The Power Of Columnists

Sometimes a blog post can be inspired by a comment made on a previous post.

So this post is in some way inspired by a remark made by commenter (sic) Wolfe Tone.

So….Irish News columnists….and newspaper columnists generally.

I dont suppose that I buy the Irish News more than once a month. I “should” buy it more often, if only to keep track of people I used to live beside or work with. Yes there are people who read the newspaper for the death notices. And do not underestimate the importance of this. I live too far away from people that I called colleagues and friends. And just last June, I bumped into one in Belfast and amid the usual “how is…..” There came the bombshell that a woman (42) had died some six months before.

Indeed  there have probably been three or four funerals since I retired in 2005, where people might have noticed my non-appearance. People were buried who would certainly have been at my funeral. Thats how I am ….not big on engaging with people but oddly saddened that people are buried without my showing up at the funeral.

The Irish News is an excellent newspaper for death notices. It is almost a West Belfast cliché. But spending eighty pence every day just to find out that everybody I ever knew is alive and well seems extravagant…..although when I do read the Irish News, I am always surprised that people die in alphabetical order.

But for the best part of twenty years, I bought the English newspaper, The Guardian. It is broadly supportive of Labour and Liberal Democrat…typically wishy washy stuff. So reading columnists like Ian Aiken and Hugo Young and their successors like Polly Toynbe and Simon Jenkins was a means of me having my view of the world confirmed.

So having watched the morning news on TV, I somehow needed Aiken, Young, Toynbe and Jenkins to frame it all in a way that made sense to my view of the world.

I retired in 2005 so I no longer buy The Guardian for the morning commute.

But it is strange that The Irish News has never engaged me in the same way. The Troubles MADE The Irish News. It was an embarrasing apology for a morning newspaper in the 1960s. EIght (sometimes six) broadsheet pages….with death notices on page 2, greyhound racing on page 7 and horse racing on page 8. Never underestimate the power of a good racing tipster.

But all of a sudden after 1969, the Irish News death notices were filled with “Second Lts killed in action” and just as suddenly if you lived in Ardoyne, Crossmaglen or Andytown, the Irish News was the newspaper with the contacts and the sources….andeven more importantly ….the historic and personal understanding.

By any standards, The Irish News is a damned good newspaper, better than its unionist rivals, The Belfast Telegraph and News Letter.

And yet I cannot warm to it. None of the columnists (the best Alex Kane is a unionist) really seem to speak for me. Rarely do any of them write a column that makes me say “thats what I think”. Brian Feeney is formerly SDLP but now downright hostile. Likewise Tom Kelly is formerly SDLP but he is boring. Newton Emerson is merely a “slabber”.

There are of course others but I have never bothered learning their names.

It is not that much different on Slugger O’Toole, the allegedly leading Blog. Look at any headline there on say Alliance Party, court decision, integrated education, SDLP and look at the author, Mick Fealty, BBC Walker, Pete Baker, Chris Donnelly, Alan Meban….and there is little point in reading the main body of the article. You will find no surprises.

Maybe thats why I blog. I dont see my view of Norn Iron or the world out there so…I just do it myself.


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9 Responses to The Power Of Columnists

    • zig70 says:

      I don’t rate Newt at all, my missus who was in the legal profession always complained he was factually wrong in his articles when dealing with legal matters. His political stance seems at odds with the readership, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, I put him down as a bit of a shock jock but that seems opposed to his current appearances as a serious political commentator. Being anti nationalists and that being a path to greater opportunity ranks with me in this day and age. The nationalist position seems to be more under attack than ever.

      • I dont like him at all.
        In part its the use of abusive language in relation to SDLP.
        But as I understand it, he emerged from some kinda parody website to be a serious commentator. I dont like him at all.

  1. bangordub says:

    Mr Fitz,
    I think you have always been an “Outsider” even within the parties you have been a member of. I also think that every party NEEDS it’s outsiders within, so to speak.
    More power to your elbow, I wish there were more like ye

  2. observer says:

    What is Alex Kane’s secret? He writes three columns each week: one for each of the newspapers. And he gets a lot more air time on The View, etc., than most of his competitors.

  3. Wolfe tone says:

    Alas I habitually buy the Irish news but the last couple of years especially so since the sports columnist paddy Heaney quit his column, I have become bored with that paper. It has gradually become more ‘letsgetalongerist’. I like to read what Alex Kane has to say and your man Patrick Murphy but the other columnists are full of it. Added to that continuous articles about the royal family and ‘britains got talent’ etc have made this paper stale. Dumbing down and taming the readership I suspect. If only they’d get rid of the GAA sports pages and it will be a right wee proper ‘northern Irish news’.

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