It is always an incredible opportunity to be able to learn about the journalism industry from individuals who have worked first hand in it, but I found it fascinating to learn about the news system in Northern Ireland, and how it differs from the rest of the world.
In a country where religion transcends almost everything, and one’s faith influences political ideologies, moral beliefs, historical understandings and more, it is only natural that the same ideological separation exists in how one consumes the news.
Claire was telling us how she published a ‘neutral’ newspaper at one point during her career. The attempt was to create a single news source that everyone in Northern Ireland could read, regardless of religion or ideological/political beliefs. While staying away from religion and politics, it would serve the community as a whole.
When she first mentioned it I must admit that the idea struck me as ingenious. In a world where religion is seeming to have less of a visible influence over youth and the general population, it only seemed natural that the transition to a ‘neutral’ news source would come in time as it has seemed to in other countries.
In Canada, no blatantly religious newspapers are widely distributed. Apart from the Anglican Journal or other church-published newsletters there is little religious bias or focus in the journalism industry. Political bias absolutely, but that is held apart (mostly) from religion.
In Northern Ireland the political climate is unique. The religious beliefs of the Catholics and Protestants are tightly bound to the beliefs of the Nationalists and Unionists, respectively. And so where in North America we have clearly Conservative or Liberal newspapers (Republican or Democrat in the United States), Northern Ireland has Catholic or Protestant.
Claire’s newspaper unfortunately didn’t make it past six weeks, which only stands to demonstrate the work that is still to be done in Northern Ireland, but also shows the current climate in the international journalism scene as well. Print is going out of style, and it is becoming harder and harder for new print publications to exist. The web is taking over, and only those pre-established newspapers are finding any readership; and even that is declining.
As printed newspapers are “phasing out” it will be interesting to see how these biases and ideologies choose to present, produce, and distribute their news, whether it be to continue printing the papers, or to amalgamate into one large journalism mass, or maintain their bias in an online presence. As the climate in Northern Ireland shifts towards a more unified people it will also be interesting to see the influence on the NI journalism business. Will these biased papers drop off the earth, or will the religious and political knots eventually untangle themselves and settle into their respective corners?
Certain Belfastians are optimistic about this separation of church, state and community as a whole. A gentlemen named Tom, who led me and my peers on an incredible Black Taxi tour around the city over the weekend, believes that the young people of Belfast are setting the stage for a new era of history. By putting aside religious segregation and biases, he believes the Peace Walls will be down by 2023, and a new Belfast will be ushered in led by a non-partisan youth.
As for me, I certainly hope he’s right, and that newspapers like Claire’s can exist and thrive in a bright community that reflects on it’s past while still marching forward.