Belfast Telegraph Editor to retire

So Martin Lindsay is to retire as editor of the Belfast Telegraph in September. Having served nearly 50 years in the business man and boy, Martin gives to lie to the notion that only spring chickens can respond to the formidable challenges of a 24/7 news agenda and the internet – and now the recession. The Tele still manages to straddle demographics, communities and technologies and make some money that up to now at any rate has helped to keep the parent Independent group afloat, as press commentator and part-time Donegal man Roy Greenslade notes. I’m pretty sure the Tele will continue to adapt and flourish, provided its new leadership continues to supply what Martin and his predecessor Ed Curran possess: an intimate knowledge of the community and the respect of movers and shakers. Staff cuts have been a constant shadow over performance. Martin’s successor will no doubt have to continue the struggle to maintain the essential resource without which a newspaper dies: its reporters. In a challenge to my other loyalty, Ed has an understandable beef about BBC expansion. Whatever happens over BBC top-slicing and local partnerships, the Tele will have to survive mainly on its own quality of service. I’m better than hopeful that it will.

  • fair_deal

    Sorry which Belfast Telegraph is this blog referring too? Is there a second tele in one of the other Belfasts across the world? The description certainly does not apply to the one sold locally which has been on a nosedive for a number of years.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The Tele’s demise has indeed been dramatic. I recall it being delivered faithfully to our home every day in the late 80s/early 90s and accompanying my mother on her monthly visit to a particular newsagents to pay for the ‘Tele.’

    I don’t think I’ve bought it more than a dozen times in the past decade, though its ready availability online is partially responsible for that.

    The paper’s unionist slant naturally ran contrary to the mood of an increasingly positive and assertive Irish nationalist community throughout the 90s, and it’s fairly disastrous decline in circulation must to a large degree be a consequence of its failure to attempt to toe an editorial line which struck a chord with nationalists.

  • “an increasingly positive and assertive Irish nationalist community throughout the 90s”

    Chris, does that include those who voted for SF, the political wing of duck-waddling militant republicanism?

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “it’s fairly disastrous decline in circulation must to a large degree be a consequence of its failure to attempt to toe an editorial line which struck a chord with nationalists.”

    A mate who worked there and said he’d seen the research and it showed the biggest drop in readership was among Unionists. As I didn’t see the data myself can’t vouch for the authenticity of the claim.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Nevin
    I’m surprised you’ve found time to distract yourself from investigating North Antrim’s own ‘Watergate’ to comment here, never mind find time to link to an Andersonstown News thread…

    FD
    I’ve no doubt a drop in unionist circulation contributed as well- I’ve nothing but anecdotal evidence to go on, to be honest. Ironically enough, given where I grew up, losing our trade would have doubtlessly been recorded as a lost unionist customer.

  • top_down

    Does Brian Walker have an interest to declare here?

    If I worked for the tele (and only a very few do these days), I’d be planning to leave as well. Editorially it’s completely confused, trying to find some middle ground between its increasingly erratic and muddled collection of columists. Most of the time it gives up and runs articles on, for example, Limerick schools which the Irish Times wouldn’t even be bothered with. Does anyone even know if it is a morning paper or an evening paper these days?

    Must soon be time for another massive ad campaign featuring, let’s see now, a picture of Liam Neeson, Windsor Park, the Giants Causeway blah blah. Let’s wait and see.

  • Mick Fealty

    The ABC site used to give current circulation figures, but can’t seem to access them today without logging in.

    You cannot talk about the fate of one newspaper without referencing the wider decline of the whole industry.

    At the weekend I spoke to a guy who had started as a journo in the mid sixties, who said he knew of one local paper which launched in Hemel Hempstead and went from 0 – 60,000 in six months.

    It’s just not happening any more. Circulations have been trending deep south for the last five years at least. It’s the natural condition for now.

    That’s the larger explanation; but without figures I’m not sure what to make of the various competing claims on this.

  • Chris, FoI requests to Belfast, Edinburgh, Dublin and London involve prolonged delays so SF propaganda and the related republican duck-waddling bring a little light relief 🙂

    Contradictory ‘positive and assertive’ replies from Ministers and senior civil servants have also created a great deal of merriment and even the editor of the Belfast Telegraph has been found wanting when it comes to apologies.

