Ireland and the New Journalism by Karen Steele, Michael de Nie (eds.)

By Karen Steele, Michael de Nie (eds.)

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Let us alone; don’t you see we are engaged at our regular occupation. 16 In each case, the disproportionate relationship between the political response and the simultaneous scale and invisibility of a widespread famine conjures up the spectral. We can now begin to situate the New Journalism, as it first took shape in Ireland, as at least partly a response to two opposing forms of the spectral, two unmasterable excesses: the specter of informational overload that followed on from the Telegraph Act of 1868; and the specter of famine and rural poverty, a vast hidden Ireland that nonetheless existed outside the new informational order, its effects only fleetingly visible when a particularly acute food shortage or violent incident brought it into a focus without context.

Where Dunlop, by contrast, remained a contented working journalist for the rest of his life, for O’Brien the experience of undertaking an early form of crusading investigative journalism was to drive him toward politics, as a way of not only reporting events, but of shaping them through reporting. As is so often the case in understanding the traumas of modernity, Ireland here provides an acute, concentrated instance of a dynamic at work elsewhere. The Famine of the 1840s not only produced a spatiotemporal disruption with lingering effects, but also the resulting disorientation was multiplied and complicated by the simultaneous arrival of new technologies of communication that effectively sundered information from geography.

On the contrary, their pursuit of business success complemented their political agenda. Their influence in politics was largely a function of their ownership of the “Green Shoots” of the New Journalism 37 leading Irish nationalist newspaper, and they had to ensure the newspaper’s survival in order to protect their political interests. However, the business of running a newspaper was at least as important to them as politics: They were exceedingly rich and wished to preserve and expand their business.

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