Ulster’s local media – how it’s doing, where its going?

Belfast Telegraph, News Letter Irish News, Daily Ireland, UTV and the BBC. How do they rate? What do they do well? What do they do badly? What direction are they heading in? What should they be doing? The Press Gazette gives the print media’s perspective on their performance.Hopefully this will allow the News Letter thread to get back on topic.

  • slug

    I like the guy on BBC NI Newsline who does the business reports. James Kerr.

    Good on substance with a bit of presentational flare.

  • NI journalism needs to get itself out of the gutter and stop promoting sensationalist trash (a certain early morning presenter springs to mind).

    I know that is the most widely listened to programme in Northern Ireland and it saddens me that this presenter appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    In print, the Tele has gone down hill, it’s not a newspaper anymore, it’s just opinion pieces and features about holidays and skin care. The Newsletter/DUPletter needs to address wider unionism rather than DUP voters. The Daily Sinn Fein, I wouldn’t call a newspaper. Irish News is good, although I hate the tabloid format.

    Northern Ireland journalism used to attract Simpson, Paxman, Keane, Irvine, Adie, big big names all made their careers in Northern Ireland. It’s as if that with the sense of normality returning to Northern Ireland and with the demise of terrorist groups, all the papers have to investigate now are bins, bogs and burials.

    It’s no longer a place to make yourself a name in Journalism.

  • Garibaldy

    No mention of Lá FD?

    Anyone who has seen the local news or read the local press in England realises how good the NI media is. Having said that, the morning papers can usually be read in 5 minutes, if that, if you don’t like horses. The Irish News does sport well, the Telegraph has good commentary, but I’m not really sure either the Newsletter or the Daily Ireland are much good at anything. I think the Andytown News group has spread itself too thin. The quality of all their papers has diluted the more they have put out.

    The editor of the Independent calls it a viewspaper now rather than a newspaper. i think this is the way forward for NI papers. With less happening in news terms, debate will have to increase to sell papers.

  • slug

    UTV has retained more identity than most of the ITV regions. I am surprised that UTV didn’t get bought out by ITV.plc, but the latter, in which I am a shareholder, is in financial difficulty right now.

    UTV have failed in their ambituion of buying TV3 in the Irish Republic, but last week the story emerged they wanted to merge with Scottish Media Group.

    UTV are thought to be a well-run company, and partly for that reason I think their future as an independent local company is always in question in a rapidly consolidating media world.

    Local commercial radio is something fair deal has not mentioned. The local one in Ballymena, 7FM, does not do a bad job of local news for North Antrim, puts out interesting interviews on local issues with local people, and covers the local sport well. Where it fails is its ad breaks are too long, and the presentation can be fairly amateur, although it is nice to have local presenters.

    NI has produced a lot of people who succeeded on national radio. You just have to mention the names Sean Rafferty, Gloria Hunniford, Eamonn Holmes, Andy Greene (the guy who does the football phone ins on radio 5), Colin on Radio 1, and of course Stephanie Hughes who does the Proms on Radio 3.

  • Mick Fealty

    I do think that the political edge is missing in Northern Ireland since the ‘war’ stopped and our politicians cannot do what’s necessary to start the next phase.

    Whilst there will continue to be a exodus of Northern Ireland’s best young talent to an ambituous elsewhere of some description or another (a good thing): it’s hard to see what hard edge the new entrants are going to cut their teeth on.

  • slug

    Mick you are right. If the NI Assembly gets its powers back in the next year or so and devolution was restored then I imagine quite a pick up, there would be real issues to cover. This is coming, the interest in real issues it seems to me is increasing but it does take devolution to really focus the debates.

    This does not excuse the lack of business news and while I think James Kerr’s reports are excellent, why don’t we have him do a 30 minute business slot on BBC2 NI?

  • Anyone who has seen the local news or read the local press in England realises how good the NI media is.

    Rubbish. The papers here are as tribal as the politicians; each telling their respective readerships what they want to hear. What is the need for substance when the majority of the electorate lap up each sound-bite that is spoon fed to them? I’m guessing many SF-DUP voters think Mark Davenport and Flash Gordon are doing a great job, offering tremendous insightful political insight. Sadly this is a hugely wide of the mark and, IMO, goes some way to suggest why we find ourselves in the poor state we’re in.

    Journalism is dead here. Where are all the journalists?

  • insightful political insight

    ‘shame I didn’t see that one eh?

    sorry folkes!

  • Garibaldy

    Hidden Gem,

    Bad though the NI media can be (and Talkback and Let’s Talk are two prime examples) the British local media are much worse.

