Newspaper body calls for media minister


THE CHAIRMAN of the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) has urged the Government to take greater action against copyright theft at a time when “large chunks of the industry are struggling”.

Speaking at the industry body’s annual awards ceremony in Dublin, Matt Dempsey said “perhaps it’s time there’s a dedicated minister for the media with real clout at cabinet level”.

While more people than ever were reading newspapers across different platforms, the industry faced a challenge in securing revenue streams. “This is not an audience issue; this is a critical business and indeed political issue.”

He said problems around copyright needed to be tackled at a European level to combat the piracy of newspaper content but noted that the Government was “keeping relatively quiet” in EU discussions. He also cited a lack of consistency in taxation, noting some member states charged 0-3 per cent VAT on newspapers compared to 9 per cent here, rising to 23 per cent for online publishing. As well as chairing the NNI, which represents Ireland’s national newspapers and the Irish editions of UK titles, Mr Dempsey is the outgoing editor of the Irish Farmers’ Journal.

The Irish Times won two awards at yesterday’s ceremony, as well as claiming the highest number of nominations at 14.

Literary Correspondent Eileen Battersby was named Critic of the Year, the judges praising her “courage to reject conventional wisdom in favour of her own sound sense”.

For a series of articles demonstrating “riveting commentary, perceptive analysis and stylish writing”, Miriam Lord won her second consecutive Political Journalist of the Year award.

“Never less than forensic in detail, engaging in language, courageous, outspoken and laced with wit, this journalist continues to excel,” the judges said in their citation, highlighting a “memorable piece” in which she advised Fianna Fáil and its leader Micheál Martin to “spare us” their indignation over Bertie Ahern.

The award for NNI National Journalist of the Year was presented to Michael Brennan, Fiach Kelly, Cormac McQuinn and Fionnan Sheahan, the four-man team behind the Irish Independent’s 2011 presidential election coverage. Runners-up for the overall title were Michael O’Farrell of the Irish Mail on Sunday and Mary Fitzgerald, Foreign Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times.

As well as announcing the 17 category winners at the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, the NNI presented a posthumous award for “outstanding contribution to the newspaper industry” to former Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning, who died in January. It was accepted by his successor, Anne Harris, who spoke of Fanning’s defence of “commercial editing” on the basis that “revenue drives independence”.

Harris also criticised the “inertia” in Government over the promised introduction of legislation controlling the concentration of media ownership. “One has to ask is there any longer any political will to deal with the issue?”

Sports journalist Con Houlihan, who also died this year, was honoured with the NNI Supreme Wordsmith award. It was accepted by his friend Harriet Duffin after a citation by GAA analyst Pat Spillane, who described Houlihan as Ireland’s greatest sportswriter.

Other journalists who died over the past 14 months were remembered, including Mary Raftery, Seamus McConville of the Kerryman, Caroline Walsh, Maeve Binchy, Belfast-based Jimmy Kelly and Eugene Moloney.


NNI National Journalist of the Year: Irish Independent Presidential Election Team

Best Design Presentation: Irish Daily Mail

Business Economics Journalist of the Year: Ian Kehoe, Sunday Business Post

Columnist of the Year: Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times

Commentator of the Year: Dermot Bolger, Irish Daily Mail

Crime Security Reporter of the Year: Nicola Tallant, Sunday World

Critic of the Year: Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

Feature Writer of the Year: Philip Nolan, Irish Daily Mail

Headline of the Year: Irish Daily Star - “Tiocfaidh Ar Lamh”

Newspapers in Education: Irish Independent

Political Journalist of the Year: Miriam Lord, The Irish Times

Regional Journalist of the Year: Marisa Reidy, The Kerryman

Scoop of the Year: Michael OFarrell, Irish Mail on Sunday

Sports Columnist of the Year: Eamonn Sweeney, Sunday Independent

Sports Reporter of the Year: Ewan MacKenna, Irish Examiner

Showbiz Journalist of the Year: Alexandra Ryan, Irish Mail on Sunday

Young Journalist: Jennifer Bray, Irish Daily Mail

The Irish Times nominees were: Mary Fitzgerald (NNI National Journalist of the Year), Conor Lally and Kathy Sheridan (both in Feature Writer of the Year category), Gemma Tipton (Critic of the Year), Martin Wall (Political Journalist of the Year), Simon Carswell (Business Economics Journalist of the Year), Lara Marlowe (Commentator of the Year), Michael Harding (Columnist of the Year), Orla Tinsley (Young Journalist), Malachy Clerkin (Sports Reporter of the Year), Keith Duggan (Sports Columnist of the Year), and the Friday supplement The Ticket (Best Design Presentation).