All talk: Ireland’s political discussion sites

Miriam Cotton surveys the political web forums causing a stir


Bondwatch Ireland /
The Chattering Magpie 14

Editor: Diarmuid O’Flynn

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
Thechatteringmagpie14 is a blog of short articles explaining/updating our protest in Ballyhea. BondwatchIreland is about the next 12 bonds due for payment, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ – with details of the individual bonds as they arise. Because of the total lack of coverage/exposure in the mainstream media (print, radio, TV), people don’t know that most of the bank bonds have yet to mature. Over €60bn has still to be paid over the coming three years and more. This blog and protest shines a light on those bonds, a place where people can learn the truth of what’s happening. Even as we’re informed on a weekly basis of more cuts in our already suffering public service, more proposed taxes and levies, our banks – with our money – are paying out on those failed bonds, week after week, month after month, with no attendant publicity. Those on-going payments are a scandal, the on-going lack of major media coverage is also a scandal. This site is an effort to inform those who want to be informed.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
NamaWinelake – the most up-to-date, the most concise, the most accessible information on what’s going on in the murky world of Irish finance; and David McWilliams (www.davidmcwilliams.ie) – populist, but his articles are an easy read, and for the most part make eminent good sense.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media and news reporting do not?
The view from the bottom, with no vested interest, no worries about appealing to the lowest common denominator.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
No idea, but probably those who are already concerned about the official imbalance between looking after banks/financial institutions and looking after people.

How many registered users do you have?
I don’t get into that‚ whoever is there is there, I’m not concerned about numbers.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
Again, no idea, and no idea who I could track this‚ wouldn’t be interested in doing so.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
No.

Contact Information:
Web: http://bondwatchireland.blogspot.com/
Email: Ballyhea@eircom.net
Twitter: @ballyhea14
Comment: An essential blog publishing information about the most critical economic activity affecting the country. Putting the national news media to shame.


Broadsheet.ie
Editor: John Ryan

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
It’s a rolling news site with jokes uploaded every 15 minutes Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm with sporadic posting through the night and at weekends. It was set up to provide a news source for the bewildered by the bewildered.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
There have been a few. Sometimes they even credited us! Which was lovely.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Right at this moment I like NamaWinelake and TheStory.ie.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
A cynical and jaded worldview.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
The urban or rural stoner of all ages.

How many registered users do you have?
None.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
Visitors: 615,000, page views: 1.5 million

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
If it is completely spurious we try when possible to print the solicitors’ letters on the site in an effort to ridicule them and their prose style.

Contact Information:
Web: http://broadsheet.ie
Email: Use contact form on website
Twitter: @broadsheet_ie
Comment: Ireland’s answer to The Onion? Witty, sharp and exquisitely presented. Priority is entertainment and delectation over heavy politics, which incidentally appear to be broadly libertarian. Could use an ‘About us’ and a ‘Mission Statement’.


