THE Echo is 130 years old this week and they very kindly asked me to write a piece about it contribution to Cork, for which I am very happy to oblige.
At lot has changed in this lifetime, but The Echo has been a constant presence. My earliest memory is of the Evening Echo, an evening newspaper until its rebranding in 2019 to The Echo when it became a morning newspaper.
I have very fond memories, as no doubt many of the citizens of the county and city have, of the ‘Echo Boys’ dotted around the city, hearing the distinctive sales pitch which was vital to the distribution, responsible for selling about 12,000 copies of the newspaper each day back in the ’70s.
As a child, I was fascinated by how they balanced working the queues of cars stopped at junctions, deftly handing folded copies of the Evening Echo into the car window and managing your change. They even had their own Echo Boys Club on Fr Matthew Quay.
I love Pana’s Echo Boy statue, in its iconic calling pose. The bronze statue is 30 years old this year and is one of the landmarks of Cork city. So much so that it now features on TripAdvisor, having become part of the fabric and folklore of the city.
Newspapers connect communities because they report local events. People like to know what is going on around them, and I am no different.
The focus of what I want to know has, like everyone else, changed with each age. I loved the photos the paper carried, featuring people enjoying a night out - and was always eager to see who was out and about, what they were up to and if I would recognise them. Mostly the photos related to Thursday student nights and live gigs, which I’m sure we have all been a part of at one stage or another.
I remember walking down Academy Street, past the old offices, watching journalists dashing in and out. It conjured up romantic notions of Clark Kent at the Daily Planet and the possibility that Superman might just be around the corner.
Then, as a fully-fledged adult, the great thing about The Evening Echo was the added detail available from an evening publication, so soon after breaking stories from the morning’s newspaper The Cork Examiner but with new details. It was then I began to fully understand the role of the media, to set the agenda for an informed and robust public discussion.
It’s not possible to have a healthy democracy without well-informed citizens and, for our democracy to thrive, citizens depend on a free media.
The move from paper to digital means we choose from a huge variety of things to watch or read. The continued shrinking of newsrooms is a real threat for the survival of quality journalism that will affect us all going forward, and one that I consider needs to be uppermost in all our minds: The inability to differentiate between quality journalism and fake news.
As proud citizens of County Cork, we want to benefit from the hard work of serious journalism, who inform, critique and challenge us, the reader, to make informed decisions. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, and the written word has never been more powerful for communicating a point.
Newspapers and their digital platforms play a leading role in the political process, which can be complicated and difficult to understand. However, newspapers like The Echo are in an excellent position to provide balance and, together with their insightful columns, contribute greatly to our appreciation of key events and our ability to respond – as caring Corkonians.
Technology is changing how we read news but that does not change the need or the desire for good journalism as well as a platform to make this journalism accessible.
Newspapers have shrinking resources, but they have freedom of expression – granted by the constitution – to access information, analyse it, and uncover the truth, and then make it public knowledge. So, in this regard, the responsibilities of newspapers such as The Echo are immense.
We have a huge variety of things to watch or read, but I love EchoLive.ie and especially the subheadings ‘Cork News’, ‘Cork Sport, ‘Cork Lives’, and ‘Cork Views’. We have benefited considerably from reporting in other key areas such as health, inequality, climate change, and sport. It’s like the old fashioned ‘pick and mix’. You can choose your favourite bits to read.
I couldn’t write this without mentioning the Holly Bough, the annual publication by Cork people for Cork people all over the world. For a very good friend of mine in Australia, it’s a flavour of home at Christmas time, a connection to her roots, the humour, the familiar place names, an essential signal that it is Christmas.
In Summary, The Echo’s contribution to Cork is immeasurable, it has been part of the backdrop of my life so far and I imagine to countless others. We expect it to inform us about everything Cork-related, from sports to current affairs. Because it has been around for so long, it provides a rich archive that charts the history of our dear city and county.
Happy Birthday to The Echo, long may you continue to report and provide a backdrop to the lives of your readership.