Derry Journal 250: It did indeed prove to be a ‘job for life’
Former Editor and before that Sports Editor Arthur Duffy shares his memories from a distinguished career in the Derry Journal spanning over four decades.
HEARTY congratulations to the ‘Derry Journal’ as it prepares to celebrate 250 years as Derry’s leading local newspaper early next month.
And it’s a significant achievement, particularly for all those still involved in the production of the paper and, of course, the ‘Journal’s’ loyal readership.
As a former apprentice compositor, general news and sports reporter, sports editor and, indeed, managing editor, during my 42 years service, I take great personal satisfaction in joining the celebrations for reaching what is a truly tremendous milestone.
Having secured an apprenticeship in the production department of the ‘Journal’ back in January, 1977, I’ve been fortunate to have successfully map my way through the ranks, thanks to the training, support and camaraderie I received from so many colleagues, many of whom have sadly since passed on.
Since my entry into the newspaper and commercial printing industry, I’ve witnessed so many changes, not only in members of staff, but particularly in production methods.
My introduction followed the termination of the old hot metal linotype production and hand-setting techniques, before the arrival of photographic typesetting which proved to be a major change within the industry, a switch which I greeted with great interest.
And while the ‘Journal’ management had always embraced modern production methods back then, the industry has since experienced nothing short of a seismic shift in terms of technology.
So to have experienced so many changes since my teenage days, proved to be an amazing education and a real rollercoaster ride.
“You’ve landed a job for life if you look after it and want it,” claimed so many of my own relatives and friends back then, and so it proved.
My one and only full-time occupation not only brought decent financial rewards, it also offered a fabulous education and years of great fun and personal satisfaction as I progressed through life.
The ‘Journal’ family has always been very special to me and as I regularly reminisce and recall the support and friendship of colleagues, some no longer with me, I continue to struggle with the speed of so many memorable times gone by.
That friendship, loyalty and guidance presented me with a career which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and, I must admit, I really miss it on occasions having opted to hang-up my boots in June, 2019.
I have worked and enjoyed the company of so many great personalities employed in the Buncrana Road premises - both management and staff - as the ‘Journal’ offered so much to a young person attempting to build a successful career.
My move from the shop floor to the editorial department fashioned new challenges, with additional training and the reliance of experienced journalists and editors playing an integral role in my progression.
Always happy to educate and advise, I learned so much from new working colleagues with my eventual move into the sports department providing me with a much sought after opportunity.
Obviously the renaissance of Derry City Football Club in 1985 after spending 13 years in the wilderness, presented another challenge and having written, researched and documented the successes and failings of the club for a period of 30 years, I gained great satisfaction from that opportunity.
I was included in the editorial sports team which covered the club’s magnificent historic ‘treble’ victory in 1989; I led the team in the 1997 Premier Division Championship win prior to that particularly memorable European football odyssey in 2006, from Gothenburg through Gretna and onto the Parc Des Princes in Paris and a meeting with Paris St-Germain - amazing memories which I continue to cherish and will never forget.
Of course, there were also days of difficulty and sadness as Derry City struggled on the financial front, experiencing bankruptcy not to mention a forced relegation to the First Division by the Football Association of Ireland due to a breach in financial regulations.
However, over those years the ‘Journal’s’ success as a high profile local news and advertising model had not gone unnoticed by the ‘big guns’ in the media industry and local ownership was to be lost.
Read by an estimated 250,000 people throughout Counties Derry, Donegal and Tyrone the paper continued to offer a superb advertising platform with pages upon pages of memoriam notices, employment opportunities, property for rent and for sale, public notices and classified adverts among others.
In short, the paper enjoyed widespread domination of the local and north-west areas with, at one time, a Friday print figure of over 28,000 copies in broadsheet format not to mention an additional print figure of 24,000 in tabloid format on a Tuesday . . . outstanding bi-weekly figures in business terms during the mid 1980s to late 1990s.
Predictably, prominent national media groups and, indeed, venture capitalist organisations bought and sold the ‘Journal’ during the late 1990s prior to the evolution of social media and that massive shift in terms of media technology, offering immediate news content on mobile phones, which placed the print industry in jeopardy.
Therefore the ‘Journal,’ similar to all newspapers, began to struggle but while the older generation in Derry continues to value the actual presence of ‘the local rag,’ there’s still life in the old dog yet!
Congratulations to all.