An ideological echo-chamber?
Sir, –Felix Larkin (Letters,August 23rd) takes issue with my argument that Ireland’s press lacks diversity of opinion (“Opinion & Analysis, August 22nd), on the basis that newspapers “regularly publish opinion pieces and readers’ letters . . . at variance with the editorial line of the papers in question”, and that “there is a wide range of local, religious and other newspapers and periodicals [with] a perspective that is often different”.
The fact that Irish newspapers publish letters and host guest columns contesting their editorial line is hardly evidence against the presence of an ideological echo-chamber: after all, it is the in-house journalists, those who can count on a regular column and build a following, who set the tone of public debate, far more than occasional guest columnists or letter-writers.
Furthermore, in a small country like Ireland with such a Dublin-centric political culture, a national media echo-chamber cannot be offset by a handful of regional and religious publications.
Finally, Mr Larkin suggests that I exaggerate the influence of the media over public opinion. The press, he asserts, “does not, and cannot, determine what its readers think.” While in a literal sense this is true, it is difficult to underestimate the power of the national media as an opinion-leader. Media coverage and commentary sets the tone for much public debate, and has the potential, especially when unchallenged, to demonise dissenting viewpoints, and get one version of events to stick in the public mind.
In short, journalists have a power and influence quite comparable to that of elected politicians, which is why a media culture out of touch with grassroots culture fatally undermines representative democracy. – Yours, etc,