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Our Man In Stockholm
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Our Man In Stockholm

Author: Philip O Connor

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On media, journalism and the world around us.
68 Episodes
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Guitar player Dave Browne is the greatest Irish musician you may never have heard of - despite the fact that he holds three Guinness world records and plays to countless thousands of people every year.  Born in Dublin and raised in Cuffe Street, the lightning-fingered Dub played all 50 American states in under 40 days together with singer and songwriter Dave Rooney, and a brilliant documentary about their escapade called "This Is My Home" will soon be hitting a screen near you.  I caught up with Dave in his local casino to talk about life and how he became one of the hardest-working musicians on the Las Vegas strip. 
New Year, New Beginnings

New Year, New Beginnings

2020-01-1600:19:42

An update from somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with some thoughts on the passing of a mentor and an idea about how to change the Patreon model. 
"Russian interference" is a new thing for many democracies, but since independence the Finns have worried about other countries spreading disinformation and trying to manipulate their political system.  I spoke to Mikko Salo of Faktabaari about how the Finns are tackling the problem of "fake news" with fact-checking and education - whisper it, but their approach seems to be working... 
There are many routes into journalism and not all of them go via formal training - Seán Sheehan (aka The Pod God, aka Seánie Podcast) has become one of the most respected and high-profile Irish sports podcasters through his passionate love of sport (especially MMA) and his unique ability to cause a row in an empty house.  A trained mathematician and economist, Seán is also working good numbers on the Patreon platform to keep the lights on at Severe MMA, so we spoke about passion, sport and trying to make money in journalism as we looked back at 2019.  
Despite seemingly overwhelming evidence of their avarice and incompetence, the British voters have given the Conservative party an overall majority following their general election. Reflections on an election where feelings were far more important than facts. 
NBA player Kyrie Irving caused a stir last week when he reacted to criticism from Boston fans over his off-season move to Brooklyn on Instagram. He might make millions of dollars a year playing a game, but that doesn't make him - or anyone else - immune from harsh words.  I talked to ex-basketball pro-turned-sports journalist John Karalis about living in that bubble, the responsibilities we have when it comes to critiquing performances, and how much criticism we ourselves must be prepared to take for our work. 
As the man behind the riffs on some of ABBA's most iconic hits, there is barely a person on the face of the earth who hasn't heard Janne Schaffer play guitar - but there's a whole lot more to the Stockholm fret king than just the pop songs loved by billions.  Almost five decades into a career that has seen him share a stage with everyone form Cliff Richard to Pink Floyd, the 74-year-old's passion for music and performing still burns as brightly as ever. We met in Stockholm where we talked about becoming one of Sweden's best-known and best-loved musicians, working with troubled geniuses like Ted Gärdestad and Cornelis Vreeswijk, and the moment he realised that ABBA were going to take over the world. 
Every journalist with a byeline has been abused and threatened online, but few have come face to face with their abusers.  Sami Koivisto, a Finnish journalist with public service broadcaster YLE, has had more than his fair share of death threats that inspired fear in him and those close to him, but when police offered him the chance to meet one of those who had posted threatening messages, he took it.  This is what happened when he faced down the troll that wished his family dead. 
Is Free Speech Racist?

Is Free Speech Racist?

2019-11-1100:41:28

Every day, your newspapers and airwaves are full of angry contrarian commentators, all shouting over one another about how they are being silenced, but of course, "you can't say that in this country any more".  This is not unique to Ireland or England or Sweden; those demanding an "open and honest" debate (and who usually deliver anything but) are part of a broader movement using similar tactics to try to present their ideas without having them scrutinised or questioned.  Academic Gavan Titley joins me to talk about his upcoming book "Is Free Speech Racist?", which examines how this came to be, the forces driving it and what attempts to create a new crisis of free speech mean for the public discourse. 
Until the recent release of a private recording of hime being racist, anti-Semitic and generally losing his shit, Richard Spencer was the acceptable face of neo-Nazism. Newspapers wrote puff pieces, TV stations gave him a platform, all oblivious to the fact that he is one of Hitler's heirs apparent.  So what can journalists and editors do to avoid this happening again? One is to verify that people are who they say they are, and the other is to stop assuming that the people you are interviewing are acting in good faith when all the evidence points to the contrary.
While all journalism follows the same basic principles, court reporting is something of a special case - it requires sharp skills, an analytical mind and not least a working knowledge of the law and how it relates to your work as a reporter.  Sarah-Jane Murphy is one of Ireland's most skilled court reporters, and that should come as no surprise - a qualified solicitor with eight years of experience, she has a Master's in journalism from DCU and has covered some of the biggest trials in the country in the last number of years.  We talked about the practicalities of the job, the skills needed and what changes might need to be made to the law to ensure that justice can be seen to be done. 
Understanding Sourcing

