| 8°C Belfast

McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


+44 7837 68 57 67

Why GAA fans need local papers to survive this crisis

Declan Bogue



Full coverage: Crossmaglen Rangers celebrate Armagh title success in 2019

Full coverage: Crossmaglen Rangers celebrate Armagh title success in 2019

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Full coverage: Crossmaglen Rangers celebrate Armagh title success in 2019

What we are set to talk about isn't all that important in the greater scheme of things - indeed, what is? - but in a year's time when everything should be back to normal, we must all hope that our local newspapers make it out through the other side.


Last week was a desperate one. The Newry Reporter, publishing since 1867, announced through their editor Paul Welsh on Twitter: "It is with regret that I have to let you know that the print and digital editions of the Newry Reporter will be suspended from this week."

This came after The Examiner, a paper covering the south Armagh area that has documented an extraordinary period of the local Crossmaglen Rangers team, announced something similar at the end of March.

"It is with deep regret that, due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, we announce The Examiner is temporarily suspending production to help safeguard our staff, printing and distribution network from this rapidly spreading virus," read a statement. "Our intention is to resume production when it is safe to do so."

Monaghan paper Northern Standard, founded in 1839, has suspended printing until April 23.

The niche publication Gaelic Life, a magazine-style paper exclusively covering Gaelic games and running since January 2007, last week stated that it was ceasing its printing presses and going digital-only. Journeys such as these don't tend to come with a return ticket.

Many others, such as the magnificently-titled Impartial Reporter in Enniskillen, have had to furlough staff.

The Anglo-Celt, a newspaper so embedded in Ulster GAA that it actually sponsored the trophy of the Ulster Senior Football Championship, has been going for almost 175 years and yet is down to a skeleton staff in its Cavan town base.

We all have our own dramas going on inside this ongoing and open-ended pandemic, but for anyone who cares about local identity, these are extremely worrying developments.

Sure, newspapers in their traditional format of print are showing only one trajectory. Some have adapted brilliantly to new media formats, but the local paper is a touchstone in rural areas.

In a sporting sense, it is a great pity. The local paper makes the ordinary club footballer or hurler into a sporting god. It elevates the mundane. It adds texture to the world of local sport, art and entertainment.

As someone who has worked in local newspapers in other parts of the world, I can say with reasonable authority that the quality of local publications across Ulster and further afield is miles beyond that of your provincial English, American and Australian equivalents, most of which are freesheets comprised of business ads, a few sketchy sports stories and a series of press releases printed verbatim.

The local paper has become a sort of old dog that people like to give a kick and complain about.

But a look back at the same titles from 20 or 30 years ago and they are virtually unrecognisable.

Advances in technology and so on bring their pages to life with the quality of printing and imagination of photography, while the sheer volume of good writing now available online pushes younger journalists to higher planes than their predecessors.

There's just far more ambition about the place. Aside from that, the local sportswriter - especially in the world of Gaelic games - has a special responsibility for that area.

Some of the best writers are to be found in the local papers and, in the absence of any proper GAA statistical database, will be the prime source of appearances, details and nuggets that add a richness to the overall sum of knowledge within the GAA.

If you ever doubted local journalism's responsibility towards the readership, look at the way Rodney Edwards of The Impartial Reporter, backed up by his fearless editor Mark Conway, have exposed sickening paedophile activity in the Fermanagh community going back decades, for over a year now.

They are watchdogs for the wider society, an invaluable tool of local democracy - and they require government intervention.

Otherwise, imagine sitting here in a year's time at the height of club month in the GAA and having nowhere to read a match report on your club's game as the local paper was allowed to sink into the black hole of coronavirus.

What are we left with then? Facebook?

Belfast Telegraph