Does SDLP “Need” Journalists?

I have often thought that I would make a great Press Officer. I dont know what the SDLP Press Office looks like. I hope it has a kinda public counter…….where the great and the mediocre of Norn Iron journalism get the latest “press release”.

That is my kinda job. “Let me just check if you are on the list, Mr Mallie”. “Do you have any identification Mr Devenport?”. “Mr Emerson, I have removed you from the list because you have a potty mouth”. “Im sorry Mr Slugger O’Toole, that is not journalism”.

I have put my theory on SDLP-Press Relations to more than one SDLP politician. It has been suggested to me that I am the kinda person who should not be allowed anywhere near a Press Office. I “dont have the right qualities”…….well I think I have exactly the right qualities.

I bought the “Irish News” three times this week. That is £2.10 I will never see again…..Tom Kelly, Brian Feeney and Newton Emerson all wrote about the SDLP Conference. And Tom, Brian and Potty Mouth were not complimentary.

The layout in Armagh City Hotel provided a perfect illustration in how journalism works. Standing or sitting at the back of the Hall I observe that  it seems normal practice for a journalist to leave a speech or debate about one minute before it ends. In the foyer…..or lobby……they ambush SDLP figures, some of whom seem ambushed by appointment. Incidently journalists are distinguishable at SDLP Conferences. They are the people who wear the poppies.

Then a few minutes after the ambush, it is possible to log on to Twitter and see a journalist tweet “SDLP sources say….” .

How helpful is all this?

Iam not for one moment suggesting SDLP need to break off contact with journalists. I am merely suggesting that things should be put into perspective. There is inevitably a core group of politicians at the heart of the SDLP, backed up by councillors, executive members, staffers, active and passive members and 95,000 voters who are entitled to know more about what is going on in the SDLP  than any journalist.

When all is said and done, “Mark”, “Eamonn”, “Potty Mouth”, “Malachi”, “Ken”, “Suzanne”, “Fionnualla”, “Sam” and the rest dont pay a £20 annual subscription.

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7 Responses to Does SDLP “Need” Journalists?

  1. Ah but Ferghal McKinney does though!

    Does the SDLP need to get its own Party Paper á lá an Phoblacht?

    I don’t mind Newton Emerson, while a Unionist and clearly not an SDLP favorite he doesn’t exactly rub any other party in Northern Ireland the right way either.That is to say I can just about tolerate him.

    Feeney, on the other hand has an agenda he couldn’t fully implement in the SDLP, as does Alex Kane from the UUP, they were party representative, in the case on Feeney a political representative, in the case of Kane a press officer … at some point they left to the free lance journalism who felt the weight of their opinions on things were not given the attention they deserved by the parties they were inside of. In Feeney’s case perhaps his History background has made him obsess over past glories, in comparison to his complete lack of political influence now. Fealty is arguably not a proper journalist but a blogger. The Fionnuallas have gone into hiding since Hearts and Minds have been off the air, they were more bland narrators to the Ian Knox cartoons dido with “Malachi” .

    Unlike “journalistic democrats” such as Nesbitt, McCann and McKinney neither would ever dare to stand on a ticket and defend making policy on them, they claimed a self-righteous mandate of their own … despite being the chance and opportunity to earn a mandate. They have no convictions, no principles, no standards … no need to humble themselves toward the electorate or risk of being humbled by the electorate. Feeney would not dare stand again, he’s more obsessed with a historical zeitgeist than the social democracy that comes from actually listening to people.

    Armchair politicians the whole lot of them, I wouldn’t call them commentators or journalists, that would make the large assumption that they are actually watching things and making notes.

    At the end of the day, the most I’ve ever done for the SDLP was canvass for Mark H (originally Pól but I couldn’t get a hold of him) around Foyle, no great shakes to the above … the small act of handing out ballot papers is probably a lot more influential to the people in the street than what these bloggers and armchair politicians say.

    • Ive dismissed “blogging” as lacking any real seriousness. But in so far it exists …..then there should be SDLP people who set a narrative or at least undermine the lets get alongerist agenda of Stratagem-Slugger.
      You yourself do a pretty good job ….particuarly on the P.ie site. An invaluable ally in fact.
      But at an event like Conference, it is apparent that journalists think too highly of themselves.
      The political commentator ….to be honest…..it is an over-rated profession. Perhaps undermined more by blogging. Newt Emerson for example ……who the heck is he? and is his opinion actually more valuable than anyone else?
      Straight forward reporting is ok.
      But essentially journalists should not be considered “friends”.

  2. You know, the more I think about it and the fact that I am away from the North (so very far away might I add), my simple answer would be a resounding ‘No’.

    Journalists are wholly unrepresentative of the populace in general and completely impractical blow hards that tell us what we need, ignore the populace in general and attach weight to that which should never have much weight (Bele Tele ‘opinion’ polls, NILT) and too little weight to that which should (election results anyone?).

