Do Irish Times editorials serve any purpose?

1 August, 2010

My hopes were cruelly raised yesterday by the headline on the main Irish Times editorial (“Our crowded planet”).  Aha, I thought, Madam is going to speak out about the awful impact which population growth is having on the environment and on quality of life and on prospects for peace and stability, and call for concerted action to deal with this impending self-inflicted tragedy.

So I read on, noting the extensive references to new and worrying projections from the Population Reference Bureau, and waiting for the call to arms (metaphorically, of course) which would surely bring the editorial to a conclusion with a flourish.  But no, the whole editorial consisted of a bland regurgitation of population-related facts from the PRB  and elsewhere, with some mention of what the implications of unchecked population growth are for age demographics in the developed world.  You will look in vain for any trace of what is the actual opinion of the editor (or editorial staff) of the Irish Times.

In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time this newspaper published an editorial which expressed a view that was even mildly controversial.  It’s all motherhood and apple pie, as the saying goes. This is in contrast to leading newspapers in say the United Kingdom, whose editors do appear to have real and interesting views on important matters, and are not afraid to publish them.

Maybe my expectations are too high.  Maybe our Newspaper of Record has decided it doesn’t need to have any editorial opinions any more, preferring to play it safe by letting its hired-gun columnists express definitive views on matters of importance. Or maybe it has gone the way of almost all our politicians, who are afraid of offending any potential voter and so express no real opinions on any difficult subject (or maybe they are such gombeens that they actually hold no such opinions?).

Yes, the Irish Times does give space to writers who take all sorts of positions on controversial topics – see for example this article on the population issue – but I don’t think this is adequate.  Readers are entitled to expect that the editor of the Newspaper of Record will present a real opinion in her editorial column on matters of great importance such as world overpopulation (just as the Financial Times did in this editorial last September).

So, madam, please start to earn your (over) generous salary, which is paid for by us readers, and give us some editorials of substance.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(William Butler Yeats )

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