Our Man In Stockholm

How Not To Cover An Election

An episode of Our Man In Stockholm

By Philip O Connor
On media, journalism and the world around us.
More places to listen

More places to listen

Greta Thunberg, Getting The Scoop And Giving Fair Warning
On the road again so this week's pod covers some issues that have cropped up recently in the media sphere - how very few people now writing about Greta Thunberg have any idea what they are talking about, what it's like to spend hours in the cold for a 12-minute video of a world news event, and why journalists have a responsibility to people they put in the spotlight. 
October 7, 2019
Never Forget - Telling The Story Of The Holocaust, 75 Years On
During a two-day seminar at the Auschwitz Museum I spoke to journalists and museum staff about the challenges of  telling the story of the Holocaust, 75 years after the camp, where over a million died in an industrial murder operation that was the epicentre of the effort to exterminate the entire Jewish people, was liberated.  It is a desperate, awful bleak place at times, but a look around the word tells us that little has changed - devious men still use the spectre of "the other" to grow and consolidate their power, just as Hitler did.  I asked a variety of journalists about their work, and why they felt they had to go to Auschwitz. There is also a recording of a seminar with press officer Pawel Sawicki about the media and how Auschwitz is portrayed, and what they do to keep their reputation intact and their story relevant.  One of the greatest books about the Holocaust is entitled "Hope Dies Last",  and that is what I left Auschwitz and Poland with - hope.  We can overcome the hatred that created this place, but it is an ongoing process, sometimes of education, sometimes a battle, but always with compassion.  If my constant posting and tweeting and writing about this subject over the last few days has upset or offended you that's fair enough, but I'm not one bit sorry.  The alternative is being silent, and I have seen where that leads.  I cannot and will not be part of it.
September 26, 2019
How 9-11 Changed The World Of Journalism
On this day 18 years ago we watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed live on television - and with them went many of the checks and balances of objective journalism. That parking of journalistic principles has paved the way for the events we say happening today around the world. This podcast features reflections on that day and what has changed since, and what to be aware of when consuming media following the resetting of our historical clock to 9/11/2001. 
September 11, 2019
The OMIS Tapes Vol 2 - Gaute Boerstad Sjaervoe
Gaute Boertad Sjaervoe was 16 years old when he saw two of his friends murdered by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011. Trapped on an island 40 kilometres outside of Oslo, he ran, but had several more brushes with the gunman who went on to kill 67 more people that day, the vast majority of them teenagers like Gaute.  He survived as Norway promised more love and more democracy as an antidote to the hatred of Breivik, but instead of being repulsed by him, the rhetoric of the murderer is now in common use in Norwegian politics.  Undaunted by his traumatic experience, Gaute is still very much involved in the youth wing of the Labour party, and on a late summer afternoon in Trondheim he told me the story of what happened that day - and what has happened to Norway since. 
September 2, 2019
The Search For Dawit Isak - Martin Schibbye
Over the last 17 years I have gotten married, had a family and built a career in media for myself - all that time, Dawit Isak has been sitting in a cell in Eritrea in the most appalling conditions, imprisoned without trial for his journalism.  I spoke to journalist and author Martin Schibbye - who was himself shot, arrested and spent 438 days in the Kality prison in Ethiopia while trying to report there - about his new book "The Search For Dawit Isak" and what the future holds for freedom of speech in a part of the world that is struggling to find peace. 
August 29, 2019
The Psychology Of Social Media
Whether we like it or not, social media is now an inherent part of the wider media, and journalists, editors and consumers need to understand the role it plays in disseminating news and information.  But there is also a deeply personal element to how we interact online, so I spoke to academic Ciarán McMahon about his new book "The Psychology Of Social Media" to tease out some of the strands of social networking, how we present and perceive ourselves there and where all this is leading us in the 21st century. 
August 20, 2019
Shout To The Top - Zainab Boladale
As a child Zainab Boladale would pretend to read the news by grabbing a paper and making things up based on the pictures she saw, and ever since she has wanted to be a journalist.  She made her way from Co. Clare on Ireland's west coast through one of the country's best journalism programs and on into the hallowed halls of public service broadcaster RTE where she has been a huge success - but as a woman of colour from a not-exactly-privileged background, it hasn't always been easy.  She told me about her route to the top, and where she's headed next. 
