Managing Editor of The Limerick Leader shared her career journey and advice on making it in the highly competitive journalism industry
By Aislinn Kelly
Respect and integrity are just two of the traits needed to succeed in the highly competitive media industry, according to Managing Editor of the Limerick Leader Áine Fitzgerald.
Speaking on the Role of Women in Media, Ms Fitzgerald chronicled her illustrious career which began as a reporter for the paper to climb the ranks to become the first female Managing Editor of the newspaper’s 133 year-history.
Talking to students at The University of Limerick as part of a Media Challenges in a Digital Age seminar series, the Limerick native discussed her career path and the changes she has witnessed in the media landscape since beginning her career sixteen years ago.
When Áine first began working with the paper, all key positions were occupied by men. Now the newspaper enjoys an almost equal gender balance.
Áine described the feeling women in the newsroom were outnumbered, and such an imbalance required her to “act like a lady and think like a man,” in order to be a successful journalist.
Áine is responsible for both The Limerick Leader’s weekly newspaper that encompasses everything from news, crime, features, sports and community notes.
Her responsibility also extends to the popular Limerick Live, one of Iconic Media’s most viewed websites nationally.
Her career has led to encounters with Tiger Woods and Catherine Zeta jones, however she maintains the magic lies in covering the colourful characters around the county such as a recent interview with a chatty nonagenarian.
Áine was lured into the challenging yet exciting career of journalism when studying as an undergraduate in Mary Immaculate College.
The editor’s love of journalism became apparent during a three month work placement opportunity with the paper as a college student.
Despite being prepared to begin a career in teaching, it was the hubbub of the newsroom alive with stories that informed Áine’s career pathway.
Áine completed a Masters in Journalism at the University of Galway before returning to the Limerick Leader.
With the prestige of the position of editor of one of the most successful regional newspapers in the country comes major responsibility.
Áine described the compromise that comes with the position, with work life balance a difficult to get right, describing the need to be “constantly switched on” to regional and national events that might inform the newspaper’s content.
“It is a really big responsibility. The buck stops at me with both the newspaper and the website,” said Áine. “A wrong word will cost thousands.”
Growing up, Áine was inspired by trailblazing broadcaster Marian Finucan and admires contemporaries such as Katie Hannon and Claire Byrne.
Áine believes her own personal experience in journalism has given her an edge in scouting out potential.
“As a person who was quite shy, I’m always conscious of the quieter people in the room. The confident people will make their presence known and that is great and they often get ahead, but sometimes the shy have more to offer.”
Áine’s management style involves being out in the newsroom and lie sing with the team. Despite the high-workload of being editor, she continues to report with the paper and write features on goings on around the county.
“I would consider myself a collaborative leader, I’m not one to dictate, I sit in the newsroom, not in an office. I prefer to be on the news floor. I would never give a reporter a job I wouldn’t do myself.”
The Limerick Leader now has a nearly equal balance of men and women in the newsroom.
There is also less generalisation, with subjects like fashion and crime no longer attributed to reporters of a certain gender.
Áine believes her career has earned her an empathy for reporters, while continuing to maintain a palpable love for the profession.
“I still get a buzz from that. I would always encourage people, no matter high how up you go into any job, don’t get snobby in your role. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.”