Aspiring journalist Ciara McArdle showed the power of the written word yesterday when she won a national competition that encourages students to read newspapers.
Ciara, 15, a transition year student at Pobalscoil na Trínóide, Youghal, Co Cork, wrote a thought-provoking article on technology for the National Newspaper of Ireland’s Press Pass initiative.
She is one of more than 50,000 students from around the country that have taken part in Press Pass since it was launched in 2012.
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The initiative, sponsored by the Irish League of Credit Unions, seeks to improve literacy skills, critical thinking as well as increasing awareness of media and news among students.
Free national and local newspapers are provided to participating schools and students are encouraged to analyse a range of newspaper content. The students also receive a guidebook compiled by Irish Examiner news editor John O’Mahony.
NNI chairman Vincent Crowley said Press Pass showed how newspapers could be used as a real-life educational tool in classrooms.
“Research has clearly shown that reading newspapers can help students to develop, not only their reading and writing skills, but also their critical thinking and social awareness,” he said.
“These are skills that help people throughout their lives and their careers. It is understandable, therefore, that so many schools and students around Ireland have been very keen to take part.”
The national writing competition had generated a large number of entries of a very high standard.
Former press ombudsman and jury chairman, John Horgan, said Ciara’s article — The Terror that is Technology — took a contemporary theme by the neck and shook it until its teeth rattled. He said the student’s mature command of language was particularly striking.
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, who presented the awards to the students in Dublin yesterday, said reading papers was a fantastic way for young people to improve their reading, writing and visual skills.
Reading newspapers also helped young people to develop “real-life” knowledge of society and the world.
“Press Pass supports literacy but also plays an important role in enabling students to develop the ability to think critically,” she said.
“A functioning democracy needs a free and unbiased press and an educated population with the skills to be active citizens,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
Ciara said she wrote about technology because it was an issue that particularly impinged on young people’s lives.
“People see technology as being very good but they never look at the negative side of it,” she said.
Ciara said she would like to be a journalist. “It is definitely a career option for me because I like writing and expressing my opinions.”
The other category winners were:
News: Donna Fitzgerald, Coláiste na Sceilge, Cahirciveen, Co Kerry.
Features: Eanna O’Cosgora, Coláiste Iongnáid, Galway.
Photojournalism: Orla Doheny, Rosemont School, Dublin.
Comment/opinion: Aisling Eaton, Our Lady’s College, Drogheda, Co Louth.
Sport: Ella Curtin, St Mary’s Secondary School, Macroom, Co Cork.
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