At the start of the year, I had family and friends sending me a link to the British Council website, telling me to apply for a journalism program they had going on, telling me I would be “perfect for it.” Fast forward a couple of months prior to this – I had just graduated, and was applying for graduate opportunities all over the place. Journalism is a hard sector to break in to, and it seemed each opportunity advertised needed an insane amount of experience. I had faced months of rejection, so when I went on to the British Council website and applied for their Future News Worldwide conference, I didn’t have high hopes.
In April, I received an email accepting me onto the FNW19 conference. Obviously, I was shocked, believing I would never have got onto the program – but I became doubly shocked when I realised I was 1 out of 100 young journalists picked from around the world, selected from a pool of 3,000 applications. On the 16th and 17th July 2019, we were based in the Thomson Reuter’s headquarters in London, listening to and learning from some of the world’s best journalists.
Activities started the day before, on the evening of 15th July. We knew we had reception dinner and drinks lined up, but didn’t know the venue. When the bus pulled up outside the Reuters HQ in Canary Wharf, you could feel the excitement in the air. This was a fantastic way to begin the week. We were able to network with all the speakers lined up for the coming days, as well as staff from Reuters, previous FNW delegates, British Council staff, UK Foreign Office staff, and media makers from around the country.
The conference began with an early start on the 16th July (surprisingly my night-owl self didn’t feel too bad waking up at 6am), and our first speaker was Nick Tattersall, the Managing Editor News for EMEA at Reuters. Nick has reported from all around the world for Reuters, including from war-zones at the beginning of his career, so his insight into the changing world of reporting in a post-truth era was enlightening. In particular, his statement that “the future of news, and trust of news, relies on boots on the ground” stands out to me. In a world where social media means everyone is a journalist, we still need those expert reporters on the ground to ensure truth prevails.
Next up was Sreenivasan Jain, managing editor of New Delhi Television. Not knowing much about the media and the political landscape in India, this talk was really interesting for me. Focus was given towards the press freedom (or lack of such) for journalists in India due to the influence of corrupt politicians. Following this came words from Christina Lamb, the Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent and a true journalistic hero of mine. She spoke candidly of her career as a foreign reporter, and her time spent living and working in Afghanistan.
On the first day of the conference, I took part in a tour of the Reuters newsroom, which provided a great insight into the daily running of one of the world’s biggest news organisations. Joanna Webster, the Managing Editor for Strategy and Operations for EMEA at Reuters conducted the tours and shed light on how each branch of Reuters works together. After this, we launched into workshops with Google News Initiative, Facebook and Instagram to learn how to optimise these platforms for journalism.
The first day was wrapped up with dinner and drinks on a boat on the River Thames, where speakers included Channel 4’s Jon Snow. Definitely one of the maddest experiences I’ve ever had, it is sure to be a night to remember. Jon Snow gave us advice on how to continue doing important journalistic work, while looking back at his own career with his characteristic wit and humour.
The second day of the conference began with sore heads and an interesting talk from Taylor Nelson of the Solutions Journalism Network. This branch of journalism focuses on the importance of reporting on responses to social issues, and not just in explaining events as they happen. Up next was one of my favourite speakers of the conference, Nadine White of the Huffington Post. She spoke candidly of her experiences in journalism, and how she broke into the industry – highlighting to us the importance of using Twitter and social media to give yourself a voice.
Following this, we broke off into groups to ‘Meet the Experts’. A favourite discussion of mine from this time was with Suyin Haynes, a Senior Reporter at TIME Magazine. She helped us with how to pitch articles to media platforms, and shared how she got into the industry. We then went on to listen to discussion from Aliaume Leroy and Benjamin Strick of BBC Africa Eye on how they use open source techniques to fuel investigative journalism.
The conference finished up with the inspiring words of Sonny Swe, cofounder of the Myammar Times who spent 8 years in prison for his work in providing a journalistic platform. He spoke of surviving his time in prison, and continuing his fight for press freedom on his release.
Future News Worldwide 2019 gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn how to become a great journalist from the best in the business. It also gave me the opportunity to learn from 99 other delegates from around the world, most of whom I would have never met otherwise. The atmosphere of the trip, both during the conference and in our spare time, was the stand out feeling of the experience for me.
Often as young journalists we work in a cycle of competitiveness, however this program had a feeling of community attached to it. Even now, weeks on from the end of FNW19, we are all still in contact and supporting and aiding each other’s work.
After taking part in FNW19, I can safely say the future of news is in safe hands.