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Time to embrace the change says Irish Times Editor

Presidents Lunch 2019 photo

“Together we are better” was the powerful message delivered by The Irish Times Editor Paul O’Neill, at the annual Waterford Chamber President’s Lunch on Friday (June 21st) at the Majestic Hotel.

Paul orated an astounding insight into his career as a journalist, beginning in the Waterford News & Star over three decades ago, moving to London and covering what are now significant moments in history, including the release of the Guildford Four and IRA bombings, to now being at the pinnacle of his career as Editor of Ireland’s most prominent newspaper.

The intervening years have brought many changes to the media industry as Paul outlined. “We have witnessed a revolution – an information revolution – but it has crept up on us. Our desktop computer and an internet connection gave us limitless information in an instant. Our phones made that information mobile – always on, always with us, 24-7.”

However, to succeed, he says, you have to embrace that change. “You can’t hold back the tide. But you can try to harness it. A turning point for The Irish Times was when we stopped seeing digital as a threat and embraced it as an opportunity. That means that as far I and my colleagues are concerned, a reader is a reader. It’s not for me to decide how you interact with us. My task is to ensure that we meet your needs however you choose to do so. And that has meant huge change.”

Paul also spoke of the importance of local media. “For all this talk of change, however, my core message to you is that what’s critical is the survival of good independent journalism. For all the imperfections of the media – including newspapers – we shine a light into areas where many would prefer we didn’t.

“That applies as much to the News & Star, the Munster Express and WLR in Waterford as it does to The Irish Times from a national perspective. If Darren Skelton hadn’t helped to expose the shortcomings in mortuary services at Ardkeen, who else would?

“In focusing public attention on very different issues like these – poor public services, the workings of the political system and enduring societal inequalities – the media, local, national – but most of all indigenous – helps to inform and enrich our communities. I believe we can and do make a difference.”

Addressing guests, Waterford Chamber President Jonathan Earl emphasised the importance of finding our own confidence.

“The next few years will be such an exciting time for Waterford, there are so many projects on the cusp of realisation. Thankfully some of these are coming to fruition already, the Waterford Airport funding and Waterford Port’s new Rotterdam service are just two examples of a new confidence in the region.

“There seems to be a shift from Waterford looking for a hand-out to Waterford seeking investment partners. Like the Irish Times stopped seeing digital as a threat and evolved, Waterford needs to stop focusing on what other regions or cities are getting and focus on ourselves, our strengths and our potential.”

The event was sponsored by AIB Bank, and Marian Keane, Head of Homes with AIB Waterford and Kilkenny said, “For all of us in AIB, our purpose is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions. Belief turns houses into homes and we back belief with a fair mortgage. The planned developments for Waterford herald an exciting new era for Waterford and we very much look forward to continuing to support our community in achieving these dreams and ambitions.”

Saying there was an optimistic horizon for Waterford, Marian said, “Nationally we are seeing strong growth in mortgages with projections of €10bn for this year, up from €8.7bn in 2018. Mortgage approvals are up strongly. This year in Waterford alone we have had €43 million in applications with €42m million in current approvals for customers in Waterford, which is an uplift of 24% on 2018. We have a long association with Waterford and are proud to support the property market in the South East for which we see potential for further strong growth.”

 

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