Meet the Media

Slugger O’Toole Deputy Editor David McCann holds a PhD in politics from Ulster University and is a regular commentator on BBC Radio Ulster. He discusses some of the key challenges facing online journalism and his complex working day.

How did you get started in Journalism?

I don’t really think of myself as a journalist, I am more on the commentary side of politics. I got started in writing about politics when I was ill and a friend told me to take my mind of it by writing down some thoughts and sending them into a paper. I did and it was published. Then from there, I wrote articles for the News Letter at first and then for the Journal.ie, which then led me to Slugger O’Toole.

Who do you admire most within your profession and why?

In terms of commentators, Alex Kane, Chris Donnelly and Brian Feeney are honestly the gold standard. I have been in studios with all three and every time they say something it challenges me to form better arguments and to take a different approach to my response. They always speak their minds and none of them pander to any political party or seek to toe any line, which can’t be said for all commentators. In terms of journalists, Allison Morris and Amanda Ferguson are two excellent writers who have really made their own mark in their respective fields. Plus, like those named above, they hold no brief for any one party or faction, they just write what they believe.

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Describe a typical working day?

I am an early riser, so I will wake up just after 6am normally, open the computer, I tend to check the Slugger site to see has anything gone online and I check the email account to see what press releases are in. Then I follow up with some writers to see if there is anything they might be interested in. Then if I am lecturing that day, I will take a scan of a lecture and will change things around as I like my materials to be as current as possible. When I leave for work it’s a variety of different things, during a morning I could be out live blogging an event and in the afternoon up at Ulster University teaching a class. There is no real typical day for me, it changes every week. Something can happen that can make me race up to Stormont or there can be a major announcement of some sort.

You work in different platforms across journalism from print to commentary and you lectured in University, what is it about journalism that has you hooked?

I genuinely enjoy interacting with politicians and political staffers. There is always a bit of banter and if you’re any good at building relationships, over time you will learn more from each party and have a more rounded view of the political system. Most the people in the parties I have dealt with are generally really interesting people. I also like the fact that it is never the same, something always changes in politics.

What are some of the challenges facing online journalism and why do you enjoy it?

How to keep on doing it. You will never make any sort of living out of doing this so on Slugger we have the attitude of literally keeping enough in the kitty to keep the show on the road. This can be tough but if you’re determined you can make this work. Another thing is ensuring the quality of work is good. “Online is great because it allows greater interactivity between the readers and the story. The downside is that at times, people can get things wrong.” So the key challenge for those of us on the blogging side is to ensure all material is as accurate as possible.

You are very active on social media, do you believe it’s an important part of modern day journalism and important for engaging current generations?

I was a late comer to social media but as I started to write online it became necessary to use it. For me it is essentially an extension of the comments zone on Slugger. People can quickly interact with you and tell you why you are wrong about something or why they liked a piece of work. The key thing is tuning out those who are just ranting and pay attention to those with honest critiques of your work.

Having spent a lot of time interacting and writing about politics have you or will you ever consider entering the political arena? How do you get away from politics in your free time?

No, I hugely respect those who have stood for elections but I have no plans to enter the political arena myself. Outside of work I really enjoy going to the Sunflower with my friends over the weekend. I also really enjoy reading and going on long walks.

 

 

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