselwords and ambiguous references to lawyers etc fail to disguise teh fact that the Times has again bowed to the pressure of lawyers in lieu of standing by what you originally published. Shame on the employer at the centre of this matter too. You can’t wriggle your way out of this one Hugh.

    • joe says:

      By stating that Kate’s comment was not factual you did take sides and believed the prone communications company version. The braver thing would have been to say that the facts were disputed and leave it at that. The onus would then have been on the communication company to take isue with that. iIcan understand why Kate’s parents would be upset but the worst thing is that it takes the focus off the point in the original article, the insidious nature of depression itself. I am dissapointed in the Irish Times .

    • Ruth Cannon says:

      Hugh,

      I appreciate your thoughtful reply to my comment and your explanation of Irish Times policy on legal matters.

      I fully understand any concerns regarding defamation, but the apology in this case went beyond what one would expect in a defamation situation by describing specific portions of the original article as non-factual without giving details. This is most unusual – I can’t think of any other Irish Times apology I’ve ever seen in those terms.

      So far I’ve read 4000 words or so from the Irish Times responding to readers’ concerns about the editing decision, but I’m none the wiser as to why this was done, and done in the way it was. It might be legal, or it might not, whatever it was, it was done in accordance with fairness, but we’re asked to take the Irish Times word for this.

      In the Irish Times’ responses we’re told at length about the problems of suicide, depression and the legal constraints on newspapers, anything but the answer to the question – what exactly prompted the IT decision to edit – and the more we see this question being avoided, the more we ask – why? Legal reasons don’t preclude discussion of the decision to edit, surely.

      Why not just say what happened?

    • Jack says:

      Pathetic

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      ”What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almsot minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way ever prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one on which Winston worked, consisted simply of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers, and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of the Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing its original date, and no other copy existed to contradict it…..Even the written instructions which Winston received, and which he invariably got rid of as soon as he had dealt with them, never stated or implied that an act of forgery was to be committed: always the reference was to slips, errors, misprints, or misquotations which it was necessary to put right in the interests of accuracy.”
      Been awhile since I’d re-read Orwell’s description of a dystopian ”communications clinic”. Seems as fresh and timely as ever in its warning. Not for nothing did the old Stoics counsel against the touching up of paintings. Because such touching up invariably distorts Truth, Reality, and History, all nebulous enough concepts as Pilate might say to Jesus, without our makin a palimpsest of our written records as soon as they prove embarrassing and inconvenient. Caveat, Mr Linehan. The Times they are a-changing enough without our helping them along.

    • Aodhán says:

      Well said, Ruth (http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2056467297&page=31). Yours is a very representative view, and it’s refreshing to get your expert opinion on the legal side of things. Kate Fitzgerald never defamed anybody, but The Irish Times has tarnished this deceased lady’s reputation by calling her a liar. The Irish Times has failed to explain how its claim that Kate’s scapegoated article had “significant assertions which were not factual” is not the same as saying she lied. To most people, it is the same.

      This is shameful carry-on by what is the best newspaper in Ireland, a title it continues to possess since this started by virtue of the fact that the opposition is, in reality, non-existent for any educated Irish person. But now, it is educated Irish people who are aghast at how this supposedly “liberal” paper has sacrificed this young woman and tarnished her reputation in order to placate the most “controversial” (is that euphemistic enough?) and best connected public relations person in Irish society. What debts did the key Irish Times personnel owe Terry Prone? Did she do them a favour (or three) back in the day? Whatever it is, the might of Terry Prone and company has, for the moment, won out over the power of a translator and a dance teacher in West Cork, as Tom Fitzgerald eloquently put it.

      The Irish Times has been bought in my home each issue all of my life. It will still be bought by my parents simply because there is no alternative. That is the reality. My Dad, however, couldn’t believe that an editor of The Irish Times had not only edited the final letter of a deceased lady, but that it then issued an apology not to Kate’s family but to her former employer, telling Irish Times readers that Kate Fitzgerald was, in effect, a liar. What a kick in the teeth for that girl’s family when all along it was Peter Murtagh’s article, and not Kate’s, which caused problems for The Irish Times. Kate, a girl whose life was so miserable she ended it at 25 years of age, was the scapegoat.

      The upshot of this is that The Irish Times has lost goodwill for the first time in my memory. For years I have bought it just to support its existence in a media dominated by O’Reilly’s muck, even though I could read it online for free. I admired the way The Irish Times had an Irish language section, and how it stood up for the underdog generally in an educated and progressive manner. This marked it out. This made it unique. I miss the honour, integrity and defence of the underdog which symbolised my Irish Times.

      I fully support Tom and Sally Ann Fitzgerald, and what I believe to be the traditional values of Douglas Gageby’s Irish Times, against editorial actions which become more ethically wrong with each day The Irish Times refuses to have the grace and decency to give them the answers they, and now we, are entitled to have.

    • Niall says:

      Hugh, fair play for making an attempt to address the IT’s failings in this area. I suspect that for most of us, it may be a little bit too late. We expect the Irish Times to treat people better than the way in which they have treated Kate and her family. By stating that her assertions were not factual, you drive the reader to conclude that either she was delusional (mad) or a liar (bad). You also lend your support to her former-employer in endorsing their account.

