The change, decorating the front page with news instead of advertisements, was in keeping with all that was happening with the paper at the time. A matter of months earlier, letters stopped going to Earl Street and were now being posted to Crowe Street, and shortly before that the age-old hot metal production method had given way to cut-and-paste, with the gradual introduction of computers.
On taking over ownership of the paper in July of 2000, The Leinster Leader had the most modern of equipment installed at the new offices, and this led to a further mood for change in how the paper should be produced and look.
Page 1 covered with ads may have been old-fashioned, but it did nothing to dissuade people over a wide area from buying what was affectionately known as the Demo week after week, making it for many years the most widely-read provincial in the north east.
Still, with the most modern of production methods now available, allowing for photographs to be printed in colour, for one thing, the decision to give the paper a new rig-out was as easily taken as it was inevitable. The issue of March 24, 2001, was chosen for the launch.
It wasn’t with any great apprehension that the editorial and production staffs faced the new challenge. Why should it have been? Coming towards the end of the previous year, the two teams combined to play a blinder in taking out a much-acclaimed supplement to mark the visit of US President Bill Clinton to town, with its colourful front and back pages and all-embracing articles. This was a confidence-boost for the task ahead.
A St Patrick’s Day-themed photo was chosen for first front page, and the main story centred on the planned closure of the Macardle-Moore Brewery. Unions and politicians were up in arms – with the brewery’s demise, not the new look.
Plans were in place for following editions, but just a week later a sheep on the Cooley Mountains was found to be infected with the foot-and-mouth disease, and this led to major restrictions being put in place in the north part of the county.
Stories on the outbreak and the efforts to contain it were plentiful, proving good copy for the paper’s front cover. There was the cull of animals, a Government cabinet meeting in Ballymascanlon Hotel, skulduggery, rows over compensation to farmers, and, of course, travel restrictions; but other activities were seriously curtailed, sport chief among them.
But the sheet, with its lashings of colour, was got on the street each week, just as it had been for well over a hundred years before, and in the decade since.
The Demo has continued to travel into new territory. It’s in new ownership, and is different than it was ten years ago in size and appearance. There have also been changes at the coalface. Amazingly, not one of those who comprised the workforce, many of them playing a really signigificant part in bringing out March 24, 2001, edition, is still on the paper’s full-time staff.
Yes, the old order changeth – over and over again – yielding place to new.