Mark's Story

Mark Boylan, 33, had a boyhood dream to become a journalist and was determined to make it come true after he left school.mark

After gaining valuable work experience at a number of publications he eventually turned his ambition into a reality. For the last 15 years, he has been working as a writer for the Irish News and has been employed as a sub-editor at FarmWeek (a weekly farming paper) since 2007.

“I was one of the lucky ones in my school because I had a firm idea when I was 15 of what I wanted to do as a job,” recalls Mark. “I remember having to complete a journalism project at school, which involved creating a front page of a paper. I loved it and received praise for my work on this assignment. And then in my final year of school, I was fortunate enough to be offered a week of work experience at the Irish News.”

He really enjoyed his time at the paper and the experience further strengthened his desire to pursue a career in journalism.

His conditions include having cystic hygroma (which he was born with) – a large fluid-filled growth that often forms around the head and neck area – which affects the left side of his face. He also has a haemangioma – a visible benign tumor that sits on the surface of the skin – along his jawline and throat. Although he has had operations over the years to deal with these conditions, they have left the side of his face paralysed, which affects his speech.

After school, he studied a degree in Humanities, which included modules in politics, history and philosophy. With this qualification under his belt, the natural next step for him involved taking an NVQ in journalism, which set him on the path to becoming a professional.

He is attracted to journalism because he likes meeting a variety of people, being creative and he thrives under the pressure of deadlines.  

“If a story breaks late on Wednesday, which is the day our paper goes to the printing press, it can put some pressure on us to make changes to a particular page, in order to get it in the paper and make sure it looks presentable in a short space of time.

“However, working as part of a team does mean this doesn’t usually cause many issues. I love designing pages and writing under these circumstances because it’s such a thrill when everything is completed.”

Although his conditions affect the way he speaks, the people he works for have never found this to be a problem. “My employers have always made an allowance for my speech. When I was interviewed for the Irish News, I was permitted to write my answers down to give me a good a chance as other candidates going for the job.

Of course, this did make the interview process longer than it was for others. However, I’ve been grateful for the willingness of the Irish News to let me express my abilities and give as good a presentation of myself as possible.”

Mark adds that he cannot recall any instances when he has been treated with any negativity from his fellow colleagues in the office. “Sometimes a page I have designed has included an error or two, which is obviously not great. However, luckily, it’s been nothing too serious. Plus at no time have I ever got the impression that my abilities (or inabilities) have been judged on how I look.

I have experienced a lot of good will, which has done my confidence a world of good and allowed me to develop my skills.”

So what is next for Mark? He is very keen to work within the features department of the Irish News because he believe his strongest skills lie in this area of story-telling. 

“Your condition is as much of a barrier as you make it. You need to believe in your abilities and let them do the talking for you when it comes to applying for jobs – as well as living and hopefully loving life in general.”