Did an error by RTÉ Frontline change the outcome of the presidential election?

Posted: October 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

"I pretended to be a former BIG terrorist's campaign team and told a BIG whopper on a BIG anti-social networking site and then a BIG television station in a LITTLE country got the BIG whopper with the former BIG terrorist's name on it and put it in front of this BIG man who was winning this BIG race and this BIG man tripped over this BIG whopper and fell on... (is it ok to say 'Aras'?) and this little man jumped over the BIG man and won the BIG race but everyone was happy,.. I THINK:..the little man who won the BIG race, and all the little people in the BIG TV station and the former BIG terrorist and the BIG man... Well.. ...maybe the BIG man wasn't THAT happy, really!...Is that a sin and do you have to tell people what I did so the BIG station doesn't get upset, even though they may kinda know anyway?"

Did an error by RTÉ Frontline, on Monday, change the outcome of Thursday’s  presidential election? That’s the question that no one seems willing to ask publicly and directly.

In his Irish Times blog, yesterday, Harry McGee outlined “a number of problems” about the false tweet that “appeared”, on the Frontline, on Monday night. ‘The Tweet that was heard all round the world’ came from a fake account and was retweeted by several duped tweeters who inadvertently authenticated the fake.

Fine! All of this highlights some serious problems about the way Twitter works. But, that’s where the lie should have stayed. The RTÉ Frontline team, however made a serious mistake — one which in my view changed the outcome of Thursday’s presidential election — when they allowed Pat Kenny to confront Seán Gallagher with the tweet  live on air on Monday night and present it as if it were fact.

In his blog, McGee accurately described the decision to “read (the tweet) out live on air” as “a most serious implication, and worrying development”. Said McGee, “I have been on to RTE about this and they didn’t come back with any official, or satisfactory, response. It seems that the broadcaster has no protocol for handling tweets. But it’s my contention that they should. And it would be dangerous for the broadcaster to allow an incident like this to be repeated.”

“Dangerous”? For Seán Gallagher, it has already been fatal, although one could see how RTÉ and other ‘elements of the media’ might not view the election of President Michael D Higgins at the expense of Seán Gallagher as a negative outcome to Monday’s events.

Martin McGuinness could have pointed out that the tweet wasn’t authentic, of course. But by presenting it as fact and addressing it to Seán Gallagher, RTÉ were relying very heavily on Martin McGuinness to set the record straight. He didn’t! This was not Martin McGuiness’s job, however. This was RTÉ’s. Seán Gallagher’s fate was effectively put in the hands of someone whose credibility, RTÉ have themselves frequently questioned.

And remember, as McGee pointed out, “the (disastrous) ‘envelope’ reference was forced on the back of the false tweet”.

This has been a torrid few weeks for RTÉ current affairs with the most recent of the current ‘current’ problems following hot on the heels of the station’s apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds in the wake of last May’s Mission to Prey by the Prime Time Investigates team.

Miriam O’Callaghan did no favours to RTÉ’s credibility, yesterday, either, when she announced on Newstalk’s The Right Hook that she votes only on the basis of gender. RTÉ ‘must do better’ if it is to get anywhere close to regaining the ‘trust of the people’

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Comments
  1. Fiona Loxley says:

    Okay, enough’s enough with RTE. They cannot go on like this. This is terrible journalism and completely unacceptable. And after that big speech by their ‘boss’ about integrity, correcting wrongs, accepting blame etc etc. Shut them down!

  2. Mrs. Rene O'Riordan says:

    Journalism has lost the trust of the people and so we have turned en masse to fb and tweets etc to get our news!! People don’t want to be manipulated, they do in fact want “the truth in the news” – if people have now turned to the web and end up being led a merry dance there too, the MSM are to blame for that. The media have the duty to safeguard democracy – it is that serious!! – Blessings – Rene

  3. Noreen says:

    Perhaps it’s time to “Occupy” Donnybrook!

  4. Cathal Loftus says:

    The Tweet was not necessarily the silver bullet thay slayed the Dragon. There was an Exocet fired by a man who left the IRA in 1974. And a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) launched by a female audience member. And a Joycean scholar who made much of the word “envelope”. However, I do agree, RTÉ ought to be a lot more careful. The line, between being an observer and becoming a participant, should never be crossed.

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