The Cedar Lounge Revolution
Administrator: Dónal Mac an éala

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
The Cedar Lounge is a left-wing blog with a core group of four regular contributors supplemented by a broader group of up to ten irregular contributors. It deals with politics, culture, political economy and other matters. The decision to establish it was that the original core group (which has changed a bit over the years) having been through the bear-pit that is Politics.ie wanted to establish a space which was neutral, in the sense of not being party-political, but which was overtly left of centre, using the term ‘left’ in its broadest definition (including social-democrat, further left, republican, socialist, feminist, anarchist and so on) in a courteous and welcoming environment for all those interested in politics, particularly those of the left, but embracing those from the centre and right also. We also wanted to be able to discuss issues in greater detail than in the forum context. And we were sick of trolls, negativity, etc, etc. It wasn’t that we were unwilling to hear voices who differed, but we wanted to hear serious voices who would respect difference rather than simply see it as an excuse for attacks.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Only one, where we hinted at the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish which I’d heard about some hours previously through knowing people linked to those making the decision. But that’s it. We’ve never been interested in news-breaking or news-making but rather commentary on news. We’re not journalists so we don’t see our function as supplanting journalism but rather running parallel to (or slightly behind) it.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Michael Taft’s (Economist for the Unite Trade Union) Notes on the Front (notesonthefront.typepad.com) – political economy done as it should be done: witty, informative, impassioned; and Splintered Sunrise (splinteredsunrise.wordpress.com) – sadly too infrequent these days, but again, witty, informative, impassioned and coming from angles that are unexpected. But it’s invidious to just pick out two, there are so many that it’s impossible to function without them: Dublin Opinion, Irish Left Review etc.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
There are real dangers in this. The most obvious is that it becomes an echo-chamber where everyone conforms to a line, but that’s why we’ve never tried to dissuade right-wing voices from commenting, though we’ve never had one as a contributor. We actually thought about it, and once offered a right-libertarian the opportunity to do so – they didn’t take up the offer for some reason. But on the other hand the left is a broad church and even keeping a space open for centre-left voices such as those in the Labour Party is a task in itself whether we agree with them or not, at least in terms of the hostility of some comments. One thing we think that has added value is the Left Archive, which now contains hundreds of documents from Irish and International left and campaigning groups/parties/etc relating to Ireland. Every Monday we put up a new scanned document in PDF format with an accompanying overview of the text. That’s something the blog format is ideal for, generating two-way communications which I think the mainstream media isn’t good at.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Difficult to say. I’ve met a fair few and it’s a diverse crew. A lot of non-party independent socialists, a fair few United Left Alliance. Some Labour. Quite a few Sinn Féin members. And some who just visit because of music or other posts. Age profile? I don’t know. We’re mostly in our 30s and 40s and I think we tend to get people in that demographic but then again I know people in their 20s who read us. Gender-wise we think it’s tilted more to men than women which is a problem.

How many registered users do you have?
We don’t register users. We’ve always wanted to keep it as open as possible.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
2,000 plus per day. So, 60,000 to 90,000 per month depending on political activity. Elections obviously see the higher figures.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
Never. We’re not that important or high-profile. Thank God.

Contact Information:
Web: http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com
Email: worldbystorm@eircom.net
Twitter: @worldbystorm
Comment: A lively, thought-provoking blog, moderated well. Valuable archive.


Indymedia Ireland
Editor: The Indymedia Ireland Collective

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
The Indymedia Ireland website was set up in late 2001 by a group of activists. It was in keeping with the spirit of the times arising out of the Seattle protests in 1999 and the other anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist protests in the years that followed – especially Genoa in July 2001. At that point the global Indymedia network was growing rapidly and there was a desire to start an Irish node.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Quite a number of stories covering in particular: the passage of troops through Shannon airport and documentation of the flights and later rendition flights, a lot of coverage on the Iraq War, the (Pitstop) Ploughshares disarming of a US war plane and subsequent trial, Mary Kelly’s trial, anti-War protests and movement, the 2004 EU Summit, Shell to Sea including the ‘alleged’‚ attempted murder of Pat O’Donnell by four masked men who boarded and sank his boat and many, many other Shell to Sea stories. Other exclusive stories covered the Reclaim the Streets, Tara and M3 motorway, coverage of the No campaign for both the Nice Treaty and later the Lisbon Treaty (twice). This is by no means a comprehensive list.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
The IMC website accepts RSS feeds from four left-wing blogs which the collective considers part of the alternative media. These are Irish Left Review, Cedar Lounge, Dublin Opinion (http://dublinopinion.com) and MediaBite (http://www.mediabite.org). There may be others in the future. Given that the site is run by a collective, there are no preferences.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
We offer a platform for members of the public to report the news themselves and giving their own accounts from the streets without the filter of the corporate media.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Mainly activists and people on the left. The ideal would be to broaden this.

How many registered users do you have?
We do not provide the facility for users to register.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
It is difficult to say, but the sites receives around 400,000 hits per month. This includes all page requests so the number of unique vistors would be far lower as each user can easily generated 10s of hits. The amount of traffic is around 500Gb per month. Again this is difficult to quantify in terms of users.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts?/How did you deal with it, if so?
It depends by whom you mean. Frequently ordinary members of the public might object to posts and depending on the circumstances and context, we may facilitate that request.

