Archive for January 30, 2013

It’s a long, long way from Clare to beer…

Not pictured: Clare Daly.

Full disclosure – I’ve never met Clare Daly, but we’re in touch on occasion via e-mail, mostly about how incompetent her colleagues in Leinster House are.

It turns out to that she was stopped by the Gardaí the other night on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, taken to a police station and asked to provide a sample.

The results aren’t in yet and no charges have been made, but if she is found guilty of any offence she should face the full rigour of the law, like any citizen.

She has said as much herself.

What is interesting is that this news came out without any charges being made, or any results of any test being available.

The Gardaí take dozens of such tests every week, often from well-known figures, and yet they never make the headlines. So why is Clare Daly being dragged through the mud on the evening news?

I’d hate to think that the Guardians of the Peace are so petty as to want revenge for her naming figures who have had penalty points quashed by friendly peelers in the past. But unfortunately it can’t be ruled out.

It reminds me of the recent spectacular incident in Stockholm. You remember the one – where the cleaner stole the train and rammed it into the side of an apartment block?

Except she didn’t. No charges were brought, and her employers now face demands for compensation for destroying the reputation of the woman involved.

In short, the whole world heard of her “stealing” the train. Only the merest fraction of it heard of her innocence.

As mentioned above, if Clare is guilty she should and will face the full rigour of the law.

But if she is not, there is still no comeback for her in this instance. She is tainted by association with the test, and nothing more. Media outlets will not waste energy trying to find out who hung her out to dry. They will move one.

The fact that someone is asked to blow in a bag or provide a sample at a police station, or indeed takes part in any police investigation, is not enough to warrant the full glare of publicity. Not even if you’re a Healy-Rae.

I look forward to the Minister for Communications jumping to her defence, although I don’t expect to see former socialist Pat Rabbitte doing anything of the sort.

 

 

Min vecka som fri-Lance korrespondent

- Du är i Oslo idag alltså! Fan vad bra! Då vill vi ha cirka åttahundra ord samt ett par bilder över de två dagarna, det går väl bra va?!

- Visst. Vad erbjuder Ni för det?

- Jo du, då blir det då det vanliga frilansgaget då, vilket är femtio pund sammanlagt. Tyvärr kan vi inte täcka några andra kostnader heller.

klick

Det där samtalet hade jag för ett par veckor sedan.

En redaktör i Storbrittanien tyckte alltså att det var OK att jag som frilans skulle åka till en av världens dyraste städer på egen hand och sedan i princip ge honom material för det minsta möjliga pengen.

Jag hade inget annat jobb just då, men jag tackade nej ändå.

Det går inte att jobba som multimedia journalist för de pengarna.

Men kredd ska killen ha – han erbjöd i alla fall något.

Så var inte fallet förra veckan när Lance Armstrong skulle till slut erkänna det vi alla visste – att han hade dopat sig under alla dessa år.

Efter att ha skrivit om det för Aftonbladet i höstas (och fått bra betalt måste det sägas) tänkte jag tipsa övriga medier att jag fanns till hands om de behövde något. Och det gjorde de.

Telefonen ringde het och från tisdag förmiddag till sent fredag kväll blev det ett otroligt flängande i bilen fram och tillbaka.

Det var inte Kobladet från Skitköping heller – det var tunga namn som ringde, ställde frågor, undrade om man hade tid att komma in och prata.

Visst, sa jag. Jobb är jobb, och man går dit det finns.

Jag gick upp 0730 på torsdagen och jobbade rakt igenom till sent på natten på fredagen.

Det kom en del erbjudanden från utlandet också, men den gången tackade jag nej till dessa – svenskarna hade varit ut i god tid, och jag hade inte en minut över till att göra något annat.

Jag ringde runt i princip hela världen för att få reda på vad som sades och gjordes, vem som satt bekväm och vem som var orolig.

Jag pratade cykelsport, dopning, brott, straff, OS och medicinsk historia med allt från journalister och professorer till ex-proffs och cykelfans, allt för att kunna ge läsarna, lyssnarna och tittarna det absolut bästa och senaste information.

