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Elephant in the Room

It’s weird how invisible the pandemic is in TV.
It’s there in the background, reduced crowd scenes, fewer extras, more outdoor action, but mostly unacknowledged.
I’m told that references to current events date a show very quickly, but I’m not sure that stands up. Compare to how pop culture dealt with the 2016 US election result.
There were Trump metaphors everywhere. Shows like Homeland which clearly expected a Clinton victory hit the brakes and went quickly into reverse. Superhero shows from Gotham to Supergirl introduced fascist or near-fascist villains. Supergirl pretty much compared him to Lex Luthor. Even Z Nation got in on the act.
Granted, not every attempt succeeded. Space Force couldn’t decide if it wanted to mock or admire Trump’s space cops. Doctor Who kinda took a potshot, but not really.
But at the other end of the spectrum, you had Watchmen, literally taking a shot at the Trumps.
In contrast, there’s been very little on the pandemic. I’m told Superstore and Gray’s Anatomy did stories. And I caught special episodes of Upstart Crow and Mythic Quest (the latter well worth catching), a handful of horror movies, that’s about it. It’s a very weird silence about a world-changing event.

Notes from 7.11.21

Wikipage suggestion: Notable stories removed from Google search.

Though as I understand it, it’s only when personal names are searched for that RTBF kicks in, so something like “€100k wedding cake” might still get a page hit?

The bigger issue here of course is the wisdom of allowing a private company like Alphabet/Google make these decisions, and not an impartial tribunal.


When you think you’ve finally found a podcast addressing the topic you’re interested in, but instead it’s just three American techbros laughing too loudly at their own jokes during an extended advert for their paywalled video series and book…

How It Works

Do not feed the trolls.

It’s hard, and infuriating, and frustrating, but in 25 years online the only tactic I’ve ever seen work effectively is Do Not Feed The Troll.
Do not feed them your time.
Do not feed them your emotion.
Do not feed them your attention.
Do not feed them your audience.

What The-?

Myles and Miles to go before I sleep.

This is how we have always done things

There’s a story in today’s Dublin Inquirer about delays in citizenship applications leading to legal action from applicants.

Here’s a quote: “A spokesperson for the Department of Justice didn’t say whether it considers policy reform based on the issues highlighted in cases it settles out of court. But they said it considers court judgments when drawing up policies.”
I doubt it. Here’s why.

Way back when the Tiger economy was still purring along, my wife applied for Irish citizenship. After filling out a very long and complicated form and supplying lots of required documentation, she got a reply, stating it would take a few years to process her application.

The letter went on to instruct her not to phone the department with any queries, as that would just push her application to the back of the queue again.

The following summer, I found myself at the Macgill summer school along with the minister for justice, and I mentioned this.
Michael McDowell, for it was he, raised his eyes to heaven and assured me that he’d heard several complaints about the curt letter, and he’d taken steps to ensure that it was no longer sent to applicants for citizenship.

Didn’t occur to him to tackle the two year delay though.

Fast forward a few years. It’s been a hectic time. The PDs no longer exist, NAMA has risen phoenix-life from the ashes of Anglo-Irish and is sowing the seeds of the next property crisis, Fine Gael are at historic levels of unbridled arrogance in government.

So one day, Alan Shatter, minister for Time Travel and Justice, announces that he had taken Decisions, and as a result, there is no longer a whopping great queue for citizenship applications, the backlog has been cleared. Kudos all round, at one of the rare bits of positive news during the austerity years.

Meanwhile, I’ve been arguing for a few years with FÁS and the Dept of Social Protection about the list of companies which have availed of the Jobbridge scheme. they’re claiming it’s commercially sensitive information, I say otherwise, I’ve supplied wodges of FOI precedents, etc.

By the time I finally hear that I’ve won the FOI appeal, they’ve even revamped citizenship with big swearing in ceremonies in the Aviva. Back in the day, you had to queue in the District Court on a Monday morning along with the lads up on charges from speeding to assault.

Anyway, I’ve got the database, I go looking for a story. And the first, obvious story to look for, is who is making the heaviest use of the Jobbridge scheme.
Step forward, Citizenship Section, Department of Justice, who hired 30 “interns” at once.

