Why the sixth (fifth, fourth, third and second) edition(s) of the Belfast Telegraph had to go…

I want to come back to the issue of newspapers and the problem of staffing good product in a highly contested digital age, particular in the wake of the recent discussion on Hearts and Minds. But in the meantime, I think it’s appropriate to quote one of Squinter’s best column’s of recent times, which described precisely the pain inflicted by the internet on the news paper industry

The Tele was an indispensable part of every punter’s toolkit in the 60s and 70s for the sole reason that it had the late racing results in blue ink down a single column. And late results they were, certainly well into late afternoon and approaching teatime. It’s one of the great paradoxes of our time that as technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, so the ability of daily newspapers to get in late news has receded alarmingly. These days you don’t get the result of the first race at Chepstow, never mind the 4.25.

Way back then, Squinter’s da would get home after a hard day behind the wheel of his artic, the Tele under his arm. Upstairs he’d go to the bathroom where he’d roll his sleeves up to reveal the pro driver’s suntan – right arm nut brown, left arm chalk white – and he’d wash and scrub his hands and forearms with the fussy deliberation of a surgeon preparing for theatre.

Over his dinner he’d study those blue ink racing results with the silent absorption of a cleric reading scripture. Which is why there was always a Tele in the house – and if Squinter was too young to fully appreciate the import of the late news on the front page, he avidly followed the misadventures of a roly-poly misfit in the cartoon strip More Fun With Bunion.

I have to confess that for some reason, even though I know the BelTel has been a morning paper (on Saturdays at first) for most of the time Slugger’s been in existence, I often forget to buy it thinking, I’ll pick it up after twelve, which I invariably forget to do.

In part it’s because it is no longer the public occasion on the street it once was. BelTel vans no longer drop bundles of late news to news hungry consumers all over the city and beyond. But it’s also because – as Squinter illustrates out so poignantly – there is no real incentive to pick up late breaking news in print any more.

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