Festival of News: Because Journalism Matters
On Thursday 9 June, The Publishing Show team attended The Festival of News run by Newsworks UK. The event, held at The British Library, brought together stakeholders in news journalism to consider the future of the industry, discuss why journalism matters and celebrate the work of established and new-generation journalists.
Hosted by Cathy Newman, a broadcaster and journalist, the day kicked off with a discussion on the current challenges in news journalism. The panel members were Alison Phillips (Mirror), Victoria Newton (The Sun), and Charlotte Ross (Evening Standard). The Editors discussed how they use audience engagement to gauge the news stories to cover. A key discussion point was whether people were still interested in the ‘partygate’ saga or if it was a media obsession. A quick audience poll suggested that, yes, we still want answers!
A prominent takeaway was the high-consequence decisions these Editors-in-Chief make daily. They deal with the wrath of lawyers threatening to sue, tackle new privacy constraints and decide whether to face potential risks to provide the public with the truth. Should everyone be treated as innocent until proven guilty? Do we deserve to know the names of high-profile individuals under police investigation?
Next up was a panel discussion about why news journalism is important to advertisers. News outlets provide advertisers with the opportunity to reach a large audience with targeted campaigns that connect with the stories covered. The revenue from advertising is crucial to support trusted, quality journalism.
The following sessions were celebratory in tone. For the first time, the news industry worked together to rally support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Barclay (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Downing Street Chief of Staff and Member of Parliament for North East Cambridgeshire) and Jo Allan (Newsworks CEO) discussed how the Government and Newsworks worked in collaboration to provide essential messaging to the mainstream.
Campaigns achieved by journalists were then highlighted including the Windrush scandal, awareness of medication to support cystic fibrosis patients and supplying pupils with laptops during the pandemic. Whilst the panel didn’t agree they went into journalism to change the world, there was a mutual agreement that they are driven by the purpose of ‘doing the right thing’.
The next session put the new generation of journalists into the spotlight. The inspiring journalists shared how they broke into the industry. A common theme was an element of luck – highlighting the ongoing challenge of young people getting the experience they need to pursue a career in journalism.
A networking lunch was followed by an entertaining debate between Andrew Pierce (Daily Mail) and Kevin Maguire (Mirror), expertly pressed by Julia Hartley-Brewer (TalkRadio). Key topics included whether Boris would last as PM and who his replacement would be, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the future of the Monarchy. With polar opposite views, it was a lively session to beat the post-lunch slump.
Another challenge highlighted during the day was the ongoing need for diversity. Whilst sports journalism has advanced significantly, there is still work to be done to make the coverage of women’s sports equal to the exposure received by its male counterpart. Whilst male footballers are in the spotlight, there was a discussion on the shocking racism the England squad receive. As perfectly explained by Darren Lewis (Mirror), we cannot have true diversity until we have newsrooms filled with people who truly understand the issues being faced.
What became clear from the event was that news journalism continues to adapt. Whether it’s utilising Tik-Tok to provide ‘behind the scenes’ style news, utilising data to make informed decisions or campaigning for the greater good – news journalism is changing to meet the demands of the public.
Journalism matters because it provides a voice to people who would otherwise be unheard. Journalism matters because it raises awareness of important causes. Journalism matters because it holds power to account. Journalism matters for so many reasons – why does it matter to you?