Waiting for Rabbits #1 – Bertha Mason and the Married Roommate

As I come to the end of my four years of college, I find myself in quite a reflective mood. Each day is a melancholy trip down memory lane as I prepare to move out of my college home of Dundalk. As I am a sentimentalist, I wish to have as many records of my time here. The best moments have been lamented in photographs and a #throwbackthursday Facebook post. But to maintain balance, and to ensure that my future self doesn’t look back on these ‘glory days’ as picture perfect memories, I now begin a blog series about the worst moments in college, which can be summarised in one word. Roommates.

First Year

At some point in my childhood, my mother stopped making my lunch for school. This was never a problem, I probably took over one day and she just let me. My parents always left me to be independent, much to my loner selfs delight. I classed myself as independent from early in my teenage years. I enjoyed learning new things such as how to make my own dinners, how to use the washing machine, what to do if the electricity trips, you know…basic survival in a house. So the prospect of living away from my parents was never daunting. What did catch me off guard was the suddenness in which it happened. Within a matter of days, I went from my cushy life in Dublin to being dropped off in the back of housing estate in Dundalk. My parents drove me up, we dropped off my stuff, I picked a room, we went for dinner, we bought the essentials -tea bags and tomato ketchup- and they left me in my new home.

The first night in 73 Rockfield was perhaps one of the darkest nights of my life thus far. Here’s the setup. The house was on the end of a row of houses. When you walk in the door there is the staircase in front of you. To your left is a door into the front room and kitchen. To your right is a locked door that I was told I could never open. Red flag No.1

The landlady was a woman by the name of Martina, she and my mother bonded over their shared birth names. Martina emerged from behind the house, not through the front door. Shortly after her mysterious warning that I could never open the door, she explained. The house had an extension, like a granny flat. In this extension is where Martina lived. She stated this as if it was normal, but I read Jane Eyre and a locked off section of a house with a woman living in it ends in bizarre happenings and a fire, both of which would happen later during my time here. Martina asked that all the month’s rent be sent to an account with the name “King..” something or other. Red Flag Numero dos. Now if you’re reading this with the anticipation that I will eventually explain who King something or other is, I’m sorry but I’ll disappoint you now instead of later by stating that I never met his majesty, the King and he remains a mystery to me to this day.

This brings us to the darkest night, literally. So turns out I had moved in earlier than Martina and the King expected, so they had yet to turn on the electricity in my ‘wing’ of the house. My room was cold, empty and bare. I assured myself that once I settle into bed with a cup of tea and a movie I’d feel more secure. Apparently, my privileged existence thus far had led me to momentarily forget about my lack of electricity. So I had no computer, no wifi, no way of charging my phone, no light to read a book. Although the only book I had with me was my yearbook and I was already feeling sad that I had to leave my friends behind so that would have added insult to injury. Regardless, my optimism persevered and I took to the kitchen. By the light of dark blue September sky, I found joy in the knowledge that the stove was gas – not electric, and it did in fact work. The tap, it had running water. I had tea bags, a cup and room temperature milk. My night didn’t seem so dark. Until I found the pot. The only pot in my humble abode was rusted and flaking. I didn’t realise this until after the water was boiled, you know with all the darkness and that. So tea bag in cup, I pour in the water and notice my cup becoming littered with pieces of the pot. Desperate, I took the cup of tea up to my room and drank it anyway.

So it’s about 10:30pm, I am sitting on the cold wooden floors, drinking a rust filled cup of tea, in darkness. I think about where I am, and how I got here. I don’t remember how long I sat there for, mainly because my phone had died. I don’t cry, I don’t laugh. I am just alone.

Now there are 2 kinds of people, if any, reading this right now. One is feeling sad for me, one is going “oh boo hoo your life is so sad”.  I hear your sympathy and sarcasm and I want you to know that I don’t write this to encourage either reaction. I write this to remind myself of when life seemed darkest now that I sit in a room with blistering sunshine. I write as at the time, I was at the top of my game. I had a great group of friends, I had finished my leaving cert, I had gone to Debs. It felt like I had peaked and my life would only get better. But I had just been knocked by to a -literal- dark age. This night, it thought me a number of lessons that I would only realise in the following years. But that’s for another post, for now, lets get on with the roommates.

I plan to write a number of blog posts about my many roommates, and while I doubt any of them will ever read this, I will give them a pseudonym. My experience with roommates is that they have been messy, smelly and generally unwanted in my life, for these reasons I will name each roommate after a type of cheese.

