Every cloud has a silver lining

On Friday, to the dismay of many and the joy of a few, the daily Irish Language Newspaper Lá Nua will appear on the shelves for the final time, the Belfast Media Group having decided that they had no option but to close the paper following the decision by the Foras na Gaeilge board to withdraw financial support and to fund only a single weekly newspaper in the future. Alas, Lá Nua can expect no reprieve.

On a personal note, I will miss the paper a lot, I simply found it necessary reading for work and highly informative. I have being getting it since I was sixteen, back when it was weekly. I must confess to have always preferred the weekly edition.

Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining and that ray of hope in this case comes from journalist (and original co-founder of Lá), Eoghan Ó Néill, Raidió Fáilte’s anchorman.

Eoghan may not be that well known in the English Language media but he is certainly up there with the best journalists working through Irish.

Following the announcement of Lá Nua’s closure, the consensus quickly went in favour of developing an online media service in order to avoid the costs associated with printing, Eoghan has taken the jump and set up his site – andrumamornuacht.blogspot.com.

One would have thought that you would need something a bit more sophisticated than blogspot but he is certainly getting more out of it than I would have considered possible.

I for one think he is doing an incredible job and I am looking forward to seeing what other writers he can attract and to see how the site develops.

One confession however, I don’t like the name, An Druma Mór (the big drum) I think it is a ‘blog name’ rather than an online media service title, which the site can most certainly claim to be.

  • ggn

    Whoops! I thought the ‘fold’ came up automatically.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    long live Gaelic….you call it Irish!

  • Tim

    druma mór, big drum, any hint of sarcasm/ irony there? pity about Lá Nua going off the shelves.

  • Pete Baker

    ggn

    Just click on the “Extended text” link and cut and paste what text you want ‘below the fold’ into the opened space.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Thanks Pete.

  • pointless

    “The best journalist working through Irish”. Is that for the many many thousands who understand Irish but not English, or is that the news is different in Irish Land?

  • picador
  • Ó lár tíre

    Án trua

  • 6countyprod

    What does ‘Lá Nua’ mean?

  • picador

    New day

  • Comrade Stalin

    On a personal note, I will miss the paper a lot, I simply found it necessary reading for work and highly informative.

    I have to wonder what work someone would be doing that would make an Irish-language medium newspaper essential.

  • Dewi

    Joseph – for such a nice bloke you are terribly prejudiced when it comes to language. There’s a cultural hinterland that ain’t served by English language media.

  • Sexpert

    Gael gan Náire – You state:

    I have being getting it since I was sixteen

    Don’t you think you started a little early….lucky you !!

  • Gaelic Scholar

    I see that Mick from Devon has Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh as one of his Councillors of the week….is this guy releted to Uncle Tom Cobleigh? Does anyone know?

  • ersehole

    Bhuel, céard is féidir a rá faoi Lá.

    Bhí caighdeán na Gaeilge iontach maith i gcónaí. Bhí díocas agus díogras ag an fhoireann oibre.

    Ach, i mo tuairimse, ba iris baile do chuid na Shinners é. B’fhéidir go raibh scéalta curtha i gcló nar fheileann clár oibre Sinn Féin, ach ní fhaca mise iad ariamh.

    UMH, very few Irish/Gaelic speakers object to the language being called Gaelic, after all that is the name of the language in Gaelic/Irish.

    Ulster Gaelic is a linguistially legitimate name. If you are genuinely interested in the language, you might find this map challenging..
    http://bartholomewmaps.com/gaelic/test_mapping_150px.asp?pid=1275&id=map&xcoord=900&ycoord=3450&xreal=1050&yreal=3450&idx=277653#demo

  • Dewi

    http://www.golwg.com/

    For what it’s worth – that’s what we are spending our £600k on…..me I ‘d rather a rag with the rugby scores….

  • Modernist

    sorry Dewi just wondering what golwg means out of interest?

  • Dewi

    Modernist – “View” – and it’s not a bad publication but we ain’t got a daily paper in any Celtic language – not good….

  • Modernist

    Aontaím le do thuaraimí ersehole ‘is b’éidir i mo thuairim gurb iadsan na fáthanna nár lean Foras na Gaeilge ar aghaigh leis an deontas

  • GGN’s take on the closure of Lá Nua later this week is somewhat lacking. He blames Foras na Gaeilge but fails to pin the blame on the main protagonist within the Foras who came out publicly to defend the indefensible decision. That is Sinn Féin, which has four members of the sixteen on the board. As the Foras is very much a Sinn Féin baby, had SF not wanted Lá Nua to be closed for any number of reasons – that the jobs lost would be lost in the party president’s constituency – it wouldn’t have been closed.

