The Media in “Northern Ireland” : Newspapers

Essentially there are three Daily Newspapers in Norn Iron.

The News Letter deserves to be mentioned first. It is the oldest English language daily newspaper, having been first published in 1737. It was the first European newspaper to report the American Declaration of Independence. Founded by Belfast Presbyterian radicals, it was actually Republican in its views in the late 18th century. But in the aftermath of the Act of Union and Catholic Emancipation adopteda strongly unionist tone. It is the chosen daily of the unionist/Protestant population. It is however not doing well financially selling only about 25,000 copies daily. Part of its dwindling circulation is due to a ceratin ongoing lack of confidence in unionist politics. The News Letter clings to a belief in “unionist unity” and the rise of the Democratic Unionist Party and the demise of the Ulster Unionist Party has meant it is a little out of touch. It has a serious rival in the Belfast Telegraph.

The Irish News (founded in 1891…thank you Wikipedia) is the chosen daily of the nationalist/Catholic population. In the 1960s it was my familys chosen daily. Rarely more than eight broadsheet pages, one was devoted to “death notices”/funeral arrangements and two pages devoted to Sport, mostly horse racing. I remember it with fondness, bringing the paper up to my late father on Saturday mornings. Checking the “Deaths” he would often say “my name is not in the Irish News…I should get out of bed”. In truth the Troubles which began in 1969, was the making of the Irish News. It had access to Republican areas and I think that the “Wikipedia comment” that it realised early that the Troubles was a significant and likely to be ongoing for years, meant that it had a head start on the other Belfast papers. It has a circulation of about 45,000. It does have the “ear” of nationalists/republicans/Catholics but is pro-Social Democratic & Labour Party even though it has been overtaken at the polls by Sinn Féin.

The Belfast Telegraph (per Wikipedia 1870)produces a morning and evening newspaper. It sells about 65,000 copies but is in decline. Traditionally an evening newspaper, it was the chosen newspaper of the evening commuter. Essentially it sets out to appeal to both communities, it is little more than a collection of advertisements……car sales, house sales, job notifications, lonely hearts and “kittens free to good home”. It still seems odd to see the “Tele” on sale in mid-morning and this move is generally seen as a bid to capture News Letter readers. While publicly appealing to both communities, the “Tele” is moderately unionist. And a critic of the DUP-Sinn Fein led government.

It is worth mentioning that the Andersonstown News (circa 1980s) is published twice weekly in Belfast, largely for West Belfast and it has smaller sister papers in North & south Belfast. It is stridently republican and pro-Sinn Fein. Circulation I cant pin down reliable figures but the “weekend” edition sells around 15,000 copies. The Monday edition a lot less.

The City of Derry also has a newspaper published twice weekly. The Derry Journal (late 19th century) is nationalist and sells about 20,000 copies.

All of these newspapers are tabloid in format. Increasingly the future of newspapers is in doubt. The threat from the Internet, although of the above newspapers the Irish News seems the best prepared in the digital age. But an over reliance on “agency” pieces and “press releases” is undermining real journalism.

It should be noted that there is a very wide range of newspapers available in Norn Iron. The three Irish Dailies (Irish Times, Irish Independent and Examiner) are more expensive. And not for the casual reader. The appeal is mostly to moderate nationalism.

The British Dailies are also widely available. Obviously the emphasis is on British news. The Times is moderately conservative, the Daily Telegraph is rabidly conservative while the Guardian leans to the left and the Independent is middle to left. They are the serious newspapers. The middle brow Daily Mail and Daily Express are conservative tabloids and The Mirror is a Labour Party supporting tabloid. Rupert Murdochs The Sun is currently pro-Conservative. The less said about the near pornographic Daily Star the better.

Yet the Troubles made Journalism and Journalists. Or should have. Journalists got rich and lazy. And ever ready to appear (for a fee) as an expert on the Troubles on international TV or have articles published worldwide. And local journalists have often acted as “stringers” for English newspapers. Arguably Peace is the worst thing that ever happened to local journalists.

But the staple of Norn Iron newspapers is the weekly local newspaper. They are generally apolitical except at election time and rely on sales to and advertising from Catholics and Protestants. Local papers are therefore non controversial…….”Mary passes driving test”, “George graduates University”, “Local Man ties his shoes properly”.


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2 Responses to The Media in “Northern Ireland” : Newspapers

  1. factual says:

    The Financial Times has a circulation greater than the Guardian and is very good for international affairs and serious economics analysis, according to my tutor, who gets it on his IPad.

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