Each week we sit down with a member of the media to discuss their career journey, the pros and cons, and the challenges in the world of journalism.
This week’s guest is Elaine O’Sullivan, the Deputy Editor of AA Roadwatch. You can hear her broadcasting the latest traffic news on RTÉ Radio 1 and Lyric FM.
What is your current role in the media and what does it involve?
I am Deputy Editor of AA Roadwatch, currently acting in the Editor position.
My role is a dual position where I operate as a project manager within the Roadwatch department while simultaneously working as a broadcaster and researcher. I am responsible for all Roadwatch output; broadcasts, online content, social media content and media relations (sound bites and press releases).
What are the best and hardest parts of your role?
The best parts of my role have to be the people I work with and also the wide variety of daily tasks. The worst part of my role has to be the early starts, most days my day begins well before 5am.
How long have you been working in the industry?
I have been working in the industry for 11 years.
Did you always want to be a journalist? What made you want to become one?
Yes, apart from my brief stint as a singer/songwriter when I was 6. I discovered my love of journalism when I was very young during the Rose of Tralee Festival, I would record my own version of Gay Byrne’s interview with the roses. I went on to study English and Media at Mary Immaculate College.
How do your experiences so far compare to the expectations you had while studying/learning the trade?
I wasn’t at all sure what specific area of the industry I wanted to focus on when I left college as my course in Mary Immaculate College was very broad. I wasn’t prepared for how fast paced the industry would be and I suppose I was a little naïve. However, my Media Techniques course with Radio Kerry allowed me to gain very valuable experience in a commercial radio station. While studying I had the opportunity to present my own show so it prepared me to hit the ground running when I left college.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?
For me, the biggest challenge of my career to date for sure was when I returned to Ireland in late 2008 after a year travelling in Australia. Trying to find media work seemed impossible and I found myself questioning my career choice. After two months of visiting radio stations and temping in offices to pay rent, I was offered a role as part-time researcher/broadcaster with AA Roadwatch and I have been working here since.
Which piece of work are you most proud of?
I made a documentary while in college about the Rwandan genocide and the refugees who were trying to find their place in their new community in Limerick City. I was invited along to a community centre where they held regular art, music and dance afternoons to help them form new friendships. What had started out as a harrowing recount of their escape, the final scenes captured them smiling and dancing with their new neighbours.
Who did you look up to in the industry when you were starting out? Is there anyone like that for you at the moment?
Marian Finucane then and now to be honest – what an amazing career having started work as an architect and then moving on to work in RTÉ in the mid-seventies and forming a very successful career for herself. Fascinating woman and excellent interviewer.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing journalism and the media industry today?
How quick news is now – most news stories break on Twitter. Journalism has definitely moved away from print somewhat and has a stronger leaning toward social media platforms but it’s a very exciting time to be part of this industry.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in journalism or who are studying it at the moment?
Try to get as much experience as you can while in college, be it in the college radio station or writing for the college newspaper. Try volunteering in your local radio station as well – the more experience you have, the more desirable a candidate you are when attending interviews.