Is The Irish Times guilty of posting ‘online graffiti?’

Social share:


Is this ‘online graffiti?’


I make no apology for being one of the first journalists, if not the first to espouse Twitter as a method of disseminating news and information in Northern Ireland.

I continue to apply the same professional standards to what I post on Twitter and write on my website that I apply in my output on radio, television and in the written word over thirty years.

Stephen Collins of the Irish Times in his Saturday column (18.08.12) launched a blistering attack on Twitter and Social Media.

I wouldn’t have to be too imaginative to direct a corresponding hysterical onslaught against the traditional media.

Leveson was not brought into being as a result of abuses on Twitter. Neither were the many enquiries recently undertaken in RTE primarily fired by Twitter editorial blemishes (mindful however of the Frontline Twitter controversy during the presidential election campaign).

The Father Kevin Reynolds débâcle had nothing to do with Twitter or Facebook to my knowledge.

I should point out I am a huge admirer of both RTE output and the Irish Times as organs involved in the distribution of news and information.

‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ The purpose of this article is not to point the finger of blame but to bring some balance to what Stephen Collins articulated.

There can be no tolerance of ‘fake Twitter accounts,’ or the use of Twitter or Facebook to character assassinate (and have we not seen examples of that directed at senior politicians by politicians within the Irish State)?

How can anyone take seriously the following assertion by Mr Collins: ‘the mainstream media has given an entirely undeserved credibility to such outpourings by paying so much attention to what is essentially online graffiti, whether anonymous or not.’

I get a portion of my living from what Stephen Collins calls ‘online graffiti.’ Quite often a Twitter post by me of 140 characters triggers a BBC/TodayFM/Sky/RTE producer to invite me to appear on radio or television to develop my post.

Why? I am asked to opine or to flesh out what I have reported – because what I write is known to be consistently accurate and reliable whether I convey that in one page or in one sentence.

Is what I write on my Twitter file or on ‘online  graffiti?’

I flatly reject any such implication as a user of either Twitter or online services.

That is not to say users should be free to act recklessly. Policing the newspaper industry seems even more urgent against our recent experiences.

The same standards apply and should be upheld regardless of the media vehicle.

One final thought Stephen Collins. Do you view the above Irish Times Twitter postings as ‘online graffiti?’


Social share:

About Author

Avatar photo

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. Stephen Collins thinks Twitter is dangerous and untrustworthy. However as Eamonn suggests, it is a valuable and useful highway for disseminating news and information.
    Like every highway, some vehicles travelling on it are carrying valuable or useful cargo, some are going shopping, and some are just out for a drive. Some of course have idiots at the wheel; no surprises there.

    Social Media are constrained by a lack of space and time, so they can’t really accommodate much by way of reasoned analysis. If you can’t get your passing thought out there quickly, no one may notice it, and speed is the enemy of considered discourse.
    I notice they include a great deal of public attention seeking – but what’s wrong with that? That’s to be expected, and we must take it in our stride. That’s a feature of all conversation, some of which will inevitably be tendentious, or biased, or wrong, or even offensive rubbish, being our half-cooked and partly-digested reactions to things that interest us.

    Twitter is very constricted. You won’t fit much of your philosophy on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness into a Tweet. You have 140 characters, including spaces, to play with; little playroom indeed for much more than a headline.

    But it is, in reality, a vast public conversation, and Stephen Collins (and all those who are fascinated, or appalled, or enraged by it) should regard it and deal with it as such.

    To coin an aphorism, Tweets are the fertilising leaf litter on the forest floor of public opinion; that’s all, that’s sufficient, and that alone makes Twitter fit-for-purpose. It may indeed be replaced in time by something better; so what? They are in large part the public reaction, unlovely though many of them may be, to events and opinions presented by the media itself.

    Stephen Collins and his fellows must learn to live with them, for they are our thoughts, made visible to all.

    • Who could disagree with this thesis? Traditional Media tend to be territorial and protective. I want to be part of this revolution.

      • Stephen Collins might.
        I found the article querulous, its assumptions questionable and its arguments specious. Fear and Loathing in “D’Olier Street”? The Luddites reborn in the Times’s basement? Strange that a serious features writer in a serious paper that has totally re-invented itself in the past should write thus.
        I suppose all traditional structures fear and loathe change. But it’s said that “people who resist change are the architects of decay”; their own decay, that is. Many giants of the past resisted change and now are vanished.
        We still don’t know all that “Social Media” can do nor what their effects will be, and of course, where they’re headed will be limited only by human imagination.
        As a small example, here’s an article: “Here’s How Twitter Makes A Difference In The Real World” at which has itself an interesting link to an article entitled “Startup Idea: Twitter Job Board”.
        Someone who can at least glimpse where all this may be headed, what the possibilities might be, and how traditional media could benefit from it, would have written a better article. But maybe the Times has no-one like that on its payroll.

Leave A Reply