Over the last few weeks the value of new media in Scotland in driving forward debates of social significance has been reinforced in my consciousness.Late last month in Glasgow over coffee I discussed the Irish Post’s Famine Memorial for Glasgow campaign with James MacMillan. I told him that I thought his intervention on this issue would be useful. He took me up on that and submitted this letter to the Herald for publication.
The letter from the internationally renowned composer was deemed important enough for that newspaper to flag up with this short news piece the same day.
On the back of that I decided to contact the Herald.
My rationale was that here is the journalist mentioned in a letter by James MacMillan.
Although they initially accepted the piece (which was supplied to them for free) they then claimed space as the problem.
I suggested the online edition only as space wouldn’t be an issue.
So cost was off the table and space in the print edition was off the table.
Their online editor claimed that, as the issue had been flagged up in James MacMillan’s letter then there was no
“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to use it online since the existence of your campaign was already flagged in The Herald’s letters page a week ago.”
Of course that is entirely the Herald’s decision to make.
However, when I related this tale to colleagues there wasn’t anyone in the trade that accepted this rationale.
The idea that they would,having printed a letter on the subject, then turn down a free op ed from the journalist mentioned as being central to the issue was baffling for these very experienced Scottish journalists.
So kudos to the good people at the Caledonian Mercury for running with the piece I had originally written for the Herald.
It is important that issues that concern the Irish community in Scotland are aired in the Scottish mainstream.
I believe that the case for a city centre secular memorial in Glasgow to An Gorta Mor is unanswerable.
However many people remain to be convinced and the role of the media in Scotland is to allow space for grown up conversation to take place about the issue.
If old media in Scotland cannot, for whatever reason, create that space then new publications like the Caledonian Mercury will fill the vacuum as the print sector is in danger of being increasingly irrelevant.