The Future of News is Collective and Inspiring

Future News Worldwide 2019 delegates from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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. 

At the reception dinner in Reuters HQ, 15th July.

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.  

Me outside the Thomson Reuters HQ in London on the first day of FNW19 Conference.

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. 

Delegates at our hotel on the first night of the conference.

A Month to Bring It Home

Politrippers with Senator Kamala Harris in Miami Gardens, FL.

Florida has always been a political troublemaker. The most prominent example of such was the 2000 Presidential Election, wherein Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by 537 votes in Florida. A prominent Purple State (also known as a Swing State – a state where the vote is often split between Republican and Democrat), Florida has long been one of the most exciting arenas for politics and political debate in America.

So from October to November 2018, I had the opportunity to fly a few thousand miles from Ireland to experience the Mid-Term Elections from Miami, Florida. I travelled alone, but met up with a group organised by Politrip – a political travel group currently in its first year. We had a training day a month or two prior in Belfast – various other training days were held across the UK – but this was the first time we were all meeting.

With Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, FL-26’s incumbent Congresswoman

For the month we worked on Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s Congressional campaign in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, and we also worked on Andrew Gillum’s Gubernational campaign. Experiencing campaigns at two different levels of government was an incredible experience. Seeing the differences and similarities between how each campaign was run, how volunteers and paid canvassers acted, was inspiring. Each campaign office we worked with was so committed to change, so hopeful that America could lift itself from the trudges of Trump, that it inspired hope that anything is possible.

Whilst in Miami, we had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences to meet some astounding politicians. Although we weren’t lucky enough to meet him, we went to see President Barack Obama speak at a Florida Democratic Party GOTV rally a few days before the election. We also got to meet House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, at a rally for democratic candidates in Miami. This whole event was potentially overshadowed by a raging Republican protest outside the building, an event that made national news and even received condemnation from Republicans.

Andrew Gillum speaking at a GOTV Rally in Miami, FL

President Barack Obama speaking at a GOTV Rally in Miami, FL

Most inspiring of all, however, was the opportunity we had to meet Senator Kamala Harris (pictured above), a politican hotly tipped to announce a 2020 Presidential candidacy. We met Senator Harris during a GOTV rally at Andrew Gillum’s Miami Gardens office, where office organiser Darnell introduced us as “the Irish kids.”

First days in the Andrew Gillum offices in Miami Gardens, FL

Experiencing American politics through acting and interacting within it and with those involved in it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It provided not only an amazing opportunity to live in a beautiful part of the country for a month, but showed grassroots political determination in action. Seeing politics work from the ground up showed how it should function in any democratic society; a series of debates, with organised action and continuous campaigning towards one common goal: instating change.

For a citizen of Northern Ireland, experiencing such political work in action was inspiring. It showed how things can be done, and led to questions of why does this not happen at home? Why is political action not widespread, and ultimately motivated to be better than we have been before?

Such widespread grassroots action in Northern Ireland is what we need for this country to progress, so it was incredible to see it working in action; and led to hopes of such change happening for us as well.

Sunset from Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign offices

Around the World in Three-or-so Weeks

After months (sorry!) of not blogging, I’m finally back at it. For my first post back from my accidental hiatus, I thought i’d write about the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in those two or so months.

All I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember is travel. Numerous failed plans and disappointing Summers later, this year I finally got to get my foot on the travel ladder.

I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks of my Summer travelling. It started with a week long holiday in Dubrovnik, Croatia followed by 2 weeks travelling around the East Coast of America.

At the time of writing, it’s been just over a month since I’ve returned home (aww). I’m now back to uni, to an already immensely stressful final year, and the post-holiday depression has truly kicked in. As I’m working (or procrastinating), all I can think about is how much I’d love to be back soaking in the Croatian sun; getting lost in the streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Or how I’d love to be wandering through New York, looking around a city so familiar it’s as though I’ve been there all my life.

This post is for my own memory than anything. A way I can look back on this wonderful Summer, mostly through photos.

      Dubrovnik, Croatia

20170824_105655            Dubrovnik’s Old Town from Fort Lovrijenac (The Red Keep in Game of Thrones !)

20170823_132358                Park Gradac – the scene of GOT’s Purple Wedding (Conveniently located beside our apartment…)         

Top left to right: Coffee on the last day; the Old Town from the City Walls; cobblestoned streets of the Old Town; and the best meal I’ve ever had (? ? it was amazing – prawn, salmon and cream tagliatelle)

America: New York, NY; Providence, RI; Boston, MA

This was the big one – the trip I’ve wanted to do for a looooong time. When I was 10 (10 years ago, jeez) I went to America with my family for 3 weeks. We travelled around the West Coast, beginning in LA. Ever since then I’ve been itching to go back, and now that I’ve been again I already can’t wait to get back!

