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RTE's 'yes-man' culture has proved costly

I WORKED in the religious department of RTE as a reporter. Every week you would submit your ideas in a meeting. You had to be hardy for these meetings, as one or more people would interrogate you, picking apart your idea -- with the intention of investigating whether it was sound from a journalistic and practical point of view.

I sat at the meetings with two other reporters, three producers, the production co-ordinator and the series producers.

You would be nervous going in; you would have to be prepared for a good, strong pitch. If you suggested something that was flawed or unachievable, you would hear about it from your colleagues. Everyone had the right to pick apart, and you had the right to do the same back.

So when I read of the criticism that is being heaped on RTE, regarding the Fr Kevin Reynolds case, I know that it is unfair to the many good reporters still there.

Group think never existed where I was -- in fact, the group mentality when I worked in documentaries was one of challenge and debate. And this came from my series producer.

Unless you encourage those who work under you to disagree with you, and to pull you up if they feel you are incorrect, you will end up with one big happy clappy group of benign followers.

Current affairs clearly became smug and complacent. And those at the top must not have encouraged different thinking or disagreements.

Because surely there was one person, one lone person, who thought that the Fr Reynolds programme was going out on television with no solid facts to back it up.

Surely in this group of intelligent, experienced people, there was someone who felt that a hunch, or a source, or an undercover video, was not sufficient evidence.

Or maybe they were too nervous to put up their hand to the head of current affairs, and say, 'This doesn't add up'.

I remember I often came out of meetings at RTE's religious department deflated. My ideas had not been accepted. But that only made me improve my research. If you don't constantly question and encourage different opinions, you end up with a massive libel bill, a €200,000 fine and a disgraced department.


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