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Made of the write stuff

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Made of the write stuff thumbnailCatherine Fegan

THE newly-crowned Irish Journalist of the Year, Catherine Fegan, cut her teeth right here in the offices of the Newry Democrat.

Newry native Catherine, who is a journalist with the Irish Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, scooped the prestigious award at the NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards ceremony held in the Mansion House in Dublin last Thursday.

She also collected the gong for Popular Features Journalist of the Year, as well as being nominated for Best Business Story, Best Crime Story, Best Foreign Journalism Coverage and Best News Analysis.

The journey to this dizzying height began for Catherine when, as a law student at Queen's University, she wrote a column entitled 'Lectures on Life' for the Democrat.

That experience sparked her love of journalism, as she recalled.

"That was my first foray into journalism, writing that column for the Democrat," said Catherine.

"It was a weekly diary about social life in Belfast at the time and what it was like to be a student.

"That was really what set me on my path to a career in journalism.

"I don't write columns anymore, I've moved on from my columnist days thankfully - I've learned that you shouldn't write about yourself in the newspaper," laughed Catherine.

What makes Catherine's achievement even more laudable is that it is the first time that a journalist from the Irish Daily Mail and Irish Mail on Sunday has been named Irish Journalist of the Year.

She said that she was thrilled to be recognised by a panel of her peers, and humbled to be joining the ranks of previous winners, many of whom are the most distinguished journalists in the country.

"Initially I was very, very shocked," she said.

"I know that everybody says that but I was genuinely shocked, it's beginning to sink in now, and I'm very, very proud, and very humbled."

Catherine covers a wide range of stories, from court reporting to feature writing, and says that she "loves being a journalist".

"It's not always easy, but most of the time, it's just yourself and ordinary people and telling ordinary stories, and that's why I enjoy it," she said.

After her law degree, Catherine spent some time working in the law offices of Stephen Begley in Newry, before undertaking a Masters degree in journalism at the University of Ulster.

She then completed a traineeship at the Daily Mail in London, from where she moved to the Herald newspaper in Glasgow and finally to the Irish Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

Catherine took the prize in the features writing category for stories which dealt with road deaths on the Inishowen peninsula, about a mentally disabled man's care home facing closure, and the tragic death of an 11-year-old girl.

She credits her employer for giving her the opportunity to tell such important stories.

"I still am lucky enough to work in the traditional print journalist model, and I think that's a very rare thing nowadays," said Catherine.

"It's a form of journalism that is facing a lot of challenges. I have the privilege of still being given time and energy and investment to write stories.

"To leave the office and go off and chase stories, and to go off to different countries and chase stories.

"I think in particular the Mail, which I know gets a lot of criticism at times, is one of the only national newspapers that still invests in traditional journalism, and quality journalism, and that's one of the reasons I have stayed with them for so long.

"I think the industry should continue trying to invest in that form of journalism, and helping journalists who are working under that model to continue to do their work."

Congratulations to Catherine from everyone at the Newry Democrat!

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