Every so often I come across a story that is more compelling for the questions it raises and about what is not included in the story. There’s a whole world of journalism from the Financial Times right down to the sensational and salacious papers. Some journalists are more concerned with the truth than others. And some journalists are concerned with the facts of a matter. Its important of course not to mix the two of them up. And in our wee country we know that the Irish News has its main audience in one community and the Newsletter has its audience in the other community. Stories are often slanted to their own readerships.
So, this Irish News story ( 30.10.2018 )is about a notebook, the police and the son of a couple (Charlie and Tess Fox) who were killed by the UVF in 1992. The story alleges that a police notebook was in the hands of the UVF and that the son Paddy was warned in 2004 that he was under threat from loyalists. The article says that a solicitor will be bringing a civil action against the PSNI. Which is much more acceptable than many of the actions taken against the police in the past.
But questions arise. Why now? The story mentions an attack in October 2004 so we can assume the notebook refers to this general period? That’s 14 years ago. So where has it been all this time? And it says that the Irish News (maybe not Allison?) has just seen the notebook. The storyline certainly skirts around who has it? Big issue not addressed at all. And the article further states that the notebook appears (my emphasis) to be briefing notes from a serving police officer. Appears? Surely a book carries the logo, insignia or some identifying feature? Maybe some ex-policeman can reply with the details of police general issue notebooks. Are they bought out of the local newspaper shop or government issue? I don’t know.
The biggest question, which is simply and deftly ignored, is how the notebook, in the hands of the UVF allegedly, ends up being shown to the Irish News. I’m pretty sure that most UVF personal are not on first name terms with the Irish News staff. Or maybe they are? I don’t know. So, would the Irish News be willing to throw some light on this? Of course, we all know you can hide behind the old, “our sources are confidential”. Which then tends to throw up the rather current trend of fake news. Can this notebook be verified? Do we have to trust the Irish News and the person who acquired this evidence, in some way got the notebook from a loyalist paramilitary group? Will the Irish News give the PSNI the information they need to find out exactly where the book was and who had it?
In research for this article I was looking up various webpages which was fascinating. In terms of accuracy and correctness I was quite struck by a complaint about the Daily Mirror. A paper I loved reading in my younger days. A lady, Gillian Chapman, complained that an article about her killing herself was in fact quite untrue as she was quite alive. (Case ref 04343-18). Little errors are understandable. But I would tend to say that is a major one. Instead of the old Press Complaints Commission we now have the IPSO. (Set up by the newspaper industry to police itself.) It gives loads of cases of complaints which are either resolved or not upheld. Some breaches of the editors code actually happen and newspapers are given fines of millions of pounds. (No. They are not fined. I made that up). Victims just get a small disclaimer on the inside pages.
Even more interesting and confusing was the case of Allison Morris, the Irish News, Ed Moloney and the Boston tapes. I’m unclear as to what happened as the Irish news (via staff reporter- what no name?) said that IPSO had rejected a complaint from Moloney. (10th July 2015). Yet, in the blog, ‘the Broken Elbow’ (not really for the Newsletter reading audience) the headline says that the, “UK Press watchdog accepts the Complaint against the Irish News and Alison Morris” (25th February 2015.) Sometimes one cannot be too critical of what one reads.
So, it’s not so much about what’s in a story. When reading certain journalists and papers it’s sometimes about what’s not said. What is passed by and not covered. Subtly buried. But I like certainty. I rest assured that the real story about the acquiring of the notebook, real or not, will remain concealed.
P.S. I am reminded of a certain Richard Peppiatt giving evidence to the Levenson enquiry. Remember that? I will paraphrase but he basically said that while he didn’t tell any lies, his job was making the facts fit the story. The skill of a journalist today is about finding the facts but also knowing what facts to ignore. Or suppress if you like. Undoubtedly, pertinent to this story.
P.P.S. Just as light relief, and heaven knows we need a laugh now and then, look up; www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErqQxlbNpUg. Especially 5.31.! Editors are people too!