Derry Journal 250: Breaking the Journal’s glass ceiling!

Having broken the ‘Journal’s’ male only editorial bastion, Mary McLaughlin was also the first woman to edit the paper.

When I began working for the ‘Derry Journal’ in June 1978, I smashed a glass ceiling although I didn’t realise it at the time.

An enthusiastic young graduate, delighted to be recruited as a junior journalist in one of the country’s busiest newsrooms, just a week after finishing university, I was blissfully unaware that I was the first female reporter to be employed by the ‘Journal’ in its 206 year history.

Needless to say the glass ceiling didn’t come crashing down and it took a while to convince some members of the public that the ‘Journal’ could have such a thing as a female reporter.

Mary McLaughlin.

Very often when telephone callers heard a female voice they’d say, ‘actually it was a reporter I wanted to speak to’. Needless to say, I soon put them right!

In general, however, most people, especially women, welcomed the fact the ‘Journal’ was moving with the times and increasing its female workforce. And, as in all walks of life, the fair-minded judged me not on what I was, but rather on how well I could do my job.

Having broken the ‘Journal’s’ male only editorial bastion, I was also the first woman to edit the paper.

Again, there was a mixed reaction when I stood in for the editor. Some people couldn’t hide their surprise that a female had been given the responsibility of editing the paper. Callers who felt a woman could do the job continued with their inquiry, those who didn’t, mumbled an excuse and arranged to call back when the ‘real’ editor returned.

Mary McLaughlin (front) with her late colleague Siobhan McEleney and in the back former Inishowen reporter Adele McCourt.

Working for the ‘Journal’ for almost 40 years I had a variety of jobs after my initial training - senior reporter, chief reporter, Inishowen editor, sub editor and finally news editor prior to my retirement in 2016.

Throughout my working life it was obvious the ‘Journal’ was a campaigning and vital voice for the local community. The history of the ‘Journal’ has been the history of Derry for the past 250 years - the paper’s main focus has always been and continues to be local news, what’s happening in Derry and throughout the North West.

I’m proud to say I’ve played a part in writing and recording the news of Derry, providing a written and now digital record of what’s important to the local population.

For more than three decades I was privileged to be at the forefront of many of the major events and news stories that shaped Derry. So, as the ‘Journal’ celebrates its milestone 250th birthday, I’d like to say congratulations and thanks for all the wonderful memories.

Mary McLaughlin with other Journal staff at the retirement gathering for former editor Tom Cassidy.

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Derry Journal 250: Siobhan McEleney still shines brightly in ‘Journal’ hearts
Mary McLaughlin interviewing a trade union official.
The Derry Journal's Mary McLaughlin working on the story and looking up the Journal archives. DER2715MC072