The Where? In your face
The Who? The Irish Times
The When? At a tough time
The What? A bold move
The Why? It’s now, or never

It’s been a big bitch of a time to be a newspaper owner or manager – just ask Denis O’Brien, O’Reilly pere et fils, ex-editor Rebekah Brooks or even the much maligned Murdoch moguls. Hell’s bells; a serial Irish circulation chaser can’t even print a fuzzy picture of a pair of Royal Jugs without the moral majority owners weighing in with harsh condemnation. “Off with his head,” they cry, “or the paper itself will be shredded”. (The half-owner whose business empire was founded on publishing porn).

In the harsh world of newspaper economics, advertising income has nose-dived due to the never-ending recession-depression and the implosion of revenue-building property supplements. Press circulation and readership numbers are in ongoing decline due in part to the free availability of internet news, which is, ironically, often provided by the newspapers themselves. The industry’s ability to develop income-generating firewalls is patchy as punters have become accustomed to cost-free content.

State-sponsored TV channels seem happy to pump out free online content while simultaneously picking the public purse via the licence fee. As the financial noose tightens, the industry has become adept at shooting itself in the ethical foot due to dodgy investigative practices, making institutional, social or political sympathy elusive. The inability of the Press Council to investigate Katiegate because the Windsors didn’t bother to complain was sad proof of the toothless nature of the self-regulatory body. It can’t be too long before the farrago of self-regulation is replaced by the heavy hand of legislation imposed by politicians happy to proclaim the value of a free press, while simultaneously eagerly embarking on a wing-clipping exercise.

As the late great Dean Martin once advised, it’s clearly time for the newspaper industry to kick the table over, seeing as their opponents hold all the aces. In some ways, that is exactly what The Irish Times has decided to do. As it embarks on a campaign dedicated not just to sell extra copies but to reverse negative trends and alter misjudged perceptions, it is simultaneously putting the presumed power of the adland to the test. Whether Cawley Nea\TBWA’s work succeeds or fails, The Story of Why will ultimately become The Story of How or The Story of How Not To.

In itself, that registers as a mark of bravery and a cause for commendation.
The grand old dame of D’Olier Street is now on Tara Street and has lifted her skirts in order to display a new-found mettle. She has undergone a complete make-over with help from world famous designer Palmer Watson. In acting like a market leader, the paper’s bosses took a decision to invest in a marketing initiative founded on sound strategic thinking and displaying creative merit. The Irish Times has added a new dimension to the classic adage of what it is to be a newspaper in the first place.

They have enriched the timeless ‘Where, Who, When, What’ modus operandi of the medium with the addition of ‘The Why’. Now the newspaper of record is morphing into becoming the newspaper of interpretation, giving it unique stand-out; USP.

What does The Why really mean? Interpretation is perhaps even more vital than sometimes-hubristic investigation so beloved of Prime Timers and Woodward and Bernstein wannabes. Interpretation demands that the journalist does not simplistically think ill of the living; it demands a less populist, more holistic appraisal of political, social and economic movements, challenges and decisions. The Why is commentary nourished by evidence, empathy, and an underlying truth. The Why accepts that not every political act is de facto malign, not every commercial decision is founded on greed and that not every social demand is undeniable. Finding the answer to The Why obliges the journalist to approach the subject with a more open mind; he or she must also pose the question ‘Why Not’ in the effort to achieve balance of judgement as opposed to settling for populist judgementalism or current political correctness.

It is arguable that the primary challenge of the campaign must be how it sits with the most cynical of all audiences – the men and women who write the paper. Journalists do not normally think highly of advertising folk, but the Cawley Nea\TBWA team provided them with good reason to pause for thought. Once you put your byline under The Why, you are committed, so you had better be sure.



The Story of Why is not just an important and well-told contemporary story about journalism in Ireland and the challenges it faces. It is also an important story about our own industry. It says someone, somewhere still believes in advertising.

As this sense of ambition percolates into the public consciousness, The Irish Times will become more unique and a voice unto itself and the nation. Recently appointed Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan has opined that “We are about to embrace a scale of change comparable with the most significant in our history”.


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