    Why did it do this? Who knows – I have a theory that Sinn Féin reacted badly against Lá Nua following that paper’s criticism of Sinn Féin’s ineffectiveness in promoting the Irish language at NI Executive level. It was hilarious and very Animal Farm to hear SF spokespeople defend the Foras decision by pointing to Lá’s failure to compete with English language media. Since when has a party with its roots, supposedly, in socialism been talking about the primacy of the market in these matters. After all if the market were the only criteria to be observed, no Irish language media would survive. Only 16,000 watch Nuacht on TG4 nightly – that doesn’t even register on the Nielsen ratings it’s so small, less than half of one per cent. The newspaper which is continuing, Foinse, a weekly paper, hasn’t published audited sales figures for years which indicates to me that it isn’t selling that much more than Lá Nua.

    I think Sinn Féin voted against Lá Nua’s continuing and, with increased support, improving because it didn’t like the fact that Lá Nua wasn’t its Pravda as it had long mistakenly assumed it to be.

    As it is the money saved by this decision by the Foras is going to recruit translators who will be translating unread documents in Irish to unread documents in English and vice versa. Contrast that with Lá Nua, read online and in its print edition by more than 2,000 people daily. Now that’s a small number when compared with the Irish Times but it’s huge in terms of the Irish language.

    There are many reasons for Lá Nua’s closure. Some of them down to lack of expertise and the like – and as I once was editor, and proud to be so, I include myself in that catergory. We very much learned on the job. But we did the best within the resources that were available and never shied from telling it as we saw it, no matter who it inconvenienced. Never were we an apologist for one party or another and never did the paper allow itself to become a party publication.

    As for GGN’s preference for the weekly edition, many people have said that as when Lá became a daily newspaper in 2003, publishing 12 pages daily, it ceased publishing the weekly edition of 32/36 pages. Perhaps had we continued on the growth path of a weekly paper Lá Nua would be still in the game today. My own sense of it is that Lá would have been gone by now had we remained weekly. Foras na Gaeilge would have cut off the funding sooner as it would have become unjustifiable to fund two weekly newspapers in Irish. One would have had to go sooner or later. The decision to go daily was driven by an imperative behind the foundation of Lá back in 1984. The very name means day – Lá Nua, the latest incarnation, means New Day. That’s all about a daily newspaper. I appreciate that Gael Gan Náire wouldn’t have experienced working on the daily newspaper, producing the paper, but it was actually easier to produce a daily edition than a weekly edition. Until February this year, the newspaper had been growing – and its circulation had also been increasing. It was at 16 pages daily in February – and a daily twenty page edition was being aimed for by the end of 2008.

    However in February the rescue plan I proposed, to eliminate the daily print edition in favour of a PDF edition daily. Because of high printing costs and unfavourable distribution terms, it was costing money for Lá Nua to distribute a print edition. These costs would have been eliminated by going online with, possibly, a print omnibus ‘Best of’ edition to be distributed to subscribers weekly. However because of Foras’ unwillingness to allow Lá Nua to ensure its own survival, the publication’s closure was assured.

  • Now there’s a news service, which is independent of Foras na Gaeilge, and it’s picking up where Lá Nua left off. By necessity, it is a shoe string effort but produced to a high standard by journalist Eoghan Ó Néill. An Druma Mór is, as Gael GN pointed out, more like a blog title but that’s precisely because it is a blog title.

    The lesson to be learned from the Lá Nua experience, it’s this. A low cost independent operation is the best possible way forward for the Irish language print media. But if people want it to survive, they will pay for it by subscription because as it is, it’s unsustainable. It’s all well and good to praise Eoghan for his work, but that doesn’t pay for the service.

    I proposed on my own website not so long ago that those who subscribed to Lá Nua should continue their £12/€14 monthly subscription and merely re-assign it to An Druma Mór. I hope this call is heeded because in this day and age, if we want a service akin to Lá Nua, then we need to pay for it and not leave it at the mercy of the likes of the politically controlled Foras.

  • Dewi

    Concubhar O Liatháin

    Is print sustainable? Friendly sources here think not – me, I like to buy a paper. But to be brutally honest what I’d really like is a thick Welsh language Sunday with international content like the New York Times…..and daily Rugby scores – blasted hard work…..and we can all speak English so we need something above what Murdoch can provide !

