16 December 2005

First Irish-American newspaper to sell weekly in 32 counties

Daily Ireland

“There are now a growing number of people who have investments on both sides of the Atlantic, and they're shuttling back and forth.” – Sean Mac Cárthaigh

JIM DEE - Daily Ireland USA correspondent

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After more than three quarters of a century of updating Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans about all things Irish in the US, New York’s Irish Echo newspaper has decided its time to find new readers – in Ireland itself.
As of November 30, the weekly Irish Echo became available at newsagents across Ireland’s 32 counties for the first time in its 77-year history.
Sean Mac Cárthaigh, the Echo’s managing editor, said that the change is a reflection of the fact that there is an evolving two-way trans-Atlantic migration of many of its readers.
“What’s happened basically is that, for the first time ever, there are now significant numbers of emigrants – not just coming from Ireland to the United States, but also coming from the United States to Ireland,” Mr Mac Cárthaigh told Daily Ireland.
Mr Mac Cárthaigh said that there are at least three types of readers who would be interested in picking up the Echo in Ireland: Irish who’ve lived for a while in the US and want to follow goings-on in Irish America; Irish- Americans who’ve moved to Ireland to work in the booming economy; and Irish-Americans who've crossed the Atlantic because they have an Irish spouse who wanted to move home.
“And there are other things as well,” added Mac Cárthaigh
“There are now a growing number of people who have investments on both sides of the Atlantic, and they're shuttling back and forth. It’s nothing to them to get on a plane.”
Mac Cárthaigh said that there is also another group of frequent flyers who keenly follow the Echo – shoppers.
“They want to know what the bargains are in New York.
“It used to be just Christmas, and now we find that there are people coming over here shopping all the time,” said Mac Cárthaigh.
“It’s quite fascinating. We actually do a single page each week which is devoted to telling where this week’s sales and bargains are. And it’s high fashion stuff. They’re not coming to shop in Wal-Marts. They’re coming to shop in Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf-Goodman, etc.”
“So for all those reasons we felt that we basically couldn’t go on serving Irish-America, unless we were in Ireland as well,” Mac Cárthaigh added.
“It’s almost the last part of the socio-economic jigsaw for us that we have to be available in Ireland, because part of Irish-America is now in Ireland.”
The Irish Echo began publishing in New York in 1928, and it is the city’s oldest English-language weekly serving an ethnic community. For decades the paper was a vital source of information for Irish immigrants seeking to carve out a new life after leaving behind economic hardship back home.
In the years when the mass-media paid scant attention to an island tucked away in the North Atlantic, the Echo became was also essential reading for anyone seeking news from back home.
Ned McGinley, the Pennsylvania-based president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said that: “The Irish Echo has always been the paper that Irish-Americans used to learn about Ireland and to find out what was going on in this country that related to the Irish. And until the Irish Voice appeared, it was the only paper that did that.”
McGinley said that when the conflict erupted in the North in 1969, the Echo “became kind of the organ of the Irish-American groups, where we would get out information. There was no internet then, and you never got anything on the television or radio then. So it really was the only source at times for information about Ireland.”
He said the paper filled the void by giving readers a broader understanding of the conflict than the mainstream media often provided.
“The only time that it ever made headlines was if Irish republicans blew up something,” said McGinley. “They were portrayed as the only bad guys. I can remember when things changed later on and people here were shocked that there were loyalist paramilitaries.”
McGinley said that in the past it’s always been “sort of a one-way street”, in that Irish-Americans were the ones seeking news about Ireland.
“But now with the changes, and people going back to Ireland who were maybe in the states years ago, you’re going to see a market for American news in Ireland that you haven’t seen before,” said McGinley.
Sean Mac Cárthaigh said that the Echo’s decision to sell copies in Ireland is just the latest move spurred by the ever-changing global media market.
“Over the last five years or so, maybe more, with the technology and more and more people getting broadband internet connections, we found that part of the role of the Echo, of telling people the news that has been happening in Ireland, has been diminishing,” said Mac Cárthaigh
“Because if somebody is completely captivated about what’s going on in Ireland, they’re going to log-on to the internet everyday and view the news on RTÉ, or read Daily Ireland, or read the Irish Times,” he added.
“So what we try to do in the Irish Echo is to give people a reasonably comprehensive and cogent wrap of what happened that week, and maybe have some analysis of where the thing is going.”

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