Future News Worldwide (FNW), an international summit organised by the British Council, opened its doors last week to its best 100 young media makers from all over the world.
The competition in the run-up to the two-day long conference was tough: over 3,000
applicants expressed their interest in attending this event, which was joined by prestigious journalists such as Jon Snow and Christina Lamb and held at the Reuters UK headquarters in Canary Wharf. The prize for the selected winners consisted of accommodation, meals and transport to and from London.
The first day of the conference saw Reuters, NDTV and The Sunday Times industry representatives give insights into complex issues such as bias and truth.
It was opened by Nick Tattersall, Managing News Editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Thomson Reuters. He spoke about the noise created by technology with an increasingly fast-paced access to information, and how this can represent both a challenge and an opportunity. In the process of filtering all the background noise out to reach the essential, he expressed his belief that a high premium is placed on unbiased information:
‘Responsible journalism practised without fear and without bias has never been more
important. I think in the era of fake news and disinformation, it also brings home just how much physical, intellectual, logistical and emotional effort goes into accurate and unbiased journalism.’
The young media makers were keen to ask questions from the very first speaker, which led Nick Tattersall to speak about the importance of having a variety of voices in the newsroom:
‘It is very healthy in a newsroom to have a variety of opinions and to debate on how and
why to cover something.’
The second speaker, Sreenivasan Jain, Managing Editor for the New Delhi Television (NDTV), spoke about the challenges faced by journalists who do their job, that of ‘exposing wrongdoing’. He also talked about how the public can become more engaged:
‘Defending power seems to sell more. I think there is a challenge on those of us who are
trying to speak the truth, to make truth more compelling, more relatable. We need to find a way to make people feel like they have a stake. If we start to feel pressure, then they will as well. Making that link is important, it is definitely something we should all think about going forward.’
The last journalist of the conference day was Christina Lamb, Chief Correspondent for The Sunday Times. She talked about last year’s worrying increase in violence against journalists across the world:
‘It’s not just happening in censorship, it’s happening in India and Brazil, some of the world’s biggest democracies, and a large number of these crimes go unpunished. We have seen a decline in media freedom, which I think is very worrying and journalism plays a huge role in society. You can’t take freedom of press for granted, you can’t take democracy for granted. We all need to step up our game. I think foreign correspondents and journalists are playing a vital role in society.’
Christina Lamb also tackled the subject of ‘truth’ and the challenges related to it: ‘People
seem to have different versions of truth, some people don’t accept facts. When you have
leaders of the free world lying and accusing journalists of being enemies of the state, it
makes it very difficult.’
The first conference day successfully finished with a networking dinner on the River Thames, where Jon Snow was the guest speaker.
Talking about his background and how it influenced his world and professional vision, Jon Snow said that he was very musical, his mother was a pianist and when he was very young he was chosen to be a choir boy, so music ‘informed’ him: ‘There is my starting point’, he said, ‘Music. I wasn’t very bright at school, I didn’t get very good exam results and I couldn’t go to university. So I decided I would volunteer with an organisation called VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). I was lucky enough to be sent to Uganda and to this day I can still sing the Ugandan national anthem.’ He then sang it to the audience and received rhythmic claps in response.
Jon Snow then proceeded by saying: ‘Music, Africa, development, education, all came
together in the space of a year. Things happen to you along the line which you must never forget. It might be the death of a parent, it might be the birth of a child, it might be
anything, but these things are things which inform who you are and how you see the world.
‘Be true to how you see the world. Be true to yourself. Never find yourself being persuaded by some proprietor of a news service to pursue something in a way that disagrees with the way you are. You must stand up for who you are and what you believe in.’
He also added: ‘Although we are completely neutral, you have to accept what your views
are and set them off a little against what you are being told or what you’re learning.
Somehow you have to come out with a balance in which you are being true to what you
believe in, true to the way you are.’