Out For Coffee with… Bryan Dobson

liam and brian dobson2

Bryan Dobson, a journalist and presenter of RTÉ’s Six One News, met me for a coffee at Browne’s Coffee Shop in Sandymount.

“I wasn’t born in Sandymount, but I was brought up here,” he said. In fact he was brought up in Farney Park, which he touches on as he orders a cappuccino and a hot tea for me. Bryan seems taller in person than on TV, and he exudes the calm, confident exterior expected from a newsman of his calibre.

His journalistic career began with a stint at Rathmines College in 1980 where he studied communications. This gave him experience in all things media-related; writing for publications and radio production.

Back in the 80s before radio regulation Bryan worked at Southside FM – a pirate radio station based in Dun Laoghaire. Then, in 1981 he made the move to Radio Nova. “Radio Nova was a bit hairy at times. It was illegal, so there was always the threat that it could be shut down and, on at least one occasion, it was,” he tells me.

In 1983, Bryan landed his first mainstream news role in BBC Radio Ulster, covering a mixture of news; bombings, local council meetings and even a local dog show. The job gave him a better understanding of news and how to cover both local and national stories and more importantly, do it right.

When he moved to RTÉ he worked on This Week on Radio 1 before making the transition to TV, first in a presenting role and then news reading. “I moved rather reluctantly because I liked reporting but then the way the role was presented to me, was that I would be the presenter of Nine News and there would be a lot more involvement in the programme,” he said.

It would be Bryan’s tenor as the presenter of the Six One News that would make him a household name and one of the most recognisable faces in the country. He broke major events like 9/11 and played a central role on General Election nights. “The big stories are kind of evident. The banking thing was slightly different as that evolved in steps,” he said. RTÉ explained the problems at hand as they unfolded – a dysfunctional banking system that was running on empty and a property market that was about to collapse. “There was a failure by the media, in a general sense,” he said, not highlighting any specific outlets. “I think we failed to see what was going on, by and large. I think the media has a case to answer in its grasp of what was happening.” People were left with a feeling of puzzling bewilderment after a run on Anglo in March 2008.

Explaining is the job of a journalist; it’s true that most of our memories of the banking crisis or September 11th included Bryan Dobson. His calm manner tells us how things transpired and, more importantly, how they got there. And with that, we wrap it up and are on our way.

By Liam Cahill