'Ireland RIP' image marks a new lowpoint for the Irish gutter-press
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They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. They may have a point.
Even for the most seasoned of tabloid readers, there's an element of shock to today's Irish Daily Star leading with the headline 'Ireland RIP: our future killed by wanker bankers and stupid politicians'.
How low does a tabloid have to stoop to sell copies that it will splash 'wanker bankers' over its front page and superimpose such an inscription onto a sepulchral image of a gravestone? The answer is very.
Although I've probably not mentioned this on IrishCentral before, I run a small student news website in Cork (CorkStudentNews.com), and for that reason crossed paths with this very tabloid's editor, Ger Colleran, just two days ago.
He was speaking at the university's Law Society and I attended to cover the debate for the website.
He seemed a very intelligent man, an articulate and clearly well-read debator, and, you'd assume also a capable editor, yet obviously shock tactics rank higher in his priorities than conveying meaningful and well-written news to the general public.
Perhaps its not surprising, though.
Recalling his speech at the Law Society a few days ago there was a fanatical dislike of 'power' and 'the judiciary' throughout, an archanist's jaundiced eye of 'the powers' that be.
Arguing in favour of mandatory sentencing in the criminal justice system, he railed against the judiciary's attire, their gowns, even their accents, points, which in retrospect, were moot, to borrow the legal term.
Perhaps that same mistrust of the 'powers that be' was what led him to consider 'wanker bankers' a byeline fit for publication in his tabloid.
I've made the point several times before on this blog that Ireland needs to think well to get well.
The point is obviously not my own, borders on the cliche, and has been made far more eloquently than I've ever put it, yet stories like these remind us that unfettered negativism is still a real threat to the Irish public.
Yet news, I realize is not created in a vacuum.
The 'shock value', level of 'scandal' and, of course, entertainment element of any given story are factors which all weigh heavily on a journalist or editor before he or she decides to publish a particular piece.
Good news - they say - doesn't sell many papers, yet there's a certain limit called common decency which should not be crossed.
For the better or worse the media has the power and capability to control the thoughts and feelings of a huge section of society.
And with great power should come great responsibility.
People editing tabloids shouldn't be held exempt from their basic journalistic responsibilities simply by virtue of the trashy nature of their 'newspaper', tabloid, broadsheet, or otherwise.
The morbid image of a tombstone emblazoned with Ireland RIP and bearing the inscription 'wanker bankers' is an image not fit for publication in even the lowliest of rags, which in truth is what the Daily Star is, and does nothing to help a country that's struggling with a daily onslaught of pessimism and bad news headlines.
And it comes at one of the most delicate and fragile moments in the history of the Republic, with the simmering Anglo fiasco and the plummeting AIB shares sending the country into a renewed wave of chaos and volatility.
At such a time the last thing we need to hear or see is that Ireland is dead and buried.