Contact Information:
Web: http://indymedia.ie/
Email: imc_collective@indymedia.ie
Comment: A vibrant, urgent forum for citizen journalists to publish reports and analyses of matters affecting them directly or of issues they care about and are involved in. An extraordinary and unique public record of all moderating and editorial decisions is kept. Underestimated by many in the mainstream, however. It’s focus is on facilitating people to be their own media – to determine the news narrative for themselves and make news that is relevant to their actual experience of issues. Stringently moderated with regard to racism, sexism, facism – this can lead to heated argument from aggrieved posters. All editorial decisions are challengeable.


Irish Left Review
Editor: Donagh Brennan

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
Irish Left Review was set up to try and provide a platform for activists involved in politics right across the left and come up with considered, feasible alternatives to the right-wing policies being put forward by all the main parties. A group of bloggers, those involved in Cedar Lounge Revolution, myself, Conor McCabe, Michael Taft and some others met just before the 2007 election to see if we could put a site together which could develop a larger profile than our respective blogs. The website still tries to do that, to give people the opportunity to make an argument that isn’t being made elsewhere.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on our site, ahead of the mainstream media?
I’m not sure if this question applies to us, as we’re not a news site that tries to break stories. The way that a consensus is maintained by the mainstream media is by largely ignoring counter arguments. However, we did ‘break’ the micro-story that News International had planned to change its normal email service to Gmail, and that they wouldn’t be archiving old emails for longer than a year, a policy that should have had a significant response considering that it was only proven they had systematically hacked people’s phones by going through years of old emails. This story however didn’t get picked up: http://www.irishleftreview.org/2011/07/12/news-international-changing-email-system/. We also managed to get Sarah Carey to retract her claim in the Irish Times that Ireland had the most generous social welfare rates in Europe, when I found out that she based this claim on a press release from the Dept of Finance. What is more, it turned out the press release was made up of quotes from some of Brian Lenihan’s speeches and didn’t refer to data: http://www.irishleftreview.org/2009/04/21/sarah-careys-generous-response/. However, even though we can bring new facts to light, or provide a very different analysis that is cogent, verifiable and accurate, this is always seen as a ‘point of view’ and because this point of view is contrary to the position taken by the mainstream press they are hardly likely to want to bring it to their own domain.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Probably Counterpunch and Democracy Now. Counterpunch is a great one stop shop of the best articles doing the rounds. Democracy Now is just a great news source which provides real information that you feel you can rely on.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media and news reporting do not?
Accurate, evidence-based analysis.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Someone who is interested in accurate, evidence-based analysis.

How many registered users do you have?
None. We have had 150 or so contributors.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
No, that’s never happened. I have removed posts that I have considered were published in poor judgment. But that decision was mine, after a period of reflection and there was no pressure on me to remove it. The only time it came close was when Sarah Carey demanded that I change the story about her which had suggested she was being dishonest. This is because, although she promised to let us know what source she used to ground her claim that Ireland had the most generous social welfare rates in Europe, she hadn’t provided it after what I considered to be a reasonable time. When I wrote that she was trying to avoid revealing the source she very reasonably took issue with the implication that she was being dishonest. Once I had agreed to change it she provided the press release from the Department of Finance. However, the press release stated, inaccurately and without any reference to data, that Ireland’s social welfare rates were “among the most generous in Europe”. She simply changed “among the most” to “the most”, which she attributed to a simple slip of the key.

Contact Information:
Web: http://irishleftreview.org
Email: irishleftreview@gmail.com
Twitter: @irishleftreview
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Irish-Left-Review/21585396384
Comment: A serious, heavyweight and analytical platform for Irish left-wingers to discuss and publish news and comment.


