By Pierce O’Reilly
Growing up in Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim, RTE’s new Washington, D.C., correspondent, Carol Coleman, had big plans to become an attorney. She had all the qualities. She was meticulous with details, loved talking to people, listening to their stories, and trying, when possible, to lend a helping hand.
After completing her Leaving Certificate, however, she was heartbroken to miss law by a fraction of a point. So she decided to head to Rathmines College of Commerce and study journalism. A year later, she was intrigued enough by the media world to further delve into the career.
"It just amazed me. I wanted to be part of the buzz and everything about the work excited me," she said last week while in New York for her first official trip to the city.
Now, a full decade after entering the media, she has taken a major step up the ladder of stardom with her latest promotion to Washington, replacing Mark Little as RTE’s U.S. correspondent.
Little, with his suave appearance and elegant delivery, made the Washington position a prestigious one over the last five years. He interviewed presidents, prime ministers and politicians. His regular presence at the White House during the Clinton-Lewinsky controversy in the late ’90s was as popular on Irish TV as the day-to-day happenings at Dail Eireann. His high-profile reports often moved to the top of the news lists, pushing domestic affairs to the side.
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Little has taken over as foreign affairs correspondent at RTE.
As for Coleman, her career began in Boston in 1989 at WLLH radio. She covered news, current affairs and local events for the station. When Century Radio in Ireland advertised a job for a radio journalist a year and a half later, she decided to return to continue her career in Ireland.
Three years later, after Century went belly up, she was snapped up from the wilderness by RTE’s newsroom. She soon found her niche as correspondent and, no less than Little and the White House, she became infamous with Dublin Castle with her the reporting of several complex and controversial tribunals.
When Little decided to return to Dublin last year, his post in Washington was eagerly sought after. Coleman was among the posse and the only woman looking for the job.
"I wanted the job because of the international experience," Coleman said. "I’ve always wanted to travel and, hopefully, now I’ll get to see some of America."
Coleman, who is 34 and single, is looking forward to the challenge ahead of her. She plans to cover any story that interests the Irish, be that in Washington, New York or Boston.
"I’ve no set agenda," she said. "I suppose the economy and the environment will be prominent among my reports, as well as the happenings in politics. I’m also interested in what happened to the thousands of Irish immigrants who embarked for the U.S. in the ’80s."
Coleman is a keen traditional singer and enjoys a tune or two on the wooden flute when she gets the time.
"I’d be lonely if I didn’t have so much to do," she said. "It will take a while to get settled in, but I’m enjoying everything I’ve seen and done so far."
Coleman was in New York last weekend covering the U.S. economy from Wall Street. She also went to Chappaqua, where she visited Bill Clinton’s new residence and spoke to some of the Irish people living in the village.