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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 thebright 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, joejoyce.ie/books/

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 www.videotraining.ie – 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 hello@videotraining.ie 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 www.rte.ie/radio1/sundaymiscellany.

Details of the RTÉ Short Story Competition in honour of Francis McManus are at www.rte.ie/radio1/francis-macmanus-short-story/

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: www.kenfoxe.com/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: www.gofundme.com/f/foi-beginner-guide

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 contribute@roguecollective.ie 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 roguecollective.ie

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 marymulvihillaward.ie or follow the Award on Twitter ‎@RememberingMary, Instagram www.instagram.com/marymulvihillassociation and on Facebook www.facebook.com/rememberingmarymulvihill/

Freelance Forum 11: Eileen Culloty, a post-doctoral researcher at FuJo, the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (fujomedia.eu) 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 atoner@harmonia.ie, and the magazine website is at www.womansway.ie

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 dublininquirer.com

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 facmagazine.com

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, ko-fi.com/ourmaninstockholm, 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 (irishtechnews.ie), 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 paulcarrollwriter.com

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 [tineye.com], Google Image Search [www.google.com/imghp], Pixsy [www.pixsy.com], the Wayback Machine [archive.org/web], and Editorial Photograpers UK & Ireland Group [www.epuk.org].

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 hello@rathdownmediainstitute.ie

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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Revue: Memento Mori

Not many people remember it, but there was a time when the only hipsters in Ireland were Pat Kenny and Larry Gogan
Back in the days before 2FM, even before there were pirate radio stations, Pat and Larry were the long haired hippie weirdos of national broadcasting.
So one day, Eamon de Valera died. President of Ireland, longest serving taoiseach in the history of the State, president of the First Dáil, 1916 veteran. Naturally, RTÉ went into full National Mourning mode. Solemn, sad music, announcers speaking in funereal tones, the works.
Around day four, Kenny and Gogan are going crazy. This carry-on is killing the ratings, it’s not like his death was unexpected, there has to be a bit of lightening up.
Eventully, they reach a compromise. They can play some more up-tempo Irish music, but instrumentals only.
Pat Kenny heads into studio for his next shift.
Picks up an album of Horslips instrumentals and lines up the first track.
While the clock is counting down he’s multitasking. Lines up his scripts for An Nuacht and News Headline segments. Second hand hits zero, he hits play.
The music is playing in his headphones so he knows the lights are green. He spends the next few minutes setting up for the hour. Routine preparations, he’s done it hundreds of times.
The first piece finishes, he lines up the second disc on the turntable, picks up the album cover.
“Failte romhat a chairde, this is Radio Teilifis Eireann. I’m Pat Kenny and I will be your host for the next hour, and that was our first piece this morning <*checks sleeve notes*> “The Snakes’ Farewell To The Emerald Isle“.

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Photo by Alfonso Castro on Unsplash

Revue: Apocalypse Now

The Four Horsemen, Revised Edition.

Death

Pestilence

Famine

War

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Revue: On Punditry

Revue is a newsletter app, and they recently hooked up with Twitter. I sent out this article on Friday 26 March.

Punditry: How I got it wrong

About five years ago, I found myself on a radio roundtable panel giving my opinion on the week’s events.

And I got it wrong. Spectacularly, undeniably wrong.

Donald Trump’s publicity stunt announcing he’s running for president isn’t going anywhere, I announced. Hell get bored in a few weeks, once the new season of The Apprentice starts and he has to go back to the day job.

A few months later, when he started winning primaries, I said it wouldn’t last. The novelty would wear off. Besides, the party will throw millions at the other candidates to find one to beat him. Bush, probably, but basically anyone who isn’t Donald.

When he got the nomination, I said he’d lose. You all know how that went.

But afterwards, I was never challenged or confronted about it. I was never invited back and asked why I got it so wrong.

And I don’t even mean in a gotcha or ambush sense.

