‘From rubber bullets in Gaza to school run in suburban Atlanta’

Wild Geese: David Clinch, Atlanta

From Dundrum in south Dublin to the hub of global news in Atlanta in the US, David Clinch's media career spans 30 years. He started by researching and gathering news for TV but went on to pioneer the use of social media for international news gathering in a seismically changing media environment.

Before his journalistic ventures began, Clinch studied French and philosophy at Trinity College.

"I left Ireland in the late 1980s after completing my degree to live in London and seek work in theatre. There wasn't much going on so I got a job in ITN as a researcher part time." The job offered good beer money, but he also managed to move up the ranks.

"I ended up staying there for three years, and meeting my now American wife." In 1991, with a move to the US in sight, a phone interview with CNN was to lead to new beginnings and Clinch started work on the TV network's international desk at its headquarters in Atlanta.

He went on to play a role in co-ordinating CNN's coverage of major international events, working in the field as a producer on stories in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Russia, India, Jamaica, London and Northern Ireland.

“I was in Moscow for the elections, had meetings in the Taj Mahal, covered the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland and managed to visit home regularly while also travelling across the US for big stories.”

From working behind the scenes during the Gulf War to hearing rubber bullets being fired in the middle of a Hezbollah fight in Gaza, Clinch would be back home doing the school run in suburban Atlanta.

"I wasn't a full-time road warrior. It was the perfect balance between excitement and suburban family life. The 1990s and early 2000s were an exceptional time to work in journalism and, like me, everyone was at CNN for the long haul. There was nowhere better to go if you wanted to work in news."

During that time, the internet was in its infancy and Clinch became intrigued with the idea of sharing communication.

"When social change came along, content was emerging online. I built a content management system for CNN International for storing all our key content and I created social media news gathering tools during pivotal times like the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile."

He also trained CNN staff in using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and other online services, while learning to harness the power of these new social media tools to pull in real-time news and content and push breaking news.

"But after 20 years, I was getting frustrated with just gathering news. Things were changing and we were making rudimentary attempts at online verification, but it was embryonic. I wanted to be at the intersection of news and technology and so, in 2010, I left CNN to found Storyful with Mark Little.

“Mark was in Trinity with me and we had met a few times in the US.”

Headquartered in Dublin, Storyful is a social media intelligence agency offering social news monitoring and video licensing. “It was the first social media news agency, to provide social media content services for many of the world’s leading news. It was pioneering in that it used footage of eyewitnesses, who were there on the scene before media arrived.”

In the advent of mobile phones, he and Little saw an opportunity to get even closer to the news stories by using eyewitness footage. “Storyful was to reflect this rapidly changing media landscape.

“I went on to manage global strategic partnerships at Storyful, including our relationships with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Disney, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others to provide solutions based on our media, brands and risk and reputation services.”

As well as starting Storyful, he also founded Clinch Media in 2008, where he offers consultancy and strategy for news and tech companies as well as news and video strategy for media organisations, countering misinformation and harmful content, which is a defining issue of our time.

“Donie O’Sullivan started his career at Storyful and is now a star on CNN after his coverage of the riots at the Capitol building in Washington in January. We’ve had some incredible Irish journalists work with us. Even though the media landscape has changed, once you have an appetite for news and are willing to do the work, there will always be opportunities.”

Despite the unprecedented effect of the pandemic on the news sharing sector, Clinch is certain there is still a massive appetite for investigate journalism.

“I’m looking forward to sharing stories in real spaces once Covid-19 allows. I used to spend a lot of time meeting people in newsrooms across the world and I don’t think that virtual newsrooms are a replacement for in-person meetings. Once Covid-19 is over, I do look forward to meeting people again.”