A fast-paced TV career with CNN in London
This Trinity law graduate produces one of CNN International’s flagship shows from London
‘I’m always going to want to go where the story is, to bear witness to history’ – Alicia Lloyd of CNN
Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. Alicia Lloyd, originally from Co Leitrim, works as a broadcast journalist and television news producer at CNN in London
When did you leave Ireland?
I left Ireland for London after I graduated in 2015 to study for a Master’s in journalism. Looking at where I am now, it was the best decision I ever made. It opened doors that I’m not sure existed for me in Ireland. While studying I got the opportunity to work at the BBC for the Andrew Marr Show and from there, despite some bumps along the road, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work in some major newsrooms. I’m only a few years into my career and although I’ve learned a lot already and have covered some pretty momentous stories, I feel as though I’m just getting started- which is a great feeling to have. It motivates me a lot.
Did you study in Ireland?
I studied law at Trinity. Like most people I often think about the road not taken, but I’m so glad that I stayed in Ireland for college. Many of my best friends in London are the friends I made in Trinity and they’ll be friends for life. Law as a subject area was also excellent preparation for work as a journalist. In many ways broadcast journalism is all about clarifying complex information and making it more accessible to the viewer, so I think my studies put me in a really good position to do that. A huge part of my time at college was my work as Sports Editor of Trinity News, and I often think that if I had chosen to pursue sports journalism I would have stayed in Ireland. But I’m on the path I’ve set for myself and much to the despair of my parents that path leads away from home currently.
There’s a level of ignorance here about how consequential Brexit is going to be for Northern Ireland and Ireland
Tell us about how life has gone in London so far. It’s moved fast hasn’t it?
It truly has, certainly in the context of my work. It’s been a pretty extraordinary time to start my career as a journalist. I work for CNN, based at our London bureau - more specifically, writing and producing Hala Gorani Tonight, one of CNN International’s flagship shows. Essentially, we aim to break down the day’s news from all over the world and we’re very discerning in the stories we curate. We very much try to be more than just a traditional news bulletin, giving viewers more in-depth analysis, and I think therein lies the strength of CNN - it’s what sets us apart.
How is Brexit affecting you?
As of yet, Brexit hasn’t had any practical implications on my life. I think being Irish, it’s not something that I ever worried about in terms of our status here - that was never truly in doubt, despite some reports to the contrary. But I do worry about it in terms of the effects it could have on Ireland itself. And there’s a certain level of ignorance here at times - even at government level - about just how consequential Brexit is going to be for Northern Ireland and Ireland. Too many people have been dismissive of or even apathetic to its significance.
I don’t need to point out that CNN is under constant attack from the US president
Ultimately, I think that Brexit represents a kind of existential crisis for Britain that will unfold in the coming years and that will be hugely interesting to cover as a journalist.
Also, in terms of how Brexit is affecting people in Britain, I’m acutely aware that I live in a young professional, London, and probably “remainer”, bubble. That’s another aspect of my work as a journalist that I love. It’s your job to seek out all viewpoints and that puts you in a great position to understand the world around you. It gives you a much broader perspective of the country you live in, of the zeitgeist and of this particular moment in British and European history.
Sadly, sometimes being pro-truth is wrongly interpreted as being anti-Trump
Talk to us about President Trump and a changing world... what is it like being a young journalist at the moment?
Extraordinary and at times intense. It’s important to say that as a journalist I’ve never really known life without President Trump. The news veterans that I work with keep reminding me how exceptional these times are - that during previous administrations it was a very different time to be a journalist. The rules have clearly shifted. I don’t need to point out that CNN is under constant attack from the US President - we’ve been anointed the number one target of his “attack-the-media” campaign. And his words are not without consequence, lest we forget that pipe bombs were sent to both our New York and Atlanta newsrooms last month. And when the administration starts blocking reporters from the White House that represents a shocking and unprecedented abuse of power- when the president decides who gets to ask him questions, it’s fundamentally dangerous for democracy.
The Grenfell Tower Fire. Grenfell, in particular, will stay with me forever
In many ways, though, journalists are trying not to become an actor in the story - to avoid becoming the interlocutor. It’s very much our duty to hold him to account, to highlight the egregious lies he tells, to repudiate those falsehoods, to uncover the truths and to disseminate the facts. Sadly, sometimes being pro-truth is wrongly interpreted as being anti-Trump. I think that the more he attacks the media, and particularly, legacy media outlets like CNN and the New York Times, it betrays his tactics of desperation. I think this is what he fears most - that eventually his time in power will come to an end and the fame he lives for will fade - and you can only hope the wounds of divisions he has created will heal. But respected media outlets will remain.
Every day CNN journalists will continue their job to the same standards. Essentially, the media he hates so much will outlive the Trump presidency. I think that when his presidency ends, whenever that will be, we’ll be proud that we fervently and meticulously held him to account. The tenacity of CNN as an organisation is remarkable and I’m proud to play even a small role.
What did you work on before you landed at CNN?
Before moving to CNN, I was a producer at Sky News at what was an intense time in the UK. Last summer seemed like a constant stream of tragedies with terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, and the Grenfell Tower Fire. Grenfell, in particular, will stay with me forever. Some of the stories I heard from those affected will never leave me. 72 people died, and I still find that hard to fathom. I remember we were broadcasting from the scene and there were firefighters switching shifts walking past our live point just utterly exhausted, they were still trying to save people. The mental ramifications for them must have been huge. The reality is as journalists, we cover tragedy every day, but some events leave an indelible mark.
Do you have an average day?
Absolutely not and that’s the beauty of it.
Any plans to return to Ireland?
The call of home is always somewhere on my mind, but for now the desire to get out in the world is greater. I think it’s a paradox uniquely felt by Irish people in many ways, because of our status as the departing, yet we have a strong love of country too. Wherever I do put my roots down though Ireland will always be home.
Do the Irish fit in well in London?
Wholeheartedly yes. At least that’s certainly been my experience. London is a very different place for Irish people than it was say in the 1980s. It also helps, particularly as my job is so focused on covering politics around the world, that Ireland is now well respected on the world stage. I think our President put it aptly on the night of his re-election when he said that Ireland is now a bastion of tolerance and progressive practicality. I think that when our neighbours on both sides are growing increasingly divided in the wake of the votes for Brexit and to elect Donald Trump, that is something to be proud of. And it’s not just in the US and UK but across Europe that forces of regression are gaining a foothold. We should be proud that that’s not the case in Ireland.
What do you think your future holds?
Working for CNN it’s hard not to see myself going to work in the United States at some stage. But ask me that again in a year and I could have a completely different answer. I think as a journalist I’m always going to want to go where the story is, to bear witness to history and I think that will dictate the future for me.
Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?
It’s not so much what I miss but what I worry about missing. The worry that I’ll miss out on important family milestones or even just the quiet Sundays at home, or worse, the fear that something will happen to my family and I can’t be there - that I’ll be at the airport trying to make it home when the call comes through. It also sounds cliched, but I miss working with Irish people. I miss the collective sense of humour. I’m lucky that my friend group is a great mix of and Irish and non-Irish people. Things get a bit heated during the Six Nations, but we usually make it through with our friendships intact. Luckily, we currently have the bragging rights. Hopefully we can keep it that way.
If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about you and what you do.