Jean Cahill of DIT confirms: Eating burgers helps brain

RTÉ News yesterday covered a pretty scary story about DIT conducting product research with children on behalf of companies such as Glanbia; this research involved getting children as young as 8 to taste and rate products such as crisps, cheese an burgers.

The initial scandal is that schools are allowing this, the other side is that parents are not made aware of it, finally the fact that DIT, Glanbia and Robert Roberts and the schools themselves seem to miss the fact that a roomful of pupils are not there to profit from, they are there to teach.

Jean Cahill, Head of Innovation at DIT spoke to RTÉ News yesterday, made some bizarre points and showed the world how to make yourself as patronisingly ignorant as possible on national television:

Jean Cahill (DIT): They are there under the supervision of their teachers and under the supervision of their…
Emma O’Kelly (RTÉ): But they come to school to learn and they haven’t come to school to take part in market research.
JC: Absolutely and it’s a great, it’s an absolutely, it’s a great learning opportunity in one sense for them as well…
EO’K: To test food for commercial companies?
JC: Yeah. To find, to generate an opinion from the children, ye know, to get an opinion of these foods from the children.

Note how she says that it is a great learning opportunity for children because it “generates an opinion of these foods from the children”; I may be missing something but that sounds awfully like a great learning opportunity for no one but Glanbia and co.
Watch the video here (realplayer beware!) if you can, it’s worth it. The Jean Cahill interview is about 1 minute in and is better on video than it ever could be on paper.

Sunday Independent to face legal action

Blurred Keys has the full story but this comes as little surprise. The Sunday Independent and all others involved have managed to avoid legal action under the rule that you can’t libel a dead person but thankfully their dangerous lack of research will come under some scrutiny.

Read Cian’s piece here; Irish Times article here.

Looking at the world as a journalist

While studying in Coláiste Dhúlaigh one comcept was repeated to the class on numerous occasions; you encounter stories on a day to day basis, it’s just a matter of spotting and them developing them. For me it was easy to be cynical about this idea; unless you live an amazing life or have direct contact to some world leaders the only news-worthy incidents that you happen across are the ones you read in the paper.

Once I began to make a concerted effort to get published, however, I began to see the truth in it. Things like the internet have made it harder, in my opinion, for journalists aspiring to write news. If there’s a news story worth covering you can be sure that every newspaper is on the case, there’s little chance of you or I finding something really worthwhile for tomorrow’s editions. With that in mind the internet has played a vital role in my progression in print. My first two stories were both directly related to the internet; the first being about and the second being about digital downloads (a story I spotted on the Pearl Jam website). Besides this, as I was situated in Wolverhampton for some time the internet took on another vital role; communication. Not just e-mail but VoIP too; without it it would have been impossible for me to properly research topics and interview the relevant people (at least not without a huge cost).

While it is the case that original news stories can be hard to find when you’re operating outside an outlets core that doesn’t mean that the potential for stories is non-existant. The internet is so vast that you might, as I did, catch a few topics that has been missed, you can also make inquiries about certain things in the hope of finding a story (like I did with the Irish charts piece). Finally you can take something that is already news and put a new spin on it, when something happens you can find out what that means for certain people, what changes will come about as a result of it and who will be effected. If you read a story one day that Intel were investing €4 million into its Irish operations you could follow up with another story on where exactly that money is going (new jobs, bigger facility etc.).

I personally am still working on what is called a “news sense”, gradually I’m seeing more and more potential in topics that I would have overlooked before. It helps to have a specific topic or category of interest too, rather than just wandering randomly until something hits you. If you know what you’re looking for you can also figure who to talk to and pester. Piaras has been kind enough to throw a bucket load of ideas my way and some of his suggestions, while helpful in their own right have also encouraged me to open my eyes even wider when I browse the internet or read the newspaper. There really is a wealth of information sitting there and it’s just a matter of finding it and making it relevant, new or important.

My news sense is improving as time goes by and with that I’m hoping to ramp up my workload and really get a regular flow going; this is something I’m aiming for over the next month or two.
One issue that has always worried me about this is the morals of it, though. Once you start looking at the world as a story you run the risk seperating yourself from it. God forbid there comes a day when a loved one tells you of their trials and tribulations and all you have to say in response is “that would make a brilliant feature”. Ensuring that you aren’t missing important issues while at the same time ensuring you’re still a human is probably the most important balance to make; any growth in your news sense has to be coupled by a growth in your common sense too otherwise you’ll end up in a very dark place.

Politicians taking the net seriously?

