Saturday, May 10, 2008


Weekend Words...with Mark Little

Welcome to this week's Weekend Words feature which sees me leaving the politics to one side and interviewing individuals from Irish popular culture. Taking my questions this week is RTE's Prime Time presenter and journalist Mark Little.

My thanks to Mark for taking my questions. OK let's begin...

I understand you studied economics and politics at Trinity College. At this point in your life did you know you wanted a career in broadcast journalism?

I had been on the road to journalism for some years before I went to Trinity. I decided to become a journalist the day I realised I had no hope of playing for Liverpool. I was about 9 at the time. I do remember watching the great Brian Farrell when I was 11 or 12 and thinking his was the best job in the world.

Most Irish people know you as the presenter of RTE's Prime Time. How did you get involved with RTE?

In many ways, I am a really bad example to younger people who want a career in journalism. I was just really lucky. RTE were hiring the September I left journalism school. A screen test and interview and the rest is … blah blah blah.

When you know that you're going to be discussing a particularly important issue on the show, how do you prepare yourself?

I generally put on my headphones, block out the world and then read every possible piece of information I can get my hands on about the issue at hand. After that, I try to work out the simplest, shortest questions based on that information. Then I try them out in my head to see how an interviewee might answer. Based on all of this, I then map out the interview on a piece of paper. Then I hide the piece of paper.

What would a typical day in your life involve?

A typical Prime Time day begins with a morning conference at 10 and then research and constant liaison with the Executive Producer of the show through the day. We have an afternoon conference before writing scripts and preparing for interview. We’re in studio at 8.30 and out of RTE by 11pm.

You were named Television Journalist of the Year for your reporting in Afghanistan in 2001. I imagine that was a very proud moment for you?

Yes. For me and Eddie Doyle, the producer of the winning Prime Time report.

You've worked for RTE in some of the world's most dangerous places. Do you ever get nervous reporting from these difficult regions?

Yes. But I get even more anxious if I go too long without a trip to one of these places.

Who would you regard as your biggest inspiration?

I tend not to have any heroes. They will generally end up breaking your heart.

You are the author of two books, Turn Left at Greenland: In Search of the Real America and Zulu Time: When Ireland Went to War. Tell us a bit about them.

They were inspired by the same motivation, which was to bring a little nuance to our prevailing views of the United States, and the world in general.

Do you see yourself writing any more books in the future?

I am writing a third book right now about the transformation of the United States after George Bush. It’s due out in September.

You've worked as a Washington correspondent for RTE and I've seen you a few weeks ago reporting on the Democratic race over there. Would you find the American political scene to be more exciting than the Irish one?

Not necessarily more exciting. But American politics has a far greater scale to it.

How do you relax when you're not working? What are some of your favourite pastimes?

Making my kids laugh and sleeping. My two absolute favourite things.

What's the strangest thing that's happened to you whilst you've been a journalist?

I watched a volcano explode. I’ve seen the space shuttle lift off. I’ve seen hurricanes in action. I have felt an earthquake. I met George Bush.

What advice would you give to anyone who aspires to have a career in journalism?

Work hard. Have passion. Keep challenging your assumptions.

What are some of the projects that you've got lined up for the future?

I have ideas for more books and documentaries and TV shows and Online projects but if I told you more I would have to kill you.

Thanks once again for taking my questions, Mark.

My pleasure.

Taking my questions next weekend is Irish singer and actress Klara McDonnell. Stay tuned to United Irelander for future interviews.

Previous Weekend Words features here.


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