Today was a very, very sad day for Irish broadcasting. Gerry Ryan died. His colleagues are devastated. The public are shocked.
I met him a number of times. He was colourful and sometimes very generous. He'll be greatly missed.
The overwhelming sensation in all of this will be sadness. Even still, I'd like to briefly look an issue in relation to media coverage. Today, a few questions have arisen as to when Twitter should bow out of news generation out of respect or sensitivity.
Ryan's death is a case in point: should any mention of the issue have been avoided until a confirmation was issued from 'official sources'? (In this case, 'official sources' means RTE, the Garda Siochana or Ryan's family.)
I don't think so. Gerry Ryan was a very famous, very influential Irish broadcaster. It is fair to say that he was iconic. His untimely death is a massive shock. It is also a jolting piece of news. And that news spread to thousands of people within minutes.
Still, say Twitter critics, until it is confirmed, a story is simply a 'rumour'. Sometimes that is the case. I don't believe that this was the case today. There were simply too many people who knew of it at an early stage. Here is how the news unfolded, earlier today.
-- Gerry Ryan's body was found in his apartment around lunchtime today.
-- Soon after 1pm, several people from the scene of the tragedy started to text and call friends about it.
-- By 1.45pm, I had calls from two separate people on the issue, one of whom had been at the scene. At 2.15pm. I got a text from a third person. I then called a friend in RTE: he said that it was true.
-- I went onto Twitter. I said that I had heard of something that had happened to Gerry Ryan. At this point, it was "unconfirmed". This was because I did not have a statement from RTE, the Garda or his family: no-one did.
-- At about 2.30pm, Miriam O'Callaghan tweeted that the news of Ryan's death was true: "Tragically it is true. So terribly shocking and sad. Life is just too cruel sometimes. RIP." (Miriam has since deleted this tweet, presumably on grounds of sensitivity to a colleague.) Even still, the news was "unconfirmed" (Miriam is not an authority on the subject).
-- The next media organisations to report Ryan's death, still unconfirmed, were The Examiner and Newstalk. Subsequently, Larry Gogan began to talk about it on air on RTE. Then Derek Mooney. But still it was unconfirmed.
-- Finally, at about 4pm, RTE put out a statement on the matter.
The Irish media -- Twitter's greatest critics -- are masters in the art of running stories that they are confident about, but which have not yet been officially confirmed.
It seems odd that Twitter isn't credited to act in the same way.