August 13, 2019
The #OMIS Tapes Vol 1 - Gunnar Nelson
A new podcast series on the same feed, featuring interviews with some of the interesting people I meet on my travels.  First up is a recent conversation I had in Reyjavik with Gunnar Nelson - a fighter, a father and a man not to be trifled with at daycare... 
August 2, 2019
Saving Private Hannes - Iceland's Goalkeeper On Going Behind The Camera
Hannes Halldorsson is not just a top-class international goalkeeper for Iceland - he's a scriptwriter, movie-maker and director back operating in a small national market where budgets are tight and dreams are big.  I spoke to him in Reykjavik about making ends meet in the movie business when he's not between the sticks. 
July 29, 2019
Assange, Activism And Archiving the Internet - Birgitta Jonsdottir
Together with Julian Assange and Wikileaks, activist and "poetician" Birgitta Jonsdottir turned the world on its head by releasing the "Collateral Murder" video, which featured the slaying of two Reuters journalists by American forces in Baghdad, Iraq.  Jonsdottir may have ended her association with Wikileaks but her commitment to art, activism and politics is still as strong as ever, and I met her in Reykjavik to talk to her about her life and work, as well as the importance of the Internet archives for journalists as a tool to hold the powerful to account. 
July 22, 2019
Living Life Looking Over Your Shoulder - Karim Zidan On Covering Sport And Politics
I have met almost every MMA journalist at one time or another, but not Karim Zidan - then I realised that the reason he doesn't attend events is that his writing about sport and politics, and in particular about MMA and some of the former Soviet republics - means that it's not safe for him to attend.  In a world powered by social media, blogs and fan-generated content, Karim's work in untangling the web of "sportswashing" is absolutely crucial to understanding how and why tyrants use athletes  like Mohamed Salah and Khabib Nurmagomedov to rebrand themselves and their regimes. 
July 9, 2019
Owning It - Crisis Communication With Jack Murray
When it comes to media, marketing and journalism, Media HQ CEO Jack Murray has done and seen it all.  A former political advisor and government spokesperson, he has been in the room as some of the biggest Irish political scandals of the last two decades have gone down. Many senior politicians have wisely acted on his advice, and many more have lived to regret not doing so.  His Media HQ business is now the leading publisher of media intelligence in Ireland and the biggest organiser of media training events, and he offers PR and media training for all manner of companies, brands and NGOs at all levels.  (He's also the best writer of press releases that I know, but that's beside the point).  I spoke to Jack about crisis communication and asked him who do politicians turn to when it all goes wrong, what "The Golden Hour" means in PR terms, and is honesty always - or ever - the best policy when you're fighting for your political life? 
July 3, 2019
For The Love Of the Game - Ann Odong
Long before the glossy production and the fan zones, long before the slick social media presence and the souvenir stores in host cities, Ann Odong and her friends were covering women's soccer.  A lawyer and journalist, she essentially used her profession to fund her obsession, often allowing her heart to rule her head, and she has finally been reaping some reward as a digital content producer for FIFA at the Women's World Cup.  She told me about making the athletes visible, how to build trust and how she came to shoot one of the most viral videos of the tournament with the Nigerian team. 
June 25, 2019
Chaos Is A Friend - Sportswriting With Ewan MacKenna
Summer is a time when sport takes over and who better to talk to than Irish-born, Brazilian-based sportswriter Ewan MacKenna? Often dismissed as a professional contrarian, Ewan's writing and workflow is both deep and complex, showing us things about our heroes and ourselves that sometimes we'd rather not see - so what's it like to be on the receiving end of such negative attention? What is his agenda? And how did he manage to write a book about Conor McGregor without a single word form the man himself?  Find out all these things and more in this episode. 
June 18, 2019
Five Pitfalls To Avoid When Covering Women's Sports
With the sudden - and very welcome - interest form media outlets in the Women's World Cup, many reporters whose beat is normally men's soccer find themselves putting their shoulders to the wheel to cover it. Here's five pitfalls to avoid when writing about women in sports. 
