Home » OPINION: Local media can turn death to life

OPINION: Local media can turn death to life

by Jimmy Rhatigan

Our local media can give itself a lifeline by broadening its coverage to include the hush, hush story of ‘sudden deaths’ in Kilkenny and the rest of our country.

That journalists are ignoring what could be termed possibly our greatest ever emergency is a blight on the reputation of so many journalists and that there is no coverage on the topic is an insult to those who listen to radio or read newspapers.

At a time when media is struggling for its very existence it is ironic that practically nobody except Kilkenny Press is writing about ‘extra deaths’ that are devastating so many families and cast a shadow over why this topic is self-censored by so many sections of the media.

On that score our local media could be a trailblazer by breaking the mould asking the tough questions and demanding an independent investigation into why so many are dying and why the numbers of deaths continue to rise.

Perhaps the media would venture where so many politicians, medics and others are ignoring despite continuous post Covid appeals. 

As well as earning the respect of readers for doing what the media should be doing, radio and newspaper journalists could also be helping to revive an industry that is fighting to stave off its own death.

Scribes could take a leaf out of the books of old style journalism by covering the news of a region and asking pertinent questions on behalf of its readers and listeners. 

It’s the least that is owed to those who still rely on newspapers and radio for their news feed.

When I shuffle back through the decades I remind myself of the glory days of local newspapers when our people queued to buy their favourite read, the Kilkenny People or back further again when the Kilkenny Journal was so popular.

Both publications mirrored the real Kilkenny practically every week with journalists covering County Councils, Corporation meetings, local courts along with a plethora of stories from the nooks and crannies of our city and county.

With the risk of catapulting myself into the dinosaur category of journalism I would have to say that the ‘People then run by the Keane family of Bishop’s Hill and the Journal in the capable hands of the Kenealy family were, for the most part models of beautiful writing.

The Journal was steeped in Kilkenny with all its brilliance and excellent reporting was right up there with the elite in a fascinating mix of tales, wails and innovative wonders like The Kilkenny Beer Festival and Arts Week.

Pumped by enthusiasm, passion and pride the urge to edge Kilkenny to the innovative and wildly active capital of Ireland was led from the bowels of City Hall. 

At that venue every Monday many amazing councillor characters, hugely active and exciting local public representatives from various political hues fought with each other, tickled each other’s tummies but always joined forces in any war to defend our city.

Our local newspapers were in the thick of a schemozzle to garner the best amenities for our city and county. Hungry newshounds, including, in more recent years, scribes from another fine local publication the Kilkenny Standard, hustled and bustled to be first with the news. 

Press releases did exist, albeit were not as plentiful as today, but they were mainly viewed as dustbin material as journos battled to win the best possible angle on any breaking stories in a bid to woo readers. 

Writers supped porter together, were mostly friends but when it came to courage, pride and a yearning to be the leader of the newspaper pack then it was dog eat dog as Kilkenny Cats hunted for the inside line.

KCLR, Community Radio Kilkenny City, The Kilkenny People and Kilkenny Observer could all do themselves a favour by reporting on the mystery of excessive deaths in our city and county, in tandem with similar excessive mortality right across our country and continuing throughout the world.

What Government and its agencies are working hard to cover up, for whatever reason, newspapers and radio could do what such organs could ask the awkward questions and keeping readers and listeners well informed.

That would be a great starting block that just might give the two radios and two newspapers the zip they need to endear themselves more to local communities.

In a nutshell our newspapers of yore were vibrant, busting guts for the good of Kilkenny and like our devoted City Fathers of Corporation fame they were brilliant local ambassadors that devoted chunks of their columns to selling Kilkenny in its best suit.

For a plethora of reasons, local newspapers generally have experienced a dramatic fall from grace while local radio, a more recent phenomenon is also forced to fight its corner vigorously.

So is there an escape hatch to a successful renaissance? 

That would be putting the words ‘real news’ back into local media and hopefully bring back the good old days when the weekly paid for sale of the Kilkenny People was circa 20,000 copies.

 Thousands of newspapers were also bought up every week by our Diaspora that gobbled up what was fondly called the letter from home that they fondly treasured.

Times were often frugal in Ireland over several generations but, admirably standards were high, particularly in the wonderful world of print that badly needs an injection of life.

Without the latter the forecast has to be shaky; very shaky.

The irony is that writing about death our local media could enjoy a new lease of life.

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