News Letter’s new editor appointed

Former newspaper and UTV television journalist, Darwin Templeton, has been appointed as the new editor of the News Letter. What does he need to do with the paper to build on the progress of Austin Hunter?

  • This could be very interesting. Go Darwin!

  • boshank

    what does he need to do? how about some basic journalism as opposed to cut and pasting DUP press releases!

  • John Maynard

    I agree. An inspired choice.

  • John Maynard

    (I agree with Cavecanem that is!)
    Sadly, I miust agree with Boshank as well.

  • George

    I never thought Newton Emerson would be made editor of the News Letter.

  • John Maynard

    When they worked together at Insight, there was a Newton and a Darwin in the same office. Sadly, UTV has never had any Einsteins.

  • inuit_goddess

    Couldn’t agree more, the Newsletter has gone so far downhill by now it’s difficult to see how it can recover.

    It’s like a DUP version of Daily Ireland, but with sloppier production qualities. Zero analysis, just fawning unquestioning coverage of the latest dup spin.

    Funny thing, is I think there’d be a market out there for a more balanced Unionist paper, one which was unafraid to ask serious questions of all unionist politicians.

  • boshank


    well hopefully Darwin will bring the integrity and passion he has to date shown for investigative and analytical journalism to the newsletter.

  • John Maynard

    I must agree with goddess as well – this is all very agreeable.
    Somebody will fill the gap currently being vacated by the incredible collapsing Belfast Telegraph – and at the moment the Irish News has a better shot at it than the News Letter, religious leanings notwithstanding. But the News Letter still has the potential to recover dramatically in the space available were Tele readers used to be.

    You know I’ve also just realised that many existing News Letter readers will be highly suspicious of an editor named Darwin! Let’s hope the shock kills off the last of them.

  • slug

    To be blunt, I would urge him to lose that young ‘Gavin’ chap who writes a column on Saturday, its not that interesting. The combination of him and tired out Alex Kane on a Saturday is not very interesting. Someone reasonably nonpartisan like Newt Emerson, in fact, would be a good idea.

  • Greenflag

    Darwin bejazus ? .How appropriate for a newspaper needing evolution. He could try introducing Newsletter ‘readers’ to Darwinism and the concept of the earth being round instead of flat . Startle them perhaps with the notion that there are more colours than black and white and/or orange and green?

    I read Wednesday’s Newsletter’s article by Peter Shirlow of the UU .Mr Shirlow said Ulster could be seen to resemble Belgium or some of the former Yugoslavian countries in terms of its behaviour.

    “Belgium did not have a war as such, but the two cultures still stay pretty much apart in terms of marriage, socialising, etc.

    “We could also be compared to some of the former Yugoslavian countries, where young people are still maintaining the divisions between communities and you have the situation where communities have pushed themselves apart.”
    He said the new generation of sectarianism has grown up on a diet of tales about the Troubles and the “great men” involved in it.

    “It is down to politics,” he said.
    “The Assembly is still driven by republicanism versus unionism.
    “The Assembly has not made any sense of where you can find an alternative for that.
    “You would have thought some middle ground would have appeared – but it hasn’t.”
    He said the lesson for everyone in Ulster, particularly politicians, is to put energy into changing things, or the future will be bleak.

    “It will be continual separation. But, in 30 or 40 years’ time, there could be a return to war.
    “The whole fundamental issue is constitutional uncertainty.”

    Mr Shirlow is correct -Constitutional uncertainty is the fundamental issue and will be for a generation or two or ten to come .

    ‘it is down to politics’ says Dr Shirlow .

    Which acounts for Dr Shirlow’s comment on a ‘bleak future’ given the absence of ‘politics’ and the growing realisation by many in NI that given the present ‘polarisation’ what is termed ‘normal politics’ simply cannot take place beween those who differ fundamentally on the constitutional issue .

    The political solution is obvious. Solomon’s sword . And in 2006 neither ‘mother’State will mourn the loss of the ‘unwanted’ child.

  • fair_deal

    Austin was trying to do something with the paper however he had three flaws.

