David Blevins makes “hope and history rhyme” for Lee students
David Blevins is not your average Irish journalist.
As an Ireland correspondent for Sky News, Blevins has been a journalist for 27 years, during which time he has witnessed Northern Ireland’s transition from turbulence to peace.
He shared this history, hope, and his own personal journey at a Society of Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22 in a presentation entitled, “Making Hope and History Rhyme: Reporting the Northern Ireland Peace Process.”
Hailing from the place that has produced the hit TV series “Game of Thrones” and the RMS Titanic, Blevins has reported to an audience of over a hundred million people in over 50 different countries and landed interviews with notable presidents and prime ministers.
After all the stories that Blevins has been a part of, he said that the ones that impacted him the most were those involving “ordinary people.”
“Who left the greatest impression [on me]? It was the ordinary people who told extraordinary stories of their courage during the conflict,” Blevins said.
He described covering the Omagh bombing in 1998, in which 29 people were killed. It was his longest simultaneous live broadcast he had ever done, from 5p.m. until midnight.
“I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I have sat with people and wept when they talk to me. You don’t have to switch off your mind and your heart to be objective. In fact, I would argue that if you do, you can’t be authentic as a journalist.”
Dr. Michael Finch, assistant professor of communication, enjoyed Blevins’ presentation and felt that it was relevant to current events.
“I was honored to have such a prominent figure as David Blevins come to campus. He has seen, and been a critical part of, the process of reconciliation in a divided nation,” Finch said. “I feel like his message is exceptionally salient in the United States today. We need to listen to people like Mr. Blevins who can teach us about how we might move past partisanship.”
As for his hope, Blevins found it in his faith. After being a journalist for 18 years, he felt that God was calling him to be a part of the ordained ministry of the church. He left Sky News in 2006 and spent three years reading theology in Dublin, Ireland.
“You can imagine the reaction of the Irish media: ‘Journalist quits screen for pulpit.’ That was the headline,” Blevins said. “Most [in Ireland] regard journalism as something secular way over here, and religion as something sacred way over here. You see, they just don’t read enough C.S. Lewis.”
It was a quote from Lewis that helped Blevins return to full-time work at Sky News in 2014.
“This is what C.S. Lewis had to say: ‘there is but one good, that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him, and bad when it turns from Him,’” Blevins said. “So everything can be sacred. It took me a long time to learn that I didn’t have to separate my history in journalism from my hope in Jesus Christ.”
He explained how the world needs more reporters who “get religion”, and how one’s faith can aid them in their reporting.
“God does call some people to the ordained ministry, God does call some people to be missionaries. But those are not the only callings of God,” Blevins said. “God calls people to be teachers, and doctors and nurses and lawyers and politicians and to be journalists, because He needs journalists who do gather the news ethically and report it with some integrity, who are prepared to ask the tough questions that are not being asked by journalists today.”
Caitlyn Harman, a freshman digital media journalism student, felt that Blevins’ talk inspired her in how to live out her faith in her future career.
“Not only did it inspire me as a rising journalist, like what he was talking about it inspired me as a Christian, on how to implement God in my career,” Harman said. “It gives me more of a driving force and inspiration to keep going forward in what I’m doing.”
Blevins said that a lot of people want to hear about the stories he has covered or the people he has met. But for him, it is those “ordinary stories” that stick with him at the end of each day.
“For me, the stories that have changed me, have impacted me are those ordinary stories, but they’re not easy to switch off from,” Blevins said. “And sometimes I wonder, are we meant to switch off from them? Part of our calling is to carry them with us and to ensure that those stories continue to be told.”