The problem, of course, is we built the citizenship unit of the civil service in 1930 or so, when the population was shrinking, not rising. We got the occasional application, but the workload required one guy, working a half-day every Tuesday.

In 2010, that was still the case.

By the way, I didn’t pick that example out of the air. The citizenship guy literally devoted half a day to it every Tuesday, and was assigned to other work the rest of the time. So he was overwhelmed, until they brought in 30 underpaid graduates to clear the backlog.

Now you’d think the lesson the civil service would take from this is that they need to assign more people to the citizenship section in the 21st century, but the story at the top of the thread suggests that no, they just hit a Reset button back to where they were in 1930.

Okay, maybe it’s more than one guy now, maybe not just a Tuesday morning shift, but the section is still understaffed.
But no, I don’t believe the anonymous department spokesperson who says they will “consider court judgments when drawing up policies”.

Justice at Dublin Castle. Image via sparkle-motion at Flickr.

Nano Nano – Day One


From the introduction by A O’Kelleher to the 1918 translation of the Betha Colaim Chille, Manus O’Donnell’s Life of Columcille:

Like many other mediaeval writers, O’Donnell thinks of the traditions which he has collected as a fragment of a once complete and perfect whole. “Be it known,” he says, “that this Life was lost a long while since.” The idea that some of the materials which he incorporates are of late growth does not seem to occur to him. He accounts for what he considers the paucity of the writings which remain as due to the destruction wrought by the Vikings.

The monomyth is a dangerous idea, the notion that if you scrape away the accretions, distortions and corruptions, you’ll find a true story underneath. The original legend, or saga, or god.

Except there isn’t a single story. Tales live, breathe, and evolve. Every story is canon, because the canon is all the stories.

Canon is a seductive and dangerous idea.

But there is no pristine narrative, which can be reclaimed by removing the imperfections and impurities. Story on top of story gives us new texts, constantly repaired, altered and remade.

And canon even includes the stories not yet told.

Writing Prompt

In 1953, Raymond Chandler parodied science-fiction, namedropping Google.

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction. It’s a scream. It is written like this: “I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.”

They pay brisk money for this crap?

So here’s a writing prompt: Create an epic series so that around Book 13 the above paragraph makes perfect sense.

Revue: Drapier Online

Social media is a strange creature. In some ways, we are back in the 17th century, trying to figure out which pamphleteers are worthwhile.

Blogs, in essence, are pamphlets. And bloggers are pamphleteers. AngryDude1966 is the new Drapier, or Thomas Paine. Which is fine. Trouble is, as the web grows more similar thanks to Google and Facebook “responsive” standards, a blog doesn’t look much different to the New York Times or Guardian with its use of sans fonts, clean design and white space.

The respected columnist is indistinguishable from the crank. And sometimes, the crank is the one under a hundred years old banner.

And with that thought, I take my leave. This will be the last Revue newsletter (though not the last update to this website). It’s been an interesting experiment. Thanks for following.

Revue: Soundings

Just under one year ago, on 4 May, I posted the first tracks of the Freelance Forum 2020 podcast series to Soundcloud. Over the past ten years, I’d made recordings of different sessions at Freelance Forum events, and later uploaded them, but it was a hapazard exercise. Some sessions were never recorded, some recordings failed due to technical glitches.

But 2020 was different.

Covid meant a gathering in a Dublin hotel wasn’t going to happen, but we decided in the Dublin Freelnace NUJ branch that the Forum would go ahead. The solution was a series of podcast interviews, recorded between April and October 2020.

In 2021, the podcast interviews and sessions were complemented by a series of live webinars. This allowed for an interaction between speakers and attendees, allowing question and answer feedback.

Just short of the one year mark since the launch of the podcast series, I thought it time to look back again. In total, 26 podcast episodes were recorded — 23 podcast interviews, and an additional three live webinars later placed online in edited form.

In addition, an archive of over 50 recordings from sessions recorded between 2011 and 2019 is also available.

Before 2020, the most downloaded recording was Karlin Lillington in Spring 2016: Journalism in the Surveillance Age.

The Freelance Forum 2020 Podcast Series began in earnest with an episode on mindfulness, upoaded on 4 May 2020.

