Sunday 22 April 2018

'Edgy' journalism led to RTÉ error - Dobson

Pictured ahead of his Inaugural Lecture as Adjunct Professor of Public Service Broadcast Journalism at UL is Professor Bryan Dobson with journalism students Hilary McGann (left) and Monika Gaciarz. Photo: Sean Curtin
Pictured ahead of his Inaugural Lecture as Adjunct Professor of Public Service Broadcast Journalism at UL is Professor Bryan Dobson with journalism students Hilary McGann (left) and Monika Gaciarz. Photo: Sean Curtin

Kathryn Hayes

THE current appetite for "edgy and ground-breaking journalism" led RTÉ to "devour good editorial practice" when it screened the controversial 'Prime Time' documentary about Fr Kevin Reynolds, one of its main news anchors has said.

Bryan Dobson has described it as a fundamental failure by the national broadcaster.

Speaking at his inaugural lecture as Adjunct Professor of Public Service Broadcasting at the University of Limerick, RTÉ's 'Six One' news anchor warned of the hazards that come with the ambition to produce programmes that make a real impact.

"When those two ingredients - risk and ratings - are mixed together, there is a potentially explosive compound. Certainly that's what lies behind the single biggest crisis in RTÉ News and Current Affairs in my 25 years - Fr Reynolds' libel case involving Prime Time," he said.

"It seemed to me that RTÉ's fundamental failure was to allow this appetite for 'edgy', ground-breaking journalism to devour good journalistic practice and particularly editorial practice. It was failure above all of editorial control."

Mr Dobson said all RTÉ staff suffered reputational damage from it and "new, more rigorous practices were put in place with clear lines of editorial control".

Mr Dobson took up his honorary unpaid position in UL at the beginning of the academic year.

Irish Independent

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