Brie

Now Brie was the first roommate and by far the most complex of them all. Two days after moving into the house, I was out with a friend of a friend who was showing me around Dundalk when the landlady called. She told me that one of the roommates had moved in so they would be there when I arrive home. Later that evening I arrived back to a dark house -there was electricity at this stage. I called out “Hello” like some idiot in a horror movie, but no answer. I quickly made my way up to my room when I notice the door at the end of the hall was closed. I call out “Hello” once again no answer. So I knock on the door and hear a crash, a mumble and the door swings open. A tall dark haired man stood in front of me with eyes squinted. I introduced myself and soon realised he wasn’t in any mood to talk to anyone. I left and went downstairs to make a cup of tea – minus the rust. Not long after the kettle boiled, Brie joined me. Apologising for being dismissive, we sat in the living room for a chat. It should be noted that at this stage I was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings so having a roommate who wanted to chat over tea was yet another relief. Although one thing that baffled me was that Brie drank boiled water, as he put it “it helps with anxiety”. We talked for over an hour, I learned that he was in 3rd year of Computer science in the college. We got on well and I was happy to have company in the house, we even had a little bitch about how weird it was that the landlady lived behind the locked door. At one point Brie awkwardly said, “there are no bars for people like me up here”. I quickly picked up what he was putting down, he was referring to gay bars. I said, “that’ll be the same for me so”. We spoke in code like 2 gay spies sussing each other out at some sort of money drop.

Brie and I became friends fairly fast and I started to learn more about him. He was a loud personality with little regard for personal hygiene. We got on well and it was nice to have a roommate to talk to when I came home every day. After about a month of living together is when I started to notice something odd about Brie. He spoke about a woman lets call her Cheddar. The other roommates knew Brie was texting Cheddar and I overheard that Brie was clearly angry about this woman. But I didn’t ask for a while. My memory is hazy so I’ll just sum up what happened. I soon learned that Brie and Cheddar were married. They had a child together and Cheddar was pregnant with their second child. I discovered this after several weeks of living with him. I got a bit curious and asked, were they separated because he was gay. He said no, it was because he was a woman. You see Brie had told me he was gay, but that was just a stepping stone to his true reveal. I continue to use the male pronoun not to be dismissive, but because Bries story will change many times in this post so the male pronoun makes the most sense for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Lets fast forward a little, mid-October. Personally, I am struggling with living away from my family and friends, I am struggling to find friends in college that I am comfortable with, I am miserable. But yet staying at home, locked in my room isn’t an option because Brie now sees me a confidant. The only person he can talk to about his life. I wanted to be there for him and so I continued to listen to him. As of this point, Brie has asked me to address him with a female name, he has gone to a transgender support group, and his wife is still pregnant. Until one day when I hear Brie is obviously distressed on the phone. He has learned that his wife is in labour, yet she doesn’t want him anywhere near the birth. He is fuming, I try to help any way I can. He tells me he wants to go to the hospital. So off we go. Two of us march up to Louth Hospital and outside the entrance, he asks to use my phone, as she is no longer answering his call. I suspect it’s because she’s pushing a human out of her but hey I give him my phone anyway. The baby has been born and she doesn’t want him in the hospital. In fact, if he tries to see her, she will call the guards. Now any sane person would have tried to distance themselves from this situation at this point, but her I am. Instead of doing assignments, or hanging out with college peeps, I’m standing outside of a hospital calming down a man who identifies as a woman while his wife and new son (she had a boy) are meters away.

The following weeks were Brie telling me he was stalking Cheddars Facebook (they were no longer friends on it) and he had now seen a picture of his son. In this time it should also be noted that Brie finally admitted that he wasn’t a student in DkIT and lied so he could live in the house. I had my suspicions as he needed stuff printed one day but refused to go to the library as he “still didn’t get a student card”. So I’m starting to realise that this guy is a bit of a liar. I was kind of getting sick of listening to him and he would never take that hint that I didn’t want him in my room. My personal space invaded, I started distancing myself from him. Until one night he sat on my bed and wouldn’t leave because he was having his 3rd existential crisis.

We were talking about the operations and hormones that would be his next step to physically becoming a woman. He started to shrug it off as if it was nothing. After I pressed, Brie became a little panicked and described his attraction to men. I was calm because to be fair, I was under the impression that he was a gay man for weeks before he told me he was a woman. Now he was a straight woman. No biggie. But his panic continued when he told me that he wasn’t a woman (hence why I never dropped the pronoun) but in fact, Brie now realised he was a gay man. Jumping up he ran out of the house. Honestly, I did try to stop him but he just left.

