In a collection of interviews to mark International Women’s Day 2022, we shine a light on some of the brilliant women at the heart of The Independent.
Roisin O’Connor is The Independent’s Music Correspondent. This time she’s the one answering the questions, not asking them; spilling the beans on her influences, path to The Independent and why she hopes other women have to fight less to do the jobs they love.
Describe your job
I steer The Independent’s music coverage, from news to features, comment, interviews and reviews. As well as interviewing and commissioning interviews with some of the world’s biggest artists, I also champion up and coming artists. Included in our music coverage are major events such as the Grammy Awards, Brits, Eurovision and the Super Bowl halftime show.
How did you get into your profession?
I joined a new grassroots student website called The Siren in my first year at Swansea University, becoming editor in my second and third years. During this time I had placements at publications including The Sun, Time Out, the South Wales Evening Post, Uncut Magazine, the Camden New Journal and the Enfield Gazette. While at Swansea I developed friendly relationships with local bar and venue owners, attending multiple gigs each week and reviewing/interviewing local and visiting artists. I then got on to the MA Newspaper Journalism Course at City University in London. Upon graduating, a friend on the course helped me get a freelancing gig at The Independent. After a few months working on different desks I was made Social Media Assistant, a position I held for two years while also reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for the newspaper and online in my free time. Shortly after The Independent went online only, I was made Music Correspondent, and over the last five years have helped turn the Indy’s music section into one of the leading voices in the international industry.
Who and what has helped you break the bias?
Incredibly supportive mentors, notably John Mulvey, previously editor of Uncut and now at Mojo, who always treated me based on my passion for music and never based on my gender (unfortunately I’m unable to say the same for many male music critics his age in this industry). At The Independent, I’ve been surrounded by a team of smart, dedicated and likeminded journalists who are a joy to work with. From the moment I started working here, I was given the impression that opportunities would become available to me should I be willing to work for them, and if I expressed my interest in them. It’s been brilliant that, while I have progressed in my own career, I’ve been able to see my colleagues progressing along with me. Possibly also my own determined nature, and refusing to be intimidated or pushed out of the still male-dominated music journalism scene in the UK, despite having no contacts when I first started out.
Which women do you admire?
Too many to name, but the ones who spring immediately to mind: Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, St Vincent, Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Rihanna, Joni Mitchell, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Rapsody, Billie Eilish, Missy Elliot, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Viv Albertine, Britney Spears, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Janet Jackson, Alanis Morissette, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion… Closer to home: my late grandmother, my mum, my friends, colleagues, Laura Snapes at The Guardian, Alice Jones at The Times, Sarah Carson at the i Paper and so many more.
What are your hopes for the future in terms of breaking the bias?
I would love for women hoping to break into journalism, especially in my field, to not have to fight as hard as I did simply for the right to do a job I cared passionately about and wanted to do well. To not have to encounter so many people who mistake them for interns or freelancers instead of senior staff at a national newspaper, simply because they happen to be young and female. I would love to see women, female-identifying and non-binary people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities represented both in newsrooms and in the work they produce.
What one bit of career advice would you give to others?
Never let someone else try to away something you’ve worked for and love. Speak up. Look people in the eye.