Alla var ju otroligt glada. Det spelade ingen roll att jag pratar för fort, jag var fantastiskt – kunnig, påläst, bra analys på situationen. Mer en en gång sades det:

- Men vart har du varit tills nu då? Det här är inte sista gången du sitter här, det där blev ju klockrent.

Jag svarade att jag skulle gärna göra det – hittils har jag jobbat mest på engelska men det kändes helt OK att vara igång på svenska nu efter tretton år i landet.

Det värmde. Ärligt talat var Oslo lite av en frilansbesvikelse men jag räddade ändå läget genom att hitta lite andra vinklar.

Det kändes då bra att vara tillbaka i Stockholm och jobb bara strömmade in.

Men det var ett litet problem. När det väl var över var det bara en – en – av uppdragsgivarna som var beredd att betala för det jobb jag hade gjort.

En har erbjudit en rimlig peng som jag tar tacksamt emot. En annan har erbjudit milersättning som skulle kosta mer för revisorn att bokföra än jag skulle få ut.

En annan har inte erbjudit något alls.

Alla visste ju att frilansjournalistik är mitt yrke – det var så jag presenterades ju. Ingen berättade i förväg att jag skulle jobba gratis.

Att man inte är beredd att betala eller lägger ett skambud är ju en del av vardagen för frilansjournalister nuförtiden.

Men som ovan tacker jag oftast nej om inte jag tror det är värt det och jag har tid och lust. Alla jobbargratis då och då – mer än vi vill, och mer än vi erkänner – men i slutändan om man är proffs så måste man ha betalt för det man gör.

Hur det här kommer att sluta vet jag inte ännu.

Det är klart att i framtiden vill jag tillbaka i rutan och på radion och i tidningarna, och det kan även finnas en chans att jag kan och vill göra det gratis.

Men att jobba fyra dagar för olika svenska uppdragsgivare och bara en erbjuder en rimlig ersättning känns inte hållbart.

Jag får återgå till att skriva på engelska, producera TV och fundera på framtiden.

Jag ångrar inte att jag gjorde det dock – det var jättekul och spännande att vara med i den svenska mediafinrum, och säkert bra för min profil.

Men min profil kan inte ätas, och den går inte att överföra till Tre för att betala den saftiga mobilräkningen som väntar. Min bank har inte mig som kund för min profil. De vill att jag ska betala mitt bostadslån varje månad med något, och det går inte med profilen.

Det går bara med pengar.

The Dithering 2013 – opportunity knocks and no-one answers

Enda Kenny, flanked by some of the Swedish fans and investors that now won’t bother coming to Dublin.

The moment the draw for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers was made, I did a little dance.

Sweden were drawn against Ireland, and we couldn’t lose – off the pitch at least.

How wrong I was.

For me, the draw meant not just that I would be guaranteed plenty of sports journalism work over the year-and-a-half of qualifying – it meant that we would have a brilliant chance to market Ireland in a non-Euro economy.

We would face Sweden in Stockholm in March, with the return leg in Dublin in September. If ever there was an open goal in terms of marketing Ireland, this was it.

Sweden, as we know, didn’t join the single currency, and as such it still enjoys relative stability despite the basket case that the global economy has become.

Ireland’s state agencies market our products and services here admirably, but two World Cup qualifiers between what were the two best sets of fans at the Euros represented a love-bombing opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

And we missed it.

I wrote to minister Michael Ring on August 13 2012 to suggest making an extra effort – to perhaps organise some special events or otherwise plan to make the most of this unique opportunity.

I mentioned the potential for tourism and commercial travellers, and for bringing Irish and Swedish businesses together to explore opportunities.

Swedish fans enjoy the hospitality – and spend their money – in Kiev at Euro 2012

As I saw in Kiev last year, Swedish soccer fans are great tourists. They love beer and craic and they spend money.

Their business people are even better – eager to invest, they recognise a good opportunity when they see one. They also have the kind of hi-tech society and economy we would kill for.

The e-mail to minister Ring contained very specific ideas for what could be done to exploit the opportunity provided by these games – the first competitive games between Ireland and Sweden for the best part of two generations.

The more I wrote, the more excited I got.

He must have missed it, because I got no response.

I wrote again on August 30, and a member of staff acknowledged receipt of my e-mail.

Then nothing happened. Again.

