Yesterday’s confirmation of the deal between the Irish Times and Landmark Media — owners of the Irish Examiner — is a watershed in the Irish media market.
The culmination of more than 12 months of discussion, negotiation and detailed regulatory review, it is the start of a consolidation which will inevitably see further changes in the publishing portfolio of this island. Inevitable, because of inexorable economics and changing patterns of consumption in society.
The arguments about what has happened to newspapers financially and the accelerated impact following the collapse of the economy in 2008 are well-rehearsed. Journalists railing about financial realities after a fall from a once dominant and gilded position has more than a whiff of special pleading. It is, to paraphrase a political slogan, a little like sailors complaining about the sea.
The Irish Times/ Landmark transaction creates a powerful mix of publishing platforms and formats, print and digital, and increases the range and diversity of commercial solutions available to advertisers and businesses. To unlock the potential contained within all the constituent parts will require some hard and clear thinking.
But it is to journalism that we will direct our thoughts today. It remains, overwhelmingly, the revenues generated by print products which underpin investment in editorial content.
The profession requires a huge effort and unparalleled initiative to persuade two generations of digitally savvy consumers that journalism is something worth buying, and worth paying for at a level that takes it beyond the scale of a cottage industry.
It is fundamental that this circle is squared and that the imbalance between print euro and digital cents is narrowed. It will be the challenge of our age and upon its solution depends the reporter-based structure which feeds democracy and holds power to account.
Without it we really will witness the epoch of fake news, social media anarchy and corporate and political communicators who neither trust nor need independent journalists to get their version of “the truth” across.
This conundrum is for tomorrow. Today the IrishExaminer welcomes its new colleagues on this shared journey to take arms against a sea of troubles.
Simultaneously we say farewell to a dynasty whose connections with us reach back to 1872. Ted, and Tom Crosbie leave the company bringing to a conclusion five generations of direct service and support by the family to publishing, journalism, commerce, technological progress and freedom of the press.
On their watch only the British military authorities, the IRA, the anti-Treaty IRA, journalists striking over a reporter who was jailed for contempt for refusing to reveal a source, and Storm Emma wreaking snow havoc on the roads around Dublin in March have actively impeded continuous publication.
It is an impressive record in the fraught world of daily publishing. There are many, many thousands of people with reason to be grateful for the commitment of the Crosbies. We wish them well.
When the tumult and the shouting dies the captains and the kings depart. But the editorial ethos of the Irish Examiner in the second decade of the 21st century will continue to echo the precepts set out in its first edition of August 30, 1841 —“to render the newspaper useful and interesting to all classes of readers”.