Having spent over two decades in radio journalism, RTÉ’s new Western Correspondent Pat McGrath is relishing the prospect of delivering news stories from the West of Ireland through a variety of media.
Pat McGrath always knew that he wanted to be a journalist. Even in his college days in the 1990s, in what was then UCG, he was dedicated to his craft.
While college students can often try to do as little work as possible, Pat spent his college years working part-time at Clare FM under a State-sponsored work experience programme.
Broadcast journalism, he says, was his “main aim” throughout those years and, by the time he started the Higher Diploma in Applied Communications in UHG, the idea was cemented in his mind. Nonetheless, he credits the course in Galway for giving him a good overview of all elements of journalism.
It was undoubtedly at Clare FM, however, that the young Kells man cut his journalistic teeth. At a local radio station, he was given the opportunity to try his hand at all tenets of journalism, from compiling sport reports, to reading death notices, reporting on local stories to presenting current affairs shows.
“I think anybody that starts off in local radio gets a great overview of what local journalism and journalism in general involves,” he says.
“The thing about local journalism as well, is that it gives you a great sense of what matters to people and it’s important in a national context to keep an eye on that,” he adds.
Pat’s other great passion is music and, from spinning records “back in the day” at clubs in Salthill, to presenting his own show on one of RTÉ’s digital stations, 2XM, he has a strong pedigree as a DJ. It remains just a hobby however, and he made a decision “early on” to focus on journalism.
Pat’s first job out of college was in the newsroom in the newly-established Lyric FM in 1999. In fact, he was not even strictly out of college and had to abandon his work experience early to take up on the position. When RTÉ closed Lyric’s newsroom, he moved to 2FM, where he worked until 2010.
It was in early 2010 that he began working on Morning Ireland, RTÉ’s flagship news programme and, despite the prestige, he likens it to his early days in local radio, such is the variety of news featured on the RTÉ Radio One programme. One substantial difference between the two is that there are now 450,000 listening to his reports.
“Everybody knows how important the job is, working on a programme like that. You’re aware of the fact that there are a lot of people listening,” he says.
In his new role as Western Correspondent, he gets to, in a sense, combine his previous experience of national news and local. He is, as such, well-prepared for the role, but admits that the shoes of Jim Fahy, the State broadcaster’s first ever Western Correspondent, who held the role for almost 40 years, are “absolutely huge shoes to fill”.
“I’ve spoken to him about it and he’s been very helpful,” says Pat.
As someone who has worked primarily in radio in his career, Pat will face new challenges, not only in appearing in front of camera more often, but also in providing digital news.
“People are consuming things in different ways and RTÉ has got to service all those things,” he says. “I embrace that.”
Another role he will have to learn to embrace is that of covering every back road and boreen from Belmullet to Gort, but again it’s a prospect he’s savouring.
“There’s a lot of ground to cover and there’s a lot of stories there, so it’s very exciting.”
Occupation: RTÉ’s new Western Correspondent
Newsworthiness: Pat will take up his new position as RTÉ’s Western Correspondent this month.