Belfast Telegraph

David Gordon: Don’t blame the Press; we’re only doing our jobs reporting Northern Ireland talks

Never in the field of journalism has so much been written about so little — for so few thanks.

It's bad enough to have to keep finding new ways of saying that not much is happening at the Hillsborough Castle talks.

But some of the politicians are now turning on the media.

It all seems a tad unfair.

Some of hardiest reporting souls have been standing out in the cold for days on end.

Such devotion to the cause brings to mind Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal terrier who stayed by his master's Edinburgh grave for 14 years.

The Hillsborough talks have not lasted that long — yet.

Apart from TV pictures, the lengthy Castle waits by reporters have not always produced much ‘product’ — to use a term from the process inside.

Any crumbs of information from the negotiating table normally come from text messages or whispered phone calls. Not that you can always trust such information. The parties are well capable of spinning through leaks — getting a piece of speculation running outside to alter the interior mood or agenda.

The journalistic challenge has certainly not been limited to those stuck stamping their feet at the Castle Gates.

In newsrooms and studios back at base camp level heads are being scratched on an hourly basis.

What's going on between the parties is important — it could bring down the Assembly, after all.

But how do you keep fulfilling your public interest reporting duties when you know readers and viewers are becoming more sceptical, irritated or just plain bored?

Yesterday, the fact that it was Groundhog Day provided an opportunity to wax lyrical.

But then it was suggested that the date could delay a final deal.

Which politician would want to be a signatory to the Groundhog Day Agreement?

Some of the broadcasters have been able to spend some of the down time providing online updates.

Mark Devenport (BBCNI) and Ken Reid (UTV) have their blogs, while Downtown's Eamonn Mallie has become quite the dab hand with Twitter.

In one poignant post, Mark commented: “ Flotsam and jetsam — that's what we are, just journalistic pieces of debris lobbying around on the peaks and troughs of expectation from these talks.”

DUP minister Sammy Wilson has cut an angry figure in recent days, branding a weekend BBC Politics Show report on the talks as “puerile”.

Yesterday he laid into Stephen Nolan, accusing him on air of seeking to “stir people up to anger” against politicians.

“For a public service broadcaster, Stephen, I think you're a disgrace,” he added.

If it's any comfort to Nolan, the Belfast Telegraph has also been on the receiving end of a Sammy blast or two before now.

Maybe the answer is to just pretend the talks are not happening — and then report with glee when an historic deal is handed down on tablets of stone by our masters.

Providing there ever is a deal, that is.

Belfast Telegraph


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