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Media history made in Ireland

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So far Irish Media Nation has been little gaga (not as in Lady Gaga) over social media, digital media and digital journalism, but traditional media continues to grab much of our mindshare. And it has history going for it, so let’s turn from the “now” to the “then” and pluck a few highlights in Irish media history.

Print: Start the presses! The printing press arrives in Dublin in 1550. In 1571, Aibidil Gaoidheilge agus Caiticiosma was published, the first book printed in Irish in Ireland. In 1659, the first periodical news-sheet in Ireland, An Account of the Chief Occurrences in Ireland, came off the press. Other newspapers would follow; The Dublin Newsletter in 1685, Dublin Intelligence in 1690 and many others including the well-regarded Faulkner’s Dublin Journal, which was first published in 1725 continued in print for a century. The oldest extant newspaper in Ireland is the News Letter of Belfast, first published in 1737. It still rolls off the presses daily except Sunday and is online at http://www.newsletter.co.uk.

Newspapers remain popular in Ireland with near 90 percent of Irish adults regularly reading them according to a recent National Newspapers of Ireland and Joint Readership Survey.

Dublin has long been Ireland’s center of printing and publishing. Much of the information for this piece was gleaned from the Encyclopaedia of Ireland, published and printed in Dublin in 1968 by Allen Figgis & Co., on paper made in Ireland.

Film: The first Irish motion picture footage may have been shot just before 1900 during a visit to Ireland by representatives of the Lumiere Company, which had held what is generally considered to be the first real cinema show in Paris in 1895. In 1910 American director Sidney Olcott came to Ireland and produced several films starting with The Lad from Old Ireland. His films were mostly set in the Kerry towns of Beaufort, Dunloe and Killarney. The first Irish color film footage was likely shot covering the 1911 post-coronation visit by British monarch, King George V.

The propaganda potential in film was quickly recognized, as “Irish Interest” films started to be made primarily for viewing at Irish American meetings. In 1914 an American named Walter Macnamara made the political film Ireland, A Nation, considered by the British to be so volatile that it was not shown in Ireland until 1917, and then was banned after only a few days (by some accounts after just one screening).

In 1917 the Irish company General Film Supply started producing the newsreel Irish Events, and made the animated film Ten Day’s Leave from drawings by Dublin newspaper cartoonist Frank Leah, as well as some short films and at least one feature. Also active starting in 1917 was Film Company of Ireland which produced one-reelers and some features. The Archive of the Irish Film Institute in Dublin (http://www.irishfilm.ie) holds representative material from all but one of the indigenously produced Irish cinema newsreel series along with a wealth of other material on Irish films. British Pathe also has vast archive of newsreel footage shot in Ireland and on view at http://bit.ly/ahzp2o. Here is a sample:

ALL IRELAND FOOTBALL CARNIVAL

In 1958, Ardmore, the first Irish film studio opened in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Films made or based at Ardmore include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), The Lion in Winter (1968), My Left Foot (1989), The Commitments (1991), In the Name of the Father (1993), Braveheart (1995) and The Tailor of Panama (2001).

Broadcasting: On New Year’s Day, 1926, with Gaelic League founder and future first Irish president Dr. Douglas Hyde at the microphone, indigenous Irish radio broadcasting began over the Dublin Broadcasting Station, with its call sign 2RN meant to invoke the last two words of the song “Come Back to Erin.” (BBC had begun broadcasting its programs in Belfast two years earlier.)

BBC Northern Ireland brought television to the island in 1953, followed by Ulster Television (UTV) in 1959. Approximately 60 percent of the Republic’s population could receive UK based signals from the Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

The Irish Republic’s Radio Eireann Authority began broadcasting its license-based television service on the last day of 1961, In 1966 Radio Eireann became Radio Telefis Eirean, the now familiar RTE, overseeing both radio and the development of Irish television.

So that was then. Back to now...

MEDIA PINGS: An Irish American journalist drills one well-known Irish American, lauds another. Joanna Molloy writing in the July 8 Daily News, isn’t buying Lindsay Lohan’s sob story act at her sentencing, but she does think maybe the wrong Lohan is going to jail, writing, “You might wish it was her mother Dina, who will be locked up in a California cell July 20. After all it was Dina who put Lindsay to work at age 3. Who had her do 100 commercials by age 10. Who sent her to the Disney freak factory—who also gave us the tragic Britney Spears—to make ‘The Parent Trap’ at age 11.” (http://bit.ly/adahlN)…Molloy also wrote a great piece about another Irish American media figure, but this time in glowing terms in her tale of the belated awarding of a high school diploma this summer to the great journalist Pete Hamill, who left New York’s prestigious Regis High School at age 15 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard (http://bit.ly/aQOPqn)…while paging through the Daily News make sure you read what’s new from Michael Daly. He unfailingly puts the human face on the critical issues of the day, such as when he challenged Goldman Sachs to contribute to a canned food drive (http://bit.ly/a0765a) ...No one does multimedia better than top museums and the American Museum of Natural History deftly deploys a range of media to tell the chilling, yes chilling, story of the “Race to the End of the Earth” the deadly match race to the South Pole between the Norwegian team lead by Roald Amundsen and the British team lead by Robert Scott. And the Irish angle? The background presence of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton who was born in Kilkea, County Kildare and would later live in Dublin before his family moved to England. (His younger brother also made headlines as a suspect in the 1907 theft of Ireland’s Crown Jewels, though he was later exonerated.) Shackleton served on Scott’s earlier Discovery Expedition to Antarctica from 1901-04 but was forced home by illness. Shackleton would return to Antarctica as the leader of the Nimrod Expedition and in 1909 would establish the record for furthest southern exploration by trekking to within 97 miles of the South Pole. Scott would later follow the Shackleton route in his South Pole bid. A haunting story, ingeniously told through a creative media mix, "Race to the End of the Earth" is a great antidote to a hot New York City summer day (www.amnh.org)…finally, you can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnleemedia.

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