Freelance Forum 1: Padraig O’Morain on Mindfulness

Freelance Forum 2: Connected editor Emmet Ryan from the Business Post on freelancing opportunities during the Covid lockdown, and the opportunities that will be available in the future.

Freelance Forum 3: Financial journalist Sinead Ryan on managing personal finances, including access to the Covid-19 emergency welfare payment, what to do about pensions and mortgages, and dealing with the tax man and third level fees.

Freelance Forum 4: Writer Joe Joyce discusses the differences between news reporting, journalism and writing fiction, why journalism can be a bad preparation for fiction writing, and how historical fiction is a good half-way point.

You can order Joe’s latest book, “1691: A Novel” through Kindle as an ebook on Amazon, or you can order the print edition from Amazon or from Joe’s own website,

Freelance Forum 5: NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley describes how journalists and news media organisations are dealing with the challenges of Covid, and talks about the NUJ proposal for a government commission on the future of journalism in Ireland.

Freelance Forum 6: Independent producer and media trainer Aileen O’Meara talks about organising your own podcast, whether it’s for profit, promotion or pleasure.

Details of her video training course – now online – called Mobile Video Made Easy – are available at – she’s also got her own YouTube channel.

Her soon to be launched podcast training for beginners will be live by the end of May.

if you are interested in finding out more, email Aileen at about a special offer on the pilot being launched after June 1st.

Aileen’s own podcast is called Clarence Street Stories – it’s on Spotify and wherever you find your podcasts.

Freelance Forum 7: RTÉ producer Sarah Binchy talks about Sunday Miscellany, the RTÉ Short Story competition, and breaking into broadcasting.

You can check out further details of Sunday Miscellany (and listen to recent editions) webpage at

Details of the RTÉ Short Story Competition in honour of Francis McManus are at

If you are interested in documentary making, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound+Vision Fund.

Freelance Forum 8: Journalist Ken Foxe talks about the freedom of information process as a way to uncover news stories. You can find out more at his FOI Guide:

The guide now includes contact addresses for all government departments, county councils and various other public bodies.

If you use the guide and find it helpful, you can support Ken in keeping it up to date:

Freelance Forum 9: Cassie Delaney talks about the Tall Tales podcast network and the Rogue Collective, an online news outlet with intelligent content for women, by women who value freedom of expression, broader representation, niche interests and celebrating individuality.

Contact the Rogue Collective at you will receive a link to a Google form. You can also contact them through @RogueCollectiv on Twitter and Instagram.

A monthly subscription to Rogue is only €4 at

Freelance Forum 10: Therese Caherty talks about science journalist Mary Mulvihill, and the Mary Mulvihill Award set up in her memory. Therese is co-chair of the association along with Mary’s sister, Noirin Mulvihill. The Mary Mulvihill Award 2020 was a first in every sense: youngest ever winner at 17, first male and based outside Dublin.

You can find out more about the award at or follow the Award on Twitter ‎@RememberingMary, Instagram and on Facebook

Freelance Forum 11: Eileen Culloty, a post-doctoral researcher at FuJo, the Institute for Future Media and Journalism ( at Dublin City university, working on a European project on how to counter disinformation. She talks to Freelance Forum about fake news — from rumour to propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation — and the strategies both journalists and the wider public can take to recognise and counter it.

Freelance Forum 12: Woman’s Way editor Áine Toner talks about her role editing the popular magazine, what kinds of article the magazine is looking for, and the best way to pitch. Áine can be reached at, and the magazine website is at

Freelance Forum 13: Dublin Inquirer editor Stephanie Costello talks about the innovative Dublin news website and newspaper, how they approach story beats, and plans for the future. You can find out more at

Freelance Forum 14: Conall Heussaff and Dylan Daniels talk about FAC Magazine, from editorial directions to innovative approaches to funding.

You can find out more at

Freelance Forum 15: Stockholm based Irish journalist Philip O’Connor talks about the challenges of reporting on the far-right in Sweden, and the lessons Irish journalists can learn as extremist voices grow louder in Ireland.

You can follow Philip by at his blog,, or at Twitter where his handle is @philipoconnor.