    1. He didn’t develop/recruit/identify a strong stable of columnists (with the notable exception of Alex Kane who I think was already there) that are increasingly important to paper sales.
    2. The quality of the journalist staff (with the notable exception of Stephen Dempster), having dealt with a number over the years regurgitating press statements even manages to prove taxing for them.
    3. Despite the talk of the Positively Protestant stuff it wasn’t developed as the centre of debate with Unionism that it should be.


    “the Newsletter has gone so far downhill”

    The sales of the News Letter have been upward over the past 18 months.

  • declan


    You quote Shirlow: “It will be continual separation. But, in 30 or 40 years’ time, there could be a return to war”

    Indeed, all too true, the outworkings of the “2021 scenario”.

    The 2021 scenario, the secnarion in which the era of nationalist demographic increase is seen to come to an end short of the critical mass needed for a UI, could indeed lead to some thinking about war.

    But it could also lead to other nationalists in the six counties coming to think again about the idea of a fair repartition.

  • Nathan

    Stephen Dempster was the author of that infamous headline which stated that there were only 14 Prods in the DNA makeup of the Gardai. He often bases his articles upon anacdotal evidence.

    He’s a bit of a header that one.

  • John Maynard

    Alex Kane needs a good editor, but otherwise he’s still a very good columnist, in my opinion.

  • kensei

    “But it could also lead to other nationalists in the six counties coming to think again about the idea of a fair repartition.
    Posted by declan on Jul 27, 2006 @ 02:27 PM”

    Jesus H Christ.

    For the love of god can someone stop this?

  • slug

    I think that they should look at the Irish News as a much admired newspaper and draw any lessons from that. What makes Irish News good is a mix of local news reporting, local sport, local business, and good columnists. They should also get away from that horrible generic website “Belfasttoday” which is not as good as the previous website they had.

  • Cato

    The quality of the journalism at the News Letter is very poor indeed. Whether this is a matter of resources, in the sense that journalists are having to work on production instead of pure research and writing, or just plain laziness, I cannot say. Barry McCaffrey, Maeve Connolly and even, on occasion, the dubiously monikered Chief Reporter Sharon O’Neill are day and daily delivering a vastly superior quality of journalism for the Irish News. Add to that the excellent columnists, outnumbering those at the News Letter by around 10 to one, the greater use of colour photographs, and the obvious overall investment, and you can see why the News Letter, comparatively or objectively speaking, is not a good newspaper.
    The Belfast Telegraph however is not much better and with the exception of David Gordon and Clare Regan, its news team also appear to have issues with hard work. It is almost more of a magazine than a newspaper now, with the features sometimes starting as early as page 7. I suspect that is because Gail Walker, the Features Editor, has all the men there under a Cleopatric spell.
    ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety’.
    However, having said all that, I do think that if anyone can turn around the Newsletter, it is this Darwin chap, who seems to be an excellent journalist. Let him have the courage to clear the dead wood and the rubbish out of the Boucher Road. Indeed let Darwin expedite the survival of the fittest.

  • inuit_goddess

    Fair_deal is bang on the button when he says the Newsletter should be a true forum for Unionist debate – which has got to mean something deeper than just regurgitating press releases from the unionist parties slagging each other off.

    The problem is that the Newsletter hasn’t been balanced over most of the last decade – it struck a very pro-Agreement stance at first, and has now struck a stridently obvious pro-DUP stance, particularly in the last couple of years.

    Swinging between the extremes like this isn’t conducive to a worthwhile debate.

    My hope would be that, under its new editor, it can find a more balanced approach and help stimulate the real debate that is needed within unionism.

  • memorystick

    Yes, Alex is a good columnist, you may not always agree with him but at least he is interesting.

    Gavin Robinson is a bit off the wall, he wrote an article recently on how much he hated his graduation!! Having recently graduated myself, I found this a bit puerile, graduation is more for the parents after the massive sums of money they have just invested in their little darlings, a chance for them to take pics and have a nice day off. Its a bit mean to bitch about it.

  • B e m u s e d

    Interesting to see how this pans out. The News Letter had become a risible rag under Hunter – Templeton will need to start aiming outside the knuckle-scraping constituency seemingly targeted by his predecessor. I would agree with John Maynard’s analysis – the Irish News is now easily the best Northern paper for the reasonably intelligent reader. If it finally had the balls to dump some of the revolting Oirish Catholic tripe (i.e. articles on various ‘saints’, ‘miracles’, priests, trips to Medjugorje, saturation coverage of bog ball and stick fighting etc.) then it would begin to really soak up the middle ground.

