RTE’s “Emotionalised News Reporting”
4 October, 2009
Sometimes a sentence or a phrase jumps off the page (or increasingly these days, the screen) and sticks in the mind long after the overall sense of the article containing it has evaporated. This can be for many reasons, but often it’s because a writer has efficiently encapsulated in a very few words a viewpoint or a conclusion that one has already arrived at, but which one has yet to express in a convincing manner.
For instance, in the Irish Times on Saturday, September 26, 2009, Eamonn Delaney wrote a review of Matt Cooper’s book Who Really Runs Ireland? The story of the elite who led Ireland from bust to boom… and back again.
It included this sentence: “People welcome the Sunday Independent as an antidote to the Morning Ireland-Prime Time axis with its emotionalised news reporting, and soft ride for the trade unions and special-interest groups.”
For years I have been growing increasingly irritated at RTE’s news output, without being able to sum up in a few words why I feel this way. But Eamonn Delaney has put his finger on it: the reporting of news items on RTE, both radio and television, is emotionalised to an offensive extent. [Disclosure of non-bias: I don’t know Eamonn Delaney, and I never buy the Sunday Independent]
For RTE, when it come to the wrongs, or alleged wrongs, of Government or business, proper analysis and intellectual rigour are subordinated to almost pornographic levels of touchy-feely interviews with complainants or victims or special-pleaders. They are invited to parade their grief and/or their grievances to the audience, and little attempt is made to provide balance or context or insight. Somehow, vox pop has overtaken expert analysis as their primary response to any significant development.
More and more, I find myself scanning the airwaves or the news stands for more objective and less emotional news reporting and interviewing. Sometimes (but only sometimes) it’s Newstalk and George Hook. Sometimes the Irish Times fills the gap; although it suffers from some of the same ills as RTE News, at least there is a variety in its output, and often the quality of the writing compensates for the predictability of the views expressed.
But in turning away from RTE’s news output, there is still a bitter taste in my mouth, and for a simple reason: the rubbish they so often allow to be broadcast is being paid for by my licence fee.