Jude Collins

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Whatever you say...

I've been asked to contribute...No, that's a stupid word for it...asked to talk on the Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster tomorrow morning. They're discussing the question of journalists protecting (another loaded word) their sources. The two people in the spotlight at the moment are Suzanne Breen the journalist and Ian Óg Paisley, the, um, politician. They're both under legal pressure to produce the name of their sources - S Breen the Real IRA people she was in touch with, Paisley the Prison Service people he was talking to about the Billy Wright killing. It's a no-brainer really: if journalists can't protect their sources, they won't have sources, and important areas of life will become a closed book to the public. Plus, of course, wrong-doing, such as the Bloody Sunday killings and the Billy Wright killings, will remain in the shadows and those responsible well-hidden. Talk of the need to have journos on the side of the police and the law is bunkum. There's confidentiality between priest and penitent, between lawyer and client, between doctor and patient.

I always come away from radio pieces like this with the same feeling: even in an extended discussion (which tomorrow will not be, not in the sense of thoughtful and thorough), it's sobering how little ground and how little depth is possible. The written word is ten times more useful for exploration of an issue - which is maybe why it's the least likely source of information for an awful lot of people. Radio, TV - that's where most people get their news fix and fixed ideas on what's happening.

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