The Sunday Times has a piece on the hiring of Zach Exley by Labour; Mulley gives a good breakdown of the news along with some reaction by the bigger players in the political wing of the Irish blogosphere.

With websites like gaining momentum it was always the case that blogging would have some effect on the 2007 General election, however until now it was looking like it would be external rather than internal. This move opens the doors for a more progressive outlook on the internet and blogging within Irish politics and Labour are sure to see this move as one part of their upcoming election campaign, even if it is only a small factor in it.

I think it would be too much to put the importance of blogs here on a par with those in the USA back in 2004 but with the Conservative party in England likely to invite bloggers to their party conference next year it wouldn’t be too much to assume Labour will do the same.

The questions now arise; will other parties respond or wait and see, do Labour honestly see potential for political progress or is it just lip service to secure votes and even with the attention of the political elites can bloggers rise to the occasion and make a difference?

New look site

I’ve been quite quiet over the past few days on the blogging-front despite having numerous topics to discuss however that should all change now that my site update is complete (as you can see… hopefully).
It’s almost a year since I registered the domain and hosting and frankly all the action that took place on the site happened here in the blog, that’s why this new design was so badly needed.

So welcome to the unceremonial (and early morning) launch of the new site!!!
While the blog was originally one of five arms of the site (along with news, published, design and CV) it quickly proved itself to be the heart; updating the other sections was easy to forget over blogging and it was also much more like hard work.
Anyway, now the blog is the main page; visitors coming from will come straight here via a redirect (and that means that people using RSS feeds or going straight to my /blog section will still have the right link). I’ve reorganised the other sections too; news is gone (never used it anyway, the blog is best for updates), design is gone and in their place come the handy About and Contact pages.

Generally speaking the blog is the important part of this site, it always was; now the design reflects it; please let me know of any errors (dead links, bad links, image issues, etc.), I’ve run a few checks myself but I’m bound to miss something!

Later today we go back to the grindstone and get on with the blogging

Setanta undecided on NTL Premiership packages (SBP – 4th June 2006)

My article from the Media & Marketing section of the Sunday Business Post (4th June 2006):

The English FA Premiership packages won by Setanta in this week’s auction are not guaranteed to be broadcast on the basic Setanta Sports channel on NTL.

Setanta Ireland’s chief executive Niall Cogley told The Sunday Business Post that a decision had yet to be made on what games would be available at no additional cost to NTL basic viewers.

‘‘The matches from the C and D packages will be broadcast by our British stations Setanta 1 and 2, we now have to decide how many of those will be put on our basic sports channel carried by NTL.”

At present NTL customers receive Setanta Sports as part of the company’s basic digital and cable package. RTE and Setanta currently split the rights to a handful of matches, known as the live Saturday package, which cannot be broadcast in Britain under UEFA rules.

The current agreement comes to an end after the 2006/7 season and this week’s auction means that from 2007/2008 Setanta will hold all of the Saturday matches along with two other packages currently held by Sky Sports.

Should the broadcaster decide to limit the number of matches available on the basic NTL package, those wishing to see the matches would need to pay an additional €7.99 per month for the extra Setanta channels while the Sky Sports package costs another €23 per month.

Sky Digital subscribers already have to add €13 to their monthly bill to watch any Setanta programming, including the content available at no additional cost on NTL basic.

There is also no guarantee that these subscription costs will not rise before the beginning of the 2007/8 season.

It is expected that the live Saturday matches already available to Irish viewers will remain free – only the games set to be picked up from Setanta’s British broadcasts will need to be decided upon. The subscription-free status of the Setanta Sports channel will also remain unchanged for NTL subscribers for the foreseeable future.

‘‘The deal we have with NTL will last alongside our new rights packages. We are also in talks with UPC [the parent company of NTL/Chorus] about extending our deal across their entire organisation,” Cogley said.

Looking to the future of sports broadcasting, Cogley said Setanta was committed to the development of High Definition Television (HDTV).

But while Sky Digital plans on broadcasting its coverage of the upcoming FA Premiership in HD, Setanta viewers will have to wait.

‘‘We won’t be ready by the end of 2006 to generate content in HD,” said Cogley.

One detail that didn’t make the final edit of the piece was that Setanta plan to go widescreen in August of this year, in time for the upcoming Premiership season.