Maman Poulet
Editor: Suzy Byrne

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
It is my own personal webspace – I didn’t set it up for anyone else other than myself. I originally did it simply because I could: it is very easy to set up a blog. It was a place to rant, the readers came later. I write about politics, policy, elections, equality, LGBT and disability issues.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on our site, ahead of the mainstream media?
In-depth coverage of civil partnership bill debate in Oireachtas, the Bertie Ahern artist exemption, Bertie Earners, independent TDs slagging off Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Irish Rail’s treatment of same sex couples, JobBridge, Cowengate, various election stories in the 2007/2009/2011 elections. Michael Lynn, Niall McElwee.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Very hard to narrow to two and also it changes with the wind! In Ireland – Politico.ie. In the US, Talking Points Memo.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
It’s not a competition! I’m a blogger, I use the internet to talk about things that interest me, including the mainstream media. My blog is my space, I have readers, I get things sent to me, I publish if I am interested or think that others will be. It is my playground. Yes I get to write about things that are not covered elsewhere or that I think should have more attention but this us vs. them thing is boring. I’m not paid to write and never want to be and feel much free-er in doing so. I’m not interested in advertising on my blog – not that it’d make me any money anyway!

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
I’ve no idea – I suppose progressive types but lots of non progressives do too. I know from the log I have readers in government departments, media organisations etc but I think generally there is no one type of reader.

How many registered users do you have?
None – I have over 100 people who have subscribed to an email service to get notified when I publish but that’s not registration and I would not like to have that barrier in place for readers. There are many others who use RSS feed readers to read me and others who have me in their web favourites. However, these days I get most of my traffic from twitter links and facebook recommendations.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
31,000 and 142,000 (circa) for Sept. 2011.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
Yes I’ve had threats of legal action – have taken legal advice but have not taken anything down. I’m careful, as anyone who writes online or otherwise should be.

Contact Information:
Web: mamanpoulet.com
Email: tips@mamanpoulet.com
Twitter: @suzybie
Comment: Lively, popular blog‚ varied content and fun/interesting contributions from comment posters.


NAMAWINELAKE
Editor: Anonymous (but known to Village)

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
The objective is to provide up-to-date coverage of NAMA, and the related subjects of property, banking, and the Irish economy and society. NAMA was always going to be a colossal undertaking, and all indications were that it was going to be secretive. The NAMA wine lake blog challenges claims, checks NAMA’s performance and aims to bring transparency to a secretive undertaking. It is impartial, and that assertion is backed up with a history of independent reporting and extensive fact-checking and referencing.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Too many to mention. In the past week, pictures and description of the first demolition of a ghost estate, then covered by the BBC. Upward-only lease revelations, then covered by Reuters, INM. NAMA receivership of Cork developer, not yet covered in the mainstream media. Analysis of CSO data, covered in the Irish Independent. 80% of the reporting is from original sources.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
International: Financial Times and Property Week – facts and perspectives. Irish mainstream media – Irish Independent and Irish Times‚ resources, reporting network, facts. In terms of non-mainstream media, thepropertypin.com and irisheconomy.ie, for raw data, left-field opinion and in many, many cases, better analysis and reporting than the mainstream media.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
Expertise in a narrow subject (though NAMA isn’t all that narrow), massive cross-referencing and fact-checking. Exclusives. Databases. Interaction through commenting with developers, bankers, citizens, economists, politicians. The NWL index. The blog also has a brief to be provocative and it is irreverent and challenges mainstream opinion, but leverages anonymous authorship with extensive links to original sources for the facts. No group is persecuted and a respectful forum is encouraged so that we can get beyond the mantras and try to constructively discuss the challenges facing us.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
According to Alexa (which monitors these things), mostly 35-44 male graduates. From comments, we seem to have a mix of developers, lawyers, bankers, citizens, economists, politicians, academics, men, women. All welcome, particularly the non-expert who can ask the most basic question and hopefully learn and be given a steer in the right direction on the whole subject of NAMA.

How many registered users do you have?
The @NamaWinelake Twitter account has about 2,000 followers

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
According to Alexa, the blog is ranked #3,190 in Ireland and #599,294 in the world. By comparison politico.ie is ranked #8,557 in Ireland.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
No, never.

Contact Information:
Web: http://namawinelake.wordpress.com
Twitter: @NamaWinelake
Comment: Another blog that is putting the national mainstream news media to shame with its independence and original sources. Very professional, with a conservative slant on economic matters. Open and welcoming to all views.


