Gazing into the Crystal Ball
Deaglán de Bréadún
There’s a very interesting piece by Peter Wilby in last Monday’s Media Guardian. It’s 25 years since that paper first carried a Media page, which later became a supplement. This was a special edition to mark that anniversary.
Christy Burke with the late Mother Theresa and followed by the late Tony Gregory and current Minister of State at the Dept of Education, Sean Haughey (Photograph, amazingly not published, by Matt Kavanagh)
Wilby went back to the papers from 25 years before. His basic finding (to read the article, click here) was that, unlike now, they were essentially devoted to recording events that had happened in the previous 24 hours. There was little or no comment or analysis.
That has changed. The Irish Times, for example, has two pages of opinion pieces, in addition to the Leaders and Letters Page. People get most of their headline news from TV and radio and, increasingly, the Internet and there is less and less point in newspapers repeating what everybody already knows.
That heightens the need for print journalists to get something that wasn’t on the Nine O’Clock News the night before. An old-fashioned scoop, as it were. There is also a greater need for analysis, to put events in context – although I am conscious of the wellworn jibe that, “What the Telegraph reports today, the Guardian analyses tomorrow.”
In fairness to the “Torygraph”, it has been leading the way with style on the scandal of politicians’ expenses. This is an oldfashioned scoop of the kind that Joe Pulitzer or William Randolph Hearst would have been proud.
The details of how the information was obtained remain obscure and one looks forward to finding out more about this in due course. There are suggestions that some elements in the political establishment might seek to prosecute the newspaper but there would clearly be a very strong public-intereste defence in that case.
Increasingly, also, journalists are expected to make predictions – accurate ones – about future developments, thereby demonstrating that they have their “finger on the pulse”.
But as Hollywood mogul Sam Goldwyn said, “Predictions are hard to make – especially about the future.” How right he was.
It doesn’t take a genius to predict that George Lee is going to win the Dublin South byelection. There could always be a major screw-up which turned people off but barring such an extraordinary development, he will be Fine Gael TD for that constituency in a few weeks. How galling for the likes of Labour’s Alex White, who has been on the campaign trail for so long already. More and more folk are remarking on the glint in George’s eye: his Messianic zeal remains unabated from his RTE days.
Dublin Central is a conundrum. The Bert, as previously stated, could conceivably pull it off for brother Maurice, although that may be a bridge to far even for the “most cunning, most skilful, etc.” of them all. But who is going to take the seat then? Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe has been campaigning, it seems, since before the Flood. But it’s a Leftie seat, the heritage of the late Tony Gregory. The “Gregory Candidate”, Maureen O’Sullivan, should poll fairly well but the boys and girls in the back snug don’t think she can make it. Ivana Bacik has a multiplicity of positive polital qualities but does not live in the constituency and has arrived somewhat late on the scene. The name that is starting to surface, believe it or not, is Christy Burke, formally and technically (I can’t say “officially” because that might suggest he was a “Stickie”!) Sinn Féin but possessed of a wider, Ronnie Drew-type appeal.
My prediction for this one: Too Close to Call. Call me a wimp if you like, but it’s literally true.