Media is perception. Media is PR.
Oh how I am loathe typing the above sentences. There is no denying it. There is no news story that reaches your eyes and ears that hasn’t been tailored to extract the maximum reaction from the target audience. If it’s in print media, sub-editors eagerly thumb through their battered thesaurus to ensure the headline is the shortest and eye-catching – the headline often does not reflect the content of the article; it’s merely words in bold print with the sole objective of drawing you in.
Newspaper articles have a simple structure: get the majority of the information in the first 4 paragraphs. Why? People don’t have time to read an entire article on the train, in the bus or during their work breaks. A sad fact but one which the red tops have mastered – their stories rarely reach the length of their wordier cousins, the broadsheets, the tabloids are operating under the assumption that people want, and there is no other way to say this, the “tits and ass” version of the news.
If you add the fact that no two people see the same event in the same way then you will never get a clear picture of what occurred, unless you have the time and inclination to read every article published on the event in question. Of course such an endeavour is impossible; we have other events clamouring for our attention.
The person with the best PR team, those with the most contacts in the newsroom can get their side of the story out quicker thus setting the perception of the readers before the other side can, as is their right, get their point across. However, subconsciously our minds have been set on a certain path by the first wave of information presented to us.
I do have a point.
Donal MacIntyre presented his view of Limerick in “that documentary” broadcast by TV3 the other night. His view was sanctioned by various higher ups, including the “Money Men”. Their decision to sanction funds for MacIntyre to develop and film that programme was based on how much revenue in advertising it would generate. How much of a social media footprint would it leave? It’s even generated follow up news stories today while he was filming the second programme which is focusing on Dublin.
I’m not absolving MacIntyre – he would have pitched the format, story outline etc. to his superiors. He knew what he was going to film. He wasn’t going to aim for a fully balanced, in-depth (how in-depth can a documentary one hour in duration be?) examination of the legacy of crime in Limerick. He would have been aiming for what made his editors tick.
I should issue a disclaimer here: I did not watch it. I saw the headlines; I heard the mutterings before it was aired (mutterings spurred by cleverly planted articles before airing with the single purpose of inciting a reaction from people, to get them to watch; the higher the ratings and better for the bottom line) and I chose not to watch it. Not because I was disgusted, or out of a sense of pride that I didn’t want to see my home-town portrayed in a derogatory manner. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to. It’s a personal thing: sensational journalism is not my thing. The older I get the more I prefer my news to be as balanced as possible, which means I read several sources for articles; yes, as mentioned above, it is time consuming but my choice.
He didn’t do Limerick justice. That much, even without watching, is clear. We can’t undo the documentary; the question is what do we do now?
Do we sit behind our keyboards, our microphones, our Twitter handles and continue to focus on what MacIntyre did? Some quarters may be satisfied with this. It will only feed the cycle, the next documentary about Limerick, and there will be more, will have the same focus and the same reaction.
We need to court the media. We need to woo them, seduce them. We need to go on a PR offensive. Ditch the defensive reaction. Make the Dublin-based media them see that they are the ones who have the wrong perception (yes, perception is subjective so it can’t, technically, be wrong but it can change) of Limerick.
It’s not the easy course – nothing worthwhile ever is. It is the course that will produce the best legacy for Limerick in the long term.
RTE Radio broadcast from Limerick. Today FM and Newstalk should be encouraged to do the same. Newstalk have studios in Cork city. They should be actively pursued to do the same here; if the journalists are here they can actually see what’s going on. UTV Ireland will have a studio based in Radio House on the Dock Road from where evening news reports will be made. It is up to the journalist – Eric Clarke to ensure that the stories are balanced. Given that he’s been working with Live 95FM for a number of years we’re already off to a good start.
Our reaction to the lack of coverage last September to Giant Granny resulted in an apology from RTE; we need more situations like this. Sky Sports commentators who are in Thomond Park always have a good word to say about the hospitality they receive when they are here.
We need to get more gigs in Limerick (I’m not saying that for purely selfish reasons); artists need to know where here; we need to be given a chance to show how good of an audience we really are. Artists always tweet post-gig about the reaction of the audience.
It sounds so simple but it’s the simple things that make the difference.
C’mon Limerick, it’s up to you now. Don’t do a MacIntyre on it.