Freelance Forum 16: Financial journalist Sinead Ryan returned to talks about finances, taxation, the pandemic payments, and changes as a result of the October 2020 Budget announcements for 2021.

Freelance Forum 17: Producer Brigie de Courcey from RTE talks about scriptwriting for Fair City.

Freelance Forum 18: Freelance Forum 18: Philip Cooper from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland talks about the Sound+Vision Scheme.

Freelance Forum 19: Simon Cocking has been Chief Editor at Irish Tech News (, and a business mentor and advisor working with over 200 successful companies to date. He has been based in Ireland for over 25 years and has co-founded or founded seven successful companies.

Freelance Forum 20: Author Paul Carroll talks about writing fiction, marketing and promotion, self-publishing, and ebooks. Find out more about Paul’s work at

Freelance Forum 21: Photographer David Branigan talks about licensing and copyright.

David Branigan talks about licensing and copyright issues. David is a photographer journalist who specialises in marine and sailing subjects both in Ireland and overseas. His work appears regularly in Irish publications and news outlets in addition to projects such as books, calendars and stock photo services. He has been a member of the NUJ Dublin Freelance branch since 1992.

Sites mentioned by David in this podcast are Tin Eye [], Google Image Search [], Pixsy [], the Wayback Machine [], and Editorial Photograpers UK & Ireland Group [].

Freelance Forum 22: Freelance Forum 22: Eliot Higgins talks about Bellingcat, disinformation, and countering propaganda

Freelance Forum 23: Four young journalists from Gorm TV on diversity and inclusion. Mamobo Ogoro is a Social Psychology PhD candidate and the founder of Gorm Media. Funmi Jinadu is a journalist & PhD student at the University of Limerick. Sandrine Ndahiro is an English Ph.D student and aspiring documentary film maker. Ala Buisir is a visual artist/ journalist, born and raised in Ireland to migrant parents from Libya.

Freelance Forum 24: Spring 2021 Webinar 1, a panel discussion on ways to make money using online media. Featuring Gerard Cunningham, Martin McMahon (Tortoise Shack), Taryn de Vere (Quare media) and Dean Van Nguyen.

Freelance Forum 25: Want to make a podcast on a shoestring but don’t know where to start? Need to define your target audience and work out how to record remotely? Former RTE producer & media trainer Aileen O’Meara brings you her insights and knowledge to this interactive workshop. Bring your phone, your podcast idea and your brain along. By the end of this workshop you will have your Six Straightforward Steps to a Super Podcast. Ideal for freelancers with a yen to be heard.

Contact Aileen at

Freelance Forum 26: Melanie Boylan is a Social Media Trainer and Journalist based in Co Westmeath who has spent the last four years honing her methods for building her brand recognition. In her chat she outlines the tools and tactics that she’s integrated into her every day strategy. Check out STOMP Social Media Training.

It’s been quite a year for the Freelance Forum. So which was your favourite episode to date? Is there a speaker you would like to hear when the Autumn Series begins, or a topic you would like to see covered in the future?

Drop me a line and let me know.

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The volcanic eruption at Geldingadalur, Fagradalsfjall. Photo by Toby Elliott on Unsplash

Revue: Below The Fold

Two decades ago, a Downing Street spin doctor got into trouble for sending out a memo on September 11 for suggesting it might be “a good day to bury bad news”.

Since then, the media lens has become even more myopic, regularly monstering a single story for ratings, and ignoring everything else. As the news cycle burns through a story every three days of so, from revelation to reaction, counterpoint and resolution, it’s easy to get the impression of an out of control juggernaut.

And then there’s Covid.

For the last twelve months, the media focus has been weirdly fixated on a single story. Granted, it is a worldwide, all encompassing story, and it has many angles, including new research on how the disease spreads, debates over economic effects, vaccine development and distribution, graft and corruption, and conspiracy theories.

It has, paradoxically, been a good year to bury bad news.

And speaking of conspiracy theories, it’s not just burying bad news.

Stories get ignored, because in chasing the cheap heat of Covid ratings, other stories get pushed to inside pages, or links below the first screen.

So don’t forget to scroll down and see what else is going on.

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