Business & Law student and current Sports Editor of the University Observer Rory Clarke talks us through the process of putting a newspaper together and why it’s a valuable place to start for aspiring journalists.

Throughout my time in secondary school English was always my favourite subject. I was always more enthusiastic about Shakespeare and Sylvia Plath than I was about algebra and accounting – writing was always a release for me. It was in this mindset that I came to UCD as a eager, fresh faced first-year and signed up to write for one of the two student newspapers on campus, the Observer. Having harboured ambitions to be a journalist since editing my school’s annual during TY, it seemed like the most natural society in the world for me to join.

Selection of my cuttings

This turned out to be one of the single best decisions I made in those early few weeks of college. Starting in first year gives you a great platform to get involved in the paper. The paper is always looking for new volunteers and first years have that bit more time to dip their toes in the waters of student journalism, and see if it’s to their liking. In that first semester I wrote articles on a huge range of subjects, from Universal Basic Income to the Syrian soccer team, and everything in between! I got to know the editorial team quite well, and they were always on hand to offer their tips and know-how. By the time second semester swung around I was already thinking of applying to join their ranks and I was lucky enough to do so this summer, when I was appointed Sports Editor for Volume XV.

The Observer Christmas Party

The Observer had originally been co-founded by celebrated comic Dara O’Briain so to be part of the team for the 25th edition was surreal and an honour. We’ve had a couple of events to celebrate the year, with a big reception planned for sometime this semester. Anne Roper, celebrated documentary maker at RTÉ, spoke to us about her work – including documentaries on asylums, Tuam and the Navan Road Mother and Baby Home. A week later, Rebecca Vincent from Reporters Without Borders, discussed the issue facing the world press and how her organisation is challenging states to facilitate quality reporting.

Other notable alumni of the paper include Gavan Reilly, now political correspondent for Virgin Media News, and Patrick Kelleher, who regularly writes in the Irish Times. It’s a great first step for anyone with journalistic hopes, as you gain invaluable experience in a wide range of areas. Even as the Sports Editor, I’m not limited to just writing sports articles – I even did a piece recently about China’s plan to replace streetlights with an artificial moon!

Although we do have a great time – as seen above – we do (occasionally) do some work. As a section editor it’s my responsibility, in conjunction with the Editor and Deputy Editor, to find relevant sporting stories, allocate them to a group of loyal contributors and staff writers, edit my section’s articles and upload them to our website. It’s a long process – involving many colour-coded spreadsheets – but the rest of team is always there as a support and our office has a near-unlimited supply of tea and chocolate digestives! Our paper comes out every 3 weeks so we have a couple of days free after each issue, during which we normally have a few drinks in the UCD bar with everyone involved. After that, it’s back to the start, and we go again.

An editor’s dream!

I spend a huge amount of time writing and editing articles for the paper – possibly to the detriment of my degree! – but it’s an enjoyable and cathartic experience, which is irresistible at times. I’ve never liked rollercoasters but the exhilaration of hearing a nugget of a potential story, of following it up, fleshing it out, and seeing it in print is, for me, a real adrenaline hit. Seeing your name in print is a thrill which never gets old.