In a era of alarming newspaper decline, its great to see the transformed Irish News thriving, as noticed by the Independent on Sunday. In the long ago of my youth, the Irish News eerily interspersed parish notes with IRA battalion statements not out of any particular editorial sympathy but because of a lack of resources to meet the challenge of the Troubles and I suspect, a certain hedging of their bets over where the readership might be going. When it occasionally wanted to take an editorial line in the news columns, it had a small posse of Stormont MPs who would obligingly lend their names to the cause sometimes unaware of what they were putting their names to, according to legend. The history of the Irish News is testimony to the inherent moderation of most Catholic opinion in spite of the rise of the paramilitaries, a tale that has yet to be well told. Those days have gone. Now the Irish News offers decent all-round news coverage with some good specialism, as in education. And while it retains the Catholic parish feel, it has added modern editorial content and appearance, with noted columnists of the likes of Emerson and Feeney. Despite the rise of Sinn Fein, the paper saw off the pro-republican competition of the surprisingly staid Daily Ireland run by the enterprising Mairtin O Muilleoir of the Andersonstown News group.
“According to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), (Noel Dorans) paper has once again bucked the downward trend among regional titles by showing a sales increase in the second half of last year. With an average daily circulation of 47, 819, the News is the second most-read paper in Northern Ireland after the Belfast Telegraph, owned by Independent News & Media.”
As we know…
“Latterly the News has been unusual in refusing to give in to the widely held assumption that newspapers must give away their content for free on the internet. “If you’re in an area where there is online advertising, you can afford to do that,” he says. “But in Northern Ireland it is very, very hard to find online ad revenue simply does not exist here. So we charge a £65 annual subscription. We don’t have a huge number of subscribers, but the revenue certainly helps.”
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London