Ireland’s top selling newspaper designed in Gweedore

IRELAND’S best selling newspaper, the Sunday Independent, is being designed in Glassagh, Gweedore.  Joe Coyle (46) is the newly appointed Design Editor at the Sunday Independent. Over the past twenty-five years he has watched the tradition-bound newsroom move into the internet age and journalists change how they gather the news and how readers receive it.
Originally from Glasgow, Joe moved to Killult in Gortahork when he was nine. It’s where his parents Michael and Sarah still live. He is a graduate from the DIT Rathmines School of Journalism in 1995 and worked briefly with the Donegal Peoples’ Press and the Tyrone Times before moving to Dublin and the Sunday Tribune. Over the next decade he wrote for the features and sport sections of the paper before moving into design. He would become the paper’s design editor before its closure in 2011.
He then moved to the Irish Independent where he was responsible for the design and production of some of its flagship publications before deciding to move back home to Donegal with his wife Maria and three young daughters Ella (14), Molly (12) and Abby (9) in 2015.
He set up his own company, Joe Coyle Media and Design, but continued to work as a freelance for Independent Newspapers as well as designing and producing other magazines, books, newspapers, leaflets and corporate publications.
“I rented office space in Gweedore from Údarás when I first came home before I got broadband into the house which coincided with the first lockdown and it’s all worked out really well,” he said.
“I’m glad we came home when we did. I had done some work previously with Alan English (Sunday Independent editor) and he asked me to help out with the paper’s redesign six moths ago.
“When the role of Design Editor came up I went for it and thankfully I was successful. I’m with them on a full-time basis these past two to three weeks,” he said.
Joe’s design skills can be seen through the main paper as well as the Business and People & Culture sections. In time, he will also cast his talented eye over the Sport and Life sections.
His working week starts on a Tuesday (People & Culture) before he switches to the Business section on a Wednesday afternoon sorting out images and graphics while the main news section has his full attention throughout Friday and Saturday.
“Saturdays can be fairly mental. It’s the sort of day that you don’t want your broadband to go down,” he laughed.
Passionate about sport, photography, film, news, community and equality for all he has developed a good nose (and eye) for a story and how to present it so that someone, somewhere, wants to read it. He believes that a good photograph is key to good design.
“Once you’ve a good picture you can make anything of it. The secret is to recognise when to use it big. I would tend to use photographs big in the Culture section – a good photograph can easily carry a double page spread along with a small bit of copy.
“There’s a great team of photographers in the Sunday Independent and it makes my job easier when you have a good picture. There’s nothing worse than scrambling around for a stock image or an archive shot that isn’t quite sharp enough or hasn’t been digitised properly from a few years ago. If you’ve a good fresh picture you’re flying,” he said.
There’s also a strong focus on digital production.
“I’m always looking for is a strong graphic or visual that will grab someone’s attention online,” he said.
“I love newspapers, magazines and books, and I believe print is very much alive – it’ll just be packaged differently.
“The industry made a bad mistake in giving away content for free and it’s now quite difficult to get people to pay for stories which have been put behind paywalls,” he added.
Joe designs all of Ballpoint Press’s books and over the years has built up a strong client base.
“This is a full-time job and therefore I won’t be chasing new clients. However, one thing I want to continue doing is the books and we have one coming out later in the year.
“It’s a series of short GAA stories from around Ireland. Some are funny while others are emotional. There’s a few Donegal stories in it too. I work on designing that on Mondays – my day off,” he said.
Joe Coyle is also hoping to start writing again.
“That’s the journalist in me. I get a great kick out of the process of writing although that’s probably been kicked two or three years down the road now that I have this full-time role. I’m often the first person who gets to read the copy to see what images are needed to go with the piece so I still get to right a few headlines,” he laughed.
“These are exciting times in the industry and I’m lucky – I really look forward to going into work every day. I have ideas for different supplements that I believe will work in the Sunday Independent and I’ll be offering my ideas over the next few months in that regard.
“I believe the paper is looking better than it was two or three years ago but there’s still room for improvement and I’m looking forward to working as part of a very good team,” he said.
“I’ve an office upstairs at the opposite end of the house to the kitchen and sitting room – away from all the noise. When it’s time to clock off I’m back with the family within thirty seconds. When I was working in Dublin I had to commute into the city from Swords. There was so much time wasted travelling. Here I really think that I’ve the best of both worlds,” he said.

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Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland