End is nigh
|Frank Corr on troubled newspapers, Myers's trials and Hook's love of Sky+|
This column does not want to spread alarm among readers, or indeed the humble scribe, but the bad news is that newspapers, which supply much of its raw material, are under severe threat.
It's not just pay cuts at Independent Newspapers and The Irish Times or the difficulties being encountered by Johnson Press in flogging off its Irish titles to a willing buyer for a half decent price. This is a worldwide thing.
Take the US of A, home of the whistling paper boy and thousands of newspapers. They are falling like the Welsh front row faced with Hayes, Flannery and Horan. Over the past year alone, the printing presses at more than 100 titles have stopped and 20,000 newspaper jobs disappeared.
They include hickie papers like the Rocky Mountain News and the Anchorage Daily News, but also serious titles like the Seattle Post Intelligencer which has closed after 145 years of continuous publication and the Chicago Sunday Times whose owners have filed for bankruptcy.
The publisher of the Miami Herald is cutting the group's workforce by 1,600 and the mighty Washington Post is offering voluntary redundancies.
Economic woes of course are part of the problem, but the deeper cause is the move of readers to the internet – although there is some compensation for press from online spend. But even this revenue is under threat from Google which blithely aggregates news from newspapers and offers it on its site.
Robert Thomson, editor of The Times of London, described the content aggregators as “tapeworms in the intestines of the internet.” Tim Luckhurst of the Guardian said Google does not understand journalism and it just wants content that drives traffic – “churnalism” v original reporting.
The real tragic prospect is that those newspapers which survive will not be able to invest in quality journalism and the Googles of this world will, in the end, have nothing of value to aggregate. “Google's technology is modern,” Luckhurst said, “but its rapacious conduct is as old as unfettered capitalism.”
What happens in the USA to-day inevitably spreads to the rest of the world tomorrow and unless someone comes up with a magic formula to revive the newspaper industry, the outlook for all print media could be bleak.
(For more on this subject, see Michael Cullen's Goings On article in the current issue of Marketing. Remember, you can subscribe online).
Handbags have been swung ever since Kevin Myers did the unthinkable and moved from The Irish Times to the Indo. Since that fateful day, the former incumbent of An Irishman's Diary has been swiping regularly at his ex-employers and Madam has launched more than a few Exocets herself.
With traditional objectivity, the ‘Paper of Record' reported last October on a decision of the Press Council of Ireland (PCI) under the heading ‘Press Council upholds complaint against Myers article.' Which it did – sort of.
The opening paragraph read: “The PCI has upheld a complaint against the Irish Independent that an article by its columnist Kevin Myers breached its code of practice relating to incitement to hatred.”
Myers complained to the PCI about this report of its own findings, largely on the grounds that the decision was not related to “incitement to hatred” but only as it referred to “likely to cause grave offence”.
The PCI upheld Myers's complaint – sort of. It ruled that the report was misleading, but found no reason to believe it was “other than inadvertent”.
Honour may have been satisfied – sort of – in this little joust.
RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan was conspicuous by her silence when asked by reporters to comment on her interest in replacing Pat Kenny as host of the Late Late Show.
HOOK ON SKY
That surely is George Hook up there extolling the virtues of Sky+ and encouraging us to write to the creator of the service and thank him (or her) from the bottom of our hearts for its invaluable appliance of science.
Now, could that be the same man who became incandescent with fury a few years ago when Sky bought the rights to exclusively broadcast live coverage of the Heineken Cup, consigning the RTE rugby dream team to mull over the highlights long after the results of the games were known?
Could Hookie possibly be considering a career move?
Communications Minister Eamon Ryan could have bad news for Sky and Setanta. Ryan is asking for input into a new list of sporting events that must be broadcast on terrestrial channels “in the public interest”.
The present list includes the Olympics, GAA finals, European and World football qualifiers and finals, Rugby Six Nations and World Cups. With rugby the current ‘hot' sport, there will be strong demand to add the Heineken Cup and possibly the Magners League to the list, which, if included, could further dent Sky and Setanta viewing audiences.
Memo to Carr Communications when advising clients about taking tough questions from Miriam O'Callaghan. Just tell them to smile sweetly and say: “You know Miriam, this is painful for me because I love talking and I am by nature an indiscreet person. I kind of think that life is about talking, but on this, I am being a saint. Really, Miriam, I feel like a politician by not commenting…but sure you'll understand. You've been there yourself.”
Frank Corr is an author and freelance writer (email@example.com)