TV3 and Brian Lenihan: Rights and Wrongs

TV3 were right to report that finance minister Brian Lenihan had been diagnosed with cancer.

Unfortunately, just about every other decision they made in covering the story was wrong.

What TV3 gave us was Ursula Halligan, seemingly ill-prepared, at one point stumbling over tenses (“Brian Lenihan was, um, is…”) and saying not very much after the first sentence.

TV3 then spoke to a doctor who said a lot about cancer and not much about Brian Lenihan.

The report closed with what mounted to a political, if not an actual obituary.

Online, a consensus quickly emerged that TV3 should not have run the story. Major newspapers took the same line the following morning.

John McGuirk got it right when he argued that the news should be reported, given Lenihan’s position.

But he admits he didn’t see the report himself, and could not know it did not address the effect on government stability, the price of Irish bonds, or banking shares, to name just three issues.

Instead we got this:

Interviewer: ‘Is it too early to talk about political consequences?’
Halligan: ‘Yes it is…’

Wrong. Political consequences were the only reason to broadcast the story. Instead, we got morbid curiosity.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. when was said “was…. is” she was talking about his political position not him.

    the whole piece was done on the basis that he was going to have to retire although we read the times he already told cowen he continue in the job

  2. @Steve Maybe that was what she meant to say, but as I wrote above, she seemed unprepared, and it wasn’t how it came across. It was a poor choice of words, to say the least.

  3. Poor fella. My heart goes out to Brian and his family. I pray he makes a speedy and pain-free recovery. I just want Fianna Fail out of power. I don’t want Fianna Failers to suffer.

    Well, we’re all going to die someday. We have no say over the manner we are going to depart this life.

  4. I cannot bring myself to agree that the story was justified, in any way whatsoever. If Brian Lenihan’s position of finance minister means he’s required to disclose his health problems to the public, doens’t it follow that all Irish citizens are required to disclose such details to their employer? As far as I can tell, TV3 would only have been right to report the story if Lenihan’s health affected his ability to do his job, and I really don’t think we’re there yet.

  5. I think TV3’s greatest mistake was their timing. What was the need to report such a sensitive story on New Year’s Eve. It was not (then) in the public good, although I do agree that the political consequences deserve discussion in the coming week. There was no need or justification to disturb the man’s Christmas with such a public airing of a hugely private matter. They ran a rumour motivated by a self-centered and narrow desire to be first. I can’t respect or agree with that.

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