Wednesday, July 27, 2016


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It was him what started it - Felix M Larkin - former public servant and now a historian of renown and writer of letters to the Irish Times (of which paper more later).

Well you can read it above for yourself. A test where only a true grammar nerd could get over 80% and Felix creamed it. Now I know he's good, but is he really that good?

My grammar's generally OK bar the absolute refusal to distinguish between the use of "shall" and "will" and a few other odd Hiberno English "lapses". Should I take the test and put my sanity on the hazard? What if I fail completely?

Then Vivion Mulcahy got 100%. But he's a nerd too, so what to do?

Finally the temptation became too much, so off to the test I went. I creamed it and got 100%. It was only then that I realised Felix had nicked the test's own header in his tweet and clearly put it forward tongue in cheek.

So I made a derogatory comment about the test, and a reply was not long coming.

Standards were not just slipping, they were plunging.

Then I read a depressing piece from Kevin Rafter in the Irish Times. The journalist demographic was hollowing out in the middle age ranges: at the top end we were left with a clatter of old lags whose anecdotage was one long context; and at the bottom end a clutch of young "journalism" graduates who had no context at all beyond being a qualified "journalist". No middle and no contextualising at all.

Then today I hit two striking examples.

The Irish Times (paper of record?) was reporting on a sculpture of Francis Ledwidge by Rory Breslin which was being unveiled by Martin McGuinness in Richmond Barracks where Ledwidge had served. And what was the accompanying illustration. An old stock photo of Francis Ledwidge. Where was Rory's work what it was all supposed to be about?

Then the Irish Times reported on the visit to Dublin (Sir John Rogerson's Quay) of the Argentinian frigate Libertad and great play was made of our connection with the Argentinian navy through Mayo born Admiral Brown who founded it. And what was the accompanying visual. There were two, actually. The first was a bockety picture of the ship at dock on the quay and the second a picture of the captain in his cabin with a portrait of Admiral Brown on the wall.

Meanwhile, within sight of the Libertad on Sir John Rogerson's quay stood a magnificent statue of Admiral Brown himself (below), which was completely ignored in both the visuals and the report.

Some contextualisation.

To be fair to the younger journalists it is difficult to see how they can be expected to replicate the contextualisation of their departed elder colleagues when you consider the conditions under which many of them work as set out in this article by Ciarán D'Arcy.

And, if you've now used up your weekly quota of free online pages from the Irish Times, don't blame me. So did I. And anyway be consoled when you think of what you're not missing.

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