This much I know: Seán O’Rourke, Broadcaster

My advice is....don’t take no for an answer, says Seán O’Rourke.

The most important trait for a reporter is persistence. Being able to find a way to a story, or a person, or an interview.

When I went to University College Galway, it was always my intention to pursue a career in journalism on graduating. I’d already spent a year working in the Connacht Tribune directly after my Leaving Certificate.

Otherwise, I might have become a teacher. My father was a national school teacher and there have been teachers in our family for generations, probably as far back as the hedge schools.

After college, I went to Dublin. I spent two years as a sports reporter in The Sunday Press. I did a year in features and then another two in politics until I left the Press for RTÉ.

I believe it’s a good thing to move jobs every once in a while, within reason, certainly up until you are in your 30s.

I wouldn’t describe many journalists as natural broadcasters and being on air didn’t come particularly naturally to me. You have to work at it. I had to work at reading scripts.

When I made the switch, print journalism was 100% journalism, radio was 75% journalism and 25% show biz and television was 50/50.

Even the way that you write is different for broadcast than for print. There is a different structure to the sentences and to where you put your emphasis.

I was a pretty normal child. I might have been a bit disruptive in school. I wasn’t afraid to put my hand up in class.

On radio, I generally forget that there is anybody else listening. I try to focus on the conversation being between me and my guest.

Of course, if something starts to go wrong, then I tend to become very aware of the 300,000 people listening in.

One of the first lessons I learned is that sometimes the most important thing to do is to shut up and let your contributor speak.

If the guest is with you in studio, you can communicate a lot with your eyes. It gets trickier when they are on the phone.

I reckon I have done over 25,000 interviews. If I remember 10 of them, that would be about the size of it.

Taking over the mid-morning slot on Radio One was daunting, because it was a very big media event when Pat (Kenny) left RTÉ.

But it’s turned out to be a wonderful adventure because I’ve a great crew behind me and I love working on a broader canvas.

Doing live radio, the weeks fly by. I am very good at compartmentalising my life — on a Saturday. One of the joys of my new show is that I no longer work weekends. I was used to doing the Week in Politics on a Sunday.

Now I get out of studio at 12.30pm on a Friday and have a glorious time until sometime on Sunday, when I start working again.

One of the frustrations is that I don’t get as much time to read as I would like. We have a lot of authors on the show — two or three in a week sometimes — but I generally only get time to dip in and out of the books.

I started a book club five years ago but had to leave because I got embarrassed at not having had time to read the books.

When I’m not working, I get in as many walks as I can, I play golf. I try to go to the gym three times a week.

I’m a light user of Twitter. I love seeing a good story in print. One of my Saturday night treats is downloading The Observer so that I can turn the pages. I prefer reading print on actual paper.

I have six kids. Three are already graduates. I wouldn’t advise any of them against a career in journalism as it has given me great satisfaction, as well as having been great fun, but I think the huge changes in technology have made print journalism a much less secure profession in which to work.

The terms and conditions of employment are not as good as they once were.

My biggest fault is that I can be a touch impatient.

If I could be someone else for a day I‘d be Rory McIlroy. On a good day.

I’m a practicing Catholic. I feel I need to practice a lot more because I’m a long way from being perfect.

I don’t have any big fears.

My life is very fulfilled, which is not to say life is a breeze. It’s not.

Tune in to RTE Radio 1 for Today with Sean O’Rourke, Monday to Friday at 10am


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