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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Niamh McGovern

The Group Chat podcast: Virgin Media’s Zara King steps back from Twitter as it can be an ‘unpleasant place’

Gavan Reilly, Zara King and Richard Chambers from The Group Chat. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Zara King, the Virgin Media news reporter, has said she has taken a step back from the social media platform Twitter, a decision she made following the realisation that it can be an unpleasant place, particularly for women.

“I felt that Twitter wasn’t a hospitable place for females, particularly female journalists,” Zara says. “For me my screen time on Twitter has dropped way back. While I have to be on Twitter to some degree for my work, I really use it very little now compared to what I did before.

“I instead focus all my time on Instagram and it's just a place where there is a huge cohort of people, particularly women under 45 who are really interested in news and interested in what is happening, and they’re the type of people who are engaging with the podcast as well.”

Gavan Reilly, Zara’s colleague and friend, said: “Some of the news we have covered since 2020 has been so demoralising for so many people that there is a certain amount of messenger shooting going on where people just don’t like what is happening, they are inclined to attack those who are relaying the message, or those who are more accessible and it’s not nice but it’s understandable to a point.

“But I think we have all tried to develop thicker skins and it’s sort of the nature of the beast that you have to try and have a slightly thicker skin, but there are also useful tools on the likes of Twitter where you can put a quality filter on some of the replies, so you just don’t see some of the less informed stuff.

“One of the sad things about how Twitter has gone in the last few years is that previously we were able to post something and people wouldn’t just assume that what you were posting was material that you agreed with.

"And that’s become a real big problem with news now that if you share a link that there is this presumption almost immediately that you’re sharing it because you endorse what is going on and people now just presume that you personally have an agenda.

"Which of course is not true at all, and it shows how the online discussion has become so extreme now.”

The trio who host the Group Chat podcast – Zara King, Gavan Reilly and Richard Chambers – are  presenting the second series of The Group Chat this month on Virgin Media.

Readying their microphones, they are set to discuss everything 2023 including Richard’s news documentary, Trump’s Last Stand, as he charts Donald Trump’s road back to the White House, meeting those whose lives have been upended by the political division, violence and conspiracy theories that have divided America.

“I really love doing stuff like this, it is what I’m quite passionate about,” Richard says. “I love having the opportunity to explore things which Irish audiences would have heard on the surface level and trying to dig a little bit deeper into them.

“We found some absolutely wild stuff, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences and I can’t wait to bring people along for the road trip. I’d love to do more of that. It’s something I’m really gearing up to do more of.”

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