It all seems so long ago now.
A week or two ago, we were filled with anger and anguish, despair and indignation at two deaths.
The death of Gary Speed- one of the only true nice guys in football- had us reeling as it forced us once again to confront the unknowable that is suicide.
The death of Kate Fitzgerald did something similar.
But the nature of her passing went several steps further, coming as it did after her article about her struggle with depression and her perceptions of her employer’s attitude towards her illness became the story.
The furore was a passionate as it was short-lived. The Irish Times was loudly pilloried for pulling a sheet over her corpse and telling us “there’s nothing to see here”.
The stony silence of Terry Prone and the rest at the Communications Clinic- who have still to make any public comment on the matter – says it all. There is no more story. There is nothing to see here.
In journalism, one of the most prized talents is also one of the most indefinable and elusive- that of “news sense”. In a good journalist, editor or subeditor, it is the ability to observe a story with laser-like precision and decide whether or not it is worth investing resources in.
That’s the first part. The latter part is knowing when to get out of a story with impeccable timing – when there’s nothing left but an empty shell. When there’s nothing to see here.
An example – I’ll be in Oslo again next week, and I can guarantee two things. People there will be weary of talking to the media about Anders Behring Breivik. And the foreign media will no longer be there.
What a difference from a few months ago, when the quietest city of them all was the centre of a media maelstrom. But the story is gone. There is nothing to see here.
For once, I question the judgement, the news sense of those far more talented than I.
I think, in relation to the deaths of Gary Speed and certainly in relation to Kate Fitzgerald, there most certainly is something to see here.
So I’m going to go against the grain for another little while and keep writing about Kate and Gary. In particular, there are still things we need to know about Kate’s situation.
One question I’d like to see answered centres on the paradox of why The Communications Clinic now has nothing to say about Kate or depression, or anything, when a few short months ago Gay Mitchell- a presidential candidate apparently schooled by them – was talking up his interest in mental health and how he would put suicide at the top of the agenda in the Aras.
For all his foghorning then, Gay seems very silent on the matter now- as do the rest of the candidates.
But I wonder did he ever meet Kate Fitzgerald during his media training? I wonder did he know of her illness? I wonder did he think of her on the campaign trail when he was making those statements?
Maybe Gay is displaying impeccable news sense. Maybe he’s moved on. But I don’t intend to, not yet.
I may not get very far, because sometimes it’s not just news sense that kills a story. Sometimes there are other reasons that we as journalists decide that there is nothing more to see here.
But this time, I’m not buying it. Not yet.