June 10, 2019
Free speech, hate speech and over-reach with Jodie Ginsberg
The Index on Censorship are the watchdog that ensures that you and I can exercise our freedom of speech, and they kick up an almighty fuss about those places in the world that don't allows us to do that.  But the recent rise of far-right hate speech, boosted and amplified on social media, has proved a danger to our democracies and our most basic human rights - so in these battle for rights, who wins out in the end?  I spoke to IoC CEO Jodie Ginsberg, a vastly-experienced journalist who now leads the campaign to keep free speech free. 
June 3, 2019
Election Reflections - Three Takeaways From The European And Local Elections And Ireland's Divorce Referendum
Why journalists should never be surprised by election outcomes, the end for private religious fundamentalist lobby groups in Ireland's public debate, and a perfect example of how no-platforming benefits democracy. 
May 29, 2019
Reporting On The Climate Crisis With Alister Doyle
As teenagers around the world skip school to protest the destruction of the planet and a  "Green Wave" sweeps through European politics, I spoke to veteran environmental correspondent Alister Doyle about how to report on the climate crisis. We talked about everything from landing on now-disappeared ice shelves in the Antarctic and dealing with Texan cranks to why climate science skeptics are really deniers trying to sow doubt, and how environmental journalism is key to helping the world understand the scale of a crisis that threatens us all. 
May 28, 2019
Tales From The Locker Room With The Athletic's Jay King
Sports media is a beast that mus be constantly fed with news, views and comment, and nowhere is that more true in America, where seasons bleed into one another in a never-ending carousel of coverage.  The quality of the coverage (on both sides of the pond) is often dependent on access to the athletes themselves, and on them being willing to tell their stories. European sports are becoming more and more restrictive with this access in the belief that "less is more", while in the States you can wander into a locker room and talk to any of the multimillionaires you find there.  Jay King is the beat writer about the Boston Celtics for The Athletic, and he told me about his day-to-day work, what it's like dealing with these millionaires every day and how building relationships is at the heart of his job. 
May 20, 2019
Sarah Maria Griffin - Reading, Writing And Finding Your Voice
Sarah Maria Griffin is a novellist and poet who effortlessly flits between the worlds of fiction and non-fiction, engaging in occasional (and often regular) acts of journalism. Her approach to writing and her thoughts around how we express ourselves are well worth a listen for any journalist or writer trying to find their own unique voice.  
May 14, 2019
Sound & Vision - Linear Vs Digital Video
The way we consume video has changed, but the old way is not dead yet - what do we need to consider when shooting for mobile devices and linear TV? Is there a difference in how stories are told and presented? What factors need to be taken into account when selecting our shots? 
May 7, 2019
Radio Head - Pat O'Mahony On The Wonderful World Of Audio Broadcasting
I love radio. It's where I started, and if forced to choose, it's what I'd do full time.  And one of the most creative, knowledgeable and smartest people I've met in the field is Irish producer/presenter/all-rounder Pat O'Mahony. Amid an audio background of seagulls, leaf-blowers and passers-by, we sat down in Dublin for a coffee recently to discuss what makes it such a great medium to work in and what you need to succeed. 
April 29, 2019
Learning from Lyra McKee
Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead while covering disturbances in Derry last week, and today she will be buried after her funeral in Belfast.  What can journalists and in particular editors learn from her life and her untimely passing? How can we keep freelancers safer while still reporting from dangerous situations? 
April 24, 2019
Copyright, Copywrong - How To Not Steal From Freelancers
Over the weekend a broadcaster in Ireland came under fire for apparently using audio belonging to a freelance journalist without her permission.  Though they have since agreed to pay her for her work, the case illustrates the laissez-faire many media houses have towards the copyright of freelancers.  This podcast is a brief rundown of what freelance work is, who owns it (spoiler - them, not you), and what to do if you find something using it without your permission. 
April 8, 2019
Fash Boys, Facebook And Freedom Of Speech
As Ireland's far-right desperately tries to get off the ground and the tech giants are once again in the firing line for giving them a platform to spread hatred, I spoke to journalist and academic Niamh Kirk about information networks, regulation, and what free speech actually means in the digital age. 