  • pith

    What the Tele does really well is finding the useless local angle to any world event. If it wasnt for the Tele we wouldn’t know that JFK’s driver in Dallas was from Bangor (swerve man). If it wasn’t for the Tele we wouldn’t know that Pavorotti was ‘discovered’ at the Grand Opera House (difficult not to discover a big fella on a stage). There’s no paper in the world can do that sort of thing better than the Tele

    Mind you, if it wasn’t for the Newsletter we wouldn’t know that 7 million US presidents and Davy Crockett were from Ulster.

    What’s Daily Ireland?

  • roundhouse

    To kick off here I’ll just repeat what I said on the other thread.
    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.

  • Garibaldy
    I disagree. I don’t think theBritish local media are much worse. Though I do think there’s little to choose between them. The point I would like to make is that just as the politicians we vote are a reflection of the divides which exist locally at a local level, the journalism we read or listen to, is of an equally poor standard. I think DD is the exception to this rule (given what and who he has to work with ) but I despise the Nolan show and only listen when I am forced to and can’t get out of the moving vehicle! Stephen ”I present the Biggest Show around” Nolan has obviously never heard that self praise is no praise. He is the biggest example (no pun intended) of the poor level of what people want from journalism here – sensational sound-bite. Lap it up all you who vote DUP/SF!

  • locally at a local level

    There I go again! I wonder if there are any vacancies in The Irish News, The Belfast Telly, Radio Ulster, etc etc etc?

  • Has anybody noticed the latest irritating News Letter style of replicating the Americans by dropping ‘and’ in favour of a comma? For example, instead of ‘Hume and Adams in talks’ they’ll have ‘Hume, Adams in talks’.

    As the oldest English language newspaper in the world, surely it shouldn’t acting as the stylistic poor relation of its American cousins, but rather should be leading the way in that field at least.

  • peter fallow

    Is Daily Ireland still publishing letters from conspiracy theorists who claim they had to retrieve their copy from under piles of titles written by securocrats?
    The Irish News is, IMO, the best regional paper in the UK or ROI, and I’ve seen a few. The News Letter is barely a newspaper at all and the Telegraph bland and insipid beyond words.

  • ulick magee

    may i just say how refreshing it is to see that not everyone in ni is as accepting of the dire state of the media.

    take for example the case of the murder of the catholic schoolboy in ballymena….utv sent out julie o’connor, star reporter to cover it. setting aside the fact that the family were obviously in shock julie decides to ask the question….’so what are you feeling right now’. fuck me julie hardly likely to be over the moon.

    another example the trend now for presenters to stand at the start of the news then sit then stand then sit….why?

    there is an element which has always existed in this country of knobism were people who you know are talentless are calling the shots. look at bbc ni programming which like the generation conveyor belt passes the same presenters past us all the time.

    ireland, northern ireland has a reputation and this website shows it of people with imagination, creativity and vigor who’s views would interest you, who stimulate debate and who try to be as engaging as possible.

    i cant say that for bbc ni, utv or daily rags.

    if i look into my crystal ball i’ll predict the following….

    nolan show tommorrow morning …. the death of the whale, the abduction of the baby, local council with weak guest to put nolan out of breath

    talkback – whale why we put it down was it catholic or protestant.

    lets try this for an idea i challenge talkback or nolan to do a piece on local media and in particular why they think theyre value for money?

    oh mr nolan audience figures so what….if you put a seal in a gas mask who allowed people people to rant live on air they would phone that show too…its not you!

  • Ulick-

    “there is an element which has always existed in this country of knobism were people who you know are talentless are calling the shots. look at bbc ni programming which like the generation conveyor belt passes the same presenters past us all the time.”

    Heh-heh. I think such a problem pervades much of the media here. I mean, God forbid that the MSM would recruit some of us who may be slightly edgier than the normal reportabots, but who are nonetheless perfectly qualified for the job.

    Wouldn’t want to break the blandness lest we cause heart attacks amongst the elderly readers/ viewers/ listeners, eh? 😉

    Safe bets are, more often than not, boring bets.

  • ulick magee

    el matador i agree…but lets see a move towards good journalism engaging programmes and quality newspaper articles….

    i find it so depressing that:

    that the bbc think that comedy must start finish and shit hole in the wall club members……sorry there about as funny as fathers day in an orphanage

    why is it that seamus wendy and conor feel compelled to banter with each other in the morning …if i wanted inane laughter is listen to terry wogan

    why is it that utv have that anally rententive programme with frank mitchell on it before the news….since when has frank been qualified to talk about weather…a monkey in goggles could do it

    we are being fed complete shite, no one questions it and whats worse that journalists accept it. Time to take your cohenies out and say no.

    if you think im being over the top look at the front page of the telegraph tonight

    woman who thinks she is jesus relative

    come on people please……..

