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Wednesday 21 November 2018

Still the reigning Champion after 175 great years

Greg Harkin

One of the country's leading regional newspaper is celebrating 175 years.

More than 350 people, including Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, attended a special birthday dinner at the Sligo Park Hotel at the weekend as the 'Sligo Champion' celebrated its historic milestone.

Quality community newspapers have a bright future as well as a glorious past, said the group chief executive of Independent News & Media (INM), Gavin O'Reilly.

Guests heard the newspaper's editor Jim Gray -- whose twin brother Leo is the paper's sports editor -- say the title lived up to its name in being a 'champion' for Sligo.

"We have an unwavering commitment to serve our community with the diligence, professionalism and reliability which have been the hallmarks of the publication since it first saw the light of day on June 4, 1836," said Mr Gray.

INM bought the 'Sligo Champion' in 2008. Mr O'Reilly said papers with the tradition of the 'Champion' were an essential part of the fabric of communities in Ireland. "We saw numerous launches of titles through the Celtic Tiger era, but it is newspapers like the 'Sligo Champion' which are the pivotal voice of the communities they serve," he said.

"We are very happy to have made the investment in building on our commanding position in many areas around the country. There is a lot of negative publicity about regional newspapers but we know they are alive and well in Sligo, Cork, Kerry, Wicklow and many other parts of Ireland. They are an essential part of the communities they serve."

Mr Rabbitte said the 175th birthday was an "extraordinary event for an extraordinary newspaper".

He said regional newspapers needed the support of readers, adding: "They stand out because of what they are and what they stand for because of their traditions and standards they use in reporting on the communities they serve. Readers believe in them and I know people value them for that."

Among the guests at the dinner was 88-year-old Tommy Higgins, who began his career as a printer on the 'Champion' in 1939, where he worked for 22 years before going into union and political life.

"It is a wonderful celebration of a great newspaper," said, Mr Higgins, who went on to become mayor of Sligo on three occasions.

"The 'Champion' is a superb newspaper with a great tradition. You know when you've the 'Champion' in front of you, you're getting the real news."

Irish Independent

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