Understanding Sourcing

2019-10-2300:22:31

When is it OK to use anonymous sources? Can they be trusted? And can we as journalists be trusted to make that call? When it comes to establishing who said what to whom, modern journalism has become the Wild West. Keen to preserve their contacts, journalists are granting anonymity to sources that don't truly deserve it.  The result is, at best, partisan reporting of certain issues in politics, sport and business - at worst, downright lies.  So how should sourcing work? Who deserves anonymity and who doesn't? And how do we tell the difference?  This podcast covers some of the things we all need to think about when evaluating the use and credibility of anonymous sources. 
Jo Kamenou describes herself as "one of the lads" at Bleacher Report Football - a woman in the previously male-dominated environment of sports journalism.  Forget the fact that fast-moving newsrooms are difficult enough places at the best of times. Even if things have improved in recent years, it's a tricky path to follow. Men often don't take kindly to women who know more about football or sport than them, but they're going to have to get used to it... We talked about how the most boring team in international football inspired her, what it's like to have a start-up culture in the newsroom and how she sees a future for herself - and many other women - behind a microphone. 
On the road again so this week's pod covers some issues that have cropped up recently in the media sphere - how very few people now writing about Greta Thunberg have any idea what they are talking about, what it's like to spend hours in the cold for a 12-minute video of a world news event, and why journalists have a responsibility to people they put in the spotlight. 
During a two-day seminar at the Auschwitz Museum I spoke to journalists and museum staff about the challenges of  telling the story of the Holocaust, 75 years after the camp, where over a million died in an industrial murder operation that was the epicentre of the effort to exterminate the entire Jewish people, was liberated.  It is a desperate, awful bleak place at times, but a look around the word tells us that little has changed - devious men still use the spectre of "the other" to grow and consolidate their power, just as Hitler did.  I asked a variety of journalists about their work, and why they felt they had to go to Auschwitz. There is also a recording of a seminar with press officer Pawel Sawicki about the media and how Auschwitz is portrayed, and what they do to keep their reputation intact and their story relevant.  One of the greatest books about the Holocaust is entitled "Hope Dies Last",  and that is what I left Auschwitz and Poland with - hope.  We can overcome the hatred that created this place, but it is an ongoing process, sometimes of education, sometimes a battle, but always with compassion.  If my constant posting and tweeting and writing about this subject over the last few days has upset or offended you that's fair enough, but I'm not one bit sorry.  The alternative is being silent, and I have seen where that leads.  I cannot and will not be part of it.
On this day 18 years ago we watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed live on television - and with them went many of the checks and balances of objective journalism. That parking of journalistic principles has paved the way for the events we say happening today around the world. This podcast features reflections on that day and what has changed since, and what to be aware of when consuming media following the resetting of our historical clock to 9/11/2001. 
Gaute Boertad Sjaervoe was 16 years old when he saw two of his friends murdered by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011. Trapped on an island 40 kilometres outside of Oslo, he ran, but had several more brushes with the gunman who went on to kill 67 more people that day, the vast majority of them teenagers like Gaute.  He survived as Norway promised more love and more democracy as an antidote to the hatred of Breivik, but instead of being repulsed by him, the rhetoric of the murderer is now in common use in Norwegian politics.  Undaunted by his traumatic experience, Gaute is still very much involved in the youth wing of the Labour party, and on a late summer afternoon in Trondheim he told me the story of what happened that day - and what has happened to Norway since. 
Over the last 17 years I have gotten married, had a family and built a career in media for myself - all that time, Dawit Isak has been sitting in a cell in Eritrea in the most appalling conditions, imprisoned without trial for his journalism.  I spoke to journalist and author Martin Schibbye - who was himself shot, arrested and spent 438 days in the Kality prison in Ethiopia while trying to report there - about his new book "The Search For Dawit Isak" and what the future holds for freedom of speech in a part of the world that is struggling to find peace. 
Whether we like it or not, social media is now an inherent part of the wider media, and journalists, editors and consumers need to understand the role it plays in disseminating news and information.  But there is also a deeply personal element to how we interact online, so I spoke to academic Ciarán McMahon about his new book "The Psychology Of Social Media" to tease out some of the strands of social networking, how we present and perceive ourselves there and where all this is leading us in the 21st century. 
As a child Zainab Boladale would pretend to read the news by grabbing a paper and making things up based on the pictures she saw, and ever since she has wanted to be a journalist.  She made her way from Co. Clare on Ireland's west coast through one of the country's best journalism programs and on into the hallowed halls of public service broadcaster RTE where she has been a huge success - but as a woman of colour from a not-exactly-privileged background, it hasn't always been easy.  She told me about her route to the top, and where she's headed next. 
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