Irish Times editor fears for the future of print journalism

Newspapers will become extinct if they fail to embrace new technologies, according to the editor of The Irish Times.

Speaking at an event in DCU last week, Kevin O’Sullivan stressed how important it is for media outlets to avoid the many traps that he believes exist in journalism today.

O’Sullivan said that while technological advances must be embraced, there is a real danger of an overall detrimental effect on journalism.

He said: “Just as Ireland is going through awesome change, the Irish media world is being turned on its head. News as we know it, in my view, is under threat from an inferior product where one eye is always trained on traffic numbers.

“I have concerns too arising from technology which has changed the pace of news production. Time pressures require more decisive decisions; there are more opportunities to get it wrong,” he continued. “All that said, for traditional media business, it’s a change or die scenario.”

Speaking at an event to honour successful DCU graduates, O’Sullivan stated: “Those who value strong journalism are worried. They fear the pace of change and financial pressures will inexorably lead to lower quality. The cost too will be paid in a less rigorous examination of the workings, successes and failures of our democracy.”

The paper’s former news editor, who replaced Geraldine Kennedy as editor last year,  went to on accuse large companies like Google and Apple of monopolising the ways by which consumers get their news, at the expense of more traditional news providers in Irish society.

“Readers, listeners and viewers are participating in stories like never before but some big players may be taking ownership of key infrastructures including the Googles, the Apples and giant telecoms.”

However, O’Sullivan insisted that The Irish Times is committed to catering to consumers’ needs and embracing new methods of bringing the news to the public. “The starting point for us is a thorough understanding of the everyday needs of today’s consumer and how a brand such as The Irish Times can act as an enabler in his or her day to day life.

“We are embarking on a track of accelerating change. I believe our standards of independence, accuracy, fairness and clarity will be to the fore across all forms of content we provide.”

He concluded: “The Irish Times and theirishtimes.com have to operate in a multi-dimensional world fighting for time and attention with a range of often inter-connected media outlets, technology platforms and an always on stream of information and gossip.

“The pace has demanded that we have to move on to thinking of The Irish Times as a news provider which must adapt its online content across a serious of digital platforms on the one hand and prolong the life of the newspaper, its print title, as long as possible on the other. It requires a deeper sophisticated response.”

Sam Griffin

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