Sunday, March 15, 2009

If we make news in haste, we are likely to repent at leisure

Terry Prone writes:

This day last week I shared a platform with Gerry Adams at the Ennis book festival. Arriving slightly late, he explained he’d been finalising the Sinn Fein response to the killing of two soldiers in Northern Ireland the previous night. He’d been delayed by inability to access the internet where he was staying.

Although the statement was issued before 11am, the Sinn Fein president was bothered by the delay. National news bulletins and breaking news websites had gone out without input from the party. While SF silence might not be construed as consent to the killings, it would not be positively interpreted by media outlets always hungry for objects of antipathy. Accordingly, speed was imperative.

I was struck by the changing nature of the speed demand, having decades earlier witnessed the bombing of Nassau Street. After talking to people who’d been closest to the blast, I went to the newspaper offices where I worked, told the duty editor what I'd seen, and started to write. Every few minutes a copy boy tore off what I’d typed and ran to a typesetter with it. Speed was of the essence if the story was to make the following morning’s first edition.

But it was a different concept of speed to the current one.

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