Dear Reader,

‘The lights always guide you home’, read a text message from a close relative when news that I was returning to this newspaper as Editor was announced.

Having left in the middle of Covid, I never thought I would find myself back at The Impartial Reporter, especially not as Editor. It is an absolute privilege to be writing my first piece in charge of a newspaper that has been part of my life since I was in school in a county that I adore.

It has been two decades since my then English teacher, Sheila O'Hare, at Enniskillen High School, asked me about my future aspirations. I had always enjoyed writing, and she suggested I should try to get into journalism. Then she told me I should arrange work experience at this paper but my nerves got the better of me. Little did I know that Sheila's determination would shape the course of my life.

She picked up the phone from the store in her room and phoned the then Editor Denzil McDaniel to secure my work experience. It was a thrilling week in the office and I've been hooked ever since because of the help and support of colleagues who then became friends, like Denzil. He is my mentor and the reason why I am sitting in his old chair.

Over the years, I have worked for some of the biggest newspapers in the UK and Ireland, but among them all, it was The Impartial Reporter that captured my heart. This newspaper holds an intoxicating hold over anyone who has walked through its doors on East Bridge Street. All of us past and present have been built on the very fabric of this place.

So, you can imagine my overwhelming joy when I found myself returning as Editor last week, a little earlier than originally planned. To follow in the footsteps of William Trimble, Mervyn Dane, Denzil McDaniel, Sarah Saunderson — still our only ever female editor — Mark Conway and others is the greatest honour of my professional life. It feels like coming home.

Recently, I've spent weeks integrating back into this community after three years at the Sunday Independent in Dublin. When I handed in my notice and accepted this role, Alan English, the Sunday Independent’s editor and former editor of the Limerick Leader, told me: "I could never stand in the way of you editing your hometown paper." His words reaffirmed my decision.

During a meal at a little pub near Independent House on Talbot Street on my last day, Alan spoke passionately about his love for local newspapers. His enthusiasm was infectious, reminding me of the unique charm that newspapers like The Impartial Reporter hold.

And being forever associated with this paper is an honour. My former colleague Joe Brolly, the outspoken sports pundit, once asked me for my number. Despite both of us writing for the Sunday Independent at the time, he still saved my number in his phone as, 'Impartial Rodney’ and would call me ‘Impartial, Rodney’ every time we spoke.

Undoubtedly, the past three years have been challenging for both this newspaper and the community. The pandemic's impact has been felt deeply, but I am remain in awe of our newspaper’s hard-working staff across all departments and our team of freelance journalists, photographers and columnists who have kept the show on the road.

In the coming weeks, you will notice some changes to The Impartial Reporter—it will look slightly different, and there will be a renewed focus on original journalism, investigations and a better use of photography from our award-winning John McVitty and others. The new-look paper will reflect the vibrancy of our society. The writing will be more compelling, drawing readers into the stories that matter most. But at its heart will be extensive news and sports coverage, lively opinion and more. I have asked our reporters to get out into our community more than ever.

As Editor, I will be different and I will do things differently. But I have learned from the best.

However, the ethos of this paper will remain the same — to inform readers, highlight injustices and champion our people and this place.

Engaging with various individuals in recent weeks, I've come to appreciate the newspaper's journey as it heads towards its 200th anniversary in 2025. One of the first people I met when taking on this role was former managing director of The Impartial Reporter Joanna McVey whose family started this newspaper. I wanted her to know that while we will look to the future, we will not forget the paper’s past.

During my tenure as Editor, my goal is to ensure that The Impartial Reporter is a home for everyone, irrespective of background, religion, or status. In the coming weeks I will continue to meet with people throughout Fermanagh, south Tyrone and the Border region to understand what we can do to better reflect today’s ever-changing society in our pages.

I also want to do more for businesses and have asked the staff here to do all we can to champion the very many incredible businesses throughout the area that are providing employment and a future for so many people.

Our pages will continue to be a place where diverse cultures and backgrounds find representation — the Orange Order or the GAA, Protestant, Catholic, or those with other faiths and no faith at all, regardless of birthplace. It will also give the growing middle-ground a platform. It will be home to different opinions and balanced, respectful debate from all sides, whether that’s loyalist, republican or otherwise.

Emphasising impartiality is important to me and this will be key in all our coverage to honour the newspaper's core principles. However, we will not be shy in highlighting the failures of leaders to lead when we feel it appropriate — and we will be holding all of our politicians to account.

One of my first acts as Editor was restoring a portrait of William Trimble, the founding Editor of The Impartial Reporter, back on the wall. It had been taken down during a refurbishment in the past, but I felt it was important to return it to its rightful place to honour the newspaper's legacy. It now hangs on the wall opposite my desk in Trimble’s old office, reminding me of his vision from the first edition in 1825 to stand up for people. All people.

Nearly two centuries later and at a time of much uncertainty I say with unwavering conviction that we will do that now more than ever. Together, as a community, The Impartial Reporter will be united in our quest to speak truth to power and be an ambassador for this great place every week.

And, so, having returned home, I embrace this new chapter, alongside my colleagues, and I am dedicated — like they are — to serving you with important, public interest journalism.

Thanks for having me back home. I hope you enjoy today’s paper.

This one is for Mrs. O'Hare.


Rodney Edwards

Editor, The Impartial Reporter