Brídín Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce pledges to create “a positive atmosphere” in the University Times – but is resistant to scrutiny

In an interview with Trinity News, Joyce discusses her plans to improve equality, equity, and outreach in the University Times

Brídín Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce is a final year English student who has been involved with the University Times since August of last year. Although fairly new to the publication, Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce believes she has what it takes to lead the newspaper into the next academic year. Student journalism is nothing new to Joyce, however. She has served as the editor in chief of TN2 and also contributed to Trinity News, Evergreen, Trinity Film Review, and Gay Community News. 

Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce’s melting pot of experience with student publications has given her what she feels to be “strong editorial experience”. She believes that she can make the University Times a more “public facing” paper through “prioritising kindness” and expressing gratitude for her team. 

Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce previously served as the editor-in-chief of student magazine TN2: “I really improved the format, the design, the strength of the team, the articles.” She went on to say that she “successfully led a team that was completely new as well as everyone who had graduated the year before.”

Her plans to prioritise kindness in the paper are supported by her desire to increase the paper’s outreach, of both readers and writers. If elected, she promises to increase the amount of writers workshops, design workshops, and mixers for students. When asked where she will find the time for such activities, she notes that such outreach events are not extra activities to her, but “part of the job” of a University Times editor. 

While kindness and gratitude are important to Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce, she also sees the value in strong, transparent leadership. Her manifesto outlines her plan to take a media law and ethics course if elected. She appeared reluctant to answer questions surrounding this part of her manifesto, turning the question around to the interviewer and asking “have you taken a media law and ethics course”? When asked about her willingness to take such a course, Joyce clarified that while such a module exists in the University of Limerick, it is not an actual university course which can be taken at present. She stated that “the University of Limerick has a media ethics and law module, and the reading list is publicly available, so I have to make my way through that reading list”. She added that “I would like proper accreditation, and I will research more on what I can do.”

I didn’t intend to criticise your questions, and I’m sorry I did”

Such deflections were common throughout Joyce’s interview, with the candidate criticising the questions being asked of her, despite them being sent to her in advance. Questions surrounding the mechanics of her manifesto were accused of being “leading”, and Joyce, on multiple occasions, noted that she was being asked “two questions” rather than one. Despite this, she noted that she understood that her manifesto leaves her “up to questioning”. She noted that questions surrounding her willingness to take a media law and ethics course “can open [her] up to scrutiny”. She noted that she didn’t intend to “come across as abrasive” and that “every part of [her] manifesto deserves to be held to scrutiny”. The candidate, however, continued to complain about the nature of the questions being asked, but apologised when it was threatened to end the interview early: “I didn’t intend to criticise your questions, and I’m sorry I did.”

One aspect of Joyce’s manifesto that left her “up to questioning” was that of transparency, and the importance of it. If elected, Joyce promises to make the roles within the newspaper clearer, and to have a standardised editing process to adhere to, with room for collaboration and suggestions. She believes that “hierarchy exists, whether you like it or not”, but through the implementation of feedback surveys for staff, such issues can be mended. Possible questions for these feedback surveys include “How do you feel about the university times?” “Do you feel like you’re getting as much as you’re putting in?” and “Do you feel appreciated in your work?”

On the topic of hierarchy, Joyce noted that she does not believe that it is necessary to make the role of University Times Editor an impeachable one. She stated that “we have not seen a sabbat officer impeached in my time in college. And I’m not sure when it last happened. But I think that only happens when things have reached a crisis point.” She argues that if elected, operations within the University Times would not reach this “crisis point”, as she will foster an environment of dialogue, making people “feel happy.”

One step Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce hopes to take towards avoiding a “crisis point” is to implement an equity officer for the publication. “I hope to hire someone who hopefully I don’t know and isn’t familiar with the team.” She hopes that this person would study “social work or something like that, who would be quite comfortable with facilitation, who would be quite emphatic.” She argues that “it’s good to have a neutral party to kind of discuss things and see that everyone has been listened to and see that things are fair”. 

I think it’s really important to communicate the problems with Erasmus as well as the joys”

With regards to the paper itself, Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce has many ideas to hand should she be elected to the position. She hopes to introduce both an Erasmus editor and an International editor. “Erasmus and international student experience are huge, especially in Trinity. So I think it’s really important to communicate the problems with Erasmus as well as the joys and the learning experience and it is like, inherently a very interesting experience and fantastic opportunity.” She notes that on top of focusing on student experience, she would focus on the “news” aspects of both the Erasmus and international student experience. 

Representation is at the core of many of the changes Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce hopes to implement, citing STEM students and ethnic minorities as her top targets for roles within the newspaper. She notes that words such as diversity should not be “buzzwords”. “They need to have concrete action, and to mitigate bias, and, you know, you don’t want to be in a situation where you have coverage of only a certain cohort of students.” On top of this, as a Gaeilgeoir herself, Gaeilge plays a large role in her vision for the newspaper. She wants to introduce more Irish language editors, and have one section of the paper written in the Irish language for each issue. 

“Journalism, according to Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce, ‘has a bias towards the white middle class'”

Representation, under Joyce’s leadership, would not just be happening on the pages of the paper. If elected, she plans to reinstate The University Times journalism school in collaboration with the Trinity Access Programme. She noted that she has been in contact with the access officer about this and that they have sounded “very positive so far.” Journalism, according to Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce, “has a bias towards the white middle class”, and that it is the “responsibility of every publication” to be aware of this. 

It’s clear from Brídín’s interview and the experiences of past University Times editors that this is just one of many responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the paper’s editor in chief. For Brídín, “encouragement”, “a positive atmosphere” and appreciation are the way forward for the newspaper. It’s clear that Joyce has big plans for both the improvement of outreach within the paper, both inside and outside of College. However, her reluctance to discuss aspects of her manifesto may lead her to further questioning and scrutiny in the future, should be elected as editor of the University Times. 

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Kate Byrne

Kate Byrne is the Deputy Comment Editor at Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.