  • Mick Fealty

    And this from one of Pete’s links on the Scott Rosenberg’s story:

    Pursue links into the thickets of new blogs dedicated to the topic, with names like Recovering Journalist, News After Newspapers, and Reflections of a Newsosaur, started by concerned journalists, laid-off journalists, aspiring journalists, and ex-journalists. Follow the broadsides by professors and industry analysts, distinguished editors and young-turk reporters, all scratching their heads trying to figure out how to salvage their vocation from the technological whirlwind.

    If you care about the fate of journalism and its role in democracy and culture, this second choice turns out to be the only satisfying option. And when you realize that, you also realize that the debate is over: you have just resolved it. In this controversy, as in most others today, to ignore bloggers is to miss the entire event. Whatever the drawbacks and limitations of blogging, it serves, today, as our culture’s indispensable public square. Rather than one tidy “unifying narrative,” it provides a noisy arena, open to everyone, for the collective working out of old conflicts and new ideas. As the profession of journalism tries to rescue itself from the wreckage of print and rethink its digital future, this is where its most knowledgeable practitioners and most creative students are doing their hardest thinking.

  • Shore Road Resident

    What’s going to happen to this blog when all the newspapers shut? Slugger is just Newshound’s article listing with a comments feature attached. Sorry to burst your bubble there Mick – but it if wasn’t for the Guardian and Daily Telegraph fees, how could you even afford your bandwidth?

    PS: Yes, WTF with Brian Walker. Martin Lindsay was a fiasco at both the Sunday Life and the Tele. Classic conveyor-belt promotion. Good riddance to a boring old fart.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    The internet has obviously had a massive impact on the print media. I’m wondering if there are any newspapers which tried to do a ‘Slugger’ under their own label and succeeded?

    It certainly would add to their circulation figures (and therefore advertising revenue) if they could ‘sell’ the forum of a thriving current affairs online forum as well as their print editions (maybe you might get an offer you can’t refuse soon…)

  • “What’s going to happen to this blog when all the newspapers shut?”

    Blogs and newspapers can work well, maybe even best, in tandem. Blogs on their own will seldom get to those parts that newspapers reach.

  • Mick Fealty

    SSR,

    You’ve been chucking rocks at me on this since 2004… 😉 You were dead wrong then and you are still denying reality now. So be it, but…

    Where else did you read the Gilmore/Cowen piece on Leaders Questions (and I doubt you’ll get that detail in the Irish Times, unless it’s ripped from us)?

    We beat RTE to the Euro date confirmation… Do keep up, OLD man… Oh, did you miss our crowd sourced analysis of the Euros which meant we had a detailed analysis of the results on Saturday evening (two days before the result, and three days before the ‘dead tree press). 😉

    Chris,

    It’s the financial model that’s killing them not us bloggers. Google’s done for them first and foremost, we’re simply enduring because although we

  • Shore Road Resident

    My advice for struggling newspapers? Track down everyone using your content without permission and bill them.

  • Brian Walker

    Chris,you ask: “The internet has obviously had a massive impact on the print media. I’m wondering if there are any newspapers which tried to do a ‘Slugger’ under their own label and succeeded?”
    My knowledge is limited but there are added value newspaper blogs in the Irish Times website for instance. You’ll also be aware of additional material in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free.” The Guardian website is a world beater but does little or nothing for revenue. Surprisingly, the Daily Telegraph has invested hugely but has delivered only modest added value that I’ve noticed.( Mick can’t discuss this, I would think.) Murdoch’s News International in the UK, now under Rebekah Wade, is threatening to charge selectively like the FT, but the arguments are finely balanced. If the Times were to charge this might start a Gadarene rush. The common weakness of the newspaper websites it seems to me, is that while they run blogs or comment which have blog characteristics with extra material and invitations to comment, there is little or no real interaction. The orginal author hardly ever replies and follow-ups are too rare. And because they are often tucked away, they can be easily missed. Oddly enough, one of the best web editions with interaction is the intellectual monthly Prospect’s. Shore road resident, where do you think unpaid bloggeres are supposed to get their information from? Try specialised bloggers and see if they keep your interest up.

  • iluvni

    The Belfast Telegraph was at its worst over the Maze stadium fiasco with its garbage articles from Lindsay, Curran, Eric Waugh (what is he good for) and the ever dreadful Beacom.
    Rarely bought it since then.

