Saturday 21 April 2018

Radio: Drowning in the shallows of social media

Jonathan Healy: Proper reporting on Newstalk
Jonathan Healy: Proper reporting on Newstalk

Eilis O'Hanlon

Monday's Morning Ireland ran with the news that same-sex marriage was the most discussed topic on Irish social media in 2015, and Newstalk's Moncrieff featured a story about internet trolls being publicly shamed in Brazil.

The Ray D'Arcy Show, for its part, was watching that clip of RTE reporter Teresa Mannion braving the elements in Galway last weekend, which had proved popular online.

Today FM's Dermot And Dave were laughing at that as well. "My favourite part," one of them said (Dave? Dermot? Who can tell the difference?), "is that she's talking like it's the end of the world, like an unbelievably concerned mammy instead of a news reporter."

Not really, she was talking like someone trying to raise her voice whilst being battered by the weather; but let that pass for now, because The Ryan Tubridy Show on Tuesday had an even bigger exclusive - an interview with a girl whose cover version of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas on YouTube had also "gone viral", as it's called.

Welcome to another week on Irish radio, which is increasingly fixated on content generated by social media.

Whether that's because researchers in radio tend to come from a younger generation who are now obsessed with Twitter and Facebook, or because traditional media is afraid of falling behind the times and so leaps on every triviality it finds online, is hard to say - but it's tiresome all the same. It should be possible to have an intelligent conversation about Donald Trump, or Isil, or Storm Desmond, without hanging the entire discussion on whatever silly hashtag happens to be trending that day.

There was a further example on 2FM's Tracy Clifford show, in an interview with a woman about her fan letter to pop singer Adele on Facebook, but it's more forgiveable on that end of the dial. 2FM finally seems to have given up trying to fill the gap left by Gerry Ryan, and gone back to its roots as a youth-oriented station - and that's fine. Whether it should be paid for by the licence fee is another issue, but it definitely sounds fresher and more self-con­fident than it has in years.

Part of that success is attributable to a new generation of female presenters now taking their place alongside old hand Louise McSharry on the schedule. As well as Clifford herself, there's Jenny Greene, who shares the studio on The Nicky Byrne Show; Ciara King of Chris And Ciara fame; and last week Blathnaid Treacy joined the ranks as she was unveiled as the new host of the iconic National Chart Show. What's admirable about them all is how they just get on with the job of being radio presenters. Not female radio presenters, just presenters.

On Thursday, Jonathan Healy showed how the floods should have been covered by pulling on his waders and taking Newstalk's Lunchtime away from Dublin to counties Limerick and Clare to observe the "Herculean" effort to hold back the rising water of the Shannon. Proper reporting - and not a hashtag in sight.

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