Hannah Kingston leads a Q&A session with 96FM’s Deirdre O’ Shaughnessy
Your LinkedIn profile is like a perfectly balanced chemical equation. Did you have a path from A to B when it came to building your career?
That’s an interesting way of putting it! I really didn’t have a plan. I wanted to be a journalist but I was open to other things too, that’s why I studied law, although I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I’ve been very lucky at every step that I’ve found aspects of the job I’ve loved, and gravitated towards them, bringing me to the next step.
Being a woman in the media has always had a notorious reputation for being exceedingly difficult. What do you think?
I think it can be difficult to be a woman in any job, it depends who you are working with and for. I was lucky in my first job that I had a boss who encouraged me and saw my potential and that gave me huge confidence. I think in most industries the difficulty for women arises when children come on the scene and I haven’t met that hurdle yet.
People say for many working in the media is a pipe dream, do you agree?
I think people need to be realistic about working in the media. You’re not going to walk in somewhere and get Graham Norton’s job, so you need to start off looking locally, looking at small places with low profiles and jobs that involve a lot of slog! Recycling press releases is the reality for a lot of people, and if you have your eye on the prize you really just have to suck it up for a while, work hard and take every opportunity.
If journalism hadn’t worked out, what else did you have on the agenda?
I wanted to be a diplomat, an aid worker… funnily enough, a lot of things that involved long-term travel, which I’d be no good at. I think these days nobody has just one career, so who knows what could still be ahead.
What are your future goals?
To keep telling stories and to live by that old adage of shining a light into dark places in my work. To find something in every day that makes the job worth doing.
What advice would you give to students you are aspiring to work in the media?
Work hard and take every opportunity you get. Don’t be an idiot on social media, it will come back to haunt you.
What are the best and worst parts of working in journalism?
The best is when you know you have helped somebody to tell their story and to be heard, and when you know it has really reached people. The worst is often dealing with very tragic stories, particularly tragic deaths, or dealing with something you know is preventable, like the homeless problem at the moment.
If you could interview one person who would it be?
Being able to give a forum to important issues like mental health. I was very privileged to edit a column by John McCarthy, who campaigned for many years to end forced electroconvulsive therapy on mental health patients – the bill he worked on recently passed through the Oireachtas.
Worst moment? Have you ever made a serious faux pas?
Too many to count
What would you say to Deirdre aged 18 if you got the chance?
Keep the faith. Enjoy the couple of years you have left without hangovers!