April 2, 2019
How Sourcing In Stories Is Key To Credibility
When writing or broadcasting, journalists have a responsibility to tell you how they got to know what they know - and if they don't explain it properly, you have no way of knowing if you can believe them or not. 
March 27, 2019
What's in your bag, Christian Payne?
Apart form a sharp mind and some tough questions, the most important thing for any journalist is the contents of the bag slung over their shoulder - choose well and you can tell any story, anywhere in the world, for hours at a time without running out of power. Choose badly, and you can end up talking to yourself while history is made in front of you.  Christian Payne (aka @Documentally) is a former professional photographer who now tells stories in any medium you can mention, and he is forever pushing the boundaries of what is possible to bring recipients as close as they can to the action.  When not teaching others how to capture the world around him he can be found in his shed writing, sipping a good whiskey and endlessly packing and repacking his bag  while dreaming up new ways to tell stories. 
March 11, 2019
OMIS Live In Dublin - Sport, Spin And Seeing The Future With Dion Fanning
Dion Fanning was one of Ireland's most well-known sports journalists when he suddenly stepped away from the Sunday Independent and into the wild online world of Joe. In doing so he left behind much of his past, moving on from writing about sport to working with video and long-form interviews.  We talked about coming from Irish newspaper royalty, annoying Roy Keane, Pele's problem when discussing erectile dysfunction in conference calls and what the future holds for both sports coverage and journalism in general.
February 22, 2019
OMIS Live In Dublin - The Price Of Speaking Out With Dil Wickremasinghe
When a presenter on Newstalk said that women might bear some of the blame if they get raped, he was suspended and eventually reinstated - but when Dil Wickremasinghe criticised him and the station, she was sacked and her show cancelled.  Her emails to RTE suggesting she taker her "Global Village" show - a calm oasis of diversity in a sea of click-bait and bile - went unanswered.  Now a trainee psychotherapist, Dil joined me at the International Bar in Dublin for a gripping discussion about her career as a broadcaster, the circumstances surrounding her departure and how diversity in the media is not - and cannot be - treated as a box-ticking exercise. 
February 22, 2019
OMIS Live In Dublin - Margaret E. Ward On Diversity On Air
A small but dedicated group attended the first-ever live OMIS podcast in Dublin, and for almost an hour they listened to journalist, broadcaster and communications consultant Margaret E Ward talk about diversity, media capture, the effects of journalism on vulnerable people and a whole lot more besides. 
February 18, 2019
OMIS - The Story of The Hurricane Tapes
Why make a one-hour radio documentary when you can make a six-and-a-half-hour podcast series spanning 13 episodes about infamous boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter and his wrongful conviction for murder?  I spoke to BBC sports journalist and broadcaster Steve Crossman about how the discovery of 40 hours of taped conversations with Ruben Carter finally gave the "Hurricane" the chance to tell his own story - a story of poverty, racism, violence, and almost 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. 
February 11, 2019
We Need To Talk About Framing
Framing is a term we use in journalism when we decide what you could call the “terms of reference” for a story - and how you do it is of vital importance. 
January 22, 2019
Danny Robins on jokes, Johnny Cash and trying to laugh at Brexit
Danny Robins is one of the finest comedy scriptwriters and documentary-makers I know - my fellow freelancer is also married to a Swede in what is an uncertain time both professionally and politically for us all.  I met him last week on what is most likely my final visit to the UK before Brexit, and on my return to Sweden I called him up to talk about his background in comedy, his brilliant audio documentary about Johnny's Cash's legendary gig at Folsom Prison, and humour might help us to both explain and navigate the times that we live in. 
January 18, 2019
Sporting Sisters Doing It For Themselves
Women's sport might be getting more and more space in the media, but there is still a lot to do - I spoke to producer Elaine Buckley about her efforts to raise the profile of female athletes and what fans and journalists can do to help. 
