Wexford's Shane wins global journalism award

Published 07/07/2015 | 00:00

Shane McGinley.
Shane McGinley.
Shane McGinley.

A former Wexford student who cut his teeth as a young intern at People Newspapers in 1995 has been awarded a global journalism award from one of America's oldest and most prestigious universities.

Shane McGinley, a native of Wexford town and a former student of CBS Primary and Secondary Schools from 1986 to 1997, was chosen to attend the International Journalists Seminar at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, where he was one of the global winners of the Citi Journalistic Excellence Award 2015.

A private Ivy League college in Upper Manhattan, New York City, Columbia University is the fifth oldest university in the US. Founded in 1754, each year it awards the highly-sought Pulitzer Prize for journalism and its alumni range from President Barack Obama to JD Salinger and Warren Buffet and include 43 Nobel Prize laureates, 29 Academy Award winners and 29 heads of state.

From a pool of hundreds of applicants invited to apply, the final 22 reporters for this year's Citi Journalistic Excellence Award were chosen by judging panels in various countries around the world, with the final awardees selected by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to fly to New York to take part the 10-day seminar.

Begun in 1982, the award aims to recognise journalists for excellence in financial and business reporting around the world.

McGinley, who moved to Dubai in 2008, was one of 22 winners chosen to take part this year, representing the United Arab Emirates. It is the first time the Middle East has taken part in the program and the 36-year-old is also believed to be the first ever Irishman to participate. His winning piece was on Arab investors paying $1 million to buy passports in Malta.

'It was an amazing experience to be able to attend the Columbia University campus, even just for 10 days. With journalists from all over the world, it was great to hear their stories and experiences and the different challenges journalists face each day,' he said.

'With Islamic State, declining oil prices and everything that is happening in Iran and Yemen the Middle East is getting more complicated to work in and media freedom is always a challenge, therefore it was great that they decided to include this part of the world this year.'

The seminar included Pulitzer Prize-winning speakers, a trip to the New York Stock Exchange and the offices of the Wall Street Journal, an exclusive tour of the gold vault at the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a behind-the-scenes insight into the work of the investigative team at the New York Times.

'The best parts were getting to see the gold vault deep under the Manhattan bedrock and also touring the newsrooms at legendary newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. Some of the reporters at the Times said they have been working on some big stories for over a year, something which is virtually unheard of in media in this day and age when budgets are tight.'

McGinley, who is the son of retired Garda Michael McGinley and former postmistress and owner of Mulcahy's Newsagency, Christina McGinley, got his first taste of journalism working as a work experience intern at People Newspapers from January to June 1995.

'I had wanted to be a vet but after the first stint of work experience as part of Transition Year at CBS I decided it wasn't for me. One of my English teachers, Ann O'Riordan, had always encouraged me to go into writing so I persuaded the editor at the People to let me come into the paper once a week for a few months,' McGinley recalls.

'I remember working with Michael Ryan and going to the courts with Anne Marie O'Connor, it was a great time. They also helped me set up the school's first magazine, which only lasted three issues but made a really nice profit, at least for a 15 year old anyway. I think putting Cindy Crawford on the cover of the first issue probably helped a lot.'

After graduating from UCD with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, McGinley worked for various Dublin publishing houses. Deciding to go freelance, he did various jobs, such as a season in the box office and press office at the Wexford Festival Opera, writing for Ryanair magazine, covering Miss World 2008 in Poland for the Gerry Ryan Show and even an appearance on Ryan Tubridy's gameshow on RTE. His big break came writing a weekly column in the Sunday Tribune as the paper's overseas property correspondent.

'It was the best job in the world, travelling from the Caribbean to Botswana or Canada, every week there was always a new increasingly crazy location where Irish investors were looking to spend their money during the height of the Celtic Tiger.'

During the downturn and just before the close of the Tribune, McGinley moved to Dubai in 2008. 'At first it was tough as the recession hit Dubai soon after I arrived and I was made redundant, but I eventually got a job with Arabian Business magazine. I only planned to stay for two years until the Irish economy improved, but I've now been there nearly seven years now. Although, I think the recovery in the Irish economy seems to be taking about as long to materialise as my tan so I think I might be here a bit longer.'

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