There's almost a whole generation of Irish journalists scattered around the world James McMahon talks to Andrew Brennan about leaving Ireland and settling in China. 

It has been a tumultuous time in the Irish media world, the passing of Gay Byrne, the father of Irish television coupled with significant cuts announced by his former employer, RTE have left many taken aback and questioning what comes next. For those of us who never had the chance to forge a career on Irish shores, sitting away from this turmoil and sadness makes us wonder what it would have been like if we had been given the opportunity to stay at home and contribute to Irish journalism, would we have had the chance to become another Gay Byrne or would we now be out of a job?

In the same way longevity in sports management in the days of Busby and Ferguson have now passed so too it seems has the window to have the type of career that Byrne had, where he got to develop his style and delivery and enlighten the hearts and minds of millions for while remaining on home soil.

A generation of us left as the economy crashed between 2009 and 2012, others left before and since, builders, engineers, nurses, scientists, and journalists. The well-worn path of Irish journalists heading to the United Kingdom has long been established with fewer jobs in Ireland and sadly less on the horizon.

Two of Ireland's most successful journalists reside in different parts of the UK, Dr. Peter Geoghegan in Edinburgh working with Open Democracy with Bill Neely in London for NBC News.

Irish voices deliver TV news across the world from Doireann Mc Dermott in Latvia to Bronagh Tumulty in Salt Lake City, Utah. Doireann and Bronagh are at opposite ends of the world but they are not alone, they are part of the Irish journalism generation that lives and works thousands of miles from their families and communities but do so due to their passion for telling the news.

Eunan O'Neill established himself as one of the lead TV anchors in Moscow with RT with Seana Davis a familiar face in the homes of millions of viewers for Euronews, based in France alongside other talented Irish journalists Meabh McMahon in Belgium and their colleagues Darren McCaffrey and Shona Murray.

Terry McCarthy covered some of the biggest news stories of the last century while a correspondent for Time, CBS and ABC. Also based in America albeit on the opposite shore to where McCarthy now resides is Donie O'Sullivan at CNN in New York. Also in the city that never sleeps is Malachy Browne, a senior producer for The New York Times. Donagh Mc Keown presents radio shows in San Francisco and Dave O'Connor in Indiana.

Further north Deirdre O'Regan worked for Canadian broadcaster CBC and now resides in Milwaukee. Jane Ferguson brings PBS viewers insights from war zones and has won national and international awards many miles from her native Fermanagh.

Mary Fitzgerald in Libya has reported from more than 40 countries during some of the most challenging times in their histories. Diarmuid Fleming spent 3 years making the tough decisions as the program editor for Al Jazeera in Doha.

Kate Ferguson has been a reporter for almost a decade based on German media powerhouse DW in Berlin. Pablo Foley Elias a UCD graduate has worked for national broadcasters between Spain and Germany for more than a decade but a fellow Galway man Andrew Brennan has also headed down the road less traveled. From NUIG to Washington DC to Beijing, Hong Kong and now Dubai, Brennan explains what it feels like to be one of our generation of Irish journalists, the ones who can't come home but continue to tell stories to audiences that don't share a cupla focal.

Andrew Brennan and his partner in China.

Andrew Brennan and his partner in China.

Q1. Why journalism?
I felt I was learning so many atrocious things in my late teen and college years: corruption, rigged systems, classism, injustice, scaremongering, warmongering, polarisation, complex systems collapsing and the best way other than activism was to help the access to information, to share stories, to be a critique of power structures.
Sadly, society is changing so fast in all aspects and journalism is a great deal more co-opted and manufactured now, integrated with PR. Some great figures still exist and thankfully the Internet and decentralization has occurred but I'm quite somber about where we go from here.
Q2. Was it hard leaving Ireland?
Yes. I find the west of Ireland is like The Shire in The Lord of the Rings; a beautiful place that is not out of reach or touch but insulated nonetheless. My place on the planet, my "world" - the limits of my experience - were forever changed when I left.
I wouldn't see home the same way again but I needed to venture beyond the comfort zone and grow. I didn't want to be someone who wouldn't venture far and think Dublin or London were the limits of my perception, mindset or edge of my adaptability.
I was melancholic for some time and appreciated many things about home, but if the planet is our home, never leaving Ireland would have been like never leaving my bedroom.
Q3. What has been a highlight for you since you moved to China?
That's difficult to say; loads of bumps along the way. I suppose the overall experience. I've been living here at an interesting time. I've learned a lot more than the average person about China, cultural thinking, and everything else. I've gotten to traverse parts of Asia, and just live somewhere few come and fewer stay. I wouldn't think a highlight is necessarily one thing, that negates the macro-experience.
Q4. What do you miss the most?
Community. People. Lives of others intertwined with yourself. Logic. Things that make sense. Occasions, pure air, the talkshow radio, rain, emerald green, the ease of how I can be in abundant countryside within 20 minutes from Eyre Square in Galway.
Q5. What advice would you have for aspiring Irish international journalists?
It's a changing sector. It gnaws at my fibers that Western society is imploding, engrossed in distractions and echo chambers and the fights among factions and the media is only getting worse. So much is omitted, ignored, spun or steered by many media outlets. The business owners have the real say. U.S. media is engorged with well-paid shills and celebrities.
In Europe, it's a mixed bag. There are good journalists, hard-working, adroit people, and a few outliers proving to be real thorns in the side of the powerful, but largely constrained is the power supposedly lauded and guaranteed for "The Press".
That doesn't mean the East is better, it's not. I'm sorry to be so sardonic, but I think the best way is decentralized podcasts, citizen and activist journalism, and the new or alternative media even with all its problems. Trouble is, that's a difficult though not impossible living to make.
If you want to follow Andrew's journalism journey he is on Linkedin.

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