      You would not have been put in a position where you had to endorse either account had Peter Murtagh’s article not identified her employer. If a mistake has been made, it was by Peter Murtagh or his editors and not Kate, but it is Kate’s article that has been butchered. To undermine somebody’s final words in such a way is unforgiveable.

      We can appreciate that the Irish Times has legal and eithical obligations that must be balanced, but it’s hard to see any line of ethical reasoning that could justify the way that they have deleted her final words and attacked her character. That the sky may fall, let justice be done.

    • Hugh Linehan says:

      Thanks Niall for the considered criticism. Thanks also to Ruth andto the other commenters who have serious concerns about unanswered questions and who have articulated those concerns in a civil manner. . A small number of comments have landede here which I have been unable to post due to legal concerns. However, versions of the same posts can be easily found on other sites which may be subject to different constraints.

      I acknowledge the strongly held and widespread view that using the words “not factual” about a piece casts aspersions on the writer of that piece. As Kevin O’Sullivan has pointed out, that is not the view of The Irish Times. Also acknowledged are the criticisms of the all-embracing nature of that statement and its non-specific nature. The criticisms of the editing of the archival record relate to the propriety of 1) making any edits to the archive and 2) specifically editing parts of a particular personal article in a manner which arguably changes the thrust of that piece.

      As stated in the original post, The Irish Times makes no apology for its policy of amending digital versions of articles when circumstances require. We will continue to do so, and it will continue to be accepted practice across most news websites. We will, however, draw some serious and painful lessons about issues such as partial amendments of articles and flagging such changes in the clearest possible way.

      I will be offline for the next couple of days but will try to approve new comments promptly when they come in.

    • daniel says:

      In what way does Kevin O’Sullivan think the words “not factual” regarding a piece do not cast aspersions on the writer of that piece? There is simply no way that the Irish Times would use that formulation of words regarding a living writer – it would be considered libel and you know it. To pretend otherwise is sophistry bordering on the Jesuitical.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      ““significant assertions within the original piece were not factual”.

      That’s the statement I have a problem with. The rest is just words. But that statement, made of a dying person’s testimony as to at least one factor contributing to the condition that led to their death, workplace bullying, is egregious.

      The deceased had not identified their employer, intending that their last published words be anonymous further indicates that there was no malicious intent on the part of the deceased to defame their employer.

      From ancient times and the development of our Western ”standards” of law, it is held that a dying person cannot lie about that which they believe to be a causative factor in their death.

      Why then would you baldly state that the deceased had, in fact, lied? What evidence have you as to that, when you appear unable to accept that their own attempts to keep themeselves and their employer anonymous and the fact that they were in any event speaking of something that would ultimately contribute to their own, planned, (it seems, from her mother’s testimony on Newstalk) demise, is true? Isn’t there something called benefit of the doubt? But it would seem that is only afforded to the quick, who can sue, and not the dead.

      I had serious problems with this country before now. I believe it is one of the most profoundly dishonest States and societies I’ve ever known. But I always thought the Irish Times come hell or high water stood for the highest standards of truth. I hope you can again but I feel something has gone.

    • Simon says:

      To those criticising the IT for alleging that some of Kate Fitzgerald’s assertions were not factual, how do you know that they were? And, while it’s easy to attack others for acting in a defensive manner under the threat (however real or immediate) of legal action, would you be willing to allow yourself be put at risk of potentially very large legal damages and costs in order to publish assertions that could not be substantiated?

      The Irish Times has handled this episode appallingly, but, once Kate’s employers were capable of identification, I don’t see how they could have allowed the initial assertions to remain unaltered in the public domain.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Would it mean anything to you in the current context if I were to say Ann Lovett?

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Maybe you weren’t saying she was lying. Maybe you were saying she was mistaken. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. Because I’ve never known you to behave dishonourably in any way as a newspaper. I think you’re trying to steer an incredibly difficult course between protecting yourself and trying not to utterly traduce an innocent, dead, young woman who had terrible problems, from what I can see, with the delta between how she wanted to be perceived by others and how she perceived herself. I think you are the best newspaper in the world. NOt just one of the best. The best. But I really think stonewalling this issue is not the way to handle it.

    • ian says:

      Hugh, had you stated that as kate was no longer here, that you could not stand over the assertions in her e-mail. This would have bee an infinitely better way of dealing with the issue rather than saying that “assertions had not been proved factual”. the only way that could have been proven was if Kate was here.

      However, the butchering of the article and broadsheet’s dogged determination have kept Kate in the public’s mind. it does however, reflect badly on both the IT and the CC, even if the IT’s motives in the first instance were noble. the CC’s reputation is more damaged by this cack handed approach than if they had had have had a considered reply to Kate’s piece

    • John Denver says:

      “Editors at The Irish Times are duty-bound to ensure the work they publish does not expose the newspaper to potential legal hazard.” But it’s okay to burn Tribunal documents? Your entire newspaper is characterised by the fact that it lives on drops, and people can bury stories if they threaten to stop them. What was the last bit of decent investigative reporting the Irish Times did?


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