New York, NY

The trip to New York was probably the most my phone camera has ever been used…

All the tourist stuff, from top left to right: Brooklyn Bridge – as we were staying in Brooklyn, it only seemed right to do the walk across on the first day; A white rose in a name at the One World Trade Centre to mark the deceased’s birthday; The city view from the Empire State building (my fear of heights went nuts); Times Square at night.

Left to right: Building art in Soho; An awkward photo after being bombarded by mascots at Times Square (long story); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or ‘The Met’ if you wanna sound cool and artsy; SHOPPING ! ! in Soho

Left to right: The ‘Friends’ Apartment – unfortunately no sightings of the gang themselves, but insane to be in such a familiar place; A street in Greenwich Village – this was probably my favourite part of New York – such a chilled out district packed full of cafes and record stores; The view from Central Park – a brief visit to the park was the pit stop we needed.

Boston, MA

The two days we spent in Boston were wet and humid, but not miserable. The beauty of the city still managed to somehow shine through. A highlight of our time here was the bus tour we took throughout the city, which brought us over to Cambridge where we visited MIT and Harvard.

Left to right: The walkway beside the Charles River – we visited at the perfect time of year where the leaves on the trees were starting to change; The quad at Harvard University – was such a surreal place to visit.

TL;DR: Jane had a fun Summer where she got to travel to places on her travel bucket list and got too invested in feeling American.

murica               Feelin’ a wee bit patriotic in Mystic, CT.

Dublin: Doughnuts and Vertigo

Dublin is just one of those cities that has its own feel. Its always been a special place for me – just far enough away to feel slightly foreign, but close enough to feel homely. It’s the sort of place I’ll visit whenever I can.

On Saturday, Curt and I travelled 2 hours south to the city to see U2 in Croke Park. (Shameless self-promo incoming: but I reviewed the gig for Queen’s Radio if anyone would like to have a wee nosey). It was the band’s homecoming show on ‘The Joshua Tree’ world tour, where they were playing the album in full. Seeing U2, in Dublin, playing their best album to a 80,000 full Croke Park? One word: amazing.

Anyway, on with the rest of the day. We have a little bit of a tradition going regarding Dublin. We get off the bus or train, and walk across the Liffey right to the Temple Bar district.

Trying not to pose outside Temple Bar

It’s definitely the place to go to get ripped off (tourist zone), but whatever, Dublin in general is pretty over-priced anyway. And it’s easy to forget about the extortionate prices when you’re in such a beautiful place. For those who haven’t been, Temple Bar is a district of central Dublin characterised by cobbled streets that’s teeming with bars and quirky little shops around every corner.

There’s something special about cobblestone streets…

We go to a little bar below a hotel where we stayed on our last visit. We order chicken wings, and stuff our faces. Now, they’re not the most amazing wings in the universe, but after a long journey of being packed together like sardines on a bus, they’re pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, in my excitement I forgot to save a pic of the goods. For shame.

I did remember to save this though, our second favourite thing about Dublin: pints of this beast.

Papa bless this sweet nectar of the gods

A cider we first stumbled upon a few years back and have loved ever since. Also, it’s slowly but surely starting to make its way to bars and off-licenses up North (at last). If you’ve never experienced the drink before, picture this: sweet, sweet apple juice that gets you drunk. It’s kinda like a lighter version of Angry Orchard (an equally amazing cider).

On from Temple Bar, we walked back in the direction of the city centre to go to the Northside for the gig at Croke Park. On our way, however, of course we found a doughnut shop. And how could we resist when the first glimpse we had of it was this?

Doughnuts anyone?

As you can see from the picture, by the time we arrived we were spoiled for choice. The price was pretty decent as well, as each donut was going for €2.50. I decided upon the classic vanilla glaze donut while Curt went all out and got the maple bacon.

Doughnuts + cider = hyper sugar rush

These doughnuts were CRAZY GOOD. The dough itself was sourdough (I totally know the difference this makes for doughnut taste….) and the glaze itself, although sweet, wasn’t too sickly. It definitely provided the kick we needed to keep us going through the long night ahead.

I’ve gotta state here, this was the first time either of us had been to Croke Park, or had even been in a real stadium. And because of that, I don’t really feel like anything could have prepared us for the sheer SIZE of the place.

Don’t look down

Of course, as we are both afraid of heights, our seats were as far away from the stage and basically as high up as we could get. Naturally. This led to a lot of vertigo throughout the night…(bad U2 pun, am I a dad?).

All in all, a great day and night was had. Dublin’s a fabulous place that I’ll probably never get tired of, and somewhere I’d love to explore even further.

If anyone has any recommendations of places to go or things to see in Dublin, please let me know!