On October 31 I chased it up.

On November 16 I was informed that the minister said to tell me that Tourism Ireland were the body responsible for marketing Ireland abroad, and that he had heard I was already in contact with them.

In fairness, I was already aware of all that.

There was no mention of the other ideas to put together Irish businesses with Swedish investors, no mention of the other ideas contained in the mail. No offer of support.

Perhaps fittingly for a minister whose portfolio covers sport, the e-mail was a kick to touch.

A call to the minister’s office suggested that I contact minister Richard Bruton instead, as this might be more up his street. So I did.

(I also mentioned it in person to minister Lucinda Creighton when we borth appeared on Marian Finucane’s radio show, and to minister Joan Burton when she came to Stockholm to launch the Gathering).

I wasn’t going to contact Bruton, even though my family lives in his constituency and I know him to be a decent man.

The wheels of Irish bureaucracy turn extremely slowly, and I sincerely doubted his department was going to spring into gear, no matter how decent he is.

But then again, I have to practice what I preach – I cannot ask others to do their best to promote Irish business and keep it on the agenda if I’m not prepared to send a simple e-mail myself.

So I took a deep breath and contacted both his constituency office and his ministerial office, and waited for the surprise that would never come.

I got the standard acknowledgement on November 19, and then what I had come to expect. Silence.

Christmas came and went. So did New Year.

Then on January 10 I received an e-mail saying the following:

The Minister has noted the comments made, and has recommended that your email be relayed to the Irish Embassy in Stockholm for advice. Accordingly, I am cc’ing this email to the Office of Mr Eamonn Gilmore T.D., Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, for attention and direct reply to you.

Time is running out, and all I got was another kick to touch.

The Irish community here isn’t huge, so the embassy here already knows all about me and these ideas. It also deserves great credit for doing a brilliant job with virtually nothing.

But they don’t have the resources to help pull off such a comprehensive effort, which was the whole reason for contacting ministers directly.

So instead of our dynamic, youthful, jobs-obsessed government leaping into action, nothing happened.

There are now a little more than two months to go the Sweden – Ireland game in Stockholm, and whatever chance we had of organising anything meaningful to promote Irish business during these two unique games is now gone.

Readers may say I have no right to expect anything of anyone in this situation, but I disagree, and here’s why:

Last February, Simon Coveney invited me in to his office, where he thanked me and the Swedish-Irish community for our efforts and our patriotism.

He also said not to hesitate to contact the various ministers if we thought we could do anything to help promote Ireland abroad.

We did, and nothing happened.

The question remains – why was no effort made to even gauge the scale of what could be done against the backdrop of the soccer games?

I can’t find any other explanation for this wonderful episode (which I have now dubbed “The Dithering”), so my guess is money.

Namely, the Irish government doesn’t have any, and what little it has is not going to be spent doing something daft like making a cross-functional effort to promote Ireland abroad.

Sure we already have the Gathering and Arthur’s Day, what more do we need?

And maybe they’re right. Sweden as a market is probably being seen as insignificant compared to say, China or the US.

But are the tourism euros of 5000 Swedish football fans worth any less?

Are the euros of Swedish investors looking for projects worth any less?

Are the jobs that could be created by those euros worth any less?

No.

As a result of austerity, what Ireland now has is a one-size-fits-no-one economic and marketing policy.

There is no room for anything different. There is no room for deviation.

There is a simple, grim realisation that being different or deviating from what is already prescribed is neither desirable nor possible.

It goes against all I ever learned about sales and marketing – about taking the easy deals (the so-called “low-hanging fruit”), about exploiting the opportunities fate dumps in your lap.

At a time (March 17-22) when Ireland is never going to have a greater media profile in Sweden, our collective government answer is to do nothing.

I don’t think that’s good enough.

There is a happy ending to all this, of course.

Despite the disappointment, the Irish community in Sweden will no doubt continue to wear its green jersey, both figuratively and literally.

We will continue to promote Ireland as a tourist destination (including to Swedish soccer fans), as a place to do business, as a country of wonderful culture and people and sport.

We will continue our efforts to organise as many events as possible as part of the Gathering, and for any other initiative you care to mention.