  • boshank

    agree slug,

    even though the irsih news is on the opposite end of the political speactrum from me i admire their layout, photography and regular columnists (christ i hate feeney but he always makes for interesting reading), the mix of stories in Irish news is right, billy graham always presents the party views but adds his own slant and opinions and well the only way i can describe it is a fresh looking newspaper.

    The Newsletter: poor political ‘reporting’ and i used the term reporting in it’s loosest terms, editorials from the dark ages and a pic of paisley on as many editions as possible (well he does sell papers apparently!

    columnists: Gavin – really not interesting and can’t write, Kane – interesting and can write but vacilates too often to really know where he is on any given issue. I agree that Newt would make a good columnist.

    In other departments, no complaints.

    But format and layout look tired. Needs a good shake up.

  • Greenflag

    Declan ,

    Repartition presuming a fair one implemented and administered by a neutral international agency is preferable to a return to war/violence/etc etc) IMO. But it’s possible as Dr Shirlow says that NI may have a return violence before a fair repartition becomes seen as a the only practical alternative left in HMG’s bag of ‘political’ tricks.

    2021 is 15 years away . In less than 15 years the world saw the rise and fall of Nazi Germany .
    Fifteen years ago 1991 the Celtic Tiger take off had not reached the runway for lift off . In a little over 15years ago it was a bi polar world with the USA v USSR in a nuclear stalemate.

    My point would be that the Nationalist people of NI should not waste the next 15 years ‘waiting for Godot’ .

    I can ‘sympathise’ to a point with their aspirations for what they see as a ‘perfect’ solution a UI , but in my book in life, in politics and in business there are no perfect solutions and wasting time looking for them is just that a waste of time .

    A good enough solution will do .And a fair repartition IMO is good enough. Certainly preferable to looking forward to another 15 years and probably longer for what Dr Shirlow calls ‘uncertainty’.

    I’d make the point also that the GFA/NI Assembly solution does nothing to reduce ‘uncertainty’. In fact it has actually contributed to more uncertainty as we can see from the abject failure of the local politicians to make it work and by the attitude of the vast majority of people, who may at this point prefer the relative peace of the ‘uncertainty’ of direct rule by English Minsters of State to the aggressive ‘uncertainty’ of a ‘devolved Assembly’ with the DUP/SF forever at each other’s throats.

  • Greenflag

    ‘My hope would be that, under its new editor, it can find a more balanced approach and help stimulate the real debate that is needed within unionism. ‘

    Even a nationalist like myself sees that ‘real debate within unionism’ as being very important for the future of post Paisley ‘unionism ‘ . But whether the paper can shake off it’s pro DUP stance is not certain . Doing so could mean losing it’s ‘readership’.

  • Greenflag

    For the love of god can someone stop this? ‘

    God/Allah/Jehovah/Yahweh is too busy to notice . Too occupied in Iraq/Iran/Lebanon/Gaza/Northern Ireland /Israel/Palestine etc, sorting out the mess he/she/it has caused, by convincing too many of the above ‘peoples ‘ they are his chosen folk . And then this ‘incompetent’ God allows these peoples to be located in territories where their Godly opposites also try to eke out an existence ?

    Someone needs to ask this God if he/she /it went to the proper God school and passed the requisite 11 plus ?

    Maybe we should have stuck to worshipping oak trees and magic lakes ?

  • John Maynard

    Mick – an swift intervention with the loony-pruners to keep this thread on topic please?

  • Cato

    The Irish News while at times being incidentally close to the SDLP has always managed, in my opinion, to deliver a detached and independent analysis of nationalism from a nationalist viewpoint. The problem with the News Letter is that it has either set itself up as Ulster Unionist or DUP linked newspaper depending on which way the wind was blowing. It did little to actually have an impact on that wind. Fair Deal mentioned in the initial post the progress made under Austin Hunter and then in a subsequent post said specifically what Mr Hunter did not do. What, in fact, did he do?

  • I’ve always liked Darwin’s stuff. He’s a cracking journalist and not afraid to step on people’s toes.

