All who work in Newstalk sub­ject of out­ra­geously un­fair at­tack

Fin­tan O’Toole chose to ig­nore the women em­ployed by the sta­tion and their im­pact on the daily out­put

The Irish Times - - Home News - Pa­tri­cia Mon­a­han Newstalk man­ag­ing edi­tor

I am writ­ing on be­half of Newstalk, its man­age­ment team led by me, and its staff, in re­sponse to Fin­tan O’Toole’s ar­ti­cle of Septem­ber 12th. In his col­umn in this news­pa­per, he stated Newstalk “has be­come the most fla­grantly sex­ist pub­lic or­gan­i­sa­tion in Ire­land” and that its op­er­a­tion is “stag­ger­ingly and sys­tem­at­i­cally sex­ist”.

The ar­ti­cle was an out­ra­geously un­fair at­tack on all of us who work in Newstalk. It was a bi­ased and dis­torted rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the “op­er­a­tion” that is Newstalk and its hard-work­ing and dili­gent em­ploy­ees. It rep­re­sented the nas­ti­ness that has emerged in Ir­ish jour­nal­ism.

O’Toole chose to ig­nore sev­eral salient facts, most im­por­tantly the num­ber of women em­ployed by the sta­tion and their im­pact on the daily out­put. Would it not have been worth men­tion­ing that I as a woman, am Newstalk’s man­ag­ing edi­tor, that the chair­per­son of our group is a woman, or that our head of news is a woman? At Newstalk, the ma­jor­ity of our pro­duc­tion staff are women. As edi­tor, I am the fi­nal de­ci­sion­maker on all ed­i­to­rial mat­ters and have re­spon­si­bil­ity for con­tent pro­duced by the sta­tion across all plat­forms. But my work ap­par­ently de­serves no recog­ni­tion be­cause I am not a pre­sen­ter. Do I not qual­ify as fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion be­cause my voice is not heard on-air?

To me that premise is in­sult­ing. It is in­sult­ing to me and all my col­leagues at the sta­tion who work tire­lessly day-in and day-out to pro­duce qual­ity ra­dio for our grow­ing lis­ten­er­ship.

Does O’Toole re­ally be­lieve that none of th­ese women count or that their hard work for Newstalk has no value? Does he con­clude that we are all party to a con­certed ef­fort by the sta­tion to “keep women pre­sen­ters off the air­waves” and that I as the prin­ci­pal ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sion­maker proac­tively re­struc­tured the sched­ule to do just that in a “highly con­scious” man­ner? The is­sue of gen­der played no part in any of the sched­ul­ing de­ci­sions men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle and any sug­ges­tion oth­er­wise is frankly ridicu­lous. Co­lette Fitz­patrick, for ex­am­ple, re­signed from her po­si­tion at the sta­tion, a move I can hardly be ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing in an ef­fort to keep fe­male pre­sen­ters off the air.

Strat­egy

And it is not only the fe­male mem­bers of staff that O’Toole ap­pears to be­lieve are com­plicit in this strat­egy. He sin­gles out mem­bers of the Newstalk team, Vin­cent Wall, Paul Wil­liams, Shane Cole­man and Alan Quin­lan as part of this “boys’ club . . . full of piss and vine­gar” as if they were misog­y­nists only de­serv­ing of con­tempt with­out re­gard for their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal rep­u­ta­tions. Such a state­ment is as ig­no­rant as it is in­sult­ing.

Our vi­sion has al­ways been to pro­mote and nur­ture young voices and there are many ex­am­ples across the sched­ule of women we have nur­tured from early in their ca­reers. There are also many young women mak­ing waves in the me­dia in­dus­try who started their ca­reers in Newstalk and have moved on to op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where, eg Sa­man­tha Barry, CNN; Laura Whit­more, MTV/ITV; Ciara Rior­dan, BBC; Ciara Do­herty, TV3; Ca­tri­ona Perry, RTÉ.

Au­di­ence share

As a com­mer­cial sta­tion in Newstalk we fight for au­di­ence share in ev­ery quar­ter hour of ev­ery day, as if our lives de­pend on it. And the truth is, our liveli­hoods do. That is the com­mer­cial re­al­ity of our busi­ness. Al­most ¤40 mil­lion has been in­vested in Newstalk in a me­dia land­scape where the State-owned broad­caster is given the lion’s share of the ¤330 mil­lion col­lected in tele­vi­sion li­cence fees. We don’t have the lux­ury of hir­ing men or women be­cause it is the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect thing to do. We make de­ci­sions that make sense for the busi­ness.

Fi­nally, O’Toole con­cludes that Newstalk man­age­ment and staff are com­plicit in Ge­orge Hook’s com­ments about rape on Fri­day of last week. Newstalk does not con­done Hook’s com­ments and nor do its man­age­ment or staff. I apol­o­gised on be­half of the sta­tion for the com­ments promptly and em­phat­i­cally last Satur­day morn­ing, Hook has been sus­pended and a full in­ter­nal review is cur­rently un­der way. We are deal­ing with the is­sue in the most se­ri­ous of terms with the ap­pro­pri­ate duty of care to all in­volved as we be­lieve it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so. To sug­gest that the out­come of that process will be pre­de­ter­mined by some in­nate sex­ism on the part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion is a dis­grace.

O’Toole’s ar­ti­cle was an out­ra­geous at­tack on a pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tion.

One is only left to won­der why he never both­ered to tell any­one at Newstalk how “fla­grantly . . . and sys­tem­at­i­cally sex­ist” the sta­tion was on any of his vis­its to our stu­dios.

‘‘

He sin­gles out mem­bers of the team as if they were misog­y­nists only de­serv­ing of con­tempt with­out re­gard for their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal rep­u­ta­tions

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