January 6, 2019
News photography - now and in the future
A picture is worth ... what, exactly?  Photojournalism is powerful, immediate and perhaps more undervalued than ever before - but it is no less important.  I spoke to Dylan Martinez, Reuters Chief Photographer in the UK and Ireland, about how he got started, the life of the agency photographer and what the future holds for this vitally important form of journalism. 
December 31, 2018
Nowhere Left To Run - The Story of Hind Aleryani
What would you do if an article you wrote led to Al Qaeda threatening to kill you? Yemeni citizen Hind Aleryani left the safety and security of a job with the UN to become a journalist and activist concentrating on the rights of women and children, but after criticising religious extremists she was forced to flee to Sweden - but the "humanitarian super-power" with the self-proclaimed feminist government has already turned its back on her and is threatening to deport her and her traumatised daughter. I spoke to Hind about her life, her journalism and what needs to be done to protect and promote much-needed female voices in and from the Middle East.
December 18, 2018
Reporting On Rape And Sexual Violence
An allegation that an Irish athlete raped a woman in a Dublin hotel has set tongues wagging, and though little is known about the case, plenty of people are sharing wild theories on social media as editors and reporters chase the details. I spoke to Noeline Blackwell, lawyer and chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, about how the media handles the cases that come before the courts, and what can be done to make a traumatic experience less damaging for those involved.
December 15, 2018
OMIS - Why Footballers Never Say Anything Interesting With Bojan Djordjic
Most interviews with professional athletes these days are very guarded affairs. They spend almost as much time on media training as they do in the gym - but are journalists in part to blame for them being so boring? I talked to ex-Manchester United, Rangers, Red Star Belgrade and AIK midfielder Bojan Djordjic about his work on both sides of the microphone - first as a high-profile player in big clubs, and now as an analyst tasked with studying some of his former team-mates.
December 6, 2018
The pros and cons of naming and shaming
What would the coverage of the Belfast rape trial have looked like if we didn't know Paddy Jackson was involved? And was the public interest served, given that he was found not guilty? In Sweden, it's highly unlikely that Jackson's name would have been known before the trial, but I compare it to a recent court case around match-fixing in soccer to tease out some of the issues.
November 30, 2018
Episode 12 - Whitney Phillips
I spoke to American academic Whitney Phillips about how the media's attempts to do the right thing in reporting on the far right have backfired spectacularly - instead, it has ended up providing endless fuel for their fire. She outlines some of the ways in which they can be handled by journalists - not least by shifting the focus from the aggressors to their intended targets. You can read her full report here: https://datasociety.net/output/oxygen-of-amplification/
November 2, 2018
OMIS Episode 11 - Clara Rose Thornton
Middle Ireland recently got a jolt of what it is like when the far right stick their head above the parapet in the form of presidential candidate Peter Casey, but for journalists and women of colour like Clara Rose Thornton, they've always been there. I spoke to her about race, gender and how power is exerted over minorities by and through the media, and what can be done to change it - and the power of the spoken word comes out on top once again.
November 1, 2018
Episode 10 - John Connors, anti-Traveller racism and the Irish presidential election
In the wake of a presidential campaign that saw a candidate go from one percent to 21 percent by attacking Travellers and welfare recipients, I spoke to actor, writer and director John Connors about being on the receiving end of racism as a political tactic.
October 27, 2018
OMIS Episode 9 - Joe Brolly
Outside of Ireland, barrister, columnist and broadcaster Joe Brolly could walk down the street almost entirely unmolested - at least he could, until he wrote about how he wanted to see professional mixed martial arts banned. On social media at least, all hell broke loose. I was one of those who disagreed with him, so I asked him to talk to me about his journalism and the arguments he made in two articles that illustrated the power of certain columnists to tell us not what to think, but what to think about.
October 26, 2018
OMIS Episode 8 - Johanna Franden
In this week's episode I speak to Johanna Franden about breaking into a male-dominated world, being a soccer pundit on the trail of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Barcelona and Paris, and why a second language can be vital to a freelancer...
October 15, 2018
The Heat on the Beat - the battle to cover UFC 229 in Las Vegas
I talk to Niall McGrath in the middle of the maelstrom that is covering a Conor McGregor fight in the UFC.
