National Media Conference: Blog Accounts

Trinity News is live-blogging the first National Media Conference in TCD, organised by Trinity Publications. Full event details from

18:45PM: Ronan Burtenshaw, Editor – So ends our eight-hour marathon covering the NMC 2012. Thanks for all who tuned in. Apologies to those whose Twitter feeds got clogged in the middle period of madness – we were trying to co-ordinate eight separate staff members and it got a bit chaotic on the central TN account. Live, learn. A HUGE thanks to all of those from TN and Publications – Aaron Devine, Attie Papas, Gaelen Britton, Aonghus O Cochlain, Ruairi Casey, Ena Brennan, Elaine McCahill, Gabriel Beecham and Eoin Tierney – who put this together. The time and effort is very much appreciated. A thanks also to all of the fantastic speakers who donated their time to speaking to students about the media today, and a congratulations to Damien Carr, Matthew Taylor, Jack Leahy, Ronan Costello, David Cullinan, Shauna Watson, Hannah Cogan, Colm O’Donnell, Anthony Wolfe and all those involved in putting this conference together.

Remember, the next print edition of TN is out the week of November 19th. In the meantime this website has its official launch this Monday. Catch you all then.

(Photo: National Media Conference)

18:30PM: Eoin Tierney, TN2 Copy Editor – SCREEN: ‘Making the Leap from Student to Professional’

The panellists for this discussion on how to convert recent graduation into professional success were Stevie Russell, John Corcoran, David Nalley, and Simon Eustace. Russell studied at IADT’s Film and TV Production programme, got into making commercials and music videos, and co-founded the production house Title, which unfortunately shut down recently. John Corcoran is a DID graduate whose short film Shell Shock won a Student Media award and has been screened around the world.

David Nalley studied in TCD and DCU, started as a journalist, and moved to RTE where he rose to the position of Current Affairs editor. Simon Eustace is another Trinity graduate, studying Philosophy and Italian. Eustace is former guitarist with The Chapters, and now enjoys being an in-demand music-video director.

Stevie Russell: “Directing is very subjective so [in IADT] I learnt a craft, for 4 years. These 4 years were really about getting a base group so I could make shit happen… I became a DP… kept from my directors this secret ambition of becoming a director. Like everyone, I wanted to get into features, into drama:  “Right now I’m still making that transition from student to professional. With Title, we made some music videos but it just wasn’t sustainable.”

John Corcoran: “I’m several steps behind Stevie. [For me] now it’s an 18 month or 2 year cycle, going around the festivals with Shell Shock. Short films have a longer shelf life [re film festivals] than features.”

David Nalley: “I went to college here, 82-86… After, I didn’t have a job, I’m not getting anything. So I went back to college… It seemed to me [becoming a journalist] was a pipe dream. It’s not impossible becoming a journalist; it’s not like being the president of America… An incredible amount of luck…That was the summer the Sunday Business Post started, and the newspapers suddenly expanded their business sections. “I moved to RTE, Marketplace to Prime Time… I’m now head of Current Affairs….”

Simon Eustace: “I played in a band growing up [and] I had this thing that I always wanted to do film… So I decided to go back to college and do film. I found this course in Griffith, Film Video and Production techniques …There was no theoretical part of the course… I started making videos for the band…That’s where I’m focusing on now, making videos and commercials. In college, we had a lecturer who made documentaries who said, ‘You’d never make abyss money from making documentaries.’ ”

David Nalley: “[Back then] there was a limited amount you could do in journalism …If it wasn’t in the newspaper, not a lot you could do …Looking back, I took crazy risks… ‘What’s the meaning of Off the Record?’ I never understood. Lucky I didn’t get in more trouble. Now I take a very conservative view… Being anxious to prove yourself can lead you into mistakes.”

Stevie Russell: “From my point of view, it’s genuinely who you know…Turning up, and not getting paid for a few months, or a year. Just turning up [to sets or camera shops] and helping them… If you do that for a person, they’ll start bringing you on to paid jobs, because there’s a guilt associated with it… Sending emails is fine, but just going in …Doing something to make you stand out is definitely the way.”

Simon Eustace: “You just have to pester people, and that’s how you get from one job to the next.”

John Corcoran: “I suppose it’s important to not wait around, after graduating, to not take three months off.”

Simon Eustace: “It’s not going to rush out and meet you, and welcome you with open arms …You’re going to have to fight for it, but it will pay off eventually.”