Now, this latest twist in the tale wasn’t a major shock, but I had just spent the past 2 months calling Brie by his preferred female name, so I was starting to get a bit confused. You may be asking yourself, why would I believe anything this person tells me. His mind changed every other day. I was asking the same question, and I went back to the whole married with kids debocal. I was now second guessing everything he told me. Until a few days later when he called me into his room. Up on top of his wardrobe was a single photograph of a wedding day, his wedding day! There was a child in it, so I now knew the married with kids thing was real. I could feel myself becoming sympathetic towards him. Married to a woman while not even knowing who you are or what you want must have been difficult.

The story took a sharp twist in late November. I walked into the front room where all the roommates were chatting. Sidenote: all the roommates knew Brie had identified as a woman and they all address him by his female name, which was pretty cool. Now, I walked in and Brie was speaking in a deep manly voice. He was laughing and joking like he was a “lad”. No one else seemed to find this odd except me. I asked him in front of everyone why he was acting like this, he said “Ah I don’t know what I was thinking. That whole being a girl thing was weird man”.

I had spent night after night comforting him, reassuring him, adapting to him, and now he’s acting like those months were just nothing. I was getting incredibly frustrated with him.

The story ends with Brie meeting a girl on Tinder. They began dating in late November, by mid-December he’s head over heals for her. I’m sitting at my desk when he comes barging in (no knocking which was unusual) and said “c’mon say bye” Blindside I ask what he’s talking about. He tells me he’s moving in with the Tinder girl and he won’t see me again. We hug and he leaves. The end.

I think back on my time with Brie, he is certainly the most bizarre person I have ever lived with. He infuriated me with his complete disregard for me and my life, his little effort to reach out to his family,  his ignorance of his family in the months after his son’s birth. Now he left to live with a woman who I doubt knows anything about his past. Yet, I feel sorry for him. I suppose he probably had mental health issues that needed to be addressed. I wish I could meet him now, 3 years later. I wish him only the best.

Brie was the first roommate I had and I’m sorry but I hope I never have another one like him.

Comparative Essay: Bus Eireann Strikes have ended

Bus Éireann services return to normal after strike

-vs.-

Bus Eireann get back on the road

This comparative study looks at Irish commercial broadcasters, TV3, and public service broadcasters, RTÉ, and their news reports on April 13th, 2017. Both news report focus on the end of the Bus Eireann bus strikes after 21 days. This study will determine if news media can act as producers of meaning whilst remaining impartial.

Looking at the cultural context at the time of this report, we can see that the strikes had an impact on Irish society. Disruptions across the country are a direct result of the strikes, and this lead to over half of those polled by RTÉ’S Claire Byrne show stating that they do not support the strikes (TheJournal.ie, 2017). The Bus Eireann strike is the third public transport strike in a 12 months period, with Dublin Bus striking in September 2017 and Luas drivers striking in May/June 2017. The contempt for drivers striking is present in the cultural conversation; the discourse is that strikes are disruptive and pointless, and news media may perpetuate this.

News media acts as the fourth estate in society; essentially it acts as the watchdog for the people. As a public service broadcaster, RTÉ works for the citizens of Ireland. TV3 however, is a commercial broadcaster that produces content to attract audiences. By attracting these audiences, TV3 can sell their viewership numbers to advertisers and make a profit. Both broadcasters produce news content, and by extension, they create meaning for audiences who turn to media institutions for answers.

Looking at how each text has been constructed, we can look at the news values (Galtung and Ruge, 1966) of the story. The threshold for this story is certainly high as the story is reported nationally. Both reports state that the country has been affected by the strikes as Bus Eireann services run throughout the county. The story is unambiguous and therefore easily digestible by the receiver. On the surface, the story is “Bus strikes have ended” However, if the receiver wishes to know how the strike ended and if it will happen again, the story continues to report these facts. Both reports personalise this story through the use of interviews. The interviews conducted by RTE show people who are traveling to visit family for the Easter holidays, where as TV3’s report shows the human side of the workers who have striked and now return to work. There is a narrative as this is the newest development in a three week strike story. It is a positive story that the strikes have ended, however there is a negative aspect as the workers have felt that they did not achieve what they intended to achieve. Finally there is an element of fear as one interviewee mentions the possibility of further strikes. Looking at these elements, it is clear that this story meets the criteria of a valid news story. However, it is how this story is reported that is imperative for this study.

While news organisation are obligated to remain impartial or unbiased, they do seem to have their ideologies. TV3 is an organisation that does not recognise unions. However, this story centres around the union lead strike. This disregard for unions is evident in the reports use of editing. When Willie Noone a spokesperson from SIPTU, the Services Industrial Professional and the Technical Union, speaks about the labour court recommendations he is cut off when he begins to speak about the positive outcomes from the report. While the report allows air time for the upset the union members and bus drivers feel surrounding the labour court’s recommendations, it does not seem to recognise any positive results from the strikes. The subtle use of editing here to omit the benefits achieved as a result of the bus strike is important as it highlights the commercial broadcasters bias against unions. Following this cut, the in-studio reporter changes the narrative back to the inconvenience these strikes have caused the country, furthering this anti-union ideology.

