The Newstalk journalist whose reporting brought a false story about teachers in Presentation College Carlow to national attention has completely removed all reference to the story from her twitter account.
Kacey O’Riordan, an IMRO-award winning reporter who works with Newstalk, Today FM, 98FM, and Spin 103.8FM, tweeted on Tuesday that “female students at a Carlow secondary school have been told by teachers not to wear tight fitting clothing to PE, as it is distracting for male staff”.
It is now known that this statement was completely false. Nonetheless, it received several thousand “retweets” and over ten thousand “likes” before it was finally deleted late on Thursday evening.
O’Riordan’s reporting was sourced to “a parent”, who, she said, told her that students were told “they should have more respect for themselves than to be showing off their bodies and they’re basically using their bodies to distract male teachers”. This, too, was false.
O’Riordan’s report set of a chain of sensational reports in the media, and led to teachers in Presentation College being denounced on the internet as paedophiles.
Prominent journalist Jill Kerby, for example, said that she would demand the removal of male teachers from the school:
There were hundreds of tweets like this one, denouncing teachers in the school as paedophiles:
And is it just the PE teachers who are paedos, or is it all the male staff?
— Mrs Trellis 🏴 (@MrsTrellis4) November 24, 2020
It was all based on a lie.
As we reported here yesterday on Gript, what had actually happened was that a single group of students had been told that staff in the school were being driven to distraction by constantly having to enforce the uniform code.
Through an apparent series of Chinese whispers, this was twisted into the story that Ms. O’Riordan ran on Tuesday, and which went viral nationally, and internationally.
A teacher at the School told Gript that the story had been “devastating” for staff:
This is a small community, and the fact that the PE teachers were named in the facebook post as having dirty thoughts about young girls is devastating for them, and for their colleagues”, the teacher said.
“The problem is that the suspicion doesn’t go away. The lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets its laces tied”.
This should, of course, go down in history as one of the worst weeks in the history of the Irish media. A story that was a fabrication from start to finish, which led to innocent men being denounced as paedophiles on social media platforms across the country, and on the basis of second hand, hearsay, sources.
It resulted in this school being denounced in American Newspapers, as well as Irish ones. And it was never properly verified, or, to use a phrase from our friends at the Journal, “fact checked”.
How does this happen?
The simple answer is that it happens because of deep-seated ideological bias.
Most journalists inherently believe that Irish society is sexist and misogynist. Most of them inherently believe that middle aged white men are to be treated with suspicion.
And so when a story comes along about middle aged white men behaving in an outrageously sexist and misogynist way, the automatic scepticism that journalists are supposed to have goes right out the window. It fits their worldview, and therefore they assume it must be true.
And not only do they assume it must be true, but they feel a social obligation to denounce those involved as prominently and as loudly as possible.
And that’s how a story that was never true lands on the front pages.
It’s been a black week for Irish journalism.