Limerick newspaper editor urges young journalists to ‘take a chance’

By Gemma Good, Síofra Grant, Stella Gordon, Matthew Hurley, Ben Higgins, Megan Brennan & Lauren Hever.  

The Media Challenges in the Digital Age seminar series was offered as a module to UL students this past Spring/Summer semester. The series of talks saw influential figures in Limerick’s media landscape give the students a fascinating insight into the way the industry that they hope to work in is changing.

Limerick Leader Editor Áine Fitzgerald spoke to UL students on the decline of print media.  

The seminar also focused on advising young students on their future careers in the media industry which she described as a “tough business.” 

As Áine spoke for just over an hour, two stories were published online on the Limerick Leader website. The site, she explained, receives over 1.4 million views in a week.  

“It just tells you the appetite there is for news,” she commented.  

“There’s so many questions people want answered and that’s our job, to find out as much as we can.” 

Two of those attending the seminar revealed that they still bought a physical newspaper on a weekly basis.  

“The appetite was just huge for paper and now it’s just done a complete flip,” she said.  

“They’re very few story exclusives that you can keep for the front of the paper,” she said, explaining that her job is “nearly twenty-four seven.”  

Among the stories that receive the most views online are breaking news, crime, weather, road traffic collisions and images.  

The shift to online means that people can now receive instant news, however Aine warned that people must follow “legitimate news sources.”  

“You’re just hoping that people will understand that Limerick Leader is a brand,” she said, adding that many people get their news on Facebook, X or TikTok.  

“It can spread fear, fake facts and fake news. 

“A lot of what’s said on X, it can look very reliable,” she warned.  

Áine recounted an example of a story in Limerick which received a lot of speculation on social media, with members of the public questioning why the Limerick Leader had not covered the story. Despite comments made towards the organisation, she explained that they must follow the facts. For the case in question, they had contacted the Garda Press Office for a statement however did not receive a response.  

“Everything has to go through the Garda Press Office. 

“The big big thing is checking details and being able to as a reporter stand over your story.”  

“It was an eye-opening experience in terms of how something took off,” she said, recalling the event. 

“You feel like maybe replying or explaining yourself but sometimes it’s better to let the facts do the speaking.”  

Speaking of facts, Áine informed students “there’s publications that need court reporters.”  

“We’re supposed to be the eyes and ears of society and courts are a big part of that,” she said, advising those wishing to pursue this type of journalism that they must be “absolutely on it.”  

“One word can get you in so much trouble, it can cost companies thousands of euros, it can lose editors their jobs easily.”  

She advised students to get a good seat, have spare pen and a notebook and pay close attention to details.  

“The more details in terms of the person, the better,” she said.  

Finally, looking back on her own career starting out in journalism in 2003, Áine said “my big thing was observing.”  

“You kinda just learned on the beat,” she said, remembering how she would observe her editor and other reporters around her.  

“Pick up the phone,” she advised.  

“Young reporters coming in, they just don’t pick up the phone,’ she said, explaining that many prefer to email or direct message.  

Having received numerous story pitches from young journalists, Áine told students to be concise in their initial email and ring the editor of the organisation.  

“Get ahead,” she encouraged.  

“Call into the office. 

“Lots of editors are getting emails and you have to make it stand out.” 

“You don’t always have to paint within the lines – take a chance,” she concluded.  

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