In comparison, RTÉ’s agenda towards unions appears to be supportive. The message is focused on the effect the labour court recommendations will have on the “Workers”. Interviews with a member of the public and a business owner show that they are sympathetic towards the workers. When speaking about the strikes, airtime is given to the business owner who states “I hope it’s not wasted”. This is in contrast to TV3 whose report focused on the inconvenience the strikes have caused the country.

The TV3 report’s language when discussing the labour court recommendations produces meaning. The recommendations are described as a “Meaty page document” reporter Zara states. Later in the report, a clip of two workers flipping through pages of the presumed recommendations is narrated by the reporter stating “the recommendations makes for difficult reading”. The language used is negative and suggests the document is complicated. This furthers the agenda that TV3’s report is against the strike, highlighting that the recommendations are not only unwanted by the workers, but the document itself is too difficult for the workers to read. There may also be a suggestion of class division here. The connotations behind the visuals of the workers looking at the recommendations are that these men are uneducated. This further undermines their actions as the report presents the workers as less than those in power.

Looking past the news report, the ending of strike action is a genuine event. It would have taken place regardless of media’s presence. However, the reporting of the event and the on-camera interviews make this a media event. The reporting differs slightly between the two reports. RTÉ’s report begins in the studio; then a correspondent narrates the remainder of the report. In contrast, TV3 report contains three reporters. One in-studio reporter, Geraldine Lynagh, who speaks directly to a second reporter, Zara King, live on air. Zara King is reporting live from Broadstone in Dublin, the location of Bus Eireann’s headquarters. TV3 studios are also based in Dublin, while the third reporter is suggested to be in Cork. A package is shown where a reporter, Paul Byrne is the narrator. The use of multiple reporters in the TV3 report may lead to confusion and a disconnect in the narrative. While RTÉ remains consistent with having one voice leading the receiver through the story.

The interviewees conducted in both reports are important for the value they give to the production of meaning. In RTÉ’s report, commuters in Waterford City are interviewed for their opinions about the return of the buses after the strike. The interviewees appear to be regular people, speak only about the positives about having the buses back. While subsequent interviewees talk about the issues surrounding the labour court’s recommendations and the possibility of future disputes. One driver is identified as a NBRU, National Bus & Rail Union, member. The driver speaks of the dissatisfaction drivers feel towards these recommendations. A bus driver further discusses this in Cork, a business owner in Waterford and a customer in Cork. All those interviewed in the later half of the report speak negatively about the labour court’s recommendations.

Interestingly, both reports interview the same Cork Business owner, Richard Jacob. In the RTÉ’s report, Jacob calls for politicians in Dublin to consider the country “outside of Dail Eireann”. Jacob echoes this anger towards how the government handled the Bus Eireann strike in both reports. However, TV3 gave context as to why Jacob was interviewed. Jacob who had previously written an open letter to the government accusing them of allowing Cork to die a slow death (Breakingnews.ie, 2017). By interviewing Jacob, there is bias introduced into the broadcast that is not balanced by an equally opposing opinion. Neither broadcast offers a government perspective to counteract Jacobs comments allowing his ideology to become dominant.

Furthering on from Jacob’s comments, An anti-Dublin ideology is apparent in TV3’s report. In the narration, the TV3 reporter mentions “The divide between Dublin and the rest of the country” furthering this segregation of counties. This divide and conquer mentality is creates hostility towards the nation’s capital. By alluding to Dublin’s ignorance of the rest of the countries problems in recent weeks, it perpetuates this discourse and anti-Dublin ideology and by extension, an anti-government message. Aside from Jacob’s comments, RTÉ’s report has no mention of this divide between Dublin and the rest of the country. It may be that as a public service broadcaster for the nation, RTÉ may have a responsibility to report on all citizens equally and does not wish to show bias towards one county over another.

The interviews conducted by TV3 are focused on professionals in the industry rather than the general public. One driver in Cork seems to be on the fence by saying “we need to look at the document more seriously” when the reporter interrupts and asks “is half a loaf better than nothing?” to which the driver responds “no”. This further enforces the upset by workers that the strike did not achieve what they had desired. It appears that TV3 has a bias by placing blame on both the workers who were on strike and the management of Bus Eireann. “The dispute could have been prevented” this suggests a breakdown between management and the workers.

