Buying the Irish Times

Jon Ihle of Backseat Drivers has a piece on the Irish Blog Awards in today’s Irish Times. He mentions on his blog “You’ll be happy to know I’m getting another good crack at the blog awards for the main news pages Monday. Should be a nice spread. Many other blogs will be mentioned, as per Madam’s request. Her interest, I deduce from my instructions, has more to do with the elusive younger demographic than with any political manoeuverings.”

My response:
The Editor should follow her nose with this interest in the younger demographic.

I’m still, just, under 30. I gradually stopped buying the Irish Times a while ago. I buy no other daily Irish paper. I was buying it daily for 10ish years before that.

This wrenching change was probably prompted by a few different factors.

1) I wouldn’t buy it on Mondays when Styne was printed. Also, it never had any news on Monday. Why can’t we have a Guardian style web supplement then? Not just on shiny gadgets and computers, but focussing on what people are using the web to say- the conversations that are going on, and how they can effect our other lives.

2) The level of analysis has fallen. This is a subjective view, I admit. But I used to delight in reading the Saturday Opinion pages when Dick Walsh ran down the left hand side. Now, rather than the newspaper’s writers acting as our guides- weighing up the competing claims of sectional interests and perhaps indicating where the balance of truth lies- the Times prefers to give its Opinion pages over to ads for various points of view, many written by those with commercial stakes in the topic of their article. Wind Farm Company Directors have articles published on the virtues of Wind Farms, Government Senators are given space to repeat the government line on the issues of the week and so on. It is a sorry state of affairs when the least predictable author on your opinion pages is a octogenarian former Taoiseach with a fondness for statistics and bus timetables.

3) The Times isn’t kicking hard enough. Now, this may seem unfair because I understand that deadlines make very hard kicking difficult. But those who need to be kicked rely on that. It is incumbent on the paper to make sure that reliance is misplaced. The Lourdes Report has left innumerable threads still dangling, for example. A sample question: Drs. Prendiville, Stuart and Murphy gave Dr. Neary a clean bill of health after examining his practice. What is their explanation for this, and who is going to assess how convincing it is?

Really hard kicking means getting to the absolute base of a story. If there are two competing statements, printing them both isn’t good enough. We need to know which one is a lie and not merely be left to guess at it according to our prejudices. This probably is expensive, as it means giving journalists the time to research a story. If it takes two weeks, a month or three months to do, then so be it. I’ll buy a paper that tells me the truth.

4) Where are the stories about my life? Reporting on the blog awards is a good start. Taking them seriously would be even better. Jaunty puff pieces about where to find the cheapest cup of coffee are grand. But I also want real stories about what makes a school succeed or fail. About why the government wants to extend its surveillance into where I go every day, and what that means for my privacy.

About institutional corruption, as well as the much more familiar personal kind. Those are the stories that deal with the reasons for the puff pieces- the how ‘long is your commute’, ‘can you afford a house’, ‘do you have enough health insurance’ kind of stories. I’ll buy a paper that will tell me the causes of problems, instead of just reporting on the symptoms and will have the guts to clearly say what would need to be done to fix them.

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