We caught up with the extremely hardworking Susan Daly, Editor of TheJournal.ie, who has just been nominated for IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2014. She spoke to IMAGE Daily about developing your digital footprint, tackling Ireland’s homeless problem and ‘being a divil’ for dropping her phone on her face while she’s lying in bed…
Describe your average working day.
I’m one of those awful people who check their smartphones first and last thing, so I’ll find myself sending emails any time after 7am. I normally get into TheJournal.ie’s office at 9am, sometimes earlier depending on the news cycle or if we have a meeting with outside clients. No day is ever the same – while I have one eye on the newsdesk, I work with an amazing news team who give me space to look after more long-term projects and plans for the site and its sister publications. I try to leave by 7pm but if I have work to finish, I would rather stay in the office and do it than bring it home with me. It’s nice to have that separation (although, as I mentioned, I’m a devil for checking in on the phone, and end up dropping it on my face in bed.)
How did you end up in the online news industry?
The bulk of my career has been in the print world – I had dabbled in some online freelance journalism in the run-up to hearing about TheJournal.ie launching four years ago. When I got a call to help out in the first week there (someone had appendicitis) because I had experience of running a news desk, I jumped at the chance to get a little more insight into the digital world. And I stayed.
What’s been the biggest highlight of your involvement with TheJournal.ie?
The building of the team in here. When I came in, there were six people working in a corner office – we now have 45 staff, the majority of whom are journalists, working across news, sport, business and entertainment. It makes me incredibly proud that we have created opportunities for journalists to grow and expand their careers, particularly at a tough time for those in the industry.
What’s been your biggest challenge working in online journalism?
I got a lot of naysayers at the beginning of my move to TheJournal.ie who said it wouldn’t work and that I was crazy to leave what I knew behind. And to be honest, I half agreed with them! But the challenge of understanding and adapting to online has actually become one of the best things that has happened to me – the speed with which the digital news world changes means that I have packed so much more learning into the last four years than I ever thought I could absorb.
What advice would you have for someone else interested in online journalism?
Of all things, when I go to consider someone for a role in our newsroom, if they don’t already have a digital footprint, it doesn’t bode well. By that, I mean their presence online, on social media, on blogs, other online publications – it has never been easier to self-publish, so if someone can’t provide me with evidence that they are passionate about the potential online platforms bring, then I can’t see them working for us.
What advice would you have for other female journalists wanting to get ahead in the industry?
While I have worked in some very male-dominated newsrooms, I have always found that you can be taken seriously both if you expect to be taken seriously, and also if you take your work seriously. You have to put in the hours, you have to be willing to take on board constructive criticism. What’s great about running your own newsroom, however, is being able to lead the culture in which you want to work – for me, that’s a supportive, open, feedback-driven team. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a ‘female’ environment but whatever it is, it’s one where I want to be.
What has been one of your favourite news stories that has broken on TheJournal.ie?
One that had huge impact was our investigation into the fallacies being circulated by a religious group going into schools and giving sex education classes to teenagers. One of the things we do best is shine a light on how the most vulnerable groups in our society are treated – we revealed how children with autism were being left in so-called ‘isolation rooms’ for hours on end. On a macro-level, there made international headlines when we broke the Euroleaks series of stories when the Irish Government’s Budget plans were being revealed to members of the German parliament before even our own.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
“If you think someone is going to stand over your coffin and say, ‘Susan was great – she never took a lunch break,’ you’re very wrong.” (I should remember this particular bit of advice more often.)
Have you got a quote to live by?
If you’re not doing something that terrifies you at least once a month, you’re not growing.
You do so much, how do you juggle it all and stay sane?
If you are going to pick a career that has anti-social or long hours, make sure you are doing something you are passionate about or you will resent that. Make sure to make time for friends and family, even if it’s a phone call as I walk home from the office later. It keeps you connected and keeps things in perspective. I rarely drink much alcohol on a week night – I just can’t do what I need to do and be running on empty. I try and fit in some exercise and have at least one day a week where I don’t check email or do work-related tasks/thinking.
When you’re not working where will we most likely find you?
If I had my way (and was more organised), on a mountain top – I like hiking, and don’t do enough of it; on the M7, heading to family; in the cinema (I love movies and have one of those see-everything monthly cards); in my armchair by the window, devouring a book.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
I loved a recent campaign we did around the homelessness – as well as a week of articles, video and research exploring the issue, the impact our series of ‘Homeless Postcards’ had when we distributed them through a dedicated Twitter account was eye-opening. The Simon community, for example, reported to us an upsurge in volunteers presenting and citing TheJournal.ie’s series as the reason. That made me feel proud.
How does it feel to be nominated for an IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Award?
Delighted and chuffed, because it feels like recognition of our whole amazing team and the fact that if we want journalism to survive – no matter what the platform – we need, as a sector, to take responsibility for finding new ways to make it work. I hope I’m helping in a small way towards that.
Hannah Popham @HannahPopham
Check out the other brilliant women who have been short listed, and get your tickets to the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards here.
Image via Independent.ie