The Big Story, began by promising us that we were about to relive "some of the major scoops that have occurred in the career of Charlie Bird". This was a pleasure most of us had been eagerly awaiting for years. After all, we had accompanied Charlie on his epic voyage down the Amazon (or was it the Dodder?) and feared for his wellbeing as he exposed himself to the Arctic (or maybe Athenry), so what more exciting way to spend a summer evening than to be reminded of his overall journalistic greatness?
Narrator Michael Murphy recalled that when Charlie set out on the road to immortality in the early 1980s: "Ireland was in recession and people turned to television for information and inspiration" -- no one apparently being more inspirational than the fledgling newsman from Goatstown, whose coverage of the Father Niall O'Brien story in the Philippines "made him a household name in Ireland".
But more of that later because first there was Charlie's momentous background to be considered -- a father in the merchant navy and a great-great-grandfather who'd fought at the Nile with Nelson, all of which contributed to the wanderlust that made Charlie hanker to become a roving reporter. Before that, though, he'd "dabbled in politics" and we saw footage of him fearlessly bucking the status quo at Young Socialist and Labour Party meetings.
So what makes a great journalist? Well, as Charlie sees it, it's "something that's inside you -- you have a passion for something". More than that, however, "I get a kick out of it", though one should never forget "the most important element" about news broadcasting, which is "getting the facts across". Searing insights, indeed, though you'd hardly expect less from someone who's spent three decades pondering his hugely important role in journalism.
Less palatable, though, is the unwelcome attention that fame can bring because, as Michael pointed out, "there's been increased media interest in Charlie and at times his life off camera can become as big a story as the stories he reports for the news". Michael didn't go into any details, but Charlie acknowledged the bother it can create. "Yeah, you do make an impact," he modestly conceded, "and with that come difficulties, and I have to take them on the chin."
Then it was back to the Fr O'Brien story, the one that made Charlie "a household name", as Michael reminded us yet again, even if no one under the age of 35 will have any memory of how an Irish priest was charged with the murder of a local mayor or of Charlie's impassioned coverage of this miscarriage of justice. But, Charlie assured us, "it was a very big story". More than that, "it had a missionary priest who was going to be hanged, an Irish priest, it had a jail, and in the end it had an amazing outcome. It was just one of those enormous stories".
So was that the big story promised in the title? Ostensibly, yes, but in reality the half-hour was all about Charlie, the Fr O'Brien case being notable mainly for marking "a major turning point" in the RTE man's career. Now he's in Washington, from where, he revealed to us that Barack Obama was a "remarkable man". Where would we be without Charlie?