Media School students present in-depth feature reporting from Ireland course

Austin Faulds • May 3, 2018
Dominick Jean presents for his group, whose theme was Spaces. Jean attended a death academy in County Sligo for his investigation on Irish wakes. (Audrey Deiser | The Media School)

In April 2016, the Belfast Telegraph reported that about 1,100 bombings and shootings had occurred in Northern Ireland within the past decade. Two years later, that number continues to rise. While the Republic of Ireland is often considered one of the safest countries to live in the world, its northern neighbor has had issues with terrorism for several decades.

Both countries are currently in a period of cultural and political transition. Roman Catholicism is the dominant belief system in the country. However, with the rise of feminist and LGBTQ equality movements, old practices and traditions are being questioned and modified.

This semester, Media School professor of practice Elaine Monaghan taught a travel course focused on journalism and religion in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This class, which took a trip to the countries during spring break, was made up of 16 students from The Media School, the Department of Religious Studies and the School of Global and International Studies.

During their trip, students reported on a subject of their choosing, each assigned to one of four different groups – Movement, Adaptation, Spaces and Outsiders. The articles were later published online.

Last Wednesday afternoon, several students presented their work in the Media School commons as part of a symposium, Representing Religion, also organized by Monaghan. Both the symposium and a portion of the spring break trip were covered by grants from the Luce/American Council of Learned Societies Program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs; IU Office of Overseas Study; IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council; and the IU Foundation. 

Read more about each student’s work below:

Movement

Focused on contemporary social and political movements in Ireland and Northern Ireland, this group was made up of students Sophia Saliby, Jack Evans, Carter Barrett and Sydney DeLong.  

Saliby’s audio reporting focused on the Muslim community and integration in Dublin, spending time talking to the founders of the Anwar-E-Madina mosque, its religious leader (or imam) and the community members who make up the congregation.

Evans wrote about the peace walls in Belfast, which are meant to separate the Loyalists from the Unionist Protestants and therefore prevent dangerous conflicts. Recently, the walls have begun to open up.

Barrett created an audio piece about conflicts recently on the rise leading up to the vote on whether or not to repeal the 8th amendment, which prohibits abortion in Ireland.

DeLong’s reporting was centered on sex education in Ireland and how the #MeToo movement has led to more demand for conversations on consent in the classroom. Shortly after the class’s return from Ireland, the first sex education bill in about 20 years passed in Irish legislature’s lower house.

Students from the Adaptation group present their feature stories. (Caitlin Blackford)

Adaptation

Audrey Deiser, Maggie Slaughter, Nick Trombola and Katherine Zubler reported on societal and systemic changes in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Deiser wrote a profile on an Irish Catholic priest upset over the infamous, decades-long dilemma of child sexual abuse in the clergy.

Trombola also wrote a profile, this one on a Muslim community leader and the lack of explicit hate crime legislation in Ireland. The leader herself has been a victim of hate crime.

Slaughter focused on the Irish Catholic LGBTQ community, a demographic rarely explored in media. She interviewed everyone from drag queens to missionaries.

Zubler reported on the effects of the controversial Brexit decision made by the United Kingdom and its effects on Irish businessmen and farmers.

Spaces

This theme represented the environments or situations people may find themselves in and how they handle them, either as a community or individually. Dominick Jean, Alexa Chryssovergis, Anna Grover and Erin Patterson worked together in this group.

Jean wrote about a piece on how the various ways in which the Irish handle death, either through religious practices or otherwise, bring them together as a community.

Chryssovergis reported on the rise of integrated schooling in Northern Ireland and how it is helping bridge the gap between the long-divided Catholics and Protestants.

Grover reported on the history of abuse against women in the Magdalene Laundries, Irish asylums that, until the 20th century, punished women accused of promiscuity.

Patterson, like Zubler, also wrote about Brexit, focusing on the large number of Irish residents purchasing passports in order to avoid eviction from the European Union.

Outsiders

With members Taylor Telford, James Keys, Sara Miller and Liz Meuser, this group wrote about the various alienated and discriminated people of Ireland and Northern Ireland, shaped by the sometimes harmful environments they live in.

Telford and Miller collaborated on a profile of an activist in Londonderry striving for peace between the Catholics and Protestants.

Keys’s reporting focused on the suicide rate and how it correlates to mental illness in Belfast.

Meuser wrote about the complications and discrimations against single mothers living on welfare, in a country where Irish Catholic norms demand a two-parent household.