Stevie Russell: “Online is a free outlet for your work, but it can be abused …You should definitely think of making something and putting it but there …Online is great for that. [Although there’s an abundance of material up online] the cream rises, and you get picked out. “I think you need to try and relentless… It’s kind of clichéd stuff but I think you should just go for it.”

18:20PM: Elaine McCahill, Trinity News Editor-at-Large – ‘Nowadays, News Belongs Online’

Tom Lowe mediated the final debate where Gavan Reilly and Jason Kennedy were on the side that news belongs online and Alan Caulfield and Ronan Burtenshaw (of TN!) were arguing in defence of the print medium.

Gavan began the debate by stating that if we started society all over again, we wouldn’t have newspapers but we may well have the internet. He argues that information wants to be free and that it should be free and hence why the internet has become such a main feature of our lives. He also stated that although one form of media may be good at one thing, it is not good at everything. Newspapers are great for analysis or the ‘why’ but in this day and age, if a story is worth telling, it is worth telling immediately, it is not feasible to wait until the following morning to print a story. Ronan Burtenshaw countered the debate by referencing the culture of instantia whereby information that goes online needs to go through a rigorous verification process. Trust is an essential part of the relationship between print media and the reader, if false information is circulated it negatively affects the way the medium is viewed. Journalists have problems in this age to the freedom of content and there is a lack of accreditation and payment for photographs or videos.

Jason Kennedy of the Irish Times was also arguing in favour of news belonging online. He argues that having an interest in online journalism does not mean that you are not interested in print. The editor of the Metro Herald, Alan Caulfield argues that what they do is the middle ground between print and online news in that it is convenient and also free. It’s a very effective medium as it can be read in twenty minutes which is about as long as the standard Dubliner’s commute. The debate ended with an audience poll where 18 voted in favour of online news and 14 in favour of print media.

17:16PM: Attie Papas, of Miscellany and Publications, and Aaron Devine, TN2 editor – PRINT: Leveson and Modern newspaper Journalism

Jim Clark questioned Lord Leveson’s fitness for purpose and said that the whole idea of press irregularity isn’t new – News of the World have been bribing police since 1920. Leveson also won’t address whether these practice are happening in Ireland or not. The establishment desperately want to control public opinion so this inquiry provides a golden opportunity for state to ‘stick the oar in’ and tighten up on media – other contexts may be less palatable. Ireland, he says, could in fact have the best system – co-regulation.

Paul Drury says Leveson is trying to enforce statutory regulation of press which is currently lacking, although events with Duchess of Cambridge in France and Prince Harry in Las Vegas, etc. are not great examples of self-regulation. But in 2011, due to a better code of conduct here in Ireland, only 10.8% of complaints to Press Ombudsman concern invasion of privacy.

Eoin O’Dell spoke about the issue of defining ‘public interest’. He suggested that there are far too many ways to define the public interest, and that this could be dangerous. This cannot be used to justify unethical behaviour, therefore legislation allowing for this as a mitigating circumstance for unethical behaviour is a bad idea.

Paul Drury suggested that public interest is, and has been, used as a mitigating circumstance for press misconduct in Ireland. However, this has never been tested because there has not been any known events (such as those leading up to the Leveson enquiry) which have tested this. There are positive aspects of this,  and there is no “dangerous, out-of-control, press”; however, this could mean that there is a lack of edge in the Irish press. If it’s not offending people, there’s problem.

Q: Is this idea of regulating the press relevant to the online media?

Paul Drury said that the Press Council have recently started to draw up regulations allowing for certain online publications to become members. Simon McGarr highlighted that this was not true five years ago, when he tried to join with his blog. This is a positive development.

Simon McGarr further suggested that, with the prominence of online media, it is unreasonable not to offer membership to online publications. However, we can obviously not put a lid on information flow on the internet, and that there may well be a market for competing codes of conduct, which publications can choose between.

Eoin O’Dell disagreed with Simon McGarr, says that there is absolutely no need for separate internet regulations. Instead it can be regulated by existing rules.

17:04PM: Eoin Tierney, TN2 Copy Editor – ‘The digital democratisation of the film industry has made it stronger.’

After lunch a panel discussion addressing the digital democratisation of film and the movement of film away celluloid towards digital took place. The panellists included: Conor Horgan, a photographer and film-maker who cut his teeth making commercials and music videos, and graduated to film-making with his debut feature One Hundred Mornings; Alan Doyle, a first year studying film-making in IADT Dun Laoghaire, who’s also won on two separate occasions at the Freis Irish Film Awards; on Doyle’s right was loquacious Terry McMahon, writer/director of ‘Charlie Casanova’, which was decorated at the IFTAS. Chairing the discussion was Alan Fitzpatrick, founder of Film Base.

