‘I am interviewing a terrorist on Thursday’

Henry Zimmerman poses in 103.2 Dublin City FM's Studio 4. He spent countless hours there doing interviews, editing audio and researching leads.

By Henry Zimmerman

Year In School: Senior

Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

Internship: News Intern, 103.2 Dublin City FM

“That is by far the most arresting subject line I’ve ever gotten in an email from a student,” Assistant Professor Tracy Lucht, my adviser, said in her response to an email I sent her asking for advice about an upcoming interview I had just booked.

The lead came from Mick Fitzgerald, a reporter on politics who worked at the radio station I was interning at in Dublin, Ireland, called 103.2 Dublin City FM. I had been hosting a weekly literature show at the time. For the show, I talked with writers, self-published authors, museum directors, etc. If it had to do with literature, I was happy to talk about it.

That’s where Mick’s lead comes in. He came to the station just a few weeks before the end of my internship.

“I’ve got a book for you, Henry,” Mick told me, shaking the rain from his umbrella. “Give it a read, and I’ll give you the number of the chap who wrote it. You can have him on the show.”

“Great. What’s the book about?” I replied.

“What do you know about the IRA?”

At the time, very little. As it turns out, the book Mick was talking about was written by a former IRA (Irish Republican Army) member about his experiences in the Irish republican paramilitary organization.

The man who wrote the book, Matt Treacy, was a bona fide spy with the IRA during the Troubles. He was arrested in 1988 after being a part of an intelligence unit. He skipped bail and went on the run until 1990 when he was arrested yet again. He was ultimately sentenced to eight years in prison.

This is the man that Mick wanted me to have on the show.

My first reaction was selfish. I thought about how good this would look in my portfolio. It’s not every day that you get the chance to speak with a former terrorist.

I left work that day still full of excitement, still full of gratitude that I was given this opportunity. I remember thinking then that it almost made up for the fact that I wasn’t being paid for my work.

As I sat on the tram on the way to the center of Dublin, and thought more about this interview-to-be, I realized that I had never interviewed anyone of Mr. Treacy’s significance. For what it’s worth, the IRA is largely secretive. In fact, many former IRA members and members of Sinn Féin vilified Mr. Treacy for telling the world his story. But here I was, in line to talk with him on tape.

I called Mr. Treacy the next day at work and we booked an interview for the coming Thursday. As soon as I got off the phone, I sent out emails to six people. A mixed bag of journalists, current and former.

In those emails, I was straight to the point. I was nervous about flubbing the interview. But, they all responded with helpful advice and reassurance. And in the end, the interview went better than I could ever imagine.

To this day, it has been the most meaningful interview I have ever done. Not only did I talk with Mr. Treacy, I made a real connection. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if not for 103.2 Dublin City FM. And I wouldn’t have succeeded without the guidance supplied to me by the Greenlee School.

Vote for this entry in Round 2 of the 2017 Greenlee School Summer Intern Blogging Contest.

Voting begins at noon on Aug. 10 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 17. The winner will be announced Aug. 18 by noon.