Sunday, 10 July 2016

Stoneybatter is not just beards and cake

NOTE TO MEDIA: There is more to Stoneybatter than Mulligans, Mi Thai and Slice. And this part of town does not consist solely of hipster beards cycling to cake shops with a freshly baked sourdough baguette under each arm. And what follows is a rant, about the media. But I'll try to back it up with hard facts. Statistics.

Don't get me wrong. I love all these places. I love my food and drink, love Mi Thai's deep-fried Toong Thong, love the new wave of brilliant food and drink businesses in the area, and its long and rich history with the markets and agribusiness and pigs and cows.

Readers will know that my books and stories (and this blog) chronicle and celebrate all that. We even have a food festival (with the good people of Smithfield, and now in its second year). Yet there is much much more to Stoneybatter.

All these "good news" stories in the media are, of course, fantastic for the local pubs and cafes and shops and restaurants and food producers. Even so, there's something disturbing about the current preoccupation of certain sections of the media with this one restricted and lopsided view of the place, this single angle, this simplistic equation, that Stoneybatter = hipsters + cakes = cool.

You can't blame websites such as Lovin Dublin (pictured above, which clearly has a "foodie" brief and bias), or get too grumpy when foreign newspapers pay a flying visit for their tourism pieces and use the broadest of brushstrokes, or send Dublin writer Rob Doyle to give a little more balance and depth (pictured below).

No, we're talking about the general news outlets based in Dublin and how they cover Stoneybatter.

Imagine if other districts or towns or entire cities were treated in such an incessant, one-dimensional, stereotypical kind of way. Imagine if the bulk of the "news" stories you came across about, say, London or Belfast or Paris or Edinburgh - and not stories by outsiders but reports by their own local media - were about their "8 Best Bars" or "10 Best Doughnuts".

It's fair to say that in previous decades the Dublin media fraternity - like most of Dublin - considered Stoneybatter "off the beaten track". As they say, it goes with the territory. The media finally "discovered" Stoneybatter shortly after the start of the recession and our recent culinary renaissance.

But that's a bit like how Columbus "discovered" America. The Americas existed long before he discovered them, and Stoneybatter existed long before the Guardian's travel desk heard rumours that it might be Hip. Ask the Vikings.

It's not that the media heads suddenly started living in the district (many do, some have even been here since before the recession). It's that those setting the news agendas finally discovered Stoneybatter as an eligible candidate for those agendas.

There are some exceptions to the discoverers, such as the Dublin Gazette. Though the freesheet is freely available around Stoneybatter (e.g. Tescos in Prussia Street, Tescos on the Navan Road), don't expect to find any Stoneybatter news in it. The Dublin Gazette's news pages don't really do our quarter of Dublin.

(A search for "Stoneybatter" on its website brings up just one result from the past five years: a 136-word piece from 2013 about Soulful Bistro, which has since closed. The story is in a section called "M50 Business". A reporter would be on the wrong side of town - wrong as in opposite side rather than rough end - if he or she went looking for the M50 in Stoneybatter.)

A case study: The Journal

Of the media that do cover Stoneybatter, take The Journal. This popular website does do regular news stories about Stoneybatter matters, but in recent times the coverage seems preoccupied - obsessed even - with "doughnuts" or "donuts" (the spellings vary from story to story).

I'm not imagining this.

I did a bit of quick research: a simple search for "Stoneybatter" on The Journal's website, then grouped the search results into nine or ten broad categories.

(OK, this might not find all reports with a Stoneybatter angle, because some might not include the "S" word, but surely it would give some rough approximation of the breadth and distribution of topics over the years.)

Results page for a search for "Stoneybatter" on

In The Journal's mentions of Stoneybatter over the past five years, stories about food and drink accounted for about one in two search results.

Type of storyNo. of search results
Food and drink40
Street art4
Crime and courts4
Dublin life or Irish life in general (not necessarily linked to specific news events)10
Stoneybatter life in general (not necessarily linked to specific news events 1
Other news stories10

During the same five-year period the combined total of "Stoneybatter" stories about street art, pets and property (mostly in The Journal's weekly property porn round-up) outnumbered those about "politics" by four to one. Even then, all four politics stories were about one brief period, the 2016 general election, and two of the four only have a passing reference to Stoneybatter.

There were no other search results for local politics (such as the 2014 local elections). To be fair, some stories such as the water protests weren't directly about the main political parties but do have a local politics angle - I've parked them under the "Other news" category.

Yet whatever the category, all these reports are completely overshadowed by the deluge of food and drink stories. When it comes to Stoneybatter coverage, The Journal seems far more concerned week after week with doughnuts rather than politics.

