MY FIRST POST

AMANDA FERGUSON in Belfast

Thursday, July 16, 2020

IMG 2471 Photo 22 05 2016 22 25 44

Welcome to my new website.

I figured the first post should be about my journey to and through journalism.

We have to go back more years than I can believe.

A long, long time ago, as an inquisitive little girl growing up in 1980s north Belfast I decided - with encouragement from my ever supportive mother Fiona - that I wanted to be a journalist.

I grew up around journalists, presenters, and other media workers, and always thought I would pursue it as a career. It looked like so much fun.

As is common, life got in the way and I did not pursue my dream.

I had various family challenges during school, took the scenic route through university and ended up studying marketing and communication in my favourite place on the island next door (Glasgow💙).

After graduation I got a job at home in Belfast working for a quango, which came with flexi-time, a pension, good holidays and so on, but I was bored and unhappy.

I was floating along, feeling unfulfilled, and suffering in the 2008 economic crash. That was some bad craic.

At the start of 2009, when I was 29 and a half, I had an awful, unsettling feeling that just wouldn't go away.

I had never considered my age before but now I was fully freaking out.

I was going to be 30. I thought to myself if I don’t pursue a career in journalism now, when would I? I was running out of time, or so I thought. How dramatic, eh? It makes me laugh now I have turned 41 and insist I am young (ish).💁🏻‍♀️💅🏻

By the way, I had no meltdown when I turned 40 last year. I went into celebration mode, feeling happy, powerful and loving it.💚💜

Anyway, back to the story.

I found out on my 30th birthday, a beautiful sunny day in June 2009, that I had been accepted to study a postgraduate journalism course at the tech, or Belfast Metropolitan College as it is formally known.

That September, with the support of my loved ones, I started the full time one year course, and took on three minimum wages part-time jobs to try to make ends meet.

It was tough going but I was determined to succeed.

My course placement was at The Belfast Telegraph on Royal Avenue when Mike Gilson was editor.

I made an impact straight away. There I was writing front page news, art reviews, business stories and more for the big broadsheet paper I had seen the adults in my life disappear behind in my youth.

I was absolutely buzzing. Perhaps naively, I didn’t realise how upset that would make some people. I was loving life, trying to focus on learning and doing my best, and being grateful to those supporting me. You can’t please everyone!

I was a complete nerd about studying and doing my best at tech. I sat at the front of class, hand up for every opportunity.

I think because I was returning to education as a mature student and wanted a new life for myself there was no way I was wasting my time or anyone else’s time.

I got my start at the 'Tele' doing news and business shifts, reviews, and various columns. Thanks Mike!

Over the decade that has followed I have expanded into others areas, including lots of politics and breaking news for range of titles and broadcasters.

I have had the opportunity to work for most media outlets on this island and beyond, which has been a delight.

It has been such a ride.

I have always been a freelance journalist. Some people associate me with being “Amanda from Twitter” or one particular media outlet or another - The Belfast Telegraph, The Irish Times, radio or TV appearances, and so on- but I have always worked for myself.

I am often asked on the phone by producers how I would like to be described.

Freelance journalist, political journalist, commentator, Ireland Correspondent, Northern Ireland Correspondent, Northern Correspondent, broadcaster, et al. I don’t mind what you call me as long as you call!

I love the variety that comes with being a reporter and commentator, and all the strings I have added to my bow over the years.

As a Northern Correspondent and Ireland Stringer for local, national and international clients I could be covering the battle for women's reproductive rights for Reuters, the twists of Stormont life for LBC, a discussion about Coronavirus for the BBC or documenting Trump's visit to Ireland for The Washington Post.

On other occasions I could be taking part in a panel discussion, chairing an event, providing media training or working as a fixer or producer.

Covid-19 is making work a challenge but I am getting there, continuing to do work for much appreciated long-standing clients, and adapting and exploring all opportunities to do the work I love.

I have too many people to thank for their support over the years including many of you I have never even met.

I made an active choice years ago to stay in Belfast rather than move to Dublin or London or elsewhere for work.

It was for personal and family reasons – and because I love Belfast, even though it can be absolutely mental at times.

Actor Stephen Rea was reported as once saying: “Belfast is like an ugly child – you love it the most.”

That sums it up. I genuinely love my glorious, complicated city (particularly north Belfast, yeeooo) and I love what I do. I think that comes across in my personality and my work.

I give everyone a fair hearing. I like to learn and share, educate and inform. I love to communicate with you all with whatever tools are at my disposal.

An example of this was back in January of this year, standing in the Stormont estate in the freezing cold.

No broadcaster seemed to be taking the then Tánaiste Simon Coveney and then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith announcing the restoration of devolved government after a three year absence so I decided to live-stream it to an eager public.

It streamed to over 10,000 people and many more watched afterwards.
At the time an astute colleague joked with me that I was the “Amanda Channel”, which is kinda what this website is - a home for my journalism and more.

I have so many opportunities to cover the big stories of the day.

I could be writing for a newspaper or newswire (or sometimes both at the same time), plus broadcasting reports or sharing my analysis, which is something I have grown to love after finally giving in to requests to share my views.

It is a balancing act working as a reporter and a commentator but it is possible to do both. Reporting is reporting. Opinion is opinion.

I love learning, rising to new challenges and getting whatever the job is done.

When asked to turn my hand to something I can usually find a way to do it. Unless it is mathematics, perfect poached eggs or ironing. I am no good at those and not even sorry about the latter.

For all the drama and insecurity of freelance life I love it and know that my experience of being a busy freelance (touch wood) is not necessarily most people's experience of this challenging and competitive industry.

I think that a mixture of hard work and effort combined with my particular way of doing things and lovely sprinkles of luck have got me to where I am now, and it is a place I am truly grateful to be.

It wasn't through nepotism, being two-faced, sycophancy or favours of any other kind, that's for sure.

I marked my 10th anniversary in the media in April of this year at the height of the Coronavirus lockdown.

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you pause, help you reassess your life and bring new challenges, eh?!

At times the stress of the media can be immense and the sickening buzz of it all can lead to tears but it is still a thrill and a privilege. I appreciate how fortunate I am.

Someone wiser than this reporter once said journalism is not a profession or a trade, it's a craft. Sounds about right to me. I will never been done learning. And I am happy about that.

I look forward to you accompanying me on the journey ahead.

So, that is me for now... Enjoy the website. If you have any comments or questions please get in touch.

Amanda

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