Politicalworld.org
Editor/Owner: Cass Flower

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
Politicalworld.org internet forum covers international and Irish politics, economics, history, society and environment. I set PW up early in 2010 because I wanted to create an online space for debate that was open to all political viewpoints, and in which people could have a real discussion, on a well-informed and mature level. PW’s membership includes a large number of top class writers, who are informative and at times very funny, with great insider knowledge and repartee. Our blog site, itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com, features some examples of the best of the writing on the forum.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Political World regularly breaks news in Ireland, including publication of Guido Fawkes’ Anglo bondholder list, Seanie Fitzpatrick’s arrest and the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, and many economic and financial stories. PW covers events like the Ballyhea marches and other protests that are blanked out by the mainstream media. There’s a running thread on the slow pace of investigation of Anglo Irish Bank. As well as Irish politics, we have a particular international focus and are regularly the first point of discussion in Ireland for emerging stories like Occupy Wall Street, the NATO involvement in Libya and various Wikileaks cables. The serious strains in the eurozone and the pressures for a Greek eviction from the EU have been discussed in detail from early 2010. Coverage of the banking crisis and of Ireland’s institutional abuse scandals has been in-depth, with writers contributing who have first-hand experience of the institutions. PW followed the Arab Spring events from the end of 2010, weeks before the mainstream press homed in on it. I travelled to Cairo and blogged for ten days direct from Tahrir Square, up to and beyond the fall of Mubarak. PW threads have been quoted in the media, both in Ireland and the US (Bloomberg). We now have an excellent thread running on the first stages of the US Presidential elections.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
I very much enjoy the first rate bunch of tweeters with whom I’m in touch in Ireland and around the world. There are many excellent political sites in Ireland but the NamaWinelake blog and Cedar Lounge Revolution deserve special mention for their consistently very high quality and important output. I read a good few US and European forums, and the standard of writing across Irish forums generally is world-beating.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
PoliticalWorld is not for profit‚ and is not beholden to any interest group. Our members home in on gaps in the news or distortions that they believe have come about in media coverage. The Catherine Nevin case is one example, but there are many others. The disconnect between the media and the public mood in the Irish Presidency campaign coverage is another example. I very much appreciate the work of professional journalists and it’s a worry that the capacity of the press for real investigation of stories is coming under pressure from free 24 hour online news. I don’t consider PW to be a replacement for professional news media‚ it’s an addition – very different, and very interactive.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Political World has a mixed membership, with a more mature age profile than some sites. Some people use their own names: others use pseudonyms. Members include people involved in party politics (at least one T.D. and a number of people from party organisations), journalists, economists and writers, civil servants, people from Irish and international banks, people who are unemployed, students, retired people, film makers, trade unionists, artists, scientists, historians, and political activists of all kinds. The site moderators come from the membership, and their steady hands are essential to the running of the forum.

How many registered users do you have?
After our first 18 months we have over 2,000 members at present. Membership and readership is growing steadily.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
In the last three months visitors have averaged about 250,000 a month. Most recent monthly viewer numbers were 318,583 with 1,297,458 page turns. Visitors and page views are steadily growing. The maximum number of people online at any time was 2,400 (Gerry Ryan’s death). Since we started, there have been over 185,000 messages posted on more than 8,000 topics.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
Yes. We were pressurised not to publish information that was already in the public domain (thanks to NamaWinelake), on Anglo Irish bond holders. We continued to publish the information. On a couple of other occasions we have moved items on request, because we were satisfied that they were proven incorrect. In general, we expect members to provide good sources for their information, and to be sure that they are happy to stand over it.

Contact Information:
Web: http://politicalworld.org
Email: admin@politicalworld.org
Twitter: @_PoliticalWorld & @cassflower
Comment: A relatively young forum which has made a significant impact. A good mixture of national and international news coverage and discussion. Generally a sedate and good-natured community of posters there – well moderated.