Personally speaking I think an additional fee for the Setanta matches is a certainty; across the seven packages around €120 million was paid, which means Setanta probably paid at least €50 million for their share; I’m not sure how much the deal between Setanta and NTL is worth or how much it improves the sports broadcasters ad revenue but I doubt it is good enough to turn a reasonable profit on that amount of money. If the live Saturday games stay on Setanta basic with the others on the premium channels it will be a win-win situation for most people involved. NTL will still be able to offer live football to their basic subscribers, in fact they’ll now have even more exclusive games than before as RTÉ aren’t a factor. Setanta will bring in revenue from basic broadcasts and be able to use them as a springboard to entice viewers onto their premium content and finally the NTL viewer who made the move because of the live football will still get what they came for in the first place. I do imagine that the sub costs for Setanta will rise, it is over a year away anyway but saying that I’m sure they’ll remain quite cost-effective when compared to Sky Sports or Sky Digital

McDowell and the statutory rape fiasco: What the bloggers say

Rather than continue the mish-mash of content seen in the last post, I’ve decided to split the topic into two posts, one which details my own reaction (along with relevant news updates) and this one which catalogues the blogging community’s reaction; I’m sure to have missed a number of posts so feel free to post a comment with relevant links I’ve not yet featured:

First up, journalist Markham Nolan gives a superb and quite passionate reaction to the whole crisis.

His brief is to guide the course of justice on behalf of the nation. He has failed, but only as much as any minister since 1990 has failed. Those who sought to make political capital on the back of his failure are as dispicable as he, althought not as culpable. This is a time for unity towards rectifying the situation. Mud-slinging can wait.However, in a selfish act of political spin, Mr McDowell attempted to deflect attention and pass the buck. To do so, he resorted to lying bare-facedly to the entire nation. That, from a Minister for Justice, is unforgiveable.Mr McDowell, trust in you is irrevocably lost.Stand down.

As I said in a comment on his blog, this is an excellent piece, born out of frustration, disgust and anger that this situation could ever come to pass in “Modern Ireland”. Truely worth a read.

Next up, An Spailpín Fánach asks “Where does the buck stop?“:

Remember Ivor Callely? Ivor Callely was the Government Junior Minister who had to resign last December because he got a painter to paint his holiday home as a nixer, at a cost of a grand and a half. The Irish Times editorialised on December 8th last that “The public will not tolerate any whiff of impropriety from their politicians,” and Ivor was summarily dispatched.

Today, instead of the mild whiff of a fifteen hundred Euro nixer, we are faced with the poisonous and desperate situation of the gates of such meagre prisons as we have yawning open and the most vile and base of criminality and perversity slinking out with a song in their hearts and what An Spailpín Fánach wants to know is: whose damned head is going to roll for this?

It’s interesting to hear these words from a self-confessed admirer of McDowell, something I could never have been called. While I agree that in a more honourable political system McDowell would have gone instantly I don’t think that would have been beneficial; I would say that the best possible outcome would have been for him to publically announce his plans to step down once he had overseen the needed legal changes. I’m beginning to believe that he won’t leave until all his honour, and that of the entire Governments has been eroded.

Both GUBU and lowlyjourno give their respective thoughts on the matter and while they take different tacts the message is the same:

It’s amazing. As Bertie ” no one is going to walk free because of this” Ahern jets off to NY, Michael “there wasn’t a whisper of this even though I wrote an article for the Sunday Independent some years pointing out the problem” McDowell continues to deny that anyone could have done anything. You just wonder will we at last get a resignation?? The man was ATTORNEY GENERAL when the last registered sex offenders bill was brought in. The court decision was expected for the last year. Tom O’Malley’s definitive book on constitutional law predicted the decision. AND STILL, AND STILL they refuse to accept culpability
- Sarah Carey (GUBU)
Just a quick question: exactly what do you have to do in order to get sacked from Bertie Ahern’s cabinet? Seriously, I’d really like to know. What depths of incompetence, stupidity and arrogance need to be plumbed before the Taoiseach steps in and says ‘this isn’t good enough’? But he won’t say that because we won’t make him, no matter how grave the error – and do errors get any more grave than the rape law nightmare that’s engulfed the government? The sick, dangerous inferiority complex that seems to be encoded in our culture has us convinced that we don’t deserve better than the shambles that has passed for government in this country over the last number of days.
- Declan Cashin (lowlyjourno)
Update 1: Planet Potato swings for Brian Cowen, who has managed to get himself mixed up in this by jumping to defence of McDowell, giving his legal ‘expertise’ on the issue and blaming the Supreme Court for the doing its job:
What kind of morons does Brian Cowen think we are? If this spin is what his advisors are telling him to say he is seriously misadvised

The Supreme Court carried out their appropriate duties by ruling on whether the law was valid or not. The government was warned that this decision was pending and did nothing. If the Government had implemented a proper and constitutionally valid law this would never have happened.