Wednesday mornings were my favourite. You’d first drop a bale of papers by the blob. Hands would dart in. You’d spend five minutes watching the expressions. More drop-off points, more bales. More reactions. By mid-morning you’d be in the student centre waiting for the roar from the Union President. If at least one story didn’t raise a reaction, it probably wasn’t a great issue.
This was 2002-2003. I was the University Observer’s Deputy Editor working alongside the brilliant Enda Curran (now Bloomberg). Second only to publication day was production weekend. You’ll have read about those in these pages before – insane three-day rushes of non-stop work. There was elation in pulling together a great edition for 14,000 students. There were challenges and mistakes too. But mostly my five years with the paper were marked by learning and great friendships.
I began writing for the University Observer in 1998. Getting to write about my passions, music and film, was thrilling. Seeing my name and my words in print is a feeling I’ll never get tired of. I was hooked.
My first piece was an album review. The New Radicals. First interview was with The Charlatans. By 2001, I was O2 (Otwo) editor under then editor-in-chief Daniel McConnell (now Political Editor with the Irish Examiner), before leading ‘the editorial team’ (in much-maligned t-shirts) alongside Enda Curran.
The University Observer fuelled a passion that became a career. While I officially studied arts, in truth, UCD was where I studied journalism. I spent more time in the newspaper’s office than in a lecture theatre. I was lucky enough to be part of an era that produced a slew of talented writers. We learned together. Many are now in the national media. At least one ex-theatre reviewer has made it to Hollywood (Chris O’Dowd).
I have since had the privilege to write about arts and culture for NME, Irish Independent, Irish Times, The Sunday Times, Hot Press, Nylon and RTE, among others.
I’ve also worked as a news sub-editor, an assistant sports editor, a reporter and an online editor. I’ve made radio documentaries and written on everything from construction to health. Such a varied career has been necessary. Few of us, circa 2003, foresaw the impact that the internet would have on journalism. There have been many positives, but the negatives have seen job opportunities squeezed and commissioning budgets cut.
So in these somewhat gloomy times, I look back on those years with fondness. I left the University Observer thinking I knew everything about journalism. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But the paper gave me a great grounding and even greater friendships. I look forward to being one of those hands, picking up an edition, the next time I’m through campus.