  • slug

    Connor Bradford has one of the best educations you gan get: Eton and Oxford (although he spoilt it a bit by being at Christ Church).

  • ulick magee

    i’ve got a 50 metres swimming badge doesn’t make me a lifeguard

    so what about connor education does his ability to write big words and count to ten make him interesting

  • slug

    Noel Thompson however is a Cambridge man.

    That younger ginger-haired boy went to Queens.

  • John East Belfast

    I think the News Letter (and hopefully under its new editor – the excellent Darwin Templeton) should take the Telegraph head on and go change to an evening daily.

    It is crowded out in the morning market with the national dailies (and even the Telegraph has tried to weaken it here too).

    Any examination of the Belfast Telgraph 40% + NET Profitability would illustrate that it has had this market to itself for too long.

    The News Letter would have nothing to lose.

    I buy the Tele most nights – probably out of habit now – but I would take little persuasion to buy something else.

  • roundhouse

    “take for example the case of the murder of the catholic schoolboy in ballymena….utv sent out julie o’connor, star reporter to cover it. setting aside the fact that the family were obviously in shock julie decides to ask the question….’so what are you feeling right now’. fuck me julie hardly likely to be over the moon.”

    Oh yes, the media equivalent of rubbernecking a car crash. I was in a taxi the other week and had to sit through that fat twat Nolan asking a girl to describe in detail how her brother’s head injuries looked (and I’m not exaggerating here) after he had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Then, voice dripping with false empathy, he comes out with the million dollar question, “And how did that make you feel.”
    Oh it made me feel fucking fantastic, you fat turd.

  • John Maynard

    The way that admirable family has been exploited is disgusting. They clearly wanted both sides of the community to rally round and they achieved it for a while – until various sectarian media sh*t-stirrers decided to capitalise on it to see newspapers.
    Still, the newspaper most obviously in question here has to do all it can to sell any copies at all.

  • John Maynard

    ‘sell newspapers’, I meant.

  • gg

    Most annoying thing for me about the media in NI is hardly ever finding a copy of the Indy outside Belfast. When you do get a copy, you find the Tele repeats all the best articles!

  • Dexter

    If Nolan sees this thread, he’ll say “oh, the smarties are criticising this show on the net… Well, I don’t care what they say…I’ll keep asking the questions YOU want asked..I won’t be wishy-washy…I tell it like it is, I have the biggest show in the world, and beyond…now lets have your calls about the whale- I challenge Larne Council to stuff it and make a Whale-Park…Who’s the minister with responsibility for whales?…Get him on the phone…I’m a shock jock…I’ve the biggest show in the Universe…”

  • aquifer

    “Any examination of the Belfast Telgraph 40% + NET Profitability would illustrate that it has had this market to itself for too long.

    The News Letter would have nothing to lose. ”

    Or the Irish News, or anybody please at all. Even the Manchester Guarinidad or Irish Times or Examiner. Rescue us Rupert.

    The Belfast Telegraph’s flabby Unionism and parochialism is too depressing.

  • BillyO

    On Radio Ulster – David D and Connor Bradford are excellent – the rest are not (the girl who went to Ballymena should have been sacked).

    Noel Thompson is excellent on the BBC – the rest are way behind. Personally, I think he’s much better than Eamonn Holmes – a very good trivial GMTV or game show host but he’s been exposed on SKY – he’s not intellectally heayweight enough to handle the big news stories.

    The Telegraph isn’t bad – a little more heavyweight news and a few less feature stories would be nice.

    The Irish news tries to get a degree of balance with Unionist columnists.

    The (DUP) News Letter is a disgrace. It might be the oldest but that counts for nothing. It tells it’s readers what they want to hear and ignores what is actually happening. Their report on the man who was critically injured in a Sectarian attack in Derry never once mentioned that he was a Catholic.

    Little wonder that the English editor walked out a couple of years ago – I heard him interviewed after that – apparently he wanted to be a serious journalist – how silly!! – didn’t he realise that they require a mouthpiece for one section of the community and one political party – never mind the facts.

    I genuinely hope that the new guy can do something about it. If he can’t, it will continue to lose money and readers.

  • boggled

    Part of the problem with journalism in Northern Ireland is definitely the pay scale.

    I know of an excellent journalist who worked for one of the big three newspapers here for 20 years, he eventually left because he couldn’t sustain his family on the pay they gave him. Sadly he is has now been absorbed into the civil service.

    If we want high quality journalists we have to attract them with appropriate salaries, our medicore journalists are reflective of the wages offered to journalists here. Our top quality have gone over to the mainland or further afield.

    Of course, this is a difficult one because newspapers in general are fading, mediums such as this are more and more taking over how people get their information. A new editor needs to be innovative as well as ambitious to attract the quality writers and keep a newspaper afloat.

