Yesterday we described a two-year-old video made by Angela Power-Disney, in which she viciously slandered Irish Gardaí whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. Oddly enough, no sooner had we posted, than Angela put up another, even nastier video, in which she embroidered upon and embellished the false allegations she’d made two years ago. We won’t link that video here, as we don’t wish to give it any more credence than it deserves (and that would be in the negative numbers), but we do have a few thoughts about some of the lies she tells, and her excuses for telling them.
It all seems to boil down to Angela’s daft fantasy of herself as a journalist.
We do not think that word means what you think it means.
Close to the beginning of her video she says this:
Everything I say in this video will be without prejudice. It’s based on the journalistic principle and the Biblical principle which is much more important to me: out of the mouths of two or three witnesses, a thing is confirmed. So without prejudice I’m going to just confirm and clarify and reiterate what I know about Gardaí Sgt Maurice McCabe.
As several of our commenters yesterday pointed out, Angie has got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the term “without prejudice”. She states several times throughout the video that she’s speaking “without prejudice” as though this will fend off any legal repercussions which might ensue from her malicious allegations. It won’t. All it will do is make the courts roar with laughter.
“Without prejudice” has nothing to do with “I can slander you horribly and you can’t do anything about it”. The phrase is only used in the context of civil lawsuits, when parties are attempting to come to an agreement in good faith. “Without prejudice” simply means that what they are saying cannot be held against them, as it is part of the negotiation process. Trying to claim that it’s some sort of journalistic thing is just plain ludicrous.
Two or three sources?
As for the idea that a journalist may report something as fact if it’s confirmed by two or three sources, this is perhaps even more ridiculous than shouting “without prejudice” every five seconds.
Putting aside the fact that the “two or three witness” rule in Deuteronomy was intended to avoid people bearing false witness against one another in the days before courts of law existed, if a journalist were to report, for example, that the Flying Spaghetti Monster had been seen by three witnesses heading along the Thames River in an easterly direction, they would quickly find themselves a) laughed out of the newsroom, and b) unemployed. For yea I say unto thee, three witnesses meaneth piss all in journalism.
Yes, there is a rule of thumb in journalism that two sources are better than one. But that’s because journalists are supposed to seek sources who can accurately and reliably represent both sides of the story they’re working on. In fact, the corollary of “try to have at least two sources” is “and don’t show your face back here until you’ve talked to someone from each side of the argument”.
The care and feeding of sources
While we’re on the topic of sources, we note that Angela waffles back and forth between calling her alleged source a “source” and a “friend”. Real journalists don’t do this. Real journalists are extremely clear about the distinction between friend and source, because real journalists care about such things as “getting the real story” and “ensuring that they cannot be accused of conflict of interest”.
A real journalist, for example, would not attempt to convince their source that they ought to try to remain in the country in the event that they felt their life might be in danger. That would be none of the real journalist’s damn business.
Gossip, rumour, and hearsay
Oh yes, and on the topic of gossip:
My third corroborating source came from America, originally from Mountnugent, his mother was from Mountnugent, he corroborated that his mother had been telling him for two years that something terrible was going on, it was not just drug dealing and murders and coverups and alleged paedophilia, but there was also racketeering and money, er petrol-washing, all sorts of just horrible gangster behaviour going on. But this person, and his mother who was originally from Mountnugent, emigrated to America, partly because of being abused at boarding school and being too ashamed to disclose about it, absolutely corroborated that his mother had been telling him that for the past two years.
Another thing real journalists don’t do: they don’t rely on hearsay, rumour, or gossip. Real journalists understand that there is a vast gaping chasm between “some guy’s mother told him something” and “a witness who was there said they observed something”. The former is gossip-mongering, not journalism. #jussayin
One last thing about sources: a real journalist would rather go to prison than reveal the name or identifying details of a confidential source. Real journalists cultivate sources very carefully, and one of the things that they must offer in exchange for precious nuggets of information is the absolute assurance of complete confidentiality.
Actually, that’s not quite accurate: real journalists must disclose the name and position of their source to their news room supervisor, because the source’s compact of anonymity lies with the news agency itself, rather than the individual journalist. This is for the journalist’s protection, in case of a police investigation or lawsuit.
But never, ever, no not ever, would a real journalist casually announce where a source lived, what they did for a living, who their friends are (or were), or any identifying details whatsoever which might reveal the source’s identity. A real journalist would not, for example, state that their source just so happened to live next door to a house where a criminal act is alleged to have taken place.
A real journalist would know this.
Angie does not.
You may draw your own conclusions.