    Take for instance unionist pedant Alex Kane, he’s now going to vote UKIP if given the chance; they’ve no representation here in the North and I’m sure they would be roundly defeated, YET he is a self-styled ‘voice of unionism’ when clearly he is not, he is merely a voice, that is all.

    Mallie I like but again, he’s another pedant who thinks his opinion is worth something. I admire a lot of what he does but he is so very far removed from the normal populace it’s terrifying.

    These people are not really journos but commentators who like the sound of their own voices (don’t we all) but at least what we do we have little or no pretensions about while others think they are opinion formers. They are right to a certain extent re the last part but not for the reasons they would imagine.

    These guys are at times part of the problem, not the solution. They warp many things (i’m thinking for instance the A5, the upgrade to the road to Larne from Belfast and the money spent on hospitality up on the Hill for starters) to show ‘massive’ waste or poor use of funds when these matters require nuance instead of hot headed stupidity.

    • I hope youre doing ok in Australia. Youve been missed.
      I can understand the need for “reporters” to report on an accident, or courts or a football match.
      But none of our high-profile journos would lower themselves to do that.
      I expect some are already rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the G8 nonsense.
      Should mean some work on CNN and CBS, background pieces etc.
      I am sure some have already sent their portfolios off to commissioning editors.
      But do “good” analysts make “bad” journalists?
      Are “good” journalists” “bad” analysts.
      Two completely different skills.
      A certain irony that journos over 50 have worked themselves up from being court reporters in Newry Courthouse or reporting the price of sheep in Ballymena Market…….to become columnists and correspondents………….only to find that thanks to Tinternet, everybody has an opinion as valuable as Eamonn Mallie.

      • Thanks FJH, Brisbane is treating me very well at the moment and prospects are looking decidedly up compared to being back home for me.

        Reporters, again I have no problem with them. They report fact, news in it’s purest form. They can be held accountable quite easily with what they have reported by whether they have omitted something, added something that is in correct etc. They are journos in the purest form and we need them, no question.

        However, and I suspect this is largely to do with the changing landscape of print journalism, we now have a plethora of commentators who are pushing their own agendas and giving their two cents. In fact, in some ways the line between commentator and pol are starting to become quite blurry as the former exercises some control in the pol bubble on the hill and I am certain can sway a few pols one way or the other by noting that the public may not like there decision when large swathes of the public may not hold a strong opinion one way or the other as they have other things to be getting on with.

        I too also like the irony that likes of ourselves can now be commentators without doing donkey work. I never tire of winding my friend, the music journo, by noting that I can do what he does, maybe even better at times, and I have no formal training whatsoever. I just know how to get a piece out to as many people as I can with my limited resources and yet more people read my blog than his. I am a cruel friend at times

      • I should preface this comment by saying that son #2 is a trained journalist but not working as one.
        I think its fair to say that Alex kane (and frankly I dont care for his views) brings a certain expertise to comments……in the sense that he has been a press officer and knows a fair bit about how it all works (particuarly the UUP)
        Something that might be said about Brian Feeney in respect of SDLP (and arguably Tom Kelly) for the same reason.
        But while they arguably bring expertise they also bring (to my mind) an agenda with some they may have known. I hasten to add thats my impression based on discussions with other people.
        Certainly SDLP tend to look at what Feeney has written……in part because he “knows” the personalities involved for up to three decades. And they know him.
        Some certainly think that he is spiteful (when he has written something they like) and the next week praise him as basically “one of us” for being supportive.
        I was actually thinking about this quite a lot since Conference.
        I was a member 1973-1982…….and without going into details I am easily remembered. The consequence is that SDLP veterans, now retired from active politics tend to remember me…..even if they struggle with a name. Always interesting when one says. “ah nice to see you again” while trying to read my name tag so that they can use my name.
        Obviously some of these folks are even older than me…..but it means that people around my own age and younger and now in senior positions are people who I dont know.
        So I have missed out on all the tensions, smoke-filled rooms and all that stuff.
        So I can treat people equally. Nobody has done me any harm.
        So I am a “newbie” with loads of experience of politics (in an academic sense) and having left SDLP aged 29 and rejoined aged 59……its strange feeling.
        At one level people can be suspicious. After all where was I for 30 years. And I have been open about voting SF for about half that time. So theres an understandable feeling that I have not paid my dues in the same way that they have.
        Ironically I get on very well with the young folks….there really is a LOT of them. And as my last contact with SDLP was aged 29…..I still feel attached to their way of thinking.
        Sorry this comment is over-long. But can you see what I am getting at here?

      • It’s not overly long at all FJH, it is actually a good insight into how these things work and also your experience of ‘coming back to the fold’ so to speak. And yes, get what you mean.

        Commentators are much like a North Armagh night club I slag off quite a bit; I dislike them soo much but keep going back to them, probably to make myself feel better as I’m not as bad as them.

        Feeney is an interesting character, though tbh I don’t know too much about, what with his pieces being behind a paywall it makes it somewhat difficult to get at but Kane I am all to familiar with and find his snide comments quite funny as he is clearly having a political nervous breakdown in front of everyone.

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