Politico.ie
Editor: Malachy Browne

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
Politico.ie is a current affairs website with an archive of Irish magazines published since 1968. Politico was founded to provide an outlet for solutions-based analysis of social and political issues, and to advocate for equality, transparency and inclusion.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on our site, ahead of the mainstream media?
In October, Politico published an exclusive investigation into a representation made by Gay Mitchell at the European Commission for a controversial Ukrainian aviation businessman who supplied Congolese armed forces with military aircraft. Politico first raised the issue of presidential pay during the presidential campaign; RTE brought it to the mainstream media two days later. Politico also published a substantive analysis in September on state funding for private fee-paying schools. Since 2009, Politico.ie has been to the fore in highlighting social issues often ignored by mainstream media.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
NamaWineLake is the best Irish economic blog. TheStory.ie does valuable work in making available documents withheld by state bodies. TheStory recently won an important case with the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information that opens NAMA to the Environmental Information Regulations process. Others: Slugger O’Toole, Maman Poulet and Broadsheet.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
In terms of delivery, Politico was conceived as an outlet where good journalism would be complemented by the use of online tools and the social web. Our stories link to relevant supporting documents and we embed video, PDF documents and other data. We integrate social media to ‘pull’ conversations and information rather than simply a ‘push’ marketing tool. This stands in contrast to Irish print media which simply ‘dumps’ print content onto the web. Politico hosts a library of over 40,000 videos updated every hour, and a Politicians database listing details of each sitting politician including salary, expenses, assets, latest news, tweets and Oireachtas speeches. As a website run by volunteers, Politico does not produce the same volume as other media outlets. To compensate, we make the best use of innovative technology such as that outlined.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
All sorts. Readers coming to the site expect our content to be a more considered and probing analysis of current affairs, with the occasional sprinkling of humour.

How many registered users do you have?
Over 10,000 followers on social media, several hundred registered ‘community’ users and over 50,000 students and academics have access to our archive content.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
Approximately 80,000 visitors who each view three pages on each visit, on average.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
No.

Contact Information:
Web: http://politico.ie
Email: news@politico.ie
Comment: Varied, stimulating website. Look out for the forthcoming Budgetjam‚ the second time Politico have run this, it is a rolling blog of stories and commentary from various contributors aimed at challenging the dominant, compliant narrative of Irish journalism at budget time. Also well worth a read is the complementary Crisisjam archive which does the same thing for the overall economic crisis.


Politics.ie
Editor/Owner: David Cochrane

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
The 2002 general election was the first time that the election was being covered online. Being a pre-dropout student I was quite affixed to the Irish Times and RTE sites throughout the day. Once the election was over, I went a bit cold-turkey and thought there should be a website that was updated constantly on politics. Using open-source software, the site was launched in 2003 and was actually just intended to be a place that would reproduce the parties’ press releases. A friend (still a moderator on the site) suggested we add a comments module (that was included in the open source software system) and the site exploded in interactivity overnight. From small humble beginnings we had about 30 active users.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on our site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Quite a few, and too many to mention. Tonight (9th October) for example we’ve obtained the Gallagher letter resigning as a national executive member, but not from the party – there’s ambiguity there which I suspect will lead the news agenda over the coming days. Not that the mainstream media will credit the site. Some other stories: a user on the site wrote a rather long post in reaction to Brian Lenihan’s budget speech.It ended up being used almost word-for-word by Gilmore in a speech last year. The Daily Mail followed up a week later when they realised the user in question had found out about it (and posted on the site). Another was the imminent (or incipient) IMF intervention in Ireland. Myself and other users were collating news sources internationally that were confirming the IMF were here, whilst the Department of Finance were telling the Irish media it wasn’t the case. Neither I nor the majority of users take a simple response from anyone as gospel. A good rule is ‘trust but verify’. The economy section of Politics.ie is widely read and respected as encouraging alternative (and informed) critique into the state of the economy of Ireland, Europe and further afield. Another was the Iris Robinson story. A user on the site pointed out at about 4pm that a story was about to break about Iris and Kirk McCambley. The site was first with the story, hours before UTV broadcast it. We’ve much the same sources as many other political journalists e.g. press releases. We’re leaner and smaller (and more niche) – we’re sometimes more able to report things before the MSM. What I would say here though, is that it’s not just about me or the administrators, the users of the site are quite good at sniffing out a piece of information.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Suzy Byrne (www.mamanpoulet.com): I wouldn’t necessarily see eye to eye on a range of political issues, but her blog is an absolute must-read, engaging, informed and at times specifically interest-bound. I read it a lot. Gavin Sheridan’s blog (www.gavinsblog.com and www.thestory.ie) – a man who believes in openness and transparency. Gavin’s passion for the truth is inspiring.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media and news reporting do not?
For Politics.ie, what I’m passionate about is the quality of comment and reaction. Traditional media are moving into the viewspaper format of offering opinion and analysis into what parties doing right and doing wrong. I personally am not about that. I don’t want to create a platform for my analysis or agenda. The users on the site provide sometimes more informed reaction, comment and analysis than you would find in newspaper.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Our audience is slightly less tech-savvy that than the likes of twitter, and they would generally be avid consumers of traditional news media such as #Vinb, (The twitter hashtag for shared discussion, used by tweeters while watching TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne) or RTE’s 9 o’ clock News; or reading the Irish Times. At the moment, we’re clearly mostly about the presidential election – and we’re getting some great interaction from non-partisan people who want to engage.

