Mr. Bird goes to Washington

So Charlie Bird, RTÉ’s Chief News Correspondent, is off to ply his trade in Washington DC, USA from the start of 2009.

As with all major movements in places like the RTÉ news-room you cannot help but ask who the winners are losers are.

The obvious winner here is Bird himself who undoubtedly requested the move across the water. Why? Well the next president of the USA, whomever he is, is sure to reign over a very interesting period in the country’s history as its economic and foreign policies are reassessed, questioned and challenged from a variety of angles. What’s more is that both “tickets” have some very interesting personal stories to them, somewhat as a result of their respective historical potential.

Barack Obama’s story is captivating for reasons beyond his race, of course. His meteoric rise, oration skills and message of hope has marked him out as something different to the pack and whether he succeeds or fails his tenure as US president would make for must-see politics. McCain, on the other hand, does not himself hold the same intrigue but his choice of vice-presidential candidate – Sarah Palin – does, given her own meteoric rise and often soap opera-style back-story.

As a result the obvious loser in this move must be Robert Shortt, although it may well be the case that he requested a move back to Ireland for his own reasons (even if such a request meant missing a very historic stage in the life of the USA).

For the rest of the RTÉ news-room it’s difficult to say if there will be winners and losers and if so who they will be. Perhaps the various correspondents will be somewhat happy to see the back of Bird, not for personal reasons but because his all-encompassing position of “Chief News Correspondent” translated into him regularly taking charge of a story they had worked hard on once it became the agenda-leading story of the moment.

For the person who moves into the “Chief News” vacancy, assuming there is someone, this could be counted as a victory but it could also be a poison chalice. After all, having a focused patch to report on allows a journalist to cultivate contacts of quality rather than quantity. While being a jack-of-all-trades journalist does not automatically mean you cannot also have good contacts it does mean you have to work considerably harder in order to do so across such a wide range of topics.

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