We need to support our journalists by buying newspapers again.

Whatever else you can say about where we are as a country at the moment we are certainly living in interesting times. Nowhere is the tsunami of social change reflected more clearly in the result of the referendum to lower the waiting period for divorce from 4 years to 2 years. As I write exit polls suggest that in the region of 87% voted for yes for this change.  In 1986 we voted against divorce and in 1996 the vote was passed by the slimmest of margins.  Oh yes, times they are still a changin’.

But what is more interesting is the ‘Green Surge’ that has been delivered in both the European and Local elections.  I am no expert and no political scientist and I still am not fully sure of how PR works, but I tweeted a week before polling day that from people I was talking to there seemed to be a ‘greening’ happening.  And today listening to the radio as we wait for the first results to come there seems to be a fair amount of surprise among the commentators and journalists at this turn of events.

This is worrying.  And it should also be something we are concerned about.  We have great journalists, great commentators and I think we are still a nation capable of critical thinking. However our media, is an industry in big trouble.  We saw stark evidence of this this week with the news that the Times Ireland will no longer publish an actual paper here.  A lot of great journalists lost their jobs.  The problem of course is funding and it is affecting our news media – both print and broadcast as they rely more and more on advertising for revenue as we insist that we should get our news for free.

The bottom line I think is that we need to go back to buying newspapers.  I honestly believe that chasing subscriptions is problematic for all kinds of reasons. But mainly because our attention span when reading on devices is less than when we are engaged in reading the printed word. Studies have also shown that we read faster on screens and so not as carefully as we read the printed word.

Living in an urban area means that I can avail of the luxury of having a newspaper delivered to my door every day.  Therefore, I can have my breakfast while reading the news the old-fashioned way.  This means that I am presented with the full newspaper – all opinions and stories, not just those that have been curated for me based on my likes and interests by Big Brother – be he Facebook or some other medium.

When the e-reader came on the scene, we all were told that books were dead.  Libraries and bookstores would vanish.  They didn’t.  E-readers have their place and are very useful for travelling but people still like to read books. Because reading is a much more than just words on a screen or a page.  It is about time and space, the touch of paper and the smell of print.

Online reading becomes very cluttered very quickly. You either read when you find or you bookmark for later and the article or column becomes part of a huge online slush pile which will probably never get to.  There is only so much you can read online.  However a newspaper, particularly a chunky weekend one will lie around for a couple of days as you delve into its various parts every time you sit down with a cuppa.

Some great journalist lost their jobs this week because we think that our news should be freely available.  In order to keep their finger on the pulses of a nation, journalists need to be out in the world.  They need time and resources to do their jobs. And we need far more journalists than are currently employed in Ireland at the moment.

But journalists don’t just bring news.  They hold the government and the powerful to account. They investigate stories that need time and energy to uncover.  They are essential for a functioning democracy.

So, if you care, really care about politics, about our democracy and how we live; if you want to make this country a better place, we need a free, independent media funded by OUR money.  So please, buy a newspaper.  Not just today, but every day.


News has forever been generally negative. We all know that old cliché that ‘no news is good news’, well it works backwards too. In other words ‘good news is no news’. There are other writers, more learned than I, who have probably written long theses on why this is so, but even I recognise, that we live in a global world where fear is a huge factor in our lives. Stoking our fears and insecurities makes us better consumers and advertising funds the media, so I guess that the status quo is going to remain for some time to come.

But I don’t think that it is altogether fair to blame the media entirely for the barrage of negative news that we are subjected to every day. I think that we also have a morbid fascination with bad news. Just look at how people get so seemingly spellbound by disasters and tragedy on a grand scale. Is this because we all possess an element of the “God I am glad that I am not in that situation” type thinking? Perhaps.

We in Ireland are also endlessly fascinated by politics and more recently economics. We greedily soak up the news and the conversations of celebrity experts on everything from bond markets to septic tanks. Often these conversations and discussions go around and around in circles never actually reaching any conclusion as trendy economists and outspoken politicians whizz from studio to studio peddling their own particular wisdom which in turn becomes the water cooler or twitter conversations. All of which leads us subconsciously to live in a state of stress about the future.

There is nothing wrong with stress as a short term measure to combat some threat. Being stressed when you find yourself staring down a lion, for example, would be most useful but in day to day life this low level anxiety cannot be good for us.

Psychologist Maureen Gaffney wrote recently that “resilience during periods of stress relies on the ability to actively rebalance positive and negative emotions.”

So why is there seemingly so little balance in the news and current affairs media? That is something that only the media can answer but in the meantime we as individuals need to develop the ability to stand back from what we are reading, listening to or watching from time to time. We need to regularly ask ourselves “how am I feeling today?” Much of what we hear about on news media, from natural disasters to impending financial meltdowns, we have no control over. So if you are already feeling a little bit below par, a bit fed up, uneasy or worried then recognise that fact and take a break away from the bad news.

I know that if you, like me, are a current affairs junkie who likes to know what is going on, turning off The News, or Primetime or Tonight with Vincent Browne might be a radical step. For years my alarm radio was set to RTE Radio 1 so it was the voices of Morning Ireland I woke up to. But recently there have been mornings when I know that I don’t want to begin my day with all this financial gloom and dire doom. Depending on my emotional state I may chose Hector’s roaring from Galway to jar me awake or on other mornings it will be some classical music on Lyric FM. But the point is to recognise when enough is enough for you and move that dial.

In the meantime I will continue to drone on about how we need more positivity and inspiring stories in our news media to balance all the negative stuff. I will continue to love hearing RTE’s Philip Bromwell’s voice as I know he will bring me a tale of dolphins, or rescued dogs or squirrels. I say we need more like him. We need more uplifting and life affirming good news stories which are everywhere in our society, particularly in these hard times. These stories may not make us better consumers immediately but ultimately by bringing balance to our news we will be a nation of happier, less stressed citizens which just might play a large part in Ireland getting herself out of this brutal recession.