An American newshound in Dublin
Here's an interesting article in an American media trade publication describing one editor's impression of the Irish newspaper world, from the perspective of a consumer, on both sides of the border. It's a nice read, not least because the writer has no particular political axe to grind, and therefore gets things fairly right. In particular he highlights the high cost of Irish newspapers (close to $2), the often irreverent writing, and the relative slowness to adopt tried and tested techniques from elsewhere (e.g. tabloid size and comics).
But what's a blog for if not quibbling and we have a couple. Mainly, it's that he seems to have been lulled into thinking of the Irish Independent as a "quality" paper, with its broadsheet format and common ownership with the London Independent, which is a half-decent paper. But the Indo? Much of what's in there in a given day is simply a rehash of what's in the UK tabloids; for instance, going to the website for today we see that one of the featured stories is the divorce case of Arsenal star Ray Parlour, which has zero connection to anything Irish. Now of course the Indo's response would be that it's giving the readers what they want, but that's quite different from being a "quality" paper. We might as well just reveal our own bias, which is that the quality read is to be found in the Irish Times, which for all its Unionist past and whiny columnists, does manage to cover the things about Ireland that we find interesting. And there's another issue with the Indo -- its control by our little local Murdoch figure, Tony O'Reilly. Or "Sir" Tony, as he'd prefer to be known. Tony has had problems drawing the line between his business interests and the editorial line of the Indo, but that would take us into a long discourse on mid 1990s Irish politics so we'll save that for another day.
On a lighter note, older Irish Indo readers would be delighted to discover that the American kids saw the virtues of Curly Wee, a comic that appears each day in the Indo (the writer forgot to mention Curly's friend, Gussie Goose). And indeed, Curly's adventures can seem a bit sedate:
The extraordinary lameness of this combination of two-frame cartoon and poetry appealed to his 13-year-old sense of irony. Here's a sample of the caption's rhyme: "How Gillian Jane detests her school. She thinks it's simply VILE!/And when the others cry 'Buck up!' or 'Don't you ever smile?'/She answers back 'Let me alone!' in accents sharp and shrill/To which they squeak, 'Let you alone? Oh, righty-ho, we will!'"
Oh, righty-ho, indeed. It doesn't help that the pace of the story makes the progress of "Mary Worth" look like a tale told by a methamphetamine addict. The Curly Wee rabbits took a week to arrive at a hotel by train, and one day's entire episode concerned not eating lunch, but the cute critters simply looking at the picnic basket packed for them.
Now, we'll have to consult with the Curly experts when we are back in Meath next week to confirm, but we're pretty sure that the reason that the strip seems so, like, old, is because it is: one of the nice little ananchronisms about the Indo is that it just reruns the old strips from a generation ago, since the creator has long since passed on. But if it takes a little irony to make Curly vital again, so be it.