Social media led the reporting of Paris attacks

Tragedy in Paris dominates this weeks news with ‘morbid fascination’, writes Brendan O’Regan

Last weekend’s tragedy in Paris marked another low for extremism and was truly shocking – all the more so from the immediacy of the live coverage last Friday night.

Social media seemed to do better than traditional media in providing up to date information. I watched the BBC News live coverage and at times the presenter in studio knew more from following social media, than the BBC ‘s own reporters on the spot. 

Live coverage of such events has a certain morbid fascination and of course can be extremely worrying if you’ve got family in the affected area. 

With the instant news comes extra responsibility, and reporters and presenters need to be careful about verifying the accuracy of news items as some reports can have knock on effects and sometimes the wrong people can be targeted. For example, the BBC News reported a fire at the Calais immigrants’ camp and wondered if it mightn’t be a retaliation attack. That was hardly responsible. The fire never resurfaced on any coverage I heard over the weekend, and, in an item about social media coverage on Monday’s Morning Ireland, reporter Lisa Pereira said it was accidental, perhaps caused by an electrical fault. 

She also instanced how a picture allegedly of the rock band playing in the Bataclan Theatre just before the shooting there, was actually from their gig a few days previously at the Olympia in Dublin.

Media responsibility also came into question in coverage of the sexual abuse allegations against a former government minister last week. Was there a leak from a Garda source or a victim source? Late on Thursday night, I heard the dramatic news that Fianna Fáil former minister Pat Carey had resigned from party positions, after intense media questioning, but was denying he had anything to do with it. It appears that whatever the outcome neither Mr Carey nor the alleged victims were well served. Of course several clergy have had to put up with false charges, and though some were guilty, the clergy as a group have been much more demonised. 

And speaking of demonising, when this issue was discussed on Saturday With Clare Byrne last weekend, Fine Gael’s MEP Brian Hayes wondered if the Carey leak might have come from the ‘certain groups’ that didn’t like Carey’s coming out as gay and supporting the passing of the marriage referendum. That was a nasty suggestion, made without any evidence, and followed Hayes’ criticism of a “new nastiness” in public discourse.

On a lighter note, there was an enjoyable interview with comedian Frank Kelly on Leap of Faith on RTÉ Radio 1 last Friday night. I was listening just before I heard the terrible news from Paris, and followed up with the extended version of the interview on last weekend’s Sunday Spirit programme on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra. 

Frank Kelly said he prayed a lot, had a “constant conversation” with God, but never got angry with Jesus. He believed Jesus was God come to Earth and also an “extremely compassionate man”. If something “contrary” happened, he assumed there was a reason for it that was beyond his comprehension. 

He didn’t like people being dismissive of the commitment of priests, and was “suspicious” of some of the rejection of the influence of the Church in society. As a believer he was concerned when offered the role of Fr Jack in the Father Ted series, and sought reassurances. He agreed with presenter Michael Comyn that there was a “kindness” in the show but described Fr Jack as in many ways a “repellent”, but funny, character. 

Comyn asked Kelly about his faith influences and he referenced a Redemptorist preacher whose descriptions of hell were graphic, but who also warned people not to be put off their faith by a “silly priest”. Following that prompt Kelly takes responsibility for his own faith and doesn’t allow the inadequacies of some priests put him off. 

I thought his approach was an interesting mixture of fresh and traditional, though more predictable at one stage when he talked about “the structural Church” being “out of tune” with “sexuality of all kinds”, but that point wasn’t developed, so it was hard to know exactly what he had in mind.

And finally, a word of well-deserved praise for the beautiful music, under the direction of Ian Callanan, on last Sunday’s Mass on RTÉ One. Watch it on the RTÉ Player.



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