After hearing about the panellists’ separate starts in film, Conor Horgan posited that the possibility of using film instead of digital means was available strictly to the likes of the directors like Spielberg. He made the point that McMahon’s feature Charlie Casanova was famously shot for just €900.

Terry McMahon spoke about how his children ingest film through sites like Youtube, and as a consequence their expectations for how a film should look are much reduced. He speculated then that content is the only thing that matters now: “Can we find a way using these [digital] cameras to probe these characters?” He spoke also how in the end traditional video is much more divisive in film-making.

McMahon continued that “Filmmaking is a sheer force of will, whatever the recession”. He discussed his desire in making Charlie Casanova: “Producing something that was not pandering to committee.” He pined for a more punk rock way of making films. Giving his own experience as an example he said, “bizarrely [my] tangle of a film was picked up by Studio Canal, one of the most prestigious film distributors in the world… which was naive beyond belief: they will never pick up something like it again, it’s been such a monumental headache for them.”

One person asked Hogan whether diminished costs in producing film would result in a glut of (not very good) film. He asnwered, “There is room for all kinds of film . . . there are so many films being made… an ocean of noise… There are some really great films out there that will never be seen.”

16:42PM: Ruairí Casey, Deputy News Editor – FEATURES: Irish Times features writing workshop

For those attendees who weren’t lucky enough to get a place in the exclusive Irish Times feature writing workshop, and for those at home, here’s a summary.

The workshop was given by Conor Goodman, Irish Times feature editor, and Ciara Kenny, a freelancer working with the Irish Times on their ‘Geeration Emigration blog’. Both gave some information abou their backgrounds in journalism, and particularly their work with feature writing. Goodman also spoke about the variety of feature writing in a newspaper, saying that there will be feature articles inn most sections of major newspapers. This ranging from long-form investigative stuff to shorter pieces and interviews.

Kenny stressed the importance of newsroom experience, saying that there was nothing better for learning how pitches work. She gave some tips to prospective feature writers, telling them not to expect full-time contracts and to find extra sources of income to support their writing. It wasn’t all so miserable, though – she encouraged writers to be persistent in their pitching and talked about the freedom that freelancers enjoy.

Those in attendance were asked via e-mail to send in some pitches, and Goodman’s critiques of these made up the second part of the workshop. He read through a range of pitches, from a story about wilderness medicine (think Bear Grylls-style medical treatment) to one on Facebook relationships. While reading through the pitches, he advised that ideas should be fullly developed in the pitch and that original stories are usually best. He also said that pitches with good photo opportunities are preffered. And lastly, it’s always a good idea to do a quick search to make sure the paper hasn’t printed the on the same topic recently.

16:33PM: Attie Papas, of Miscellany, and Aaron Devine, TN2 editor – PRINT: Financing the Future of Print Media with Gerry Lennon (Managing Director of Sunday World) and Paul Henderson (Associated Newspapers).

Q. Is there a future in print newspapers as a viable business?  

Gerry Lennon says that “yes,” there is. He suggests that the digital lobby have been very good at saying that ‘print is going to die’, and newspapers will certainly change but are still sustainable. Outlining the sales figures in general for Ireland, Mr Lennon says that over half a million daily newspapers are sold here and a further 824,000 every Sunday, which is a remarkably high number for a country with an adult population of around 3.5 million. The real challenge comes from News International titles which are able to sell for just a euro each when titles such as his are not, and he also says it is a problem that perhaps there are perhaps too many newspapers. This excess in variety is something less sustainable in terms of advertising, but the real task is to continue to provide good journalism. Mr Lennon thinks readers want qualified journalists that are paid to produce quality work rather than the opinions of a freelance blogger who doesn’t have the infrastructure to properly cover a story.

Paul Henderson believes that the question is, at the minute, unanswerable. “Where information is free, it’s tough to make people pay for a news paper daily but if everyone decided not to give content for free it would be a different story”. Mr Henderson says that the Daily Mail, the world’s biggest news site, doesn’t actually make any money online, that 100% of its profits are offline (two thirds of which are not even in media at all). Tablet is, however an interesting development — halfway between computer and paper.