    I just hope he makes the Boozeletter a success and stops the current trend in the Newsletter of slagging off the UUP and singing the non stop praises of the DUP.

    eg. A few weeks ago when the debt was announced of all the parties, the newsletter’s front page headline was UUP IN DEBT OF 500,000. There was no mention of the DUP debt.

    I understand it is a unionist newspaper but quit trying to be the Daily Sinn Fein for DUP voters.

  • Cato

    Why the Boozeletter? Is there a drinking culture?

  • Bushmills

    Funny, I didn’t hear boshank and others complaining when Geoff Martin slavishly devoted the paper to supporting the UUP at every turn. The result? The readership was halved.

    The News Letter should be broadly reflective of the thinking and attitude of the Unionist community – don’t blame Austin Hunter for the fact that 2/3s of that community votes DUP.

  • Bushmills

    One criticism I would have – please give no more coverage to FAIR or Willie Frazer.

  • Nut

    ‘What, in fact, did he do?’

    Gave his son a job.

  • glenn

    Willie Frazer deserves good coverage, what about a comic strip in Viz !!

  • roundhouse

    For my money the best unionist columnist around at the minute is Davy Adams at the Irish Times. He is a very good writer who isn’t afraid of laying it on the line for unionists every bit as much as for republicans.
    Good columnists should challenge status quos and spark debate.
    Darwin Templeton should go for Adams to do this at the News Letter.

  • slug

    Good suggestion RoundHouse.

  • Ulick Magee

    I raised the point before about the state of the media in this country and unfortunately Mick F seemed to ignore the question. Can we have a proper debate about the media given:

    UTV staff are jumping ship left right and unionist

    Newsletter and Belfast Telegraph staff morale is at an all time low and the quality of output is sinking faster than that 1million pound boat

    rumour kicking around that there is to be a cull at the bbc post the directors departure

    What are we left with when producers and senior managers are much more interested in salious, poor journalism disguised as populist clap.

    If you want an example of poor journalism take a look at how far the standards have slipped at the Belfast telgrammar were its become teeth and tits paper.

    Yes it would be grear to see a balanced newspaper in NI along with a balanced TV channel

    Maybe its because we live in age were shitte is acceptable as the younger generation don’t remember when journalists were journalists.

    I despair at the thought of the Minka whale steven nolan considering himself a journalist.

  • boshank


    Ulick is on the money, let’s have a proper debate plato style ‘who guards the guardians’, having worked with the media in NI i have to say with a few notable exceptions they are a piss-poor. I crave an NI freedland, parris etc…some proper analysis and big picture stuff.

    Given the quality of our hacks is it any wonder people switch off from proper political debate and discourse?

  • Cato


    The problem with the quality of journalism is the boom in PR. For the most part PR is better paid than junior journalism so that the vast majority of the more capable graduates become gamekeepers rather than poachers.
    And as for Simon Hunter getting a job at the Newsletter, a perfect example of the shameless nepotism and favouritism pervading the media here. Another example is all the people who took a severance package at the BT being brought back in on a freelance basis, some working five days a week.

  • John Maynard

    Yes, Davy Adams is excellent and he would be a fantastic choice as a News Letter columnist.
    It would give the DUP a dangerous opponent without signally a swing back to the UUP – which would surely be a commerically disasterous signal to send.
    Emerson would be most unwise to leave the Irish News if he was offered a column on the News Letter, he has his feet well under the table there, plus he doesn’t have the necessary working-class credentials (not that he ever pretends to, to his credit.)

  • Frances of assisi

    I agree totally let’s have a proper discussion in which we challenge the media. Let’s not forget that most of us except west belfast pay a tv licence. I’d like to see that being used properly. IN repsect of the quality of output we are now seeing it’s awful. There use to be a sense of pride in journalists and that’s gone. What we are left with are production runners and coffee makers in media buildings being elevated to positions and presenters jobs. No ability whatsoever and creativity gotta be kidding me. Look at the people on BBC Radio – old boys and girls network.

    ‘cull’ need more than than ulick you need a blank page

  • ulickmagee


    welcome to NI – Spot the number of presenters kids now working at the BBC hmmmmmmm…..

