All who work in Newstalk subject of outrageously unfair attack

Opinion: Newstalk managing editor Patricia Monahan replies to Fintan O’Toole

“Newstalk does not condone George Hook’s comments and nor do its management or staff,” writes Patricia Monahan. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

“Newstalk does not condone George Hook’s comments and nor do its management or staff,” writes Patricia Monahan. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

 

I am writing on behalf of Newstalk, its management team led by me, and its staff, in response to Fintan O’Toole’s article of September 12th. In his column in this newspaper, he stated Newstalk “has become the most flagrantly sexist public organisation in Ireland” and that its operation is “staggeringly and systematically sexist”.

The article was an outrageously unfair attack on all of us who work in Newstalk. It was a biased and distorted representation of the “operation” that is Newstalk and its hard-working and diligent employees. It represented the nastiness that has emerged in Irish journalism.

O’Toole chose to ignore several salient facts, most importantly the number of women employed by the station and their impact on the daily output. Would it not have been worth mentioning that I as a woman, am Newstalk’s managing editor, that the chairperson of our group is a woman, or that our head of news is a woman? At Newstalk, the majority of our production staff are women. As editor, I am the final decisionmaker on all editorial matters and have responsibility for content produced by the station across all platforms. But my work apparently deserves no recognition because I am not a presenter. Do I not qualify as female representation because my voice is not heard on-air?

To me that premise is insulting. It is insulting to me and all my colleagues at the station who work tirelessly day-in and day-out to produce quality radio for our growing listenership.

Does O’Toole really believe that none of these women count or that their hard work for Newstalk has no value? Does he conclude that we are all party to a concerted effort by the station to “keep women presenters off the airwaves” and that I as the principal editorial decisionmaker proactively restructured the schedule to do just that in a “highly conscious” manner? The issue of gender played no part in any of the scheduling decisions mentioned in the article and any suggestion otherwise is frankly ridiculous. Colette Fitzpatrick, for example, resigned from her position at the station, a move I can hardly be accused of orchestrating in an effort to keep female presenters off the air.

Strategy

And it is not only the female members of staff that O’Toole appears to believe are complicit in this strategy. He singles out members of the Newstalk team, Vincent Wall, Paul Williams, Shane Coleman and Alan Quinlan as part of this “boy’s club . . . full of piss and vinegar” as if they were misogynists only deserving of contempt without regard for their professional and personal reputations. Such a statement is as ignorant as it is insulting.

We are dealing with the issue in the most serious of terms with the appropriate duty of care to all involved as we believe it is our responsibility to do 

Our vision has always been to promote and nurture young voices and there are many examples across the schedule of women we have nurtured from early in their careers. There are also many young women making waves in the media industry who started their careers in Newstalk and have moved on to opportunities elsewhere, eg Samantha Barry, CNN; Laura Whitmore, MTV/ITV; Ciara Riordan, BBC; Ciara Doherty, TV3; Catriona Perry, RTÉ.

Audience share

As a commercial station in Newstalk we fight for audienceshare in every quarter hour of every day, as if our lives depend on it. And the truth is, our livelihoods do. That is the commercial reality of our business. Almost €40 million has been invested in Newstalk in a media landscape where the State-owned broadcaster is given the lion’s share of the €330 million collected in television licence fees. We don’t have the luxury of hiring men or women because it is the politically correct thing to do. We make decisions that make sense for the business.

Finally, O’Toole concludes that Newstalk management and staff are complicit in George Hook’s comments about rape Friday of last week. Newstalk does not condone Hook’s comments and nor do its management or staff. I apologised on behalf of the station for the comments promptly and emphatically last Saturday morning, Hook has been suspended and a full internal review is currently under way. We are dealing with the issue in the most serious of terms with the appropriate duty of care to all involved as we believe it is our responsibility to do so. To suggest that the outcome of that process will be predetermined by some innate sexism on the part of the organisation is a disgrace.

O’Toole’s article was an outrageous attack on a private organisation.

One is only left to wonder why he never bothered to tell anyone at Newstalk how “flagrantly . . . and systematically sexist” the station was on any of his visits to our studios.

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