Honest, reliable and respectful reporting is vital during pandemic

Honest, reliable and respectful reporting is vital during pandemic

THERE has been a short RTÉ broadcast here during the pandemic crisis that has been deeply moving.

It has been a simple reading out of the name and the general address of some of those who have died of the coronavirus.

It has put a very human face on the bare statistics. It has shown the human reality of lives gone and families heartbroken.

It has been an act of broadcasting decency.

In the time we’ve been through and are still going through the message of our shared humanity has been vital.


Indeed this pandemic and in response small broadcasts like that have taught us the importance of a state broadcaster like RTÉ or the BBC.

For instance, in the very early days of the crisis I remember we received a number of social media, WhatsApp or Facebook or something else, alerts about four young people being seriously ill with Covid-19.

They were in the local ICU in Cork. It was a message forwarded on from reliable sources from reliable people.

The problem was that, thankfully, it wasn’t true.

There were no four young people and they weren’t seriously ill with the virus.

Indeed the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer went out of their way to explicitly mention this particular case and plead with people to only get their news from reliable, verified sources. Not the wild, unsubstantiated, gossip of social media forums.

Bizarre, isn’t it, that in our super-sophisticated age the Chief Medical Officer, dealing with a global crisis, had to plead with people to not believe the equivalent of what some bloke in the pub told them.


Is the state broadcaster, RTÉ, generally staid and conservative? To be fair, yes.

Much like the BBC. It veers towards being cosy with the establishment it is so much a part of.

Two of its biggest stars, Ryan Tubridy and Miriam O’Callaghan, have the kind of super posh Irish accent that sounds like it was invented in 1921 in order to mimic the departing British administration.

It has an awful lot of shows that are merely shows about other RTÉ shows. But it is reliable. It does have a remit and a system of checks and balances on its reporters. It is trying to serve us.

Social media, in all its forms, is by contrast an unregulated mess of hearsay and malice.

This column you are reading, for instance, is edited and published by a newspaper/website that has legal and social responsibilities.

And it is quite clearly only my opinion.


If I simply put it on the internet under my own name there would never be anyone to check the truth of anything I referred to.

But it could still end up on someone’s Facebook page and it could be read as if what I was saying was the definitive truth.

This is not a minor point. One of the most powerful men in the world conducts himself through Twitter. And just when we think he can’t get any lower, he does.

He now alleges that a 75-year-old man we all saw get shoved unconscious by policemen may have been a con, getting his information from some wild right-wing blog that offers no evidence at all.

Now we’ve all been wasting time during the lockdown, looking at rubbish on the internet, but has the President of the USA really got nothing better to do than surf the internet?

Wouldn’t it be better if he listened to, watched, or even read, reliable, established, critically assessed outlets?

The anti-RTÉ brigade here, the likes of John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty with their ridiculous court cases against lockdown, have a lot in common with Trump.


Apart from admiring him, they are anti-vaccinations, think Covid is a hoax, are anti-immigration, and reek of barely suppressed racism.

They clearly get a lot of their information from the wild, unregulated, spiteful corners of the internet.

And in their world RTÉ is part of the conspiracy, you see? Though God knows what the conspiracy actually is. Which it isn’t.

It’s a little dull, staid and with a small roster of presenters. But it has to deal with the reality as much as it can.

It has to talk to us knowing that we fund it. It has to treat us with respect.

The choice is between RTÉ on one side, flawed as it is, and Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and the bloke in the pub who knows very little very loudly.

I’d far rather listen to that respectful, roll call.