    Spot the number of young ladies and men who been open …to persuasion who now are in senior positions

    look at the tv output and who presents them …..

    worse than that look at the morons who run media companies who think that farmer hugging, christian value laden, don’t upset anyone, frank mitchell guess the town loving, hole in the head wanking, programmes are the way to go.

    jobs for boys and girls – how low can they go…I leave you to work that out

  • fair_deal


    He got it out of the pro-Agreement hole it had dug itself into and increased its sales after literally decades of decline. Also he was only in the post 18-24 months (with periods of ill-health) so to be fiar he couldn’t do everything.

    There are rumours his moving on was to do with ‘editorial’ differences with the executive board not just his health problems. However, I’ve never managed to find out in which directions they were respectively wanting to pull the paper. So the rumours may simply be based on the usual assumption that when someone says health grounds it isn’t.

    On David Adams columns to quote Bart Simpson “I never thought it was humanly possible, but this both sucks and blows.”

  • roundhouse

    Ulick Magee

    I almost whopped with joy when I read your 4:33.
    The shite that gets covered here and the stuff that gets ignored just in case it upsets someone is deeply depressing.
    Nolan is the living example of all that is wrong with local journalism. Talkback seems to have taken fright at his meteoric rise and is now playing catch-up by plumbing the same depths of banality.
    The whole point of the BBC is that it should not be just about audience figures. UTV is populist shite, send Nolan there or give him a free transfer to the SUN where he would be in his element.
    The local newspapers are just varying degrees of crap as well, with the Irish News less awful than the rest. How anyone, regardless of political viewpoint, can take Daily Ireland seriously or even consider it a proper newspaper is way beyond me. They couldn’t even get the hunger strikers names right, for fuck sake.
    In local print journalism, grammar, sentence and paragraph construction as well as spelling, are now a movable feast. How long before we get the newspaper equivalent of text messaging?
    Deeply, deeply depressing.

  • John Maynard

    Sorry fair deal, but as a DUP hack your dislike of Davy Adams only confirms his success as a columnist. His maturation as a writer over the past few years has been a big part of the pleasure of reading his columns – apologies if that sounds patronising.

  • Bushmills

    I think it’s interesting that some of the people calling for Kane’s head are the same UUP members/supporters who defended Reg’s dalliance with the devil the most vociferously on this site. Kane is interesting and engaging. He should be kept.

    As for young Gavin Robinson – he’s getting better. The articles are more punchy than before, but he should try to steer sometimes into other topics and not stick solely to the UUP vs. DUP stuff.

  • Taughmonagh

    I always liked Stalford’s stuff, even if it was a bit Tory boy-ish.

  • fair_deal


    Thanks for the stereotyping. I obviously lose all conjunctive abilities simply beacuse I put my X beside a particular political party.

    1. By your logic I should love Gavin Robinson’s piece and not be able to stand Alex kane’s material. Yet the reverse is true.
    2. Failed politicians I generally find make poor columnists.
    3. I want a columnist not to simply comment on a situation and say how “both sides are wrong you know” or “what is wrong with unionism is the exact same thing as I said last month but you’ve probably forgotten about it so I’ll knock it out again for a few quid more. Also no matter what people do or say I won’t prevent that from me banging out the same again next month.” I am looking for something fresh not the same old.
    4. The columns are also long-winded and whingey. Its why I prefer Newton Emerson, packs a punch and doesn’t descend into a gurnin mode.

  • Taughmonagh

    Why can’t you stand Gavin Robinson’s stuff?

  • roundhouse

    There must be two Davy Adamses writing for the Irish Times and you are reading the other one from me.
    I just do not recognise your criticisms as being in the least bit valid.
    But I’m not for getting into a whole tennis match over it, each to his own tastes or prejudices.
    I am now more interested in the other thread you have opened on the local media.

  • fair_deal


    1. 3rd grade UUP bashing
    2. Follows the party line too strictly. a column should be at the minimum a critical friend at best challenging and suggesting new ideas.
    3. Too unoriginal. I get the DUP press statements by email I don’t need them repeated in a column on Saturday morning.
    Combine the three and he just doesn’t make me think which is what I want from a columnist.

  • Peking

    “… he just doesn’t make me think which is what I want from a columnist.”

    Sounds like too tall an order for anyone.

