Photo source: Frank Noon
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 second day of the conference saw industry representatives from HuffPost UK, BBC Africa Eye, Newsquest Scotland and Myanmar-based publications. They discussed key journalism issues, such as diversity in newsrooms, lack of pay and press freedom.
The first journalist to speak brought a lot of amusement in the audience. Nadine White, News Reporter at HuffPost UK, balanced the audience’s smiles with some important discussions, the main one being diversity in newsrooms.
She said: ‘I realised that the community I was in wasn’t represented in the media. That is the main reason I decided to get into the media. The news should represent all people, it shouldn’t just represent a group of people.’
Nadine also talked about the benefits of being from a different background to the majority of the society, saying that it is what allows her to ‘bring unique perspectives to the newsroom’.
She added that earlier on in her career, she freelanced for a few small publications, ‘the operative word being “free”‘, and that she started getting paid while working for The Voice Newspaper because ‘one of the editors actually used their conscience and said, “you’ve been working for us for a while, here is some money”‘.
Nadine’s insightful yet light-hearted discussion was followed by an interactive media law and ethics-focused debate with Donald Martin, Editor-in-Chief at Newsquest Scotland. He presented various scenarios in which, as an editor, one had to choose in real life, against time pressures, whether to publish certain photographs and information. The young journalists were encouraged to make quick decisions on the matters and justify their reasoning.
This intense exchange of ideas was followed by a challenging presentation of technology-driven investigative journalism, which was done by Aliaume Leroy and Benjamin Strick from BBC Africa Eye.
Yet the learning did not stop here, with some strong life lessons being shared by the last speaker of the conference. Sonny Swe, Founder and CEO of Frontier Myanmar and The Myanmar Times, talked about his eight-and-a-half-year imprisonment which started in 2004. He was ‘having a great time, flying high, and suddenly everything was gone’ after being convicted because of censorship regulations.
Speaking of the day he was arrested, he said: ‘They took me from the police station to the prison and on my way to prison I met three people: my sister, one of my very close friends and my childhood friend, coming from the other direction. And I thought, “I will probably never see these people again, I will probably die.” They took me inside the prison and the first thing they did was to throw me inside and shut the door. They only let me out 15 minutes a day.’
Although he lost his family, marriage, publication, bank accounts and house, and his ‘hopes and dreams’, he learned an important lesson that he shared with the young media makers: ‘Your mental strength is way more important than your physical strength.’
He added: ‘A lot of people will say “don’t be a journalist, you’re going to be arrested.” We need people like you, because if we don’t have people like you, how can we defend our country?’
The conference days also included talks from companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network, as well as visits to international newsrooms, such as the BBC and ITN/Channel 4.