Yes indeed, "Let them eat cake," as Marie Antoinette allegedly once said (actually it was brioche, and it was said by Jean-Jacques Rousseau).

I don't know whether The Journal has significantly increased its annual output of stories since 2011, but about 70% of the Stoneybatter references in the search results from the past five years come from stories published in the past 18 months.

So you could say that The Journal "discovered" Stoneybatter around the start of 2015. And in the three years from 2011 to 2013 there were only two (2) food and drink related stories mentioning Stoneybatter, both of them about pubs. Last month there were six (6) food and drink stories with Stoneybatter mentions. Go figure.

(Postscript, 14 July 2016: Less than a week after I first posted this piece, and there's yet another Stoneybatter cake story this morning, "This Stoneybatter café has combined cake and doughnuts to make a 'cakenut'", on top of yet another one last Tuesday, "13 photos that will make all Bounty lovers drool". You really couldn't make it up, but the statistics in this round-up only refer to The Journal's articles up to 10 July 2016.

The results

Finally, for your delectation and delight, here are the raw stats: the headlines from the search results in all their glory. Don't blame me if you find a noticeable "sameness" and repetition among all those "10 great things" type lists...

(* Headlines marked with an asterisk have a Stoneybatter reference, but only to a "more stories" type link. Morning and evening news roundups that simply link to the full stories are excluded.)

1. Food and drink (40 search results)

  • A café in Dublin has just created the Wibbly Wobbly Wonder donut (published 06/07/2016)
  • 17 photos of donuts in Dublin that would make you drool (02/07/2016)
  • 9 things to eat and drink at Body & Soul this weekend (17/06/2016)
  • 7 of the best spots to get brunch in Dublin (16/06/2016)
  • This Brunch-flavoured donut is on sale in Dublin for today only (16/06/2016)
  • This Stoneybatter café is selling Loop The Loop doughnuts today (09/06/2016)
  • 10 places in Dublin all garlic sauce enthusiasts must visit (02/06/2016)
  • There's a new 60-second pizza place in Dublin giving out free grub on Friday (01/06/2016)
  • This Dublin restaurant was voted the best in the country - here's what the grub looks like (18/05/2016)*
  • A slick new coffee shop with an unusual name has just opened in Dublin 1 (some of its food is sourced in Dublin 7, 11/05/2016)
  • 5 excellent places to grab brunch in Dublin 7 (02/05/2016)
  • This Stoneybatter café is doing 'Hot Cross Donuts' and they look incredible (24/03/2016)
  • Here's why China Garden is Navan's best takeaway by far (30/03/2016)*
  • 11 of the most beloved off licences serving Ireland today (24/03/2016)
  • 10 of the best sausage rolls in Dublin (04/03/2016)
  • 10 places to get a good cup of coffee in Dublin (22/02/2016)
  • Dublin's best sandwiches have made it into the New York Times today (04/02/2016)
  • 13 pubs in Dublin that are turning away Twelve Pubs groups (03/12/2016)
  • Lin Kee is Dublin’s best spice bag (27/11/2015)
  • 12 of the tastiest slices of cake to eat in Dublin (17/11/2015)
  • 13 Irish pubs that give the Michelin Pub of the Year a run for its money (27/10/2015)
  • 8 delights every gin lover has to sample in Dublin (27/10/2015)
  • This tiny Indian joint in Dublin 7 is the best-reviewed takeaway on Just Eat (20/10/2015)
  • 12 of the best places in Dublin to take your parents for a pint (26/09/2015)
  • 18 Dublin pubs you should really visit before you die (22/08/2015)
  • 9 Irish delicacies worth travelling for (07/08/2015)
  • 12 of Dublin's most Instagrammable restaurants and pubs  (05/07/2015)
  • 16 proper chippers to try in Dublin before you die (12/07/2015)
  • 18 of the greatest Irish pubs that tourists (mostly) don’t know about (10/05/2015)
  • 5 essential questions and answers about the spice bag phenomenon (23/04/2015)
  • This intriguing ‘board game café’ is set to open in Dublin this year (20/02/2015)
  • Five Irish Christmas brews - reviewed by people who don't normally do this sort of thing for a living (20/12/2014)
  • Dublin's dozens of derelict pubs are being documented by one man and his bike (17/10/2014)
  • 13 Irish craft beers you must try before you die (13/09/2014)
  • 19 chippers to visit in Ireland before you die (08/06/2014)
  • Miley Cyrus recording new music in Ireland… it’s The Dredge (a mention of how the star and her crew had a meal in Mulligans of Stoneybatter, 19/05/2014)
  • Miley Cyrus went for a quiet drink in Dublin last night (18/05/2014)
  • A Dublin café is going to start delivering breakfast to your bed (27/03/2014)
  • 21 pubs in Ireland you must visit before you die (30/11/2013)
  • Software developer cracks Ulysses puzzle “to cross Dublin without passing a pub” (16/06/2011)

