Journo intel: Eoin McSweeney, editorial producer at CNN International on fake news and ‘terrible’ sports articles
Eoin McSweeny sits on the business news desk at CNN International, covering EMEIA across digital and broadcast. We spoke to Eoin while working at home recently to find out more about his background and how the pandemic has impacted journalism.
How did you first get into journalism?
Like everyone, I think, at university! In the first few weeks I started writing for the magazine on campus, Motley of University College Cork – it’s good, give it a read! I wrote current affairs and sports articles, which were terrible now that I look back on them. Everyone has to start somewhere though, and I worked my way up to current affairs editor and eventually editor-in-chief. It was an excellent experience, and anyone who has journalistic aspirations should start at school or university. After my masters, I took an internship at the Financial Times in London, and I’ve been working in the industry since.
What do you enjoy most about the job and what advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Every day is different. It’s exciting, fast-paced and interesting. I take a lot of joy from people being able to read and enjoy what I produce, and I never felt that if I worked in a law firm or bank that my work would get wider appreciation. The people you speak with and engage with daily are brilliant individuals, you certainly can’t say it’s boring. If I were starting out again, I’d try to read, watch and listen to as much journalism as possible and reach out to the journalists that excite and interest me. They will generally be very happy to chat and explain their own routes into the business.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
It depends on whether I’m working on TV or digital/print. On TV, I’m generally guest booking and planning for a show. This involves a lot of button bashing in the morning as you attempt to grab the ideal guest for your producer. In the afternoon, I compile guest files for the producer and anchor while ensuring the logistics run well on the night. Digital can be more hectic, depending on the morning conference call. Sometimes you are chasing a difficult story, while other days can be quiet, which could mean touching up existing stories or managing the live newsfeed. I’m a freelancer, so I take every day as it comes, which is really fun. It also means that I’m always looking for work, so get in touch!
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the profession?
The idea that “the media” is fake news. That umbrella term is damaging and equates a Breitbart with a CNN. People should start to distinguish between different kinds of media and find trustworthy outlets that emphasise the lengths they go to publish news. There is so much misinformation out there now that I think it’s an ideal opportunity for trusted press outlets to show the world again that they are the gatekeepers of democracy. When someone claims something is “fake news”, think about what their motives might be.
How do you prefer PRs and brands to work with you?
I like PRs and brands to come to me with a story, not a product or person. It’s important that there is a narrative behind what they want to get published. I’m not going to write a feature article for a global news outlet on just one product, but maybe if it is part of a bigger picture, I might.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d probably be a solicitor. I studied law, for my sins, and I took a few professional exams. I’m very happy in journalism at the moment, so no regrets yet.