In Defence of Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black…

On Saturday past, the current Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tina Black, was recorded for an interview with Press Association (PA). During the piece to camera, the PA journalist put the question to Councillor Black as to why Sinn Féin attended the Armistice commemoration at the Cenotaph, but not the service for Remembrance Sunday.  I wish to state from the outset that I don’t share the politics of Sinn Féin nor do I agree with their stance on the matter …

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Media’s role in mediating our ‘different psychic landscapes’

A set of current and former journalists shared their experiences and thoughts on the role of media and social debate across the island of Ireland. Hosted by the Irish Association, the event “Journalism without borders” attracted several dozen, including other journalists and commentators. The discussion explored what we think the public knows about society on both sides of the border, and why or why not that is the case. Indeed, Stephen Douds (president of the Irish Association) explained in his introduction a motivation …

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The trouble with making drama – Part 1: The small screen…

Old TV

While I was watching Bloodlands the BBC drama series starring Jimmy Nesbitt as a bent PSNI detective, it occurred to me that a new sub-genre of post-Troubles legacy drama has effectively emerged. Like similar serials such as Line of Duty or The Fall, Bloodlands is not specifically about politico-sectarian conflict, but this theme is inevitably lurking in the background with regular references to past events involving paramilitaries. During my formative years in the 1980s and 90s there seemed to be …

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Houses of sand: Unionism has a problem with younger voters. A huge one.

Whither the union. I find myself becoming weary as I write this. Articles about the demise of the union, about unionist malaise and mistakes, are so common these days that they all sound the same. I stopped writing them at one point because I had nothing new to add. Even now, people write these pieces with a weird air of arrogance. They want you to know that they and they alone have figured out that unionism is in a difficult …

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A tribute to Jim Fitzpatrick…

Thank you Slugger O’Toole for inviting me to write something about Jim Fitzpatrick RIP. My first thoughts today are with Jim’s family, with Anne, Bríd, Bernard, Eileen, Dominic, Clare, Jim (Junior) and Andrew and his other loved ones. And with the Irish News family who are also grieving a revered patriarchal figure and beginning to come to terms with his loss. I extend to all of them my sympathy and prayerful solidarity at this sad time. However, it is also …

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Almost half of people now avoid the news…

After meeting up with a group of creatives in OKC, we spent the day driving around the city and capturing cool moments together.

The Reuters Institute has published its 2022 Digital News Report and it makes grim reading for news organisations. The Press Gazette has a good overview of the findings: Almost half (46%) of British people actively avoid reading the news as a result of fatigue at excessive Covid and political coverage and a drop in trust in journalism, a new report has found. While the BBC remained the most trusted and biggest news brand in the UK, the public service broadcaster …

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We have information – but are we informed?

head, straw, ignorance

“Bits of information provide neither meaning nor orientation. They do not congeal into a narrative. They are purely additive. From a certain point onward, they no longer inform — they deform… I am not sure that the information society is a continuation of the Enlightenment. Maybe we need a new kind of enlightenment.” These are the contentions of Byung-Chul Han, the Korean-German philosopher, given in an interview with Noēma Magazine. There are 7.9 billion of us on the planet at …

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To disagree with dignity, we must “play the ball, not the man”

I recently joined Twitter. While I’ve observed some enlightening and respectful debate, much of what I saw was indignant self-righteousness from both sides of many disagreements. I’ve witnessed grown adults of all ages tweeting schoolyard slurs in response to those whose beliefs and arguments they disagree with. I wondered whether many come to Twitter to exchange thoughts or ideas, or whether most come to assert their own ideological orthodoxy and attack all who don’t share it. I’m no saint here. …

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Why Ireland has needed good Neighbours

Many of us were shocked to learn that Channel 5 has recently axed Neighbours, the juggernaut that has captivated millions of viewers worldwide for almost 40 years and that catapulted Kylie Minogue and countless others to global stardom. Much has been written about why Neighbours was (and remains) so popular in Britain, yet little has been written about its popularity in Ireland, North and South. In the 1980s, Ireland was a fairly bleak place to be. The Republic was in …

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Want to change hearts and minds? Debate is the answer

public speaking, speaker, man

I spent (wasted?) a minute watching GB News the other day. The topic was, of course, the cause célèbre of the right-wing media: freedom of speech. While I think a lot of the right-wing rhetoric about “cancel culture” is hyperbolic, there does seem to be a tendency among certain groups to avoid open debate and stifle dissenting voices. However, it doesn’t do anything to help their cause. Three examples are illuminating. I proudly support transgender rights and I reject the …