October 5, 2018
I'm in Las Vegas for UFC 229, so here's a little bonus material to keep you going. A few years ago I went to a firing range to find out why America loves guns, and I had a clear idea in my mind about what I wanted to do. It didn't turn out that way. Instead, it turned into this mini-documentary which, for the most part, is a conversation with a man called Angus. Angus is warm and friendly with a booming laugh and a passionate desire to uphold the Second Amendment, so rather than argue with him, I decided to listen to what he had to say. He is currently recovering from a serious illness and I hope to see him while I'm here - in the meantime, have a listen. Our conversation is never going to solve a seemingly intractable American problem, but it sure helped me understand it better.
October 4, 2018
Name Your Price - The Value of Journalism
What should you be getting paid for your work? What do you do if you don't get it? And is it ever wise to work for free? Ahead of a big week in Las Vegas for Conor McGregor's fight, I wrestle with some of the questions freelancers all over the world want answers to.
September 30, 2018
Episode 7 - Eamon Dunphy
Eamon Dunphy is a former footballer and one of the most controversial figures in Irish life. His work as a journalist and broadcaster is sometimes derided as sensationalist and provocative, but his sharp intellect and insatiable hunger for knowledge and ideas have reshaped Irish media and caused others to raise their game considerably. I spoke to him about his four decades in the media industry, and how if he was starting out today, he reckons never would have made it...
September 26, 2018
Episode 6 - Andrew Downie
You don't have to be Scottish to go to Brazil and tell them the story of one of their greatest football icons, but it helps... Andrew Downie is a journalist and author based in Sao Paolo who has written a brilliant biography about Socrates, the doctor-philosopher-footballer who shaped an era in one of the most-loved teams of all time. He also has extensive experience of reporting in conflict zones and works for the Committee to Protect Journalists - I asked him if being a Hibernian fan prepared him for such a challenging life in the field...
September 17, 2018
How Not To Cover An Election
Judging by the international coverage, Sweden's election was a referendum on immigration - but while it was indeed a factor, much of the tunnel-vision journalism that was produced was amateurish, ill-informed and obscured the real driving forces behind how the ballots were cast.
September 10, 2018
Our Man In Stockholm Episode 5 - Graham Linehan
Long before he gave us so the rib-shatteringly funny comedy that was Father Ted, Graham Linehan was an almost accidental journalist treading the dark, rainy streets of Dublin, reviewing gigs and albums and harbouring dreams of becoming being Woody Allen. I talked ot him about how he fell into journalism, what he learned about how to communicate from it, and what it's like to live your life in the public eye. (We spoke over Google Hangouts, which is among the top two crappiest pieces of technology known to man, so apologies for some of the sound quality on this episode.)
September 3, 2018
Our Man In Stockholm Episode 4 - Suzy Byrne
Journalists often find themselves having to cover subjects like disability, racism and LGBT rights. These are subjects in which they have no direct personal experience, and the language they use has the power to cause immense damage. Suzy Byrne is a well-known Irish campaigner for both disability and LGBT rights, and I talked to her about what journalists can do to improve how they frame their subjects and stories, how they should think about the language they use, and what can be done to make sure minority voices are heard and seen - and not just in relation to their minority status.
August 27, 2018
Our Man In Stockholm Episode 3 - Christian Christiansen
With the Swedish election looming and Marine Le Pen denied a Portuguese platform, I spoke about free speech, the far right and how to cover politics properly with Stockholm University journalism professor Christian Christiansen.
August 20, 2018
Our Man In Stockholm Episode 2 - Sulome Anderson
Sulome Anderson's father Terry was bureau chief for Associated Press when he was kidnapped before she was born and held hostage for almost seven years - despite this, she still followed in his footsteps. Her book "The Hostage's Daughter" is part searing memoir, part journalistic blockbuster, and she told me about her work, the choices she has made and how the uncertainty of the media business has left her at a crossroads in her career.
August 13, 2018
Our Man In Stockholm Episode 1 - Petesy Carroll
An interview with Irish MMA journalist Petesy Carroll about how covering the rise of Conor McGregor led to him being able to create a career as a combat sports journalist.
August 6, 2018
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