  • 6countyprod

    thanks, Picador

  • ersehole

    So 2000 for Lá Nua is ‘huge in terms of the irish language movement’ but 16000 for Nuacht TG4 is ‘so small’.

    Fáilte go dtí domhan Chonchuir uí Liatháin

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dewi:

    Joseph – for such a nice bloke you are terribly prejudiced when it comes to language. There’s a cultural hinterland that ain’t served by English language media.

    I don’t accept that, and I don’t see that the loss of La Nua will disadvantage anyone in particular. I’m not dancing on their grave, but I don’t see the big deal.

    I’d still like to hear what occupation someone might have that would mean that La Nua was essential reading. I’m guessing it’s in the public sector.

  • Just to explain it to Ersehole – 16,000 watching Nuacht TG4, which is far more well resourced than Lá Nua and is broadcast at a peak viewing time, is small in BROADCASTING terms as Lá Nua’s circulation was small in PRINT terms. The point I was making in general terms is that if market share were the only criterion no Irish language media would be safe. But it isn’t is it? There’s more. However, in the case of Lá Nua, Sinn Féin, for one, couldn’t see past market share……

    What will the party do if Foinse’s sales figures are ever revealed to the public? What will it do if the general population realise the €1+ subvention to TG4 Nuacht from RTE’s licence fee is being enjoyed by just 16,000 people on a nightly basis….the average viewership for the main RTE News is somewhere in the region of 400,000 viewers….

    It wasn’t about market share you see in the end – what it was about was SF getting a petty revenge against Lá Nua after that paper demonstrated the party’s failure to do anything substantial for An Ghaeilge in the new power ‘sharing’ arrangement with the DUP in NI….

  • Dafydd

    One of the last times I bought Lá Nua it featured a double page ‘poster’ of a victorious Gaelic football team, one page of pictures and press statements posing as a TV page, two pages of sports stories badly translated from the BBC and RTÉ website, one page of notes for school students. A 12 page newspaper can hardly afford such padding, especially when the rest of the pages are taken up with outraged commentary about various slights to Irish. Let’s be honest -it was crap.

  • Would you were so discerning of the stuff in English language newspapers Dafydd? Most of it which is pr crap represented as news, as any cursory glance through any newspaper will show.

    I think posters as Gaeilge of victorious teams whether they’re GAA or not are a good thing in a newspaper. They’re important accessories for young people to kit out their bedrooms with etc . The fact is that the edition you bought was that which was aimed at schools. So that’s why you have so much content directed at schools.

    As for translating sports stories ‘badly’ from RTE and BBC websites – the same applies as above re press releases. Sports stories such as who’s beaten who or who’s going where in transfers are all pooled but they’re made available in English so they have to be translated. Whether the translation is good or bad is another thing which may be a result of any number of factors.

    Was it crap? I’m sure some people thought it so – others thought it was a good start and had it got a fair wind behind it, it would have improved. The fair wind never came…..

  • RG Cuan

    Deas a fheiceáil GGN ag scríobh anseo.

    DEWI

    £600k on Golwg! Check out the latest Irish magazine – http://www.nosmag.com – it, like An Druma Mór, receives a staggering £0!

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “long live Gaelic….you call it Irish!”

    It can be called ‘Irish’ because it is the old language unique to this island of Ireland!

    Come on it’s not rocket science UMH…Why are you so pedantic?

  • Dewi

    Excellent RG Cuan.

    Daily Post having a go in Welsh for £0 also… Web version only.

  • OC

    Seems difficult to scream for a comprehensive ILA with Gaelic readership amounting to practically nothing, which I find shameful.

    How many in the RoI, or any Gaeltacht, subscribed?

  • darth rumsfeld

    as a died in the wool rejectionist Unionist I am genuinely sorry that this paper has closed- even though I never read it, obviously.

    The expression of ideas through a language that has an important cultural place in OWC ought to be nurtured. Instead we’ve had local rags feeding us page after page of rubbish about the Quigglet, or ” Sure wasn’t Woolies great for pick’n’mix?” stories -and rotting our brains.

    Irish-like gaelic sport- needs to find its place in NI, far far away from those who use it as a political badge of differentiating. It absolutely needs a proper paper to do so, even though its real viability is always going to be its everyday usage.

