Thursday 20 October 2016

Bringing the horror home to listeners


Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 05/07/2015 | 02:30

Paddy O'Gorman
Paddy O'Gorman

There's no substitute for pictures when it comes to bringing home the immediate aftermath of an awful event such as the shootings on the beach in Tunisia; but radio comes into its own when exploring in greater depth the effects on victims through extended interviews.

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Marian King from Lucan was staying at the hotel next door when the attack happened. She gave Monday's Today With Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio 1 a compelling account of how it all unfolded.

That balanced well with a report from Richard Downes on the ground, who found "a most peculiar scene", with people sunbathing and messing about in boats and on "those parachute things in the air" only yards from where so many had died days earlier.

Liveline talked to Tomas, who was there on holiday with his wife and three daughters, and who had also been working on the London Underground on the day of the 7/7 terrorist attacks. A small and dangerous world indeed.

The Anton Savage Show on Today FM spoke to another couple caught up in the atrocity. They had used the same four sunbeds each day of their holiday. That day, they hadn't. All the people on those sunbeds died in the attack. All of this was far more fitting than the interview on Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show with Irish Times correspondent Lara Marlowe.

She could be found speculating that the attacks "might have" been prevented "if the Tunisian authorities were doing their job and monitoring the internet", based on the fact that the gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, had posted a message on a website some five hours earlier together with the hashtag #ConquestOfSousse. It really wasn't the time for that.

The sense of personal testimony was regrettably missing from the coverage of the crisis in Greece, which tended to rely on political commentators and economic specialists rather than ordinary people. Conspiracy theorists would no doubt see this as symbolic of the disjunct between the ruled and their rulers, but it's more likely just laziness.

Far easier, not to mention cheaper, to call up an "expert" to fill ten minutes airtime than send reporters out to Athens to get a sense of public opinion. Paddy O'Gorman gets a lot of stick, unfairly, for his guerilla reporting, but he'd have been perfect for the job.

Though even the talking heads were preferable to nothing at all, which is what greeted listeners when they switched on for Late Debate on Tuesday, as the midnight deadline for Greece to repay its IMF loan fast approached.

Or not nothing exactly. There was a man talking about Skippy The Bush Kangaroo. It turned out that this was a repeat of Sunday Miscellany, retitled plain old Miscellany for the evening that was in it.

It's a lovely show, but is there another country in the world where the national broadcaster packs up so much of its current affairs coverage for the summer, as RTE does? Keelin Shanley is one of the sharpest presenters on radio right now and would surely have relished getting her teeth into the story as it unfolded.

Sunday Independent

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