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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tough time for Wexford’s free sheets as recession bites.

Every town has its free sheet newspapers. As a medium it thrived during the Celtic tiger era. Every enterprise looked for advertising in the local print media and there was plenty of customers willing to pay for ads. Wexford saw 2 such enterprises open for business South East Voice and County Wexford Free Press. Both gave an outlet for a more personalised agenda than currently seen in the local print media. The South East Voice regularly ran items on what it regarded as local scandals. It quietly closed its doors in Autumn and ceased printing. I’m genuinely sorry that it’s finished up. As a publication it was open to any politician who sent in a press release not just local but national as well. The most popular page was always Beat on the Street where it reported forthcoming local social events. It always gave any local politician who went to it an airing on any issue. When I was chairperson of TLC the paper was particularly good in raising the issue of school buildings and government neglect of schools. I remember in the run in to the Local Elections 5 years ago they reported a vox pop and favourable mention was given by me and when I read that I knew I was doing well. I wish the lads behind it well and I’d be delighted if it came back on the shelf.
The other tabloid free sheet the County Wexford Free Press has also weathered a storm. 2008 saw the death of one of its founding fathers, Liam Lahiff. Later many of the building ads, ever present since its inception, disappeared as builders and tradesmen cut back. This has forced a reduction in the number of pages and a reduced print run as the publication struggles to stay afloat. Publication once fortnightly, alternating with the Voice, is now less frequent. A reduced rate card aimed at tradesmen has been introduced and I hope it works for them.
It’s style is unique. Apart from one main current item on the front page and Johnny Roche’s thought provoking opinion column, much of the content reflects an older Wexford that many in the town might not now believe once existed. As someone once pointed out to me “Most locals mentioned in its columns have long since gone to their eternal reward, just make sure Joe they aren’t writing about you next week!” Add in the quirky but clumsy political column with its poor spelling (the author’s surname rhymes with spell check!) and folksy old time nous and it’s easy to see why there’s a reduced appeal to both young and new comers to our town. Jack O’Leary and Liam Gaul both produce excellently researched articles for these alone it deserves to survive as it’s title and style is a link to a long-ceased publication of the same name that published from almost the same location.
Publications like these do add to the diversity of the media and at a time when independent local papers like the Echo are selling out to national titles and even in some cases ownership passes out of the state there is a place for this type of free sheet. The town needs a diverse media owned and accountable locally. Lets hope that continues.

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