Graduate’s road to covering G8 summit

Share Button
JMU Journalism Senior Editor and professional journalist Hugh O'Connell on graduation day in 2010

JMU Journalism Senior Editor and professional journalist Hugh O’Connell on graduation day in 2010

It’s nearly three years since I graduated with a degree in Journalism from LJMU and set off on a path that I could never have predicted back then.

For starters, I never anticipated that having left Ireland to pursue journalism in the UK that I would find a job back home, given the unprecedented economic crisis that hit the country.

Yet now I find myself working for an up-and-coming news organisation in TheJournal.ie that lets me break the kind of stories I always hoped I’d break and cover the kind of events I always hoped I would.

One such event was the recent G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.

Sure, an aspiring journalist does not dream about covering what some consider to be a largely hyped-up talking shop for the leaders of some of the world’s largest economies, but this was something that not many journalists will get to experience in their career.

Getting accreditation was the first hurdle to clear and was akin to applying for a visa to fly to some rogue state.

However, it turned out to be a victory in itself that I, and TheJournal.ie were accredited – a testament to our growing influence and reputation in the Irish news and current affairs arena.

It meant I got to to put some questions to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland and one can appreciate this was a unique opportunity with the kind of access to high-ranking politicians one doesn’t get very often.

The summit itself offered me the chance to demonstrate to my employers the benefit of having someone on the ground and the overwhelming feedback has been positive.

Even users have said that we provided the kind of coverage they wouldn’t get elsewhere – from a nuts-and-bolts explainer of just what G8 Summit is all about to the bizarre and entirely stage-managed leaders-walking-along-a-path-together photo-op.

Though we didn’t get to put any questions to Messrs Obama and Cameron at a brief press conference on day one of the summit, just to be in the same room as them was a buzz in itself.

Hugh's view at the G8 press conference with US President Barack Obama, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and UK Prime Minister David Cameron © Hugh O’Connell

Hugh’s view at the G8 press conference with US President Barack Obama, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and UK Prime Minister David Cameron © Hugh O’Connell

Covering the G8 has not been the only  reporting highlight since I began working with TheJournal.ie over two years ago. I’ve spoken the leader of the opposition of Ireland and the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, as well as the party’s other familiar face, Martin McGuinness.

I interact and put questions to senior politicians on a regular basis.

But it’s not just politics, working on such a platform allows me to put efforts into other stories related to the economy, business, health and other sectors. The diversity and the ability to work on almost anything is one of the great benefits of my job.

Added to all that are the openings that the job has afforded me to do some television work.

I’ve now appeared on both the state broadcaster, RTÉ, and the independent channel, TV3, over half a dozen times talking about what’s in the news as well as doing several radio station interviews on topics that are setting the news agenda.

Hugh O'Connell reviewing the day's news on Irish TV channel RTE One © RTE One

Hugh O’Connell reviewing the day’s news on Irish TV channel RTE One © RTE One

I doubt I’d be in the position I am today without having a journalism qualification but more importantly without the experience I gained whilst working for JMU Journalism.

As well as the practical experience of writing for the web the role of website producer gave me the confidence to put forward myself forward for interviews and events such as when I interviewed Nick Clegg (briefly!) during the 2010 general election and later covered the election night count in Liverpool.

Three years later I found myself watching the politicians who won that election – Clegg and Cameron – walk before me, joined by Barack Obama and the leaders of the world’s leading nations, covering a massive news event with global significance.

It’s a job that has allowed me to pursue the career that I had always hoped journalism would afford me.