  • Yer Woman

    This makes depressing reading for those of use just finished or considering a Journalism qualification.

    There is an embarrassment of good young writers in Northern Ireland who are too young to have seen the worst of the trouble but are old enough to have been bored to tears with the banal pettiness of what is NI provincial politics since the Good Friday agreement. They have the education, the cynicism, the wit, and most of all the impartiality to turn around the local tribal bog-rolls into papers you’d want to read. But it’s obvious from listening to the current output of our esteemed local media that they still haven’t managed to get jobs in the very places where they could really make a difference. NI Media’s loss is Internet blog sites gain however. Here they can air their views and publish insightful and grammatically accurate commentary to their hearts content, without getting bogged down in petty political or religious bollocks. And most of them do so from the £10,000 a year “comfort” of a Civil Service admin job.
    It’s soul destroying stuff when some of the half-wits you see in the media can call themselves Journalists, and yet the real talent is stuck word-processing NI Civil service bureaucracy in a non-descript office building.

  • John Maynard

    You just keep telling yourself that love.

  • Yer Woman

    Thanks John! If it works for Steven Nolan…..

  • memorystick

    Not sure I agree with all of what yerwoman says but journalism jobs are certainly very hard to come by here. The Newsletter is currently advertising for a reporter but is looking for a minimum of three years experience. For a young aspiring journalist, it is very hard to get on the first peg of the ladder.

  • peter fallow

    “Part of the problem with journalism in Northern Ireland is definitely the pay scale.

    I know of an excellent journalist who worked for one of the big three newspapers here for 20 years, he eventually left because he couldn’t sustain his family on the pay they gave him.”

    That’s not the case in the BBC, which pays well and a comparable level to national BBC rates. So how do you square that with your criticism of the output?

  • George

    Want a job in journalism?

    Work for years for nothing for a local rag doing court reports and knocking on the doors of the mourning parents of road victims asking them for pictures of their loved ones as well as “how do you feel”.

  • Peter-

    The problem is a mix of short-sighted lethargy on the part of media organisations vis-a-vis recruitment, and low wages (a problem which pervades journalism acorss the UK and Ireland).

    The former problem results in talent being lost to other profressional industries (often, as Yer Woman says, to the Civil Service) and the resulting output from pre-programmed journobots is plain and insipid. The latter problem, which is evident from the disgraceful treatment of journalists by employers (as covered in the NUJ’s union newsletter regularly) has the similar effect of driving talented people away from the profession.

    The result- the lack of vision and a loss of talent results in poor output.

  • peter fallow

    Yes, if only these top talents currently battering away on blogs in between collecting and counting the civil service rubber bands had the same opporunities as those who have succeeded in journalism in NI. The media, nay the world, would be a better place for it.
    As it is, they are being excluded by a combination of low pay (for their incredible talents, anyway) and a conspiracy to keep standards artificially low so that only the mates of media managers and their offspring can get in.

    I suggest that eyes are dried – if you’re good enough and dedicated enough, you *will* make it in what is one of the most competitive sectors of the job market in NI. If you aren’t both, you *will* probably end up in the civil service bitching about how the media deserves better, the media deserves YOU, on blogs like this. That’s life, Esther. Them’s, as they say, the breaks.

  • GavBelfast

    I get increasingly irritated by how much the local media – and perhaps especially the BBC and Belfast Telegraph – tend to report and swallow the NIO line on just about everything, with little or no analysis and certainly no serious questioning or dissection.

    Channel 4 News they are not!

  • Sean

    I’ve been living in the South for the past ten years and come home to the North a couple of times a year. Thankfully this means I am not exposed to the delights of Norn Iron media too often. The Tele-Lite is unspeakably tenth rate, the Newsletter is extraordinarily crap. The newsletter from my kid’s school is more interesting and better written. The Irish News is not bad – though you have to be a card carrying GAA type to fit their target audience, Daily Ireland (is that a joke? because no one in the 26 counties I know reads it) is just boring.It needs some columnists who are prepared to get off their northern nationalist soapbox. BBC Norn Iron seems to specialise in people with posh Malone Road accents – thinking of the fragrant Rose Neill there. Those tortured Methody/Malory Towers vowels do my head in. As for Nolan – the man is an abomination. He has all the subtlety of a head on car crash. His only discernable talent is to shout people down. Then again in NOrn Iron that is not that surprising. UTV seem to specialise in continuity presenters who get their clothes from shops for tranvestites – frilly bows and Laura Ashley blouses. What is that about? As for Downtown I havent heard it in years and my mental health is all the better for it. By the way is Big T still there or has he gone to the big studio in the sky?