I wasn’t the only one who got it wrong. And at no time (as far as I know) did any of the many mistaken panelists sit down and examine why we got it wrong.

For what it’s worth, I think we were victims of conventional thinking, faced with a very unconventional set of events.

And I think not holding those look-back discussions on where we went wrong was a mistake.

We would all benefit from looking over where we went wrong, and learning that we do ‘t always have a clear grasp of events.

And I think we all need to be more forgiving.

We’re in another unconventional time now.

There have been epidemics before. Asia has lived though several in the last decade. Gay men can tell you all about AIDS in the 80s, watching friends die before politicians cared. Africa has been dealing with Ebola for over a decade.

But there hasn’t been a truly worldwide pandemic in living memory, affecting the entire global population, unless you’ve lived long enough to have received a centenary birthday card from the president.

We’re going to make mistakes.

Some of them will be very foreseeable and avoidable.

But many of them will be because we operate in a bubble of assumptions at the best of times, and these are not the best of times.

So be kind.

Even to that useless gobshite on the telly.

He’s probably exhausted, frayed at the edges, and doing his best. We all are.

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Revue: Hello World

Revue is a newsletter app, and they recently hooked up with Twitter. I sent out this article on Friday 19 March.

The EU needs an EU wide shared news outlet. Something set up to overcome the language barriers between us, so that, for example, Irish people aren’t at the mercy of politicians defining how well or poorly we compare with Denmark, or Estonia, when it comes to vaccines or housing.

EuroNews tries, but suffers from the dullness of its origins. It feels like the corporate video HR shows new recruits during the autumn intake.

And Politico isn’t the answer either. For starters, it’s anglophone, not European. And it covers Brussels insider gossip, not Europe.

I’m not sure there’s an answer to this, at least not in the public sector. I can see a business case for an English (Lingua Franca) paper covering the 27 for elite business or political audiences, but I’m not sure there’s a commercial case for reporting for a wider audience.

Maybe the answer is cross border links between public broadcasters. Not sharing bland reports like EuroNews, but pooling content among themselves. We introduce the Spanish to Teresa Mannion storm reports, and in return we get to meet the Greek Charlie Bird. A real cultural exchange.

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Year Two

It’s been a year.

One year ago last week, I cancelled the Freelance Forum. At the time, the optimistic plan was to reorganise the same event later in the year.

It soon became clear that wasn’t going to work. Instead, we moved online as a series of podcasts. Fourteen episodes in the Spring, three more in the Autumn. Added to older recordings from live events over the years, it made for a useful archive from a decade of Forum events.

This year, the plan is to expand on that model, with a combination of podcasts and live webinars. On alternating Mondays, the plan is to host a live Webinar, or drop a new podcast.

If all goes well, the same structure will be used for a second series in the Autumn.

Outside of that, it has been a quiet year in lockdown. Book ideas remain half-formed and half-written, though I did put some work online.

So here we are, entering Year Two.

No major plans. No major announcements. Just a few ideas to keep working on in the hope some of them pan out.

But it feels like a moment that should be marked.

See you on the far side.

From Gaia to QNN

This Is QNN

QNN feels a little on the nose, so I doubt I’m the first to think of it. I’m sure there are people out there using it as a handy name for media platforms supplying Q-Anon-inspired Qonspiracy theorists with grist.

As an aside, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more about Gaia as the conspiracy Qovid conspiracies multiply. A pandemic is exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a sentient planetary goddess to come up with to innoculate herself against a species who were changing the climate, causing her to run a temperature.

Selling Out

But back to QNN. Working to build a new influencer base at my age isn’t really feasible.

The only way to make a go of it seems to be to cultivate the kind of  audience that follows people like Alex Jones.

George Hook or John Waters might be happy to head down that road, but I don’t think I could.

Not while keeping a straight face anyway. The mask would crack.

And if it didn’t, I don’t think I would be able to sleep at night.

I’m just not built to be McQook.

So I don’t think I’ll be reporting from QNN anytime soon.