Lapses of editorial standards in RTÉ have been described as indefensible by the former editor of the Irish Times Geraldine Kennedy.

Ms Kennedy discussed the Fr Reynolds case and the mishandling of the Frontline debate ahead of the Presidential election, while speaking to journalism students at the University of Limerick.

In mitigation she said they occured because of systemic failures which can be put right, and are a far cry from the phone-hacking scandal in British newspapers leading to the Leveson Inquiry.

In a wide-ranging address, Ms Kennedy praised the qualities of traditional journalism which are to report fairly and independently, give both sides of the story, separate fact from comment and put in place a rigorous verification process.

This genre of journalism will always be required in a democratic society, she said.

Ms Kennedy said she has been dismayed by the generation of journalists who have rarely gone into the field to do a story, and who value celebrity before everthing else, and do their research in front of a screen.

She said getting to know people, their personalities, judgement, prejudices, and priorities are invaluable in a journalist’s career.

The media, she said, is under its greatest threat of regulation, and that Freedom of the Press must be protected, but it must be defensible on public rather than commercial interest grounds.

She also said she does not share the pessimism of many of her peers about the lifespan of newspapers, despite the recent circulation figures.

She said there will always be a demand from readers for good journalism for many years to come, to allow a substantial section of Irish society to make up their own minds about current affairs.

They need more than headlines on an iPhone, she said.