How many registered users do you have?
We passed 35,000 registered users this morning.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
We’re working proactively to increase the reach and audience of the site. So there’s been no average month, since traffic is steadily increasing. Last month, we had: 618,135 Visitors: 197,628 Absolute Unique Visitors and 6,899,931 Page Views

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
We’ve had people who don’t like being talked about threatening the site with all kinds of things. (Bertie Ahern, notably) Sometimes, we do take things down because of copyright, or potential defamation. We’re proud that we are responsible, and we do have to be more mindful of Irish and European law – which is more strict and constraining than US law in this area. In some situations we’ve had to explain to complainants what ‘honest opinion’ is: i.e. that users’ saying they don’t believe a person’s account of an issue of public importance, does not actually constitute defamation. I don’t like it when something inaccurate is said about me online (and it does happen a lot), so it’s important to recognise that if something is posted that requires our attention, we do take it seriously.

Contact Information:
Web: http://politics.ie
Email: david@politics.ie for getting in touch with me, news@politics.ie if anyone has a press release/statement they want to send us.
Twitter: @PoliticsIE or @Davidcochrane
Comment: A phenomenally successful and popular website with a huge range of coverage. Rightish-leaning overall. To some extent a victim of its own success, in attracting so many users. The quality of posts and comments suffers at times. It appears to have a high proportion of younger fans. There is a core of excellent writers contributing, look out for Toxic Avenger in particular. Moderation is generally fair but can seem arbitrary at times. Runs very well for such a busy website, however.


Slugger O’Toole
Editor/Owner: Mick Fealty

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
It’s a group blog which carries stories, links and analysis on Irish and British politics. Our writing team is drawn from across a number of political divides. SluggerOToole.com began on June 5th, 2002, making it one of the earliest Irish blogs of any description. It began as an online research notebook for a paper I was to write on the future of unionism in Northern Ireland. By the end of year one, we were drawing in around 1,000 visitors a day. That’s when I began to recruit other bloggers to join me.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
There’ve been several. We broke the news of the demise of the Daily Ireland, and a story about how estate agents in south Belfast were being intimidated by loyalist paramilitaries out of offering homes to migrant workers. Last year we covered a story about Northern Ireland Water which contributed to the suspension of a Permanent Secretary for only the second time in the history of the UK Civil Service. We also broke the story of Seán FitzPatrick being barred from Shanahan’s restaurant.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
Stumbling and Mumbling, (http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com) – a policy-literate blog written by a leftist commentator who both understands the market and is not afraid to say the unsayable. He constantly creates space for new thoughts. Turbulence Ahead, (http://www.turbulenceahead.com) by Gerard O’Neill who does more or less the same from a centre right perspective. Both are endlessly refreshing to read.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
Speed and ‘net nous’ used to be a quality we could exploit very easily before twitter. For instance, we broke the findings of three IMC reports the night before their release before they closed the loophole we used to access the report. I think we bring depth of analysis, and memory. Journalism is emptying of its senior talent, and accordingly of its institutional memories. We use the hyper link to map the shape of stories over time in order to test of for real (as opposed to imagined) inconsistencies in order to ask more searching questions of the here and now.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Political anoraks, politicians (a ComRes/Stratagem survey of MLAs gave us a 96% penetration rate at the NI Assembly), journalists, senior civil servants, foreign diplomats, lobbyists and political hacks in most other centres of political power in the English-speaking world.