2. Property (10)

  • 6 Irish islands that cost less than a two-bed gaff in Dublin (22/01/2016)
  • This ad wonderfully takes the piss out of the Dublin rental scene (26/08/2015)
  • Five properties to view this weekend… under €500,000 (12/03/2015)
  • Take 4: Homes for every budget around Ireland (12/03/2015)
  • 5 properties to view in… Dublin City North (15/01/2015)
  • Take 4: Homes for every budget around Ireland (20/11/2014)
  • 5 properties to view in… Dublin City North (06/11/2014)
  • What else could I get for… the €475k pricetag on this Dublin grass-roofed bungalow (06/11/2014)
  • Distressed or distraught? €21,000 reserve put on house at auction (27/11/2011)
  • Distressed properties sell at Dublin auction (23/09/2011)

3. Street art (4)

  • Mysterious Father Ted ‘Vote Yes’ murals are appearing around Dublin (19/05/2015)
  • This 'Super Michael Pres' street art is a little bit amazing (23/03/2014)
  • Brilliant Dublin street art gives the best directions you'll get today (31/10/2013)
  • UPDATED: Have you seen this person’s arms? (16/10/2012)

4. Pets (2)

  • 'Gary' the pet ferret got lost in Stoneybatter and made lots of new friends (17/05/2016)
  • Dublin dog REALLY doesn’t want to take a bath (04/07/2014)

5. Politics (4)

  • Meet the five young candidates looking to shake things up in the Dáil (21/02/2016)
  • “I’m going to do much better than people think” – the first-timer running in one of the toughest constituencies (20/02/2016
  • Enda has FINALLY ruled out Michael Lowry – or any other independents (05/02/2016 - the only Stoneybatter reference is that "The Taoiseach also said that he had “a list from here to Stoneybatter” of all the interviews people want him to do.")
  • ‘Is Labour dead?’: We answer the big election questions you’ve been Googling (11/02/2016 - the only Stoneybatter reference in this is that Joan Burton is from there)

6. Crime and courts (4)

  • Former chef jailed for five years after three-week crime spree (12/01/2016)
  • Four men charged over car boot incident told to stay away from Stoneybatter (17/03/2015)
  • Mark Nash sentenced to life for the brutal murder of two women at Grangegorman (20/04/2015)
  • 'Significant development' in body-in-bag murder (01/02/2012)

7. Dublin life or Irish life in general 
(not necessarily linked to specific news events) (10)

  • 15 tweets about Dublin that are just too real (28/04/2016)
  • 16 things that would happen if Gilmore Girls was set in Dublin (30/01/2016)
  • 9 very Irish memes we need the world to understand (24/01/2016)*
  • 18 ghostly signs you've probably missed around Dublin (20/11/2015)
  • 26 views to make you dream of Dublin (27/10/2015)
  • 15 things that would happen if Fade Street was still on air in 2015 (04/10/2015)
  • Looking for Culture Night plans? Here's what's on in DUBLIN this Friday (16/09/2015)
  • 14 reasons why Dublin is the most beautiful city in the world (03/03/2015)
  • WATCH: These short videos show the many sides to Dublin… (03/08/2014)
  • 21 alternative landmarks all northside Dubliners should know (06/03/2014

8. Stoneybatter life in general
(not necessarily linked to specific news events) (1)

  • 21 of the most Stoneybatter things that have ever happened (17/01/2016)

9. Other news stories (10)

  • "Would we choose Isis or the regime? We want neither, we want a third choice…" (a "Dublin 7 Says Welcome" refugee solidarity event in Stoneybatter, 17/10/2015)
  • Potentially cancer-causing herbicide used on Dublin’s streets (14/07/2015)
  • Man dead, woman in serious condition after fire at Stoneybatter house (26/04/2015)
  • Irish Water on those 'masked men' filming at meter protest sites (21/02/2015)
  • Protester told meter installer "I'll put you on your back", court told (16/02/2015)
  • Gardaí investigating claims water protester was assaulted (11/12/2015)
  • Have you seen this chain? Daughter devastated after losing cherished necklace (22/09/2014)
  • A year in a coma, but Pádraig slowly shows signs of progress (01/07/2014)
  • US rugby star Scott Lavalla on his 4 years at Trinity College and plastic pint glasses (he lived in Stoneybatter for a time, 08/06/2013)
  • Natural gas leak ruled out in death of Stoneybatter couple (14/01/2013)
Stoneybatter travel piece in the London edition of the Metro last March