Belfast Telegraph

Farewell dear readers, your knowledge and passion amazed me

By Paul Connolly

All good things, as they say, come to an end. And so it is with this one.

After six years, I've decided to stand down as Readers' Editor of the Belfast Telegraph.

Nothing lasts forever, and it's time to move along.

It's been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a wonderful way to get to know a paper and its readership.

The Belfast Telegraph is the archetypal broad church, being read by an eclectic band of people across Northern Ireland.

Most papers, you see, are tightly targeted at certain demographic groups (often known as ABCDEs). The tabloids are largely CDEs, the "posh" papers mostly ABs and so on.

It's a rather blunt, some might say crass, way of attempting to categorise people and I have long wished the marketers would find something more sophisticated. Something that takes into account people's, well, human-ness, for want of a better word.

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The Telegraph has a good dollop of ABs, but also a healthy mix of CDEs as well.

Yes, it's less popular west of the Bann, which also somewhat impacts on the religious make-up of the readers, but it is still uniquely cross-community compared to Northern Ireland's other main newspapers and the religious make-up of the readership reflects this.

The age-profile and gender profiles are admirably balanced, too, for a newspaper.

Throw in all our community hang-ups, cultural/religious divisions and the Troubles and perhaps you'll see why the Belfast Telegraph is a difficult paper to edit.

You're writing for everyone, from a judge on the Malone Road to a mechanic in Newtownabbey and a teacher in Omagh - and all points in between.

The 'Tele' is, in fact, one of the few papers in the British Isles to have had a readers' editor.

The Guardian and Observer each have one, but there appear to be few - if any - elsewhere, although they are common in larger papers and TV channels around the world, where they are often known as ombudsmen, or public editors.

There's even a society for them: the Organisation of News Ombudsmen. You can check them out at http://news

I've spent countless hours reading reader reactions - letters, emails, tweets, Facebook postings and comments on stories - and the breadth and depth of knowledge and passion never ceases to amaze.

The reason for the ongoing absence of readers' editors in the UK is probably due to the work of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) in holding editors to account.

If you have a complaint about this newspaper, take it up with the Editor and, if you remain unsatisfied, pursue it with Ipso.

What's the future generally of media ombudsmen? Well, I hope you may see big organisations, for example, Facebook or Twitter, adopt the system.

They simply cannot be allowed to absolve themselves of responsibility for the content on their platforms. They might not legally be publishers, but they should not be able to just shrug their shoulders and exist in a moral and professional vacuum.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who complained, engaged, praised, criticised and pointed out my own errors. Feedback is essential to all businesses, and particularly for a news brand.

But, most of all, thanks to you, dear reader, for indulging me and the column. Farewell.

Belfast Telegraph


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