The media in Northern Ireland

The final day of this year’s NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference commenced at the University of Ulster with a discussion about the media in Northern Ireland.

Chairing the session was Professor Martin McLoone, director of the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster. He was joined by Fearghal McKinney, SDLP communications consultant; Mark Simpson, Ireland correspondent at BBC News; and Dr Steve Baker, a lecturer in film and television studies at University of Ulster.

The industry professionals and journalism academics discussed the differences between reporting conflict and peace as well as some of the legal issues involved in reporting on conflicts. The session also featured information on the Prisons Memory Archive, a project worked on by the University of Ulster.

Martin introduced the session with a short explanation of the Prisons Memory Archive, a university research project that involved filming figures from the Troubles including prisoners, prison officers, victims and their families returning to scenes from their past to record a video history of their experiences. These stories would go unreported at the time, due to security or political issues, however now with the passing of time, they can be heard for the first time. Steve later spoke more about the project and the history of reporting in Northern Ireland.

Fearghal then spoke about his experiences of reporting during the Troubles and beyond, with stories from his time at the Impartial Reporter, Downtown Radio and finally UTV. He spoke about how his five years at UTV were “five years of death and destruction” and told a story of how he was once blown out of his bed by a bomb in a neighbouring building.

Mark concluded the session by speaking about his experiences of reporting both before and after the peace process. He spoke about his first year in journalism, when 91 people were killed during the violence and the challenges of reporting in a difficult and dangerous environment.

However he said that the same journalistic skills are required whether reporters are in a conflict or peace situation – they still need to be able to find stories and report on them in a fair and balanced way. He also added that while today’s reporters have a host of technology at their fingertips, they shouldn’t forget the basics of reporting, interviewing and networking.

Following the session, delegates at the conference attended two of four specialist workshops in different areas of journalism: finance, health, international and lifestyle.

Images from top to bottom: Prof Martin McLoone, Dr Steve Baker, Fearghal McKinney and Mark Simpson