BREFFNI O’Connor is vice-president (activities) at the Students’ Representative Council at the University of Glasgow. She recently graduated with a BSc in Animal Biology.
What are your media habits?
The vast majority stem from social media and online reading. Being a student means that a television is a luxury that I simply cannot afford. And unless it’s a free Metro then I wouldn’t pick up a newspaper, either. Smartphones and the internet means everything is online and only a few clicks away. My twitter feed is loaded with US-based newspapers and magazines, with particular favourites being Forbes and The New York Times. This is how I stay up-to-date with all world news and they link other interesting blogs and articles too.
And, of course, my stable go-to news site for this side of ‘the pond’ is the BBC.
I have a particular interest in the environment and animal conservation, having just graduated from University of Glasgow in Animal Biology. So the scientific journal, Nature, is a site I visit often; I usually end up here after reading somewhere a related article online and look for the original paper published.
Any particularly favourite journalists, and why?
No, not particularlly. I think the journalist’s name is probably the last thing I look at when reading an article. But I think I should be more aware of it in future.
To what extent has the media become an increasing or decreasing part of your professional life?
I have found that it’s local media I need to keep an eye on. The SRC needs to stay up-to-date with local politics as we sometimes need to lobby local councillors for issues related to students and sometimes it has been the media that alert us to potential problems that could arise for students.
It’s also important for the SRC to work with journalists, whether it’s our own Guardian newspaper or more national ones. I think the more I settle into my role, the more apparent it is to me that we can utilise the media a lot more. It is about who you know, and contacting the right person to get the right results, which comes with experience.
To what extent is New Media (websites, social networking, etc) part of your media world?
New Media is my media world. I spend the majority of time ‘connected’ through some sort of device and the speed at which news travels is phenominal. This has been a huge asset to everyone as services and individuals are able to react quicker and people’s awareness of problems has risen substantially due to this rapid transfer of information.
How would you rate the media understanding, and coverage, of your sector?
I think the media covers student-related issues sufficently. At the SRC, we put out a number of press realeases every year and the uptake is usually quiet good. Students are very active members of society and so are an important audience to report on.
A problem arises due to the fact that some journalists do not have a very good understanding of how some institutions work or the issues or topic, but it is our job, as the Students’ Representative Council to explain it and smooth out any queriers they may have.
If you were an editor (newspaper, television, etc. state which) for a day, what would you do?
I think ethical awareness is really important to promote in communities. And to foster the feeling that we all have an impact and can make a change. Improving people’s awareness of environmental issues and news is a personal agenda for me. So, if I were to be an editor of an unspecific local tabloid, I would include more stories along these lines. For example, ‘fracking’ is an issue which is affecting many local towns in the UK.