A Message Amidst The Madness Series: Lessons Learnt.

By Cathy Lee

A lot of not very “every-day” things happened in my every-day life last week.

Let me just say before we get into this that you shouldn’t worry as this won’t be a diary entry.

Last week I began my usual college student routine, doing what I was supposed to be doing. By Saturday, I had had three cover stories in three different newspapers.

I also won first place at a competitive Poetry Slam (but that’s a different story).

The overused term that comes to mind is “that escalated quickly”, but if the shoe fits.

The irregularity of these events come from the content of the cover stories and the fact I was even involved in a Poetry Slam.

The stories were an analysis of changes in property prices in county Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow which were spread across three pages each.

That’s altogether nine pages of house prices, analysis and content coming from a student journalist who doesn’t own a home and isn’t an amazing tenant either.

Also currently I live in neither Dublin nor Wicklow and believe me, not even Carlow.

The point of this post is that life is quite unpredictable and basically I believe you need to take every opportunity, big or small, that comes your way.

I will tell you just how I did that this time around.

Back in December, I met with the editor of the papers to do an interview about the upcoming general elections in Ireland in 2016.

I had completed work experience at their “Wicklow Voice” paper over the summer, a two week stay at a paper I grew to really enjoy writing for.

He was very willing to talk and gave a good interview, I was happy with how it went.

He told me during our talk that day that he would have some upcoming journalism work for me and also mentioned the magic and underused word of “paid”.

Of course, I was delighted at this.

Then, the horror of the words hit like a ton of bricks on the horizon of a ghost estate, (now growing from ghostly to homely I might add).

“Property”.

I sunk at the thought, knowing that property was not in my vocabulary never mind my journalistic abilities.

15,000 homes were sold in Dublin 2015. I looked at the name, location and price of each property.

500 homes were sold in Carlow and 1,300 in Wicklow. That’s nearly 17,000 homes.

With the extremity of excitement in uncovering information such as this, I was beginning to lose faith in terms of whether anybody would even want to read this endless jargon of stats.

I soon learned that I was wrong. People love putting their nose in others homes, to see how the other half lives in some way.

I listed the cheapest and most expensive sales and also the top ten homes in the counties.

People go crazy for these things and such stats, I found out when I saw the spread of numbers and cartoon homes on the published papers.

I also noticed that each other national paper and locals had property stories too, so I didn’t feel alone in my extensive investigative research into the “Property Price Register”.

I think I got the shock when the killer headline was in big bold print and I had the beloved by-line to go with it.

I almost felt like a spreader of my personal property propaganda that the poor readers in Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow had just me to read on the cover of their locals.

Last year in the first year of my journalism course in Galway, a speaker from thejournal.ie told us that you can’t predict what stories readers will like the most.

That idea flashed into my mind all through last week.

I think in this game I’m now invested in, you have to just take it as it comes.

Never say no, nod along and figure out the ins and outs later because a high percentage of the time, you can figure out the best way around a tough situation.

We are born survivors aren’t we? Embrace that inner strength and grab at these chances.

Who knows, maybe when I buy my first home. I’ll know where to go and look, because the stories stick with you, no matter how far gone you are.

Carlow

 

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I attach links to the property stories and photographs of the cover stories, feel free to browse and thanks to Wicklow Voice, Dublin Voice and Carlow People papers.

 

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A day in the Irish Independent Newspapers

You know you’re in a place that means business when once you walk in there’s a statue of ultimate journalist Veronica Guerin on the wall saying ‘Be Not Afraid’. You know you’re a place where real things happen when you see ‘Je suis Charlie’ posters plastered across the walls and desks of a newsroom. You know you’re in the real-life Irish Independent Newspapers when you’re seeing all this first hand for the first time.

My Sunday shift started at 11am. Although admittedly I spent until 11:20 at the front desk waiting for my mentor and guide for the day, the deputy editor of the Irish Independent, to arrive and whisk me away to the unknown. I wasn’t unhappy to wait though, I felt the need to take it all in. Behind the security of the front desk you can see a spread out logo list of all the news outlets run by the Irish Independent. These included The Herald, The Sunday World and http://www.Independent.ie.

Independent.ie is what I have to thank for getting me this opportunity. You see each week they choose a ‘Weekly Read’ article from the student college news site ‘Campus.ie’. My first article written for Campus.ie was about New Years resolutions and how you could adapt them into college life and this article was picked as the Weekly Read luckily enough.

I’m a first year journalism student studying in NUI Galway. Although I have some experience under my belt as a journalist, I’m certainly not a professional and I am without a degree as of yet. Needless to say the night before the shift the nerves had festered and the feeling of uncertainty had come over me. I wondered whether the Irish Independent would even take me seriously, I mean I was only there for the day.

As soon as the shift started I knew this was not the case. First up when I had got myself settled onto the third floor in the newsroom came a press release from a business company who had completed a survey on couples spending for Valentines story. I had to turn this into a 150 word piece (without providing the company with any free advertising) to capture the bigger picture of what this survey actually showed. I accepted this relatively small challenge and I was given help and guidance not before but after the article was written. I knew then that this day would be more on an ‘up to me’ basis than I had thought.

Challenge one complete and it was only 12 noon. Next up I had to do a report on the unlawful killing of a rare bird of prey. This was a sensitive one because this particular bird was a special with a huge online following and a local community involved in its care. A TD was on the phone to me telling me about the incident and the implications. People say you can’t trust politicians and maybe that’s true – I mean he did talk to me for a good five minutes and then requested not to be quoted. But it’s fine, he was quite helpful considering it was a Sunday.

Honestly there’s something you should know about Sundays and maybe some of you already do know. People don’t want to be talked to or pestered by journalists, especially on Sundays. My third article was one that I pitched to the editor, but to make it a good news story a good quote was needed. Quotes are hard things to come by I learned that day.

I spent my last hour and a half of the shift trying to get a decent quote for the piece but of course people either don’t answer their phones on Sundays or else leave you to wait until normal office hours.

But looking back now it was an excellent work experience. I mean I didn’t even have to make tea for anyone, I actually went for tea with one of the news journalists, and I was taken seriously. As contacts are so important in journalism, I was happy and honoured to be working alongside them all and thankfully they were all perfectly willing to help me out. It might have helped from that perspective that Sundays are quiet.

Although something on the opposite to that Sunday quiet was the sports department. All the sports people come in at about three in the afternoon and watch their games, commentate and write their reports while the TVs, laptops and radios roar in the background. It really was interesting to see this in action, although I did have to move chairs because one of the sports guys needed it.

Now I’m really grateful for the experience and although I don’t know whether I’ll be back for another shift, the deputy editor did tell me my writing was good and if I had any story ideas to just drop him a line and we’ll stay in contact that way. It’s tough to sum up a conclusion to the day but all I know is it meant a lot to me and I could see myself enjoying the experience if I was to work there for real.

Thanks for reading and I just realised this is my first blog post so hope it wasn’t too bad!

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