Irish broadcaster David Blevins brought Bethel his message of how God works in his journalism life and talked about effects of Paris attacks on Ireland.
by Marissa Gamache
David Blevins has interviewed two U.S. presidents, three Irish presidents, four British prime ministers and five Irish prime ministers in his 25-year career. After working at a local newspaper and moving to radio broadcasting, Blevins became an Ireland correspondent for Sky News, and has clocked more than 15 years with the international news giant owned by Rupert Murdoch. He shared his professional and theological journey with Bethel University students and faculty in a packed Eastlund Room Oct. 26.
Blevins gave Bethel journalism professor Phyllis Alsdurf credit for getting him to Minnesota after they had met at the Poynter Institute for Journalism in Florida last summer during the Global Media Project’s Coaching and Leadership Fellowship. This trip was Blevins’ first time in Minnesota, with a glimpse of autumn colors displayed on campus, and he said he hopes this will not be his last.
Blevins’ best subject in school was always English, though he sometimes questioned if journalism was what God had planned for him. At 12, Blevins’ father died from cancer. At 15, he had became involved in church, playing piano at Epworth Methodist, but never in his plan did he expect to become a theologian.
However, in 2006, he quit Sky News to pursue a degree in theology. A headline in Northern Ireland’s Portadown Times read, “David swaps Sky News for the Christian Ministry.”
“I felt like Samuel,” Blevins said. “He would never lose the call from God.”
After three years at a seminary in Dublin, he attained his Doctorate of Theology. Upon graduation, he received part-time offers in both ministry and back at Sky News. Eventually, he returned full-time to broadcast journalism, where he says he’s a journalist who is also a Christian, not a Christian journalist. He said this benefits him when he has to report on grim stories, such as the recent terror attacks in Paris.
“(I try to) find stories of heroism and sacrifice, of stranger reaching out to stranger – shining examples of light in the darkness,” Blevins said.
Blevins’ career coincided with some of the most dramatic events in Northern Ireland history, including the Omagh bombings and the peace the region made with England. As a rookie reporter, Blevins’ coverage of the Omagh bombings earned him a Royal Television Society nomination in 1998. He also has been praised, and criticized, by opposing political factions in Northern Ireland for his journalism, which he figures means he’s doing something right.
While speaking at Bethel, Blevins talked deeply about his journey through life. Blevins’ journalism career combines both his faith and his journalistic background.
“The hope, history and rhyme concepts are borrowed from ‘The Cure at Troy’, a beautiful poem by Seamus Heaney. In my case, journalism was my history and theology was my hope. A journalism that understands religion became my rhyme,” Blevins said.
Making hope and history rhyme was his challenge to Bethel students in their personal journeys. Find a way to merge theology and your passion into a career, he said.
The news has been dominated recently by the terrorist attacks that took place Friday in Paris. Blevins gave a glimpse into how Ireland may react to the recent threats.
“Ireland, like the rest of the Europe, has been stunned by the scale of the tragedy in Paris,” he said. “It has prompted calls for tighter security and re-opened the debate about admitting refugees from Syria. It would be naive for Ireland to think it is less vulnerable than elsewhere because of its traditionally neutral stance.”
While there is still unrest in parts of Northern Ireland, Blevins is optimistic the history of turmoil will be overshadowed by recent cooperation. He has already seen significant strides in peace, including the Good Friday Agreement and co-rule government cooperation. Irish Republican and president of the political party Sinn Fein Gerry Adams and John Hume, former Irish politician and founder of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, are both examples of how working together has made for a safer community.
“Journalists make sure every voice is heard. So why do I do it? Because Ireland needs reporters who let journalism do the talking,” Blevins said.
Blevins’ hope with talking to Bethel students and faculty about his impartial work in Northern Ireland was to show how, through a bloody history, hope has prevailed – and journalism played a role in that.