Real honesty in the media is a rare thing.
I don’t mean in its coverage and output – I’ve written about media bias here before.
No, I’m talking about the honesty of those of us lucky enough to work in the business when we’re discussing in public the day-to-day workings of our job.
— Pat O’Mahony (@patomahony1) April 30, 2017
It was an exceptional and welcome breath of fresh air that along the way exposed some of the unpleasant and usually unseen inner workings of the country’s biggest media organisation.
As a freelancer I’ve worked a lot across both Radio 1 and 2fm and I’d never heard the story.
I’m sure many of his colleagues in the famous Montrose radio building had, but going public on it in a widely read and respected national newspaper was unexpected.
I doubt many others would be so honest.
It wasn’t perfect, of course: his analysis of how 2fm should be overhauled by merely moving some of the DJs around – I wouldn’t be the first to use the ‘shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic’ analogy – was at best naïve.
That I was impressed by something that wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a warts and all piece shows how accustomed we’ve become to the numerous PR-filtered puff pieces on our favourite media luvvies that litter our news-and-features landscape.
I know because back in the day I gave more than my fair share of them, not one of which was even vaguely interrogative or challenging.
Writing this blog for nigh on three years now I’ve constantly been aware of the tightrope I walk every time I set out to shed a little light on some aspect of the my experiences in or thoughts on the all-pervasive media business.
One wrong comment or opinion and I might never work in this town again.
Which some people undoubtedly feel might not be such a bad thing.
The most obvious example was when I wrote about not being allowed by RTÉ to tweet anything partisan while working there during the marriage equality referendum.
— Pat O’Mahony (@patomahony1) May 4, 2015
That I waited to write it until after the referendum result was known is telling.
No names were named to protect the guilty as it’s entirely possible I’ll have to work with some of the feckers again.
But in truth nearly every article was fed through the freelancer-diplomacy filter as I wrote, as I constantly looked back over my shoulder to try to ensure that no one who might be in a position to determine if I worked anytime soon had any potential reason not to offer me that gig.
For instance, I’ve tried to be careful not to reveal too much of how certain organisations work, sometimes because I know they’d rather the opposition weren’t privy to such details, other times because I imagine if they actually knew what I thought of how they ran things they’d never have me back again.
Balancing that with writing a post that wasn’t entirely bland and meaningless wasn’t always easy but to date no one’s told me they’d have given me work except for something I wrote here.
Then again, they probably wouldn’t anyway.
And a few of these musings have been at least vaguely interesting and insightful, I hope.
There are of course other things I’ve been circumspect about here.
Any mentions of programme ideas I’ve had that aren’t totally dead in the water have been deliberately ambiguous and detail-free on the off chance that someone might someday commission them, no matter how unlikely.
Likewise I’ve never discussed the intricacies of funding these ideas; it’s hard enough to raise the necessary cash without telling you lot how to do it too.
Similarly sponsorship and advertising have been taboo subjects too as one is always wary of potentially upsetting the hands that feed.
There are undeniably other areas I’ve spinelessly steered clear of too, you’ll just have to work out for yourselves what they are.
Rest easy though, all will be revealed in my memoirs – if I ever get round to ’em.
Of course we all know that we have to play politics at work to succeed, whatever business we’re in, and that silence – and sometimes subservience, occasionally obsequiousness – is often golden if we want to climb the corporate ladder.
But what particularly grates about this undignified behaviour by us media folk is that we work in an industry that, at least in its public claims, prides itself on always telling us the truth.
Yeah, if only.
So next time you hear, see or read an interview with anyone – but especially with someone in the media – remember the balancing act that’s unquestionably going on below the surface as they furiously juggle their words to minimise any negative impact they might have on their career or business.
Which should make us appreciate ones like Ian’s all the more.
Though obviously you’ll all now read back through this post to see if you can figure out how prudent I’ve specifically been this time round.
C’mon, would I lie to you? Well yeah, probably. Kinda.