|Gavin O'Reilly and his missus|
Who would be a journalist these days, much less a newspaper editor? The top man at the VO was on the BBC’s ‘Hearts and Minds’ last night, talking at the speed of a greyhound on acid. Yes, he explained, the VO figures were down over the past five years but they were up from twenty-five years ago. When Noel Thompson asked how the online version of the paper was doing, the VO’s chief bottle-washer did a verbal bob and weave and said that, um, it was grand, they were going to be looking at it and maybe doing a wee bit of adjusting, sort of. Or words to that effect. Translation: bloody awful and we're wracking our brains for a solution. In the background I’ll swear I heard the Kingston Trio with their old hit It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song.
But the VO is by no means alone. The H & M discussion sprang from the fact that the Belfast Telegraph has decided to stop producing an afternoon edition. Cue lots of footage of men in caps shouting incomprehensibly in Belfast city centre while punters in slightly posher caps bought papers from them. Like every other paper around, the Bel Tel is bleeding readers like a stuck pig, and though like the VO it has an online edition, it equally can’t figure out how to make money from it.
At the same time down south, there is much huffing and puffing about the end of another tradition – the O’Reilly family owning the Indo and related papers (including the Bel Tel). Even Enda Kenny got a few words in during a trip abroad, to say the government would be looking at the media ownership situation. There was some talk among politicians of the need to maintain high standards of journalism in Ireland, now Gavin O’Reilly had been ousted and Denis O’Brien with his mate Dermot Desmond were top dogs. A lot of people hate Denis O'Brien and are worried about his media muscle; but then a lot of people hated Sir Tony O'Reilly and his son too.
So you could say it’s as you were down south: one set of obscenely rich Irish moguls gets replaced by another equally rich set. But I’m more optimistic. Not because I believe O’Brien or Desmond are keen to bring a fairer, more balanced presentation of the world to the Irish people than their predecessors. It’s just that nothing – NOTHING – could be worse than the Indo as it existed under the O’Reilly regime. And if you have to ask “Why, what was wrong with it?” I respectfully suggest you take another 500 mg tablet and go back to sleep.