Mr Lennon raises the point that all media have suffered financially. “It’s not necessarily that revenue has migrated online, but it has disappeared all round.” He asks the audience to consider working class red-tops and the direct correlation between their decline and sales the the rise in unemployment in more working class sectors like construction. There will be casualties while the economy recovers but print media and all other boats will eventually begin to rise.

Mr Henderson is quick to point out that inserts and supplements are recovering most quickly but Mr Lennon also poses the issue that “the Irish market is notoriously difficult to get honest figures on”. One thing he can say for sure is that there are whole sectors that have been wiped out in terms of advertising — in 2002 financial businesses known as ‘remortgagers’ paid in €1million to his papers company but now don’t exist as business. Also the property market takes little to no advertising now. Mr Lennon also says the the draconian libel laws in Ireland are limiting newspapers.

 Q. Should the newspapers engage more with each other?

Solidarity is important says Mr Lennon, and “synergies will happen”, online and in print, but everyone still wants the ‘scoop’. It does make sense to work together mechanically – and in fact there are only two distributors for all papers in Ireland. Mr Henderson, though, insists that competition between papers is also important. He then adds that everything is in danger with the proliferation of the internet. Noting that we are sitting in the Arts Block in TCD, he says that anyone who creates content – artists, painters, poets – is at risk of being ripped off and more people should be angry about it. “If someone puts the effort into doing something, they should get a few quid for it” .

Mr Lennon finishes by saying that brands such as the Sunday World, now 40 years old, should build on the trust people have in it by attaching other businesses to them. He reiterates his earlier point that there is perhaps too much competition. In Manchester, they have the Manchester Evening News, when we have around 18 similar publications over the same area.

15:15PM: Ronan Burtenshaw, Editor – TN has gone all meta-journalism for the second section of the National Media Conference. We have representatives livetweeting each of the sessions.

Remember, this part of the conference splits up into four sections. For PRINT you’ll need to follow Editor-at-Large Elaine McCahill; for FEATURES it’s Deputy Copy Editor Gabriel Beecham; SCREEN will be our Art Director Ena Brennan; and RADIO is Trinity FM aficionado Gaelen Britton.

14:01PM: Ruairí Casey, Deputy News Editor – ‘Beginnings’ by Simplyzesty’s Niall Harbison

(Photo: National Media Conference)

Niall Harbison has just finished up now. He began by giving a little career background. Having began as a cook, he started up a video recipe site,, which unfortunately wasn’t able to sustain itself. His next venture was Simplyzesty, a social media agency which is currently Ireland’s biggest social media blog.

Mobile devices were the main point here. Statistics say that one-third of people access content online through their phones. Adapting to this trend is crucial, said Harbison, and companies which don’t are going to lose out. He gave the example of Nokia as a company which hasn’t got it right and is now in a very poor financial state.

He predicted, with a show of hands form the audience to corroborate, that 2013 would be the year that Ireland embraced the tablet, with new developments in the sector and dropping prices. He also made the bold claim that”your phone will become your wallet” as Google and Apple develop ways of paying for things via mobile devices.

Harbison encouraged the audience to become familiar with coding, stressing the importance of even a basic knowledge.

13:45PM: Ruairí Casey, Deputy News Editor – ‘Beginnings’ by former Newswhip’s Tom Lowe

Next up – former Trinity News copy editor and University Times editor, Tom Lowe. This one was a little more practical. Lowe gave an overview of how to set up a news website and ensure that it’s social media friendly, giving some examples from his time as UT editor.

Throughout, Lowe stressed the importance of social media, particularly for small sites which are heavily reliant on it.  For small news sites, referrals from social media need to be exploited.

He gave some practical advice on website hosting, design and management (Fun Fact: the UT website cost €50 to design). Lowe spoke about the need to understand your audience and recommended the use of Google Analytics for this.  He gave a few other assorted tips: use images to increase the space your story gets on a Facebook newsfeed, never use QR codes and don’t post things solely to get cheap hits.

One thing which he said should always be kept in mind is that a young audience, such as that of a college newspaper, is made of “digital natives” who want to engage with the news. The y don’t want to be talked at, they want to be talked with.

13:14PM: Ruairí Casey, Deputy News Editor – ‘Instant Reaction: Social Media and the Modern Mob’ by Dr. Gavan Titley, NUI Maynooth

This time it’s Gavin Titley, a lecturer in NUI Maynooth. In his talk, ‘Instant Reaction: Social Media and the Modern Mob’, he addressed the interactivity of social media.  He used the idea of the mob, noting that its anti-democratic connotations relate to the suspicion in which social media is held by many. He gave the example of the London Riots, where multiple British newspapers directly blamed websites like Twitter and Facebook for the riots. He argued that though they may facilitate debate and organisation, the do not dictate it.

