Silly season


Thanks to The Guardian’s Organ Grinder and, of course, The Sun, for this image, which you can find at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/organgrinder/2010/jul/23/the-sun-parasailing-donkey

My predictions just two weeks ago that silly season had begun (following a nervous chat with a journalist and photographer from another fine Cork publication, in which the sense of dread felt by all three of us was palpable) has proven, sadly, to be correct.
The Ivor Callely story – which took pride of place in our paper this week – is giving both national and local media (in both Cork and Dublin – thanks Ivor) something to chew on. For a while.
Otherwise, though, it’s pretty dreary. The newsdesk email is dead. Nobody is answering the phone. Even political press releases on subjects as enlightening as potholes, pavements and mortgage interest relief, are thin on the ground. It’s the time when the contents of your average popular YouTube video featuring an animal or a dancing baby actually qualifies as news (as opposed to the rest of time, where we include Cork-related ones just for the laugh, like this, and this).
It does make me wonder, though – how come PR companies haven’t latched onto August as the time to make hay for their clients? I know they need holidays too, but in terms of easy coverage, August is a no-brainer.
When we have real news to report, press releases are thrown on the slagheap, but when there is no real news, we still have to fill pages.
It can be one of the most depressing parts of the job for both journalist and editor, but “filler” is a huge component of modern newspapers, especially local newspapers, where we can’t bump up the ‘international news’ section to make up for a lack of local news, and that quirky tale of someone’s dog eating their foot  is just not appropriate for our use. (Unless we can figure out that the guy had an ancestor from Cork).
There are only so many pictures of kids eating ice cream you can put in one newspaper, and the weather isn’t very conducive to that. Plus, most freelance photographers seem to be on holidays too.
We are using the extra time we have in the newsroom, and the extra news pages, to do some in-depth news features, which usually we don’t have room for. I’m quite excited about this, as it gives the reporters some room to carry out proper research and multiple interviews, rather than the usual fast pace of our researching and writing.
Having spoken today, via The Twitter, to @GavinGrace, a broadcaster working in Clare, it seems every media outlet in the country is having the same problem. It’s a good time to use imagination and a bit of flair, and sometimes to try out new things, although it’s a pain having to bear in mind that you may try out a new set piece / column / feature only to find that when things start happening again in September you have no room for it.
Like I said before. If you know of a footballing dog – please, now is the time. All cute animal stories, community groups with a new toilet in their premises, and potholes, will be covered.*

*Maybe not “all”. Some. The interesting ones.

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