Newspapers can find daily space for large amounts of key news

Morning View
Morning View

Every so often the full benefits of print editions of newspapers become fully apparent to the public.

It might for example be the space that can be made available to pages and pages of election results or the room given to a lengthy court case.

Today it is our publication over six pages, arranged by our journalists and production teams at short notice, of the first list of RHI claimants to have been published.

We apologise to readers of our business pages that such coverage had to give way to the list of recipients.

Such lists can, like long court cases, be read online, and by last night thousands of people had done just that by reading the RHI list on our website.

But many readers prefer to sift through such information on pages that they can open in front of them, rather than scrolling up and down on a screen. The format of words on pages, that first won over Ulster consumers of news in 1737, when the Belfast News Letter began publication, is still flourishing today in the 21st century. The way in which print newspapers and their digital counterparts have come to complement each other has been a marvel to behold in the digital age.

The publication of this list in digital and paper format underlines another key principle of journalism – transparency.

In normal circumstances there would be no need for such a list and it must be upsetting for the vast majority of organisations that availed of the RHI scheme in good faith.

Unfortunately for them, instances of abuse of RHI, as well as the suggestion that it was kept open cynically by groups of people of influence or at the behest of such groups, has meant that openness trumps other considerations in this instance. The scale of loss to public finances also makes this necessary.

There are crucial lessons to be learned from RHI for the future prospect of good governance at Stormont. Those prospects are good given that devolution is still in its infancy.

Already the level of scrutiny RHI has received makes a repeat of it in future years very much less likely.