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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Nationalist Celebrates 125 Years

This article appeared in the Carloviana 2008. Pages 92 & 93.

Nationalist Celebrates 125 Years

First Staff of Nationalist c.1883
Back Row: 1. ? 2. John O'Neill 3. ? 4. ? 5. ? 6. T. Little.
Middle Row: 1. John Aylmer (Journalist) 2. Wlm O'Neill (Clerk) 3. ? 4. ? 5. ? 6. ?
Front Row: l. P. Reddy 2. ? 3. Tom Little 4. Wlm Ellis 5. ?

 The Nationalist Always In Your Corner

 By Margaret O'Rourke

Serving the public. These three words, more than any others, sum up the philosophy instilled into Nationalist journalists from the time they took their first steps into newspaper reporting. It was not a matter of becoming personalities, of straining to impress - no, the task was to serve the community and to do it well.

That meant, above everything else, accuracy in every detail, coupled with good English and the production of sound, interesting copy.

In order to fulfill this criteria it was imperative that one be completely unbiased - politicians of all shades of opinion were to get an equal crack of the whip (praise or criticism!) the space and headings given to court cases were to be appropriate to the offence, nothing, absolutely nothing, could be kept off the paper if it deserved to be included.

The latter was an absolute rule and was described to junior reporters practically on their first day in the job, as 'a sacking offence'.

With these guidelines firmly implanted in our minds, we set about the business of news gathering. The result was evident in the paper. Where there was a problem we investigated and put hard questions to whoever was deemed responsible. We published and waited for the expected back-lash. It came and that gave us another story.

And so it went until, in a majority of cases, a resolution was found. People came to the news room, often as a last resort, when they had tired of writing to officials, complaining to landlords or whatever. They told their stories and we listened. But then all the facts had to be checked and all those criticised had to be contacted so that we could establish whether a real injustice existed or not. When the veracity of the story was established, the battle of words began.

But this was only part of the service to the public. On a less militant note, there were all the good causes that blossomed under continual publicity. All over The Nationalist's circulation area, there are success stories that are due, in part, to the positive backing of the newspaper. Need for more housing, for improvements to schools, better transport, medical services - the list is endless - for all of them the paper campaigned giving invaluable back-up to local organisers.

No one who has ever striven for a cause will underestimate the power of publicity. Without it, many issues would die the death.

This is also true of charitable pursuits. Over the years those who work to improve the lives of others, depend heavily on having their activities made known to the community - and made known in a way which encourages generous support. The Nationalist was always quick to respond to such endeavors.

Cultural events depend on the same exposure to the public. A concert, a play, an exhibition, a lecture, any of these, no matter how good in themselves, would face empty houses without the benefit of good 'write-ups'.

In the area of sport, The Nationalist continues to play a big part in popularising all disciplines. Its sports section is eagerly awaited and his grown in size and importance over the years. Of particular benefit is the focus on youth activities, under-age matches and, of course, the all-important Community Games.

From all of which one can gather that reporting for The Nationalist was a most satisfying way of life. Despite all this service to the community, it was never felt that we were doing the public any favours - we were just doing our jobs, as they had been spelled out to us - in my own case by a very fine editor, Liam D. Bergin.

Despite all this good will, newspapers being what they are, it was inevitable that - over the years - some organisations and some people were upset by articles which had to be written. Mostly, though, the support given across a wide spectrum has been appreciated and people realise that 'their paper' is easily accessible, has a listening ear and is prepared to give of its best in the interest of its readers. My hope is that this fine tradition will carry on into the future.

Liam D. Bergin's role as the paper's editor

 All his life Liam D. Bergin strove to integrate high ideals with expert skills and good business practices.

It was a formula that made him one of the country's most outstanding Managing Editors.

In 1944, on James Reddy's death, Liam D. Bergin became Managing Editor of The Nationalist and, for almost half a century, devoted himself to producing what was acknowledged as one of the finest newspapers in Ireland.

In him, Patrick Conlon had a most worthy successor - a man of high principle, absolute integrity and a passion for the highest standards in journalism.

For him, journalism and particularly the role of a newspaper editor was a responsibility which he exercised on behalf of the public. He never forced his views on his readers, believing that the function of an editor was to present the facts, leaving it to readers to form their own judgments on them.

He insisted on attention to detail and was always concerned that his newspaper's reporting was accurate, fair and objective. He demanded the highest standards of written English and had no time for sloppy writing, bad grammar or faulty syntax. He had a good eye for a pithy, vivid headline and a ruthless sub-editor's pen for over-writing.

He was also a perfectionist in relation to the plant and equipment needed to produce a top class newspaper and quality job printing. He travelled to the US, the UK and Germany in order to ensure that The Nationalist had the best machinery available. He bought for The Nationalist a printing press which was the first on which the Irish Press was printed when it started in 1931.

One of his most valuable journalistic gifts was his expertise in newspaper layout. On several occasions down the years, he remodeled The Nationalist introducing new formats and installing new type-faces. On two occasions, The Nationalist won major international awards for design and layout.

 Source: Carloviana 2008. Pages 92 & 93.

Nationalist 1883
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