The audience, no matter how local, is what matters


`Yeah - yeah - right - okay - sure - fine," says Damien Tiernan into his mobile. His car keys are on the table. In two seconds he's out the door on his way to Carlow, some 50 miles away, for a breaking news story. "There's a lot of driving involved," he says with a grin as he jumps into the car. The adrenalin is already pumping as he starts phoning ahead.

RTE want a piece for the one o'clock news, not to mention a piece `asap' for the next 2FM news bulletin. He'll also have to provide a package for this evening's SixOne News on RTE television and perhaps for Network 2 news as well. Yes, he agrees, it can get hectic.

"The day builds up to a crescendo. There's a lot of travel involved - to and from stories and editing under pressure for the Six-One News. As regional correspondent, you're on call 24 hours a day. It starts with a call to or from the news editor in the morning between half eight and half nine o'clock. This would involve setting up a story for the day or confirming a story which had been set up for that day, contacting the camera crew and arranging where to meet."

If it's a fairly big story, he says, 2FM, Radio 1 and the News at One "would all be looking for pieces. The demands are quite big on a day when all the different bulletins would be looking for their own bit.

"There are four TV bulletins. If there's any ongoing or running story, then you have to do pieces for the one o'clock news, the Six-One News, the nine o'clock news and possibly a different package for Network News.

"If things are good, some days you would invariably be working for Morning Ireland or News at One doing a radio package for that day or the next day."

The demands on a regional correspondent can be fairly onerous. "You do your best to please as many people as possible and Nationwide is always on the go as well," says Tiernan. "It can be hectic if, for example, a ship is in distress or there's been a serious road accident or a fire. It's just part of the job."

There are many different styles for the various radio and TV programmes," he says. "You become adept at managing the demands and managing your time.

"You are constantly trying to think about what people who will be watching would like to ask, the simple but important questions.

As a correspondent, Tiernan works on his own. "The regional correspondents forward a list of stories for next week to Dublin for a features meeting. Even if it's quiet, we're still doing something.

"The great thing about it is that every day is different. From hard news to soft news to arts pieces, to sports to accidents to music - even to parrots in Wexford, a story I was doing last week," he says.

He must concentrate on how to get the most out of people and how to make them relax on TV, he says. "The pressure on a day-to-day basis on a running story can be very big."

Back at Leaving Cert level, Tiernan had engineering on his mind. "I mistakenly thought I was good at maths but I got my seventh CAO choice - arts in UCD." He figures it was a lucky break that he didn't get an honour in honours maths. "I was delighted afterwards."

He was good at English essays - "but I didn't know what I wanted to do, although I wanted to write." So, his route into journalism began, while he studied English and philosophy at UCD.

"I started writing a few articles for the college magazine." He also did some match reports for East Coast Radio.

After completing his degree, he applied to NUI Galway for the diploma in applied communications. He was put on the standby list. "I phoned them every week to check if I had got a place. My persistence - and my desperation - finally paid off and I got a place on the course."

Before RTE, Tiernan worked as a reporter and features writer on a number of provisional newspapers in his own area, around Wicklow. The most important lesson he learned at the Wicklow People and the New Ross Standard was "that everything you write can and does effect somebody and that your audience, even if it's very local, is very important."