But the next time a minister calls on us to show our loyalty and patriotism, he or she may well be ignored.

Because patriotism is something for us all, and loyalty is a two-way street.

 

 

 

Don’t tweet the messenger

NOTE: RTE did not approve this picture, even though I wrote to Bosco in 1981 and my letter was read out.

I learned long ago it’s never profitable to suspect conspiracy where stupidity is a more likely explanation, but the recent ham-fisted attacks on the Internet and freedom of speech bear all the hallmarks of both.

I’ll deal with the issue that has made Ireland the laughing stock of the online world – namely, newspapers trying to get paid because they’re on the internet – some other time.

But first, the ludicrous notion that RTE is somehow behind everything anyone who appears on it posts on Twitter.

Twice recently, the Irish Independent has run stories attacking freelance contributors to RTE for tweets posted from private accounts about members of the anti-abortion lobby.

First, Pat O’Mahony was hammered for calling David Quinn “a poisonous cunt.” Notably, the Indo made much of the fact that Pat works on occasion for RTE, whilst never denying the substance of the tweet.

(If anyone from the Indo is reading this, which I doubt, that’s what’s called satire. The Internet is full of it.)

Today brought the news that Jim Sheridan, musical director of the Late Late Show, was being hauled over the coals for engaging in some humorous slagging-off of Ronan Mullen.

(It’s worth noting that it seems Sheridan’s tweet was posted on December 20, yet the Independent story was only published today. Judge for yourself whether this is an oversight, or part of a concerted campaign to use recent stories about cyberbullying to tar Sheridan with the same brush.)

Now some people may not find Jim’s tweets funny (I do), and some others may find Pat’s judgement of Mr. Quinn a little harsh (I don’t), but there is one thing that they are not – and that is any of RTE’s business.

As freelancers tweeting from private accounts, they are free to tweet and write and record whatever they like. It has nothing to do with RTE, or any other company or entity they work for.

They are entitled to their opinion, and the fact that they work for RTE should not preclude them from expressing it, or making any other joke.

Both have been very, very clear in making this distinction, and to try to manipulate these tweets to misrepresent them as somehow coming from RTE is deeply disingenuous.

A lot of offensive guff gets posted on Twitter and written in Irish media, and no side – right or left, Christian or sensible – has a monopoly on the moral high ground.

But perhaps most offensive of all is that the Jim Sheridan story comes complete with quotes from none other than Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, a man who has done more to denigrate Irish politics than Twitter ever could.

His glib admission that lying to the electorate is “what you do” at election time says it all about the man who now seems intent on silencing all his critics – be they on RTE or on Twitter – by fair means or foul.

Jim Sheridan is not RTE. Pat O’Mahony is not RTE.

And for the sake of Connolly’s party, I hope Rabbitte is not the Labour party.

Because if he is, time’s up.

 

 

There’s no such thing as “internet journalism”

The Irish Times- why, indeed.

Let’s put this to bed once and for all, shall we?

There’s no such thing as “internet journalism” – there is journalism, and then there is everything else.

There is some very good journalism out there in newspapers, magazines and on the internet, and an awful lot of very bad journalism too.

Whether it appears doesn’t matter – journalism is journalism, end of story.

Not in Ireland, apparently. An article in this morning’s Irish Times (don’t worry, I won’t be paying for the link) does the usual half-cocked job of attacking everything on the Internet, all at once.

Contrary to the preferences of millions around the globe – many of them journalists – Twitter is dismissed out of hand as simply a tool to showcase gossip and bad grammar.

The writer attempts to portray the Internet and social media as lawless badlands of bullying and libel, despite the fact that the law of the land applies as equally to online publication as it does everywhere else.

Then there is the Daily Mail-lite argument that people behave ignorantly online, as if somehow it is the Internet, rather than people themselves, that is responsible for such behaviour.

Then there is the lovely irony of the central argument:  ”so-called internet journalism is at a level equivalent to the Stone Age.”

The Internet has revolutionised how news is conveyed and how we consume it, but the basic tenets of journalism have not been changed one iota.

To pretend otherwise is to obscure “the story of why” (to borrow the cute phrase from the Irish Times) traditional media – in particular Irish newspapers – are struggling to adapt to changes in the industry.