Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Silence on North Great Georges Street
All weekend a nation has been gripped by the saga that has been the Norris campaign. Bit by bit we were drip fed snippets of information. Saturday View suggested the existance of a letter supposedly written by Norris on Seanad notepaper. The Sunday papers not only proved the letter to be true but just how damaging it was going to be to his campaign. Supporters of Norris began to leave his side one by one. What is normally a quiet weekend from a news perspective was suddenly boosted by a fascinating rolling story. Opinion pages in newspapers were full of contrasting viewpoints. Twitter was hopping and bloggers were fighting their way to getting a slice of the Norris controversy.
So we get to today. The morning news shows were building up the fact that three of the senators and TD's already signed up to back him had now pulled their support. We then heard during the 1 o'clock news that the man himself was finally to give a press conference on the doorstep of his north Dublin Georgian home at 3pm.
This was significant. Throughout the past five days the one person who should have spoken publicly had gone to ground. Norris was never someone who was shy at coming forward but this time it was different. Terry Prone was heard yesterday suggesting that he should refrain from saying anything until such time as he had exactly what he wanted to say totally clear. In other words, Norris had made enought blunders recently when dealing with the last controvesy.
Prone, the wonderwoman of PR and media training, was actually suggesting that in this case it was better for the man stay out of the Spotlight. I read it as being a case of Norris finding himself in a situation that required careful consideration. Norris was a defeated man and his silence was ominous.
I spent this afternoon keenly waiting for the press conference. Something in me wanted him to say he was going to continue. It would have given legs to this fascinating news story and would really have raised a few questions about the selection process. However a rather lacklustre performance in the latest of Liveline's infamous polls could well have sealed the deal. Just as Joe Duffy came off air Mr Norris arrived by car to face the large crowds that had gathered outside his home.
And just then as the man who had been silent for far too long finally spoke, our national broadcaster and the other stations decided to go into silent mode. As planned the press conference took place bang on 3pm just as all hourly news bulletins went on air. RTE covered the fact that he was about to speak. Newstalk did the same (I was listening to both) but no one was covering it live. RTE Live had blamed it on a communications error. Somehow I can't believe that no journalist on site had a mic that could go live. A source close to another news programme admitted that despite having a very good technical team, the actual production team were very slow at getting live feeds on air.
I had to tune into Twitter to get almost constant images of the man speaking to the media, snippets of his speech were posted and finally at about 6 minutes past 3, after the sports bulletin, Sean Moncrieff went live to his man on the ground who proceeded to read out extracts of Norris's speech as Norris himself continued to speak to the media yards away. Another member of the team handed him updates which the reporter would then read out. Had he just walked over to the press gathering, held up his mic and allowed us to hear it live Newstalk would have had the honour of beating RTE to a live news scoop. But no. It was not to be.
It was not until 3.15 that RTE got to broadcasting anything at all from North Great Georges St. After talking to Brenda Power about the important role she has in Celebrity Banisteoir, Derek Mooney decided it was now time to go over to Philip Boucher Hayes 'live'. At this stage Norris had finished speaking for over 5 minutes. I had got all I needed to know from Newstalk. The Twitterati were going nuts about the lack of any live coverage of this major breaking on TV, the web or radio.
A story where all the criticism was of Norris's failure to put the public and the media straight as to what was happening ended with a media blackout of his farewell speech. After being let down by Norris over the past 5 days I was finally let down by a lazy and incompetent media.