Lifting the Lid on Medical Journalism

22 August 2017

Recently retired RTE Political Correspondent David Davin-Power began his journalistic career with the Irish Medical Times. In a recent issue of the Irish Medical Times, celebrating the magazine’s 50th anniversary he writes about those days. 

In the course of the article he lifts the lid on some of the shenanigans that went on between the medical associations and the various health boards at the time. He says that as  the Irish Medical Times was a power in the land, the chief executives of most health boards would take calls from IMT journalists. On more than one occasion, he writes, a CEO would put you on the story trail by pointing towards some problem his neighbours had landed themselves in. He also talks about Department of Health officials dropping into the magazine offices for a chat and a gossip. He says "one particularly pompous official would call around from time to time to generally patronise us, even if, in fairness, he would drop the add story."
 
Would it happen now?
 
David Davin-Power also lavishes praise on one of his colleagues at the Irish Medical Times  Maureen Browne who would be well known to PRII members who work in the health sector.  He writes that while Dr John O’Connell "was nominally the editor, and kept a close eye on what went in and where it was put, the real and acknowledged power lay with the redoubtable Maureen Browne”.

He says, "In the many years since I have rubbed up against some formidable operators, but I have always judged each and every one of them against the yardstick set by Maureen; her ability to charm and to cajole,  and when necessary intimidate were awesome to behold. She had a news sense that was second to none, a total lack of respect for authority at a time when the upper levels of the medical profession (and its attendant bureaucracy) were inhabited by some of the most pompous figures imaginable. And she was and is great fun."

Like David Davin-Power I witnessed those attributes, but from being on the other side of the fence handling PR for  medical clients. On one occasion Maureen believed (incorrectly) that one of our clients, a hospital, was favouring a rival publication. I was summoned to her office on Merchant’s Quay to get a piece of her mind. It wasn't a visit I was particularly looking forward to. I tried to explain  that because Irish Medical Times and the rival publication had different press days it wasn't always possible to keep both magazines happy. I am not sure that Maureen believed me but I came away from that meeting with great regard for someone who was determined to defend their publication's reputation when they felt it was being undermined.

Maureen officially had the role of editor at Irish Medical Times from 1993 to 1995 and is still an active journalist on health sector issues.

Jim Walsh, FPRII (Life), Dip CAM, PR is Founder and Executive Chairman of Walsh:PR and a former President of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland.

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