John Tynan, journalist with the Irish Examiner, published his last ever equestrian column today.
Like most columnists, John also has a full-time job with the newspaper, an aspect of his career that most readers would not be familiar with, but as a sub-editor he brought to his equestrian work the high level of analysis, examination and even scepticism that were considered hallmarks of excellence at his “proper” job.
I first came across John’s unwillingness to take no for an answer when I started work as Press Officer for the former governing body, the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, back in 1999. Our first contact was when he phoned me while I was shopping with my wife in Brown Thomas in Dublin on a busy Monday afternoon, my day off.
When I explained all this to him – not on duty, out shopping with the wife – he accepted it all good-naturedly, but then continued with his penetrating line of questioning about a small matter affecting the governing body, and simply refused to terminate the conversation until I had given him at least some of the information he sought.
As someone who had also worked in newspapers for many years, I recognised immediately the trademarks of the true professional newsman – never be afraid to phone, never take no for an answer, never ask the easy question when the difficult one is more likely to yield the story.
John was as likely to contact you with a query at 2am as he was at noon, and God help you if you weren’t fully awake enough to respond coherently, and immediately.
As a professional correspondent of 23 years standing, John was more than familiar with all of the basic tenets of journalism, including the fact that the sport’s government-sponsored body is obliged to distribute news evenly and without favour, and not time its press releases to accommodate publications that it knows will be the most sympathetic to its message. Nor, he knew, should an official body regard a newspaper columnist as some kind of public relations mouthpiece, but rather as an independent commentator who could deliver both praise and criticism when he felt either was appropriate and fair.
Recently, Horse Sport Ireland’s press office took the unprecedented step of “blacklisting” John for his audacity in criticising some aspect of its operations, a development that would be laughable in its naivety were it not so outrageous in its implications – that a journalist be excluded from its distribution of press releases because he dared to take the body to task for a failure in some aspect of its mandate.
In the end, it was not the governing body’s ham-fisted action that led John to decide that enough was enough, but there’s little doubt that the absence of his voice will leave a vacuum in the world of Irish equestrian journalism at a time when an eagle eye, an incisive line of questioning and a deep knowledge of the sport is most needed.
John Tynan will be sorely missed.