Saturday 20 January 2018

Colm pioneered a new style business journalism that was people-focused

Former Irish Independent and 'Irish Press' business journalist and author, the late Colm Rapple.
Former Irish Independent and 'Irish Press' business journalist and author, the late Colm Rapple.
Martin Fitzpatrick

Martin Fitzpatrick

ON an evening in the spring of 1973, when Tony O'Reilly finally signed off on his deal to acquire Independent Newspapers, the new owner quickly agreed to do an interview for the next day's edition of the Irish Independent.

Colm Rapple - who was then a business correspondent at the paper - was told by the then-editor Aidan Pender that he was to do the interview: get it typed up, sub-edited and ready for 'edition time', which, the editor explained (glancing at his watch), "was in about 65 minutes".

Interviewing your boss, even without a time constraint, is an assignment that demands speed, accuracy and a little bravery.

These qualities, the sine qua non for a good journalist, were what Colm Rapple had in spades.

Later, in 1973, he was appointed business editor of the paper, a job that on the face of it would not seem to accord much scope to reflect any deep-seated passion for social justice.

Colm would prove just how wrong that notion was. Up to then business journalism was largely the preserve of the powerful business elites - bankers, accountants and stockbrokers.

However, Colm chose to pioneer a new type of business journalism that was people-focused, and relevant to everyone's needs.

That new approach, which happily is still being built upon, will be his legacy and it is an important one.

A Dublin northsider from Marino, his father Liam had a significant public profile as Honourary Secretary of the Football Association of Ireland. Colm, somehow, resisted any inherited enthusiasm for soccer.

We first met in the mid-1960s, while we both worked for the 'Irish Press'. Colm was studying for a degree in UCD and he would later go on to get an MBA at the college.

He interested himself in business journalism at the Press and was hired by the Irish Independent in the early 1970s.

By then I'd briefly escaped from mainstream journalism, but shortly after he became business editor, he phoned me to ask: "Would you like to re-join the real world?"

I was indeed lucky to have accepted the offer, because it gave me a ringside seat on how Colm re-shaped business journalism to his own liking.

He had the enthusiastic support of Vinny Doyle, who by then was editor of the paper. However, as an instinctive contrarian Colm always sought the 'other' view and that, even in journalism, is not always the universally popular thing.

However, in the many years we worked together, I never once saw him shirk a battle and almost certainly he never stopped believing he was right.

He left the Independent Group in the 1980s and re-joined the 'Irish Press', where he would play a key role in the unfortunate circumstances of the collapse of the Press group.

As a freelance journalist Colm Rapple continued to write and broadcast on his specialist subject of 'personal finance' and continued to rail against 'heartless' economics.

He leaves behind his wife Nuala, daughter Simone and son Rory.

Martin Fitzpatrick was Business Correspondent of the 'Sunday Independent' from 1980 to 2006

Irish Independent

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