Titley talked about the mixed reaction mainstream media has had to public interaction. Participation has been generally encouraged and live TN events like ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’ feature heavy contribution from the audience. He said that television was never a passive medium, but now social media allows for the viewer to share his reaction with others.

But of course there were problems too. Many papers have moved away from an open comments section due to the inevitability of offensive comments. Titley said that this should not be used to create a distinction between a knowledgeable traditional media and an ignorant new media, as similar views are easily found in print.

All things considered, he sees democratic potential in the voice of the mob. Quality might not always be guaranteed but more democracy is never a bad thing.

12:33PM: Aonghus O Cochláin, Staff Reporter – ‘The Future of Journalism’ by Claire Wardle, Storyful

Claire Wardle, Director of News Services of Storyful, an online news gathering platform, gave a talk on ‘The Future of Journalism’ spoke about both the benefits and tests of a burgeoning informational-sphere. She stressed how there has been a paradigmatic shift from the old, passive view of ‘journalist knows best’ to an entirely new model. An increasing multiplicity of sources, Wardle states, means people are employing their own capacities as journalists through new technology and social media.

Wardle gave a timeline showing how the use of user-generated content from social-networking sites has been featured more and more in mainstream-media sources, with events from the tsunami off the coast of Indonesia in December of 2004, to the Arab Spring in 2011, even to Barack Obama’s recent re-election.

Wardle discussed the idea of ‘Digital Darwinism’—that there is a constant and rapid pace of technological advancement leading to an on-going evolution in not only reporting information, but receiving it too. Quoting, “every news event creates a community,” Wardle continued on how people are committing ‘accidental’ journalism, often through simply capturing a live event through a smartphone and posting it online. Similarly, people are seeking to become increasingly involved in the production of news as well.

Wardle warned that with the benefits of a more dynamic media-realm come the risks of false stories and hoaxes. The organization Storyful, with headquarters in Dublin, is committed to the verification process, utilizing social media to sort through the haze of virtual information in search of authenticity.

Concluding, Wardle explained how people seek on-going, current information at the time of an event, and fully fledged write-ups after it transpires. The short article, she states, will die if it does not include the “Why” as well as the “What.”

11:30AM: Ruairi Casey, Deputy News Editor – Opening Address by Kevin O’Sullivan, Editor of the Irish Times.

(Photo: National Media Conference)

Alright, folks. The first talk was by Kevin O’Sullivan, editor of the Irish Times. The paper has made some big changes recently, and O’Sullivan gave a frank account of how and why these were made. He spoke about how media has become more responsive, with consumption and engagement with media at an all-time high.

Under O’Sullivan, the Irish Times has gone with the flow. Risk taking is necessary, he said, when discussing how print media can make the jump into the digital world. He said that a paper needs to embrace “disruptive influences” from digital media and put its trust in new technology.

O’Sullivan stated that he is a “digital optimist” and believes that newspapers have a role that won’t be made obsolete. The important thing for newspapers to learn is that while they might not be able to give you the news first, they’ll be able to give you the ‘why’. He hopes that readers will be prepared to pay for this even if they won’t pay for the ‘what’.

The Irish Times will continue to provide quality original news and insight. It will be “a newspaper in the broadest sense” and deliver “A unique take on Ireland and the world through Irish eyes”. No plans to go to a tabloid size either!

11:05AM: Our first blog report will be online after Kevin O’Sullivan’s speech. But we’re also tweeting at the moment, see here.

10:52AM: We’re off! Jack Leahy, News Editor of the University Times, has just opened the conference and Damien Carr, Chairperson of Trinity Publications, is now introducing Kevin O’Sullivan.

The directors of the National Media Conference pose with Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan. (Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times)

10:45AM: Our first blog of the day will be from Deputy News Editor, Ruairí Casey. Ruairí will be with us until the lunch break at 2PM covering the first half of the conference. After lunch it splits to three venues for separate panel series on print, screen and radio journalism. We’ll have a body at each – Elaine McCahill, Editor-at-Large, at print; Aonghus O Cochláin, InBrief Editor, at radio; and Gabriel Beecham, Deputy Copy Editor, at screen.

10:40AM: Full schedule for the conference:

10:30AM: We’re here waiting for the opening address by Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan. For those still on the way there’s been a change in venue – we’re in the Robert Emmet Theatre in the Arts Block.