  • Mick Fealty

    ssr,

    And vice versa? AP are trying that trick, and it may just kill em off quicker…

    How can you stay so grumpy for five years…

    John Lloyd, a man I have immense respect for, opened that event at Edelman with great line “I hate blogs for what they are doing to newspapers”… He was kind enough to say Slugger was one he values very highly; but I understand his argument and share his concern.

    My feeling is it is getting close to time to thinking about what takes it’s place rather than lamenting the losses of the past…

    Chris,

    There are lots of fora attached to papers, but the management/journalists rarely engage with the readers on a peer to peer level.. One thing my Telegraph readers would say to me from time to time was that I was not like the ‘other hit and run merchants…’

    It’s the quality of engagement that’s different. On papers that costs time and money (so they stay behind the wall and deal with the worst when they have to)… On blogs it just adds to bandwidth costs; there’s no comparison with paying humans…

  • Mick Fealty

    Missed yours Brian, but fully endorse that…

  • Shore Road Resident

    You’re very stung by something I said so long ago. Even I don’t remember it.
    I don’t think the internet is killing newspapers – except as yet another dud investment by the idiots who’ve saddled the industry with unsupportable debt.
    I’m just telling you that there won’t be much to talk about around here when the last of the local papers goes tits-up.

  • Mick Fealty

    SSR, not stung so much as recognising a stuck tune. And you’re not saying anything about regional papers that’s not already been said here a dozen times. We included a regional paper of the year in the SluggerAwards.com precisely because we recognise their importance to the democratic system.

    I see you’re choosing to sidestep my return to your deadly ‘Nuzhound with comments’ first service… 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    BTW it used to be Bloggers who were obsessed with this… This from three minutes ago at a Demos conference in London (http://twitter.com/matlock/status/2536663044):

    “Oh dear. A question from a journalist has hijacked the debate into yet another whine about the future of journalism…”

  • Shore Road Resident

    OK, Newshound plus some parliamentary video feeds and the odd good leak from a party press officer. With comments.
    I love your site but you’ve got a terrible swelled head. If property is location, location, location then the media is content, content, content – and only a handful of people on earth have ever generated enough original content to attract enough readers to sell enough adds to pay for their content. Unless it’s porn.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oh there’s a problem even for pretentious bloggers like me…but we’re working on it; we’re working on it…

  • I’m pretty sure the Tele will continue to adapt and flourish, provided its new leadership continues to supply what Martin and his predecessor Ed Curran possess: an intimate knowledge of the community and the respect of movers and shakers.

    “…the respect of movers and shakers?”

    Huh? And that’s supposed to be a strength of a supposed independent newspaper in a supposedly free media?

    With the honourable exception of David Gordon, the BT’s constant toadying to our self-defined “movers and shakers” is Tele’s core weakness encapsulated in one short phrase.

  • Driftwood

    Last time I picked up a copy of the ‘Tele’ there was a column on the Lebanese banking system by Robert Fisk which had been in ‘The Independent’ 3 days earlier.
    O Reilly is just juggling the same content around all his papers. And people are only interested in opinions in papers now. The local TV news is the same, algae on Lough Neagh etc. The fact that nothing is happening at Stormont doesn’t help.

  • Jimmy Riddler

    Agreed Driftwood.

    The Bel Tel has certainly dumbed down more in recent times with too much gossip and tits n’ ass photos. They are also obsessed with the property market which may not be unrelated to their http://www.propertynews.com link and advertising of course.

    Unfortunately, when taking stories from sister publications or news releases clearly relating to GB they rarely seem to inject a local angle. Take the recent reporting of the Nationwide house price rises – they didn’t mention the fact that they actually fell back here and it was only those commenting online who actually reported this fact from the original Nationwide document. That certainly doesn’t help credibility.

  • Driftwood

    JR
    I meant to mention the ‘supplements’ including the ‘Jobfinder’ which seems to carry them on certain days. Now the 2nd hand car market has gone to auto trader and property is down the swannee. I suppose the death notices keep some of the elderly readers preoccupied. I agree with oneill David Gordon covers the local politics well,but Stormont is like a cemetery with the lights on, and What the hell Bob Fisk articles are doing in a local paper is just ‘fill’- 95% of the readership wouldn’t have a clue what he’s on about.