Monday 29 October 2007

News is news and facts are facts, but squishing truffles is much more fun!


There it was, on page 30 of the Irish Daily Mirror, Friday, October 12, 2007:
Life, and all the emotion that is in it.
The bottom half of the page showed a photo of Thornton's chocolatier Barry Colenso proudly clutching an Easter egg, beside the headline:
"Grabbed by the truffles - top Chocolatier caught squishing rival's treats!"
Mirror writer Brian Roberts explains that Barry, evermore to be dubbed 'Willy Wrongka', was caught behaving bizarrely on CCTV in a store run by Thornton's main rivals, Hotel Chocolat.
Apparently he was "methodically gripping several chocolate sections."
A spokesman for Hotel Chocolat said
"Mr Colenso admitted 'handling' products in an 'inappropriate' manner. This was an extraordinary act of truffle squishing. We can only guess at what provoked it."
If this is fact, what might be 'surreal'?
If Barry's squelches were an "extraordinary act of truffle squishing", then what, one wonders, is 'ordinary' truffle squishing?
Above this gripping (ha!) tale, the Mirror ran a photostory showing hundreds of bloated wildebeest carcasses floating down a river.
The recent destruction of nearby forest has corrupted weather patterns in the Masai Mara, and 15,000 wildebeest have died in the rivers that now rage with an intensity matched only by that which impels the Wildebeest to cross.
Finally, on the left-hand side of the page, Greig Box-Turnbull's story relates how Bryan Drysdale had turned to the police, and called the health service complaining of a nervous breakdown; a feeling of 'his head cracking'; paranoid episodes in which he thought he was being targeted and heard voices in his home; worries that he might have HIV; and fears that he might take his own life.
When his car was later hit by a train on a level crossing, six people died.
Page 30 of the Daily Mirror, and what do I get? Only the entire gamut of human emotional response.
I am horrified that nobody listened to Brian Drysdale's cries for help; tormented by those avoidable deaths; disgusted by our uncaring society.
For those wildebeest, lost to the excesses of our needs, I am filled with guilt, compassion, sorrow and rage.
As for the truffle squishing, I'm thankful that not all news is a matter of life and death; shocked by this decadent act of wanton chocolate sabotage; and naturally, I am highly tickled.
But all we have considered are emotions.
What of fact? Do we care if these stories are true?
Fiction can be fun, but news is news, and never the twain should meet.
Not a journalist, I am merely a blabbermouth who is paid to give opinion, so I have the utmost respect for those professionals who take seriously the matter of accurately reporting news.
Those who leave their arse-groove in newsroom seats have to check their facts. They live by the rules of 'Who?' 'What?' 'When?' 'Where?' and 'How?'.
A few months ago I contacted a local journalist, who had reviewed in print a You Tube movie showing teenagers driving recklessly in a Galway car park.
Communicating privately, I told him that I had been approached by parents of teenage children who were furious about his coverage of this life-threatening activity.
He said that his journalistic responsibilities were intact, as all the facts were true.
My heart sank. There is far more to journalistic responsibility than fact. Integrity and social responsibility rate pretty highly too.
Facts are indeed the building blocks of news.
That's why it is so dangerous to run a front page lead story about asylum seekers and hotels when facts have not been checked. By the time your correction appears, the damage has been done.
The racist responses an erroneous story and patronising editorial evoked are already embedded in the Galwegian psyche.
I was shocked to find behind the correction of last week's story another editorial about how a recent murder victim's parents are waking up in Galway, when in fact, at that time, they were not in Ireland.
Yes, I know I am being petty, but a newspaper editor must check facts.
The Galway Advertiser is a vital and impressive part of Galway life. There cannot be a person under 40 in this city who has not queued on a Wednesday for the Accommodation Lists. When I want to find a job, I go to Business and Appointments in the Galway Advertiser, and then, when I realise I am not qualified for very much, I go to Situations Vacant.
The Galway Advertiser is an advertiser, and as such it is excellent. But there is a massive difference between a free advertiser and a newspaper that is paid for by the reader. Within these pages (save for this colyoom) you read stories that will have been robustly checked and well written.
Of course, nobody's perfect. Mistakes will be made and clarified . But if you want news, buy a newspaper, and if you want to find something to buy, pick up an advertising free sheet.
Despite persistent rumours of the end of all newspapers, you can in Galway now pick up a different paper each day, from Monday to Friday. More than anything, this glut of advertising shows only that there is still much cash in the coffers of local companies.
There is one matter it is important to clarify.
Figures appearing in two free local papers recently declared massive circulation rises, as compared with the sales figures of the rags of this Noble House.
Certainly, circulation of the Galway Advertiser has risen at my address by 200%, as where we used to receive nothing, we now have two copies put through our one front door every week, anytime between Thursday and Sunday.
When Galway First was launched, we had to call and ask them to take away a bundle that had been dumped at the end of our street.
A friend who lives in a block of 15 flats claims his building took delivery of 50 Galway Advertisers last week.
If we gave away this Noble Rag, and filled empty swimming pools with bundles of unread papers, we could 'circulate' more copies than any paper in the world.
If you want to believe what you read, try one paper per household, paid for and read from cover to cover.
And never forget, beyond all those depressing headlines, there may well be some truffle squishing going down!

Double Vision

Caricatures Ireland

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