One aspect of the interviews is the accent of those interviewed. TV3’s reporters speak with a seemingly neutral accent. However, those interviewed do have an accent that may be difficult to understand. In particular, those interviewed in Cork have a thick accent native to that area. However, as this report is broadcast nationwide, it may create a barrier between the message and the receiver. RTE have a similar issue with accents from Waterford and Cork natives that may create a problem for the receiver when decoding the message.

RTE’s report does not contain interviews with any officials, and This could be suggestive of their agenda. RTE may want to keep the focus on the dissatisfaction of the workers and the joy of the customers now that services are back. However, TV3 have a number of experts or officials from organisations interviewed. TV3 offer an on-camera statement from Nicola Cooke, Media and PR for Bus Eireann. However, at no point in the report is it stated that Cooke is Bus Eireann’s media and PR manager. Furthermore, when Cooke’s interview is broadcast, we see no identification or title on screen. When lower thirds are utilised later in the report, it is also problematic. A member from SIPTU is interviewed with the graphic identifying him as Willie Noone, SIPTU. When the man speaks he makes reference to his “colleague, Willie Noone”. The broadcast identifies the wrong man and moments later Willie Noone joins the man. However, no correction is made. No further identifying graphics are used. It is possible that the inadvertent misidentification of these men is an attempt to undermine their status as members of SIPTU.

TV3 creates this discourse of fear by asking “Will there be more pickets?”. The broadcast initial establishes the widespread disruption and inconvenience caused by the strikes. While RTE’s report focuses on the relief that the strikes are over, TV3 creates this sense of panic that the people of Ireland may experience more disruption in the coming weeks. This furthers the ideology that strikes are bad and the public support may drop even further as a result.

The key difference between RTE and TV3 reporting of this story is their presentation of the workers, their agenda when describing the strike actions and subsequent results, and their use of interviews. The tactics utilised such as editing and omitting words, mislabeling interviewees, use of graphics all add to the production of meaning. As a result, it is the argument of this paper that news media cannot act as the producers of meaning without being partial while remaining impartial. As stated above, the various techniques and narratives conveyed in both reports appear to produce a preferred meaning. When decoded and analysed RTE’s report is ignorant of the inconvenience the strikes have caused the Irish public while showing that workers are unhappy with the government’s recommendations. In contrast, TV3 focus on the negative impact the strikes has had on the country, while suggesting that the strikes achieved very little and may occur again. While both reports present the facts of the story, they re present these facts to suit their narrative.

 

Videos

RTE.ie. 2017. Bus Éireann services return to normal after strike. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2017/0414/867716-bus-eireann/. [Accessed 08 May 2017].

TV3 News. 2017. Bus Eireann get back on the road. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tv3.ie/news_sub_page.php?video_id=124239&locID=1.2.883. [Accessed 08 May 2017].

References:

BreakingNews. 2017. ‘You are allowing a city to die’ – Cork cafe owner calls on Government to sort bus strike in open letter | BreakingNews.ie . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.breakingnews.ie/discover/you-are-allowing-a-city-to-die-cork-cafe-owner-calls-on-government-to-sort-bus-strike-in-open-letter-785033.html. [Accessed 09 May 2017].

Galtung, J. and Ruge, M.H., 1965. The structure of foreign news: The presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus crises in four Norwegian newspapers. Journal of peace research, 2(1), pp.64-90.

TheJournal. 2017. Over half of people don’t support the Bus Éireann strike. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.thejournal.ie/bus-eireann-strike-20-3310311-Mar2017/. [Accessed 08 May 2017].

Has the Shift from Appointment Television to Binge Watching Influenced Audience’s Motivations and Behavioural Habits?

The full text of my thesis is now available online:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316841683_Has_the_Shift_from_Appointment_Television_to_Binge_Watching_Influenced_Audience’s_Motivations_and_Behavioural_Habits

 

Abstract

The shift from appointment television to binge watching is a direct response to the development of new technologies and services. To understand what effect this has had on audiences, this study investigates how audiences engage with television today and how their viewing habits may have differed from their past engagement. Surveys and interviews were conducted with members of the public, as well as one expert, to collect data which was then analysed and discussed. The result of this research shows that audiences daily lives are impacted by their choices in relation to television. Audiences social life, sleep habits, social media engagement and internet usage, have been altered by the choice to consume content in large quantities. The implications of these choices are outlined in the findings with many respondents noting that their television consumption has an impact on their daily lives.

Keywords: Television Audiences, Audience Motivations, Appointment Television, Time- Shifting, Binge watching, Spoiler Culture