How many registered users do you have?
Hard to say. We get a lot of spam registrations.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
About 64-67,000 uniques.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
Rarely. I treat every complaint very seriously. We have a reporting mechanism for anyone who thinks a post breaches Slugger’s play the ball and not the man rule.

Contact Information:
Web: http://sluggerotoole.com
Email: editor@sluggerotoole.com
Twitter: @SluggerOToole or @MickFealty
Comment: Excellent discussion and analysis forum‚ popular in both Ireland and the UK. A good mix of contributors, on balance leaning toward the more conservative side of the centre. Some terrific debate e.g. on the Lisbon II Treaty referendum.


The Irish Economy Blog
Editor/Owner: Karl Whelan, Professor of Economics, UCD & Philip Lane, Professor of International Macroeconomics, TCD. (Professor Whelan could not be contacted for this survey – we have done our best to describe it here.)

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
“The aim of this website is to provide commentary and information about the Irish economy. The opinions expressed on the site are personal to the individual contributors; the website per se does not institutionally endorse any of the opinions expressed on the site, nor do the employers of the contributors”.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on our site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Not intended to be a news site.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
A space for in-depth examination of facts and figures behind economic policy.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
From contributions to the site it’s clear that IE has a significant readership among economists and other financial experts. Its contributors include Whelan and Lane as well as Patrick Honohan, Colm McCarthy, Alan Ahearne, Richard Tol, and Stephen Kinsella.

Contact Information:
Web: http://irisheconomy.ie
Email: PhilipRichardLane@me.com
Comment: High-calibre and informed academic-quality pieces and discussion. Appears to be a popular source for journalists. Often it is economically conservative, reflecting the perspective and assumptions of the mainstream media, but that is not to say there are not some highly critical analyses of government policy. The discussion is serious and the blog is moderated carefully to ensure that it stays that way.


The Story.ie
Editor/Owner: Gavin Sheridan

Describe your website/what made you decide to set it up?
TheStory.ie is a transparency-advocacy website. It was set up by myself and Mark Coughlan in 2009 as an experiment in tactical FOI requests, as well as in crowd-funded, crowd-sourced journalism.

What information/stories, if any, have first been published on your site, ahead of the mainstream media?
Various databases uncovered through FOIs; and documents both historical and recent.

What are your two favourite political/current affairs sites/blogs and why?
MamanPoulet is great for current political coverage and KildareStreet (http://kildarestreet.com/) by John Handelaar is great for keeping track of the Oireachtas.

Generally speaking, what value do you think sites like yours offer that mainstream media/news reporting do not?
Primary documents; and long-term campaigning for information, databases and greater engagement with readers.

What type of reader/user does your site attract?
Political types, civil servants, and right-to information activists.

How many registered users do you have?
900 subscribers. 250,000 visits since being established in late 2009.

How many visitors and page views would you have in a typical month?
20,000 a month wouldn’t be unusual.

Have you ever come under pressure to take down valid stories or posts? How did you deal with it, if so?
Not yet!

Contact Information:
Web: http://thestory.ie
Email: gavinsblog@gmail.com
Twitter: @gavinsblog @thestoryie
Comment: Serious-minded, scrupulous and effective, Gavin Sheridan was interviewed in the last issue of Village magazine (June 2011). Since then he has been successful in the High Court in a judgement which held that the secretive NAMA is indeed a public body for the purposes of Environmental Impact FOIs.