MEDIA PROFILE: Tartan trooper - Jack O’Sullivan, Scotland correspondent, the Independent

Jack O’Sullivan - the new Scotland correspondent for the Independent - has worked as a general reporter, a specialist reporter, a leader writer, a section editor, a feature writer and an associate editor.

Jack O’Sullivan - the new Scotland correspondent for the

Independent - has worked as a general reporter, a specialist reporter, a

leader writer, a section editor, a feature writer and an associate

editor.



One might say, and pardon the pun, that he is a Jack-of-all-trades. He

has, however, mastered all of them. He is an intelligent and thoughtful

man, who cut his teeth as the Scotsman’s London reporter during the rash

of horrific disasters of the late 1980s, from the Marchioness sinking to

the King’s Cross fire. One of his first assignments was covering the

Hungerford shooting. This was in the days before mobile phones and, for

some reason, the police had shut down the phone boxes. O’Sullivan set

himself up in a chip shop near the only working public phone box. As the

evening wore on, shocked bystanders filed through the shop, giving him

incredible eye-witness accounts. He then had to relay them down the only

working payphone to the newsdesk as people queued to tell their

relatives they weren’t dead.



Despite showing this sort of journalistic initiative, he spent two years

in the mid-1990s as an academic in the US under the Harkness

fellowship.



’Sometimes I feel journalism observes too much and I feel the need to

get involved, to get my hands dirty,’ he says.



’The Harkness fellowship was set up with money from Standard Oil to

encourage British students to study the US healthcare system. I had been

writing about health for two years during the NHS reforms and Clinton

was just getting started on his healthcare programme. The US was dealing

with outbreaks of drug-resistant tuberculosis among the

socially-deprived and I thought the UK could learn something for our own

Care In The Community scheme by the way they handled their programme. I

attached myself to the New York mayor’s office as an observer, which I

could only have done as an academic.’



O’Sullivan has been covering the Scottish beat for a couple of weeks

now, and is excited by the potential outcome of the Scottish Parliament

elections. He was offered a job covering Westminster while a cub on the

Scotsman, but he turned it down. ’(Parliament) was too public school and

cloying. Scotland, on the other hand, will provide a model for the way

UK politics could be run in the future,’ he says.



’Jack is a bit of an idealist,’ says Ian Hargreaves, former Independent

editor and now professor of journalism at Cardiff University. ’He’s the

kind of journalist who wants to change the world as well as report on

it. He is serious-minded and very interested in a wide range of

issues.



He is the kind of hack broadsheets rely on - he can turn his hand to

features, analysis, news, profiles and colour pieces.’



This thoughtful approach is reflected in his attitude to PR. ’The PR

people I like are the ones who give you the facts when you ask them,’ he

says. ’I also like the ones who don’t take advantage if they sense you

are ignorant. As a newcomer to Scotland, people could sell me a pup.



I’d find out about it the next day, though, and I’d never speak to that

person again.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1986

Reporter, the Scotsman

1994

Leader writer, the Independent

1999

Scotland correspondent, the Independent



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