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Watch our End of Year Review For free…

As you might know, we had to cancel our live event due to Omicron but we did a streaming version instead. We are very grateful to all the people who gave a donation to watch the live version. Our Christmas gift to you is you can now watch our End of Year Review for free! If you like what we do, please consider buying Slugger a Christmas drink. Give us the price of a pint or even a round. Or …

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Do politicians really need to be on social media?

social media, interaction, woman

One of the party leaders once said to me ‘I f*cking hate Twitter’ and I found it hard to disagree with them, given the abuse politicians get online. I have had a Twitter account for 13 years and I deliberately say practically nothing on it. I have also managed to avoid putting a single photo on my Instagram account. When you see what some politicians have to go through you really do wonder if it’s all worth the hassle. You …

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They say variety is the spice of life, but has anybody told commercial radio executives?

There is a conventional wisdom in commercial radio that you should play what the listeners like, and lots of it.  This sounds eminently sensible. The problem is that this conventional wisdom is taken to extremes, specifically that what listeners apparently like is the same songs over and over again. A spot of background. Every commercial radio station has a playlist.  Songs that station management want to be played several times a day to promote, combined with a computer that would …

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The Year ’21 Podcast Journey 

During this year’s C. S. Lewis Festival in November, EastSide Partnership held an event to mark and celebrate the extraordinary achievement of the BBC’s Year ’21 podcast. The 50th – and final – episode airs today. Year ’21 reconstructs the events of 1921, week by week, using ordinary people’s stories, archival research and insights from expert historians. It explores the year of Northern Ireland’s formation in surprising and original ways. Approaching 500,000 downloads so far, Year ’21 has already been …

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‘If you’re sympathetic to the weak, it’s activist journalism. If you’re sympathetic to the powerful, it’s objective journalism.’

social media, social, marketing

An interesting article over at Media Lens – Gaslighting The Public: Serial Deceptions By The State-Corporate Media. It is quite a long post but sure what else would you be doing on a Sunday? The basic argument is that it accuses the state and main media companies of being unquestioning mouthpieces for the state and big business. Not asking enough hard questions and being cheerleaders for war. None of this is new but it does bring together some interesting examples. …

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The Service of Reflection & Hope: An opportunity for the Church Leaders?

Unless you’re an avid reader of the ‘Presbyterian Notes’, a bi-weekly feature on a back page of the weekend edition of the Irish Times, you probably missed it. Yesterday this brief little column, which isn’t even included in digital editions of the paper, printed an extract from an address given last week by the Moderator, Rev David Bruce. Bruce was speaking at an event marking the part played by Union Theological College in hosting the parliament of Northern Ireland 100 …

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The media’s role in peacebuilding: none of its business?

So is peacebuilding none of the media’s business? That was a conclusion that broadcaster and journalist, Declan Harvey, posed to a panel of fellow journalists and writers at an online webinar delivered through Belfast City Council’s PEACE IV Programme, which is funded through the EU and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Panellists Alex Kane, Amanda Ferguson, and Leona O’Neill shared their perspectives and experiences of reporting in Northern Ireland, answering questions from Declan Harvey and those submitted by …

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Can Citizens’ Assemblies help us?

In all the dozens of podcast interviews broadcast by the Holywell Trust, one idea to strengthen our society has been put forward repeatedly – citizens’ assemblies. They are not universally popular – both DUP and Conservative Party politicians have expressed concerns they would undermine the link between elected representatives and their constituents, threatening politicians’ legitimacy.  But the experience of Ireland’s citizens’ assemblies has inspired many. Assemblies provided routes to resolving politically challenging issues: same sex marriage, abortion, climate change and, now, gender inequality. And in …

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From Belfast to Beirut: an appreciation of Robert Fisk

“My editor at The Times had safely received the whole report and duly printed it all except for one paragraph which recorded how Gavin (Hewitt) and I came across a tribesman outside Jalalabad standing on a box and sodomising a camel. This was a bit too much for Times readers he felt.” Such is the life of a foreign correspondent. Robert Fisk reported from the Middle East for 40 years during which time he earned a reputation as one of …

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