Two big media stories reported in The Irish Times this morning. In the first, Denis O’Brien, who owns the two radio stations Today FM and Newstalk , has rejected claims by Eamon Dunphy that he interfered in the editorial workings of Newstalk and that he “hated journalism”. O’Brien says he’s being subjected to “a disturbing trend of nastiness and cynicism” by the south’s media since he dropped presenter Sam Smyth (late of this parish) from Today FM.
The second media story concerns RTÉ. Press Ombudsman John Horgan is going to carry out a review of RTÉ’s editorial process. This follows the airing of a ‘Prime Time’ programme (presenter one Miriam O’Callaghan) which claimed that a Fr Kevin McReynolds had had sex with a minor and fathered a child by her while he was working in Kenya. Fr McReynolds denied the claim and prior to the programme going out offered to take a paternity test. RTÉ ignored his offer and aired their programme. Fr McReynolds has since taken the paternity test, proven his innocence and is now taking a High Court libel case against RTÉ.
Both cases show how murky the workings of the southern media are. I like Dunphy – he’s a far better soccer commentator than anyone I can think of in England – but on this one, like most of the south’s media, he’s barking up the wrong tree. Presenters don’t like being dropped, especially if they’ve been presenting a particular programme – in Smyth’s case a politics programme – for a long time. If you’ve listened to him, you’ll know Smyth has a slight speech impediment but that’s not why I’m glad O’Brien dropped him. I’m glad because (i) Smyth was dull and (ii) on any topic about the north, he was, um, what shall I say, not my favourite commentator (there, I think that keeps me on the right side of the law). His many mates in the media may consider him a terrible loss; I suspect the rest of us will struggle on without him.
The RTÉ story is truly shocking. This wasn’t just a case of being biased or dull – this was a case of wrecking a man’s life. We now know that Fr McReynolds was innocent of the crimes RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan presented him as guilty of. Even worse, RTÉ and presumably O’Callaghan refused to let Fr McReynolds defend himself before they smeared filth all over his reputation. Which raises three points: how many other bogus charges of clerical sexual abuse are there, did the question “Do you go to confession?” cross O’Callaghan’s mind as she presented this glaring example of all that’s wrong with southern journalism, and will anybody lose their RTÉ job for their part in this despicable frame-up? I don’t know the answer to the first two questions but I’ll bet I know the answer to the last. It’s No.