THE GEORGE GIBNEY CHRONICLES: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents — order the ebook at Amazon Kindle, https://www.amazon.com/George-Gibney-Chronicles-Establishments-Governments-ebook/dp/B07NZ6S3PJ, or get an emailed PDF copy by remitting US $3.49 via PayPal to [email protected]
by Irvin Muchnick
When it comes to the effect of the coronavirus story on the media’s overall “news budget,” there are two schools of journalistic thought.
The obvious lesson is that the gravest worldwide health crisis in a century has flattened the curve, so to speak, for all other stories. No one should be denying that a pandemic that so far has killed nearly 400,000 people, including a whopping plurality 109,000 in the United States, is the dominant topic, especially in view of the still uncertain course of future outbreaks during easing of shelter-in-place regimes in the pendency of development of a vaccine. In this environment, no one cares if some county clerk’s sentencing hearing got postponed in last year’s embezzlement from the petty cash drawer, except for the clerk and his family.
There’s also an opportunity here, however, a more creative theory of news consumption at a time when so many readers, viewers, and listeners are, by necessity, comparatively inactive, and with novel forms of mass and niche media at the ready to deliver information to them. No narrative of our times below the urgency of the future of the planet should be expected to dominate public discussion of the various subjects of politics, business, entertainment, and sports at a time like the present. But is the upshot that all other important stories must wither — or is it, as I believe, that they can and should be stoked?
A related journalism philosophy question concerns the very nature of an investigation rooted in heinous crimes like sexual abuse and its institutional cover-up. Does our craft represent the first draft of history, or is it some pristine work of art like the Sistine Ceiling (which Michelangelo famously took four years to paint)? You know … the agony of George Gibney’s victims, and the ecstasy of the refracted glory of those of us who exploit and make sense of it years later.
I bring up these questions in the wake of the decision by the British Broadcasting Corporation and its Irish partner Second Captains to put off indefinitely the launch of their podcast series Where Is George Gibney? Way back in February, at a time when I was reporting the climactic stage of a federal grand jury investigation of USA Swimming and a reconsideration by a Department of Justice money laundering office’s human trafficking finance specialist of Gibney’s 25 years of American hospitality, the series was announced to begin airing in May.
Now this offering of the BBC Sounds service has been delayed until at least August. It’s not clear why. As a reporter with skin in the Gibney game, I can’t help wondering if the producers think they’re doing catch-up work to improve what otherwise might be just the newest rendition of the type of Gibney historical review last seen electronically on the Irish RTÉ television network’s dramatic, but ultimately ineffective, Prime Time broadcast in 2006. (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=12332. Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RyxMTx8Rnk&t=511s.)
An alternate interpretation, though I don’t believe a very flattering one either, is that BBC and Second Captains are applying market research and projections to content that just might pack its biggest punch exactly now, for all we know. Not to mention content that actually could wind up being consumed by more total and better-focused listeners, as well.
On May 31 I asked Mark Horgan, the producer of Second Captains, the reason for the delay. Horgan didn’t respond to my email.
The next day the Second Captains Twitter account, perhaps trying to get out in front of this article at Concussion Inc., posted: “Hey everyone, the broadcast date of our upcoming international pod series ‘Where Is George Gibney?’ has been delayed until Aug on @BBCSounds due to Covid 19.”
In an email yesterday, a BBC spokesperson, Colette Baillie, reinforced this point to me. She said the series “has been delayed, like a lot of podcast productions, due to the current global pandemic.”
Any relationship between the delay and the airing of the podcast is boilerplate and less than intuitive. Is it BBC’s message that the logistics of the final production have been hampered? If so, how and why? Many broadcast activities of this sort have continued apace through the pandemic. If anything, pre-packaged productions, such as podcasts, are especially congenial under current conditions.
Or is the message that a programming decision was made based on the current news mix and an assessment of the prospects of attaining an audience of desired size and scope? That, too, is a dubious proposition. I point out that as recently as April 5, well into the pandemic, the Irish Examiner published an article hyping the May release of Where Is George Gibney?
(BBC’s Baillie dd not respond to a follow-up query.)
As reported here Monday, this week we have the additional Ger Doyle factor. Ireland’s Daily Star revealed that Doyle, the 2000 and 2004 Irish Olympic swimming head coach, died suddenly last Friday. “PAEDO OLYMPIC COACH DIES,” the tabloid’s front page blared, and the accompanying story restated the details of Doyle’s 2012 conviction and subsequent imprisonment for 34 counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault, involving five boys between the ages of 10 and 15, at the New Ross swimming pool in Wexford.
Neither the Daily Star nor the only pickup I’ve seen, buried in a regional section of the Irish Independent, discussed the obvious relation both to Gibney and to Doyle’s similarly convicted and imprisoned Irish swimming coach sex crime colleagues Derry O’Rourke and Frank McCann.
So it’s the all too familiar atomization of the national youth sports coach abuse narrative, a shortcoming common to major media coverage everywhere. The Doyle lapse is underlined by the fact that he was George Gibney’s accomplice in the alleged molestation in 1982 of an 11-year-old girl at the swimming pool of Dublin’s Burlington Hotel — a story broken by Concussion Inc. three years ago and soon, I hope, to have more information suitable for further reporting.
According to the Independent, Doyle’s death “has taken place.” My Irish sources tell me that this passive phrasing is a national media taboo euphemism — code for suicide.
“DOJ Human Trafficking Office Investigation of George Gibney Closes In — Which Means the Saga of the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Is Climaxing, With a Bang or a Whimper,” February 9, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14173
“Muchnick on Ireland’s ‘Off the Ball’: We Have Everything on George Gibney ‘Except the Shoe Dropping’,” February 12, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14182
“Lissenfield — Historic Irish Site Where Skeletal Remains Turned Up — May Be Key in Establishing Link Between 1986 Philip Cairns Disappearance and George Gibney’s Social Circles,” May 24, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14499
“Justice Roderick Murphy, of the Irish Government’s Vague 1998 Report Calling George Gibney ‘The First Named Coach’ — Another Exhibit of National Cronyism,” May 28, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14503