  • Wee Ulsterman

    Interesting Fair_deal – each of those three points could equally be applied to the Newsletter itself –
    3rd grade uup bashing, editorial parrots the DUP line, endless rehashing of DUP press statements.

    No critical analysis at all. No real political comment beyond Kane and Gavin Robinson.

    It certainly needed to get away from the pro-Agreement bias, no argument about that, but the problem is it’s now gone so far in the opposite direction that it’s news coverage is practically an extension of the DUP press office, – and the rest of the paper – it’s features, sports coverage etc is really beyond 2nd grade.

    Add to that the poor presentation, the lack of colour throughout and you can see why it’s become a running joke among Unionists, even those who buy it daily.

    I have no problem with it reflecting the unionist community’s views, but a good paper also challenges the consensus view and makes us think.

    It doesn’t need to be editorially neutral but I wish it would occasionally challenge the DUP and air a much wider range of opinions from within unionism – not just the UUP but why not from others in civil society as well, including nationalists, and those alienated by traditional unionist politics.

    If I was a Sinn Feiner I’d still buy the Irish News over Daily Ireland, because the Irish News is a fresh newspaper, with a wide range of views, that would challenge my thinking. I’d like to see the Newsletter, as the Unionist paper of record, to go down this route.

  • roundhouse

    The slender thread that has held the weight of the entire News Letter for years if not decades is the farming edition on a Saturday. It still sells in big numbers. Other than that the paper is an economic disaster. Imagine if it had to try and survive without those who buy it from a sense of unionist loyalty and nothing else. I know a few people who buy it every day but barely bother to open it.

  • fair_deal

    Wee ulsterman

    The problem in terms of the political coverage is they lift both parties statements verbatim not a particular skew.

    IIRC the electoral commission research showed the UUP still received more coverage than the DUP during recent elections so I don’t buy the line that everyday political coverage has gone totally DUP and nothing but. This is too much of it a whinge harking for the good old days when it made the press office’s life easy plus its to hide the failure of the UUP to actually have a coherent strategy (let alone a media one).

    To be fair it isn’t because the workers of the press office haven’t been beavering away. It is because they are operating in a strategic vacuum. The UUP post trimble hasn’t defined itself. Sir Reg has adopted a little bit of everything strategy which leads to a message that pulls in every direction – one day the DUP has sold us all down the river, the next they say the DUP is incapabale of making a deal.

    Understandable because of the ongoing flux but it needs to find a role for itself beyond being a group of people with a historical attachment to it combined with those who hate the DUP.

  • Dan Phillips

    Given that the Newsletter’s new owner, Johnston Press, is renowned for its 35% profit margins and serial cost cutting, I doubt the Newsletter is likely to get the investment that it needs. I find it interesting that both the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday’s editors left pretty sharpish after Johnston bought them up, and the Newsletter was clearly not long behind them. Will Darwin have to put in the same cost cutting measures, redundancies etc that many a Johnston paper has to experience?

  • Alan2

    “the Newsletter has gone so far downhill”

    hmmm…The News Letter was the only newspaper in the UK & Ireland over the last couple of years NOT to post decreasing sales figures and infact was 1 of only 2 in the UK to post a rise in sales last year.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Strange how republicans think they are qualified to tell unionists what sort of paper they should have.

    The sales have gone up the paper has improved greatly in the non political arenas – not that anyone in here would notice such banal things.

    I read both the Irish News and the News Letter and I like them both – I do not agree with much of what they say but isn’t that the point of buying a paper to see different opinions.

  • roundhouse

    Yes, you are absolutely right. But you have to admit that it couldn’t have fallen much further than it had already without flatlining.

  • dracos

    If anyone can turn the Newletter around it is
    darwin templeton…he may well bring back something of the glory days when figures of the calibre of Omar(Hammy McDowell) Norman Ballintine, Ken Nixon, Ralph Bossence et al
    put the spotlight on the province and its news of the day and on that day.

    Some may say it will be an uphill struggle. If he nurishes his country/rural readers and instils a
    healthy news balance he will win back readers who are probably not buying any Northern Ireland
    bases papers at the moment.

    Why…..these publications have little of interest in them for someone who wants to read more than photographs. ………..DRACOS