    For all I know the paper was a turgid Spartist MOPEfest, but that’s not the point. It deserved to survive, provoke, outrage and educate. But then I still miss the voice of presbyterianism, the “Northern Whig” -murdered by the evil episcopalian “News Letter”…

  • dewi

    Darth – “The Daily Parade” perhaps….(Codeword – hope)

  • picador

    I picked up a copy of Nós at An Chultúrlann recently. It is an impressive publication and I will definitely be buying it again, though it would be nice to find it available in north Belfast.

    TG4 seems to have more English than Irish on it these days. When they show the Euromillions lottery the announcer (and a fine looking girl she is!) calls out one number in Irish and then the next in English. I mean what is the point in that! Surely a Béarladoir can work out what the number is from the on-screen graphic FFS!! Is droch é Euromillions.

  • Dewi:

    Joseph – for such a nice bloke you are terribly prejudiced when it comes to language. There’s a cultural hinterland that ain’t served by English language media.

    I don’t accept that, and I don’t see that the loss of La Nua will disadvantage anyone in particular. I’m not dancing on their grave, but I don’t see the big deal.

    I’d still like to hear what occupation someone might have that would mean that La Nua was essential reading. I’m guessing it’s in the public sector.

    Another reminder from Animal Farm. It seems that Comrade Joe is of the ‘One Language good, two languages bad’ school of thought, in particular when the other language is Irish….

  • Danny

    Gael gan Náire,

    Good to see you blogging here. I look forward to your entries, although I will have a hard time following the ones i nGaeilge.

    Concubhar,

    Where is that figure of 16,000 viewers from? TG4 itself?

    Hopefully whatever follows Lá Nua will be more than the blog that was linked earlier. A full-on weekly PDF newspaper would be best.

    Lastly, has Lá Nua been receiving many letters from its readers? What’s the general sense out there? Outrage? Resignation? Optimism for a new dawn? etc Can anyone here fill us non-Irish speakers in?

    I see all the Lá stories by way of Gaelport.com, but I can only follow the English language snippets from other papers.
    http://gaelport.com/index.php?page=clippings&dates=2008-12&viewby=date

  • The TG4 viewership figure for Nuacht is provided by Nielsen and was made public in a number of news stories following the leak of a report by an external consultant.

    Full on weekly newspapers, whether PDF or otherwise, don’t grow on trees. A blog is all that’s available and thanks to the provision of Foras na Gaeilge for publications is all that will be available.

    You will be cheered to know, however, that numerous annual reports, apart from the Foras na Gaeilge reports for 2004-7 which are not yet published, will be available in Irish. That’s the type of reading material that, apparently, does grow on trees.

    I am not working at Lá Nua so I am unaware of the letters situation. This is the latest and final trauma for Lá Nua – every other time we survived by the skin of our teeth and by the dint of our own resources being pared to the bone and beyond. This time, the newspaper is genuinely breathing its last and the last edition will be available tomorrow.

  • An tÚdar

    Aontaím le Concubhar go hiomlán, maith thú a chara.

  • ersehole

    Conchubhar,

    No shadow of a doubt Nuacht TG4 is better funded than Lá was, and I know that there is a difference between broadcasting and print.

    In ROI, 675000 newspaper copies are sold daily. Lá (North and South) sold 2000. i.e. 0.003%

    RTE and TV3 news get around 750000 viewers I guess. Nuacht TG4 gets 16000, which is 0.021%

    In other words they are seven times more effective in their market than Lá.

    Now they are better resourced, and TV is an easier medium for learners, and they have attractive girls and all that.

    But your comparison pooh-poohed Nuacht TG4 in comparison to Lá.

    Which needed challenging mo bhuachaill…

  • Gee – ersehole – when you put it like that, with such mathematical precision, it seems that the case for the closure of Lá Nua was overwhelming.

    All I was pointing out – whether it’s 0.003 per cent or 0.021% [though guesswork is hardly a basis for a sound argument] – is that no traditional Irish language media can be described as sustainable without public funding, given the costs involved.

    Also the funding issue has to be factored in – Nuacht TG4’s annual funding is at least 5 times more than Lá Nua’s – so that kind of reduces your effectiveness factor.

  • Suilven

    Just thought I should point out 2000/675000 and 16000/750000 are actually 0.3% and 2.1% respectively.

  • ersehole

    I stand corrected Suilven; though my argument relied on ratios, so it doesn’t change the substantial point.

  • The substantial point? What erse you speak….there’s nothing substantial about your point, which is based on supposition and guesswork. You completely missed the point I have been making that the traditional Irish language media is unsustainable without state support – when I say traditional I mean print and broadcast.