Aspiring young journalists gathered at the London School of Economics on Saturday, for the London Globalist’s inaugural ‘Journalism in Action Conference 2014’. A refreshing break from student life, the event promised a programme of notable speakers and work-shops with journalists from The Economist to Al Jeezera. The London Globalist Society, led by third year economics student Katy Young, is a student led international affairs publications working under the Global 21 network of societies based at top universities from across the world. This year the society expanded its venture from a magazine and online blog, to its first conference for members, providing both an insider account of journalism and practical career advice.
Steve Bloomfield, Foreign Editor of Monocle, commenced the morning by celebrating that ‘there has never been a better time to be a journalist’. In our globalized era, the curiosity of readers who want to know about the world around them has created a market for adventurous independent publications. A thriving international franchise, Monocle discusses global affairs via a medium of online blogs, a magazine, radio station and shops located in cities magazine across the globe.
Bloomfield offered an insight into the popularity of the global media brand; success he attributed to investing in writers, interacting with readers and adventurous risk taking. Although acknowledging the increasing difficulty of entering the profession, the editor’s advice for those wishing to become foreign correspondents was to ‘pick a country and go there’. As an alternative way to launch a career, e-mail and pitch to all the foreign editors you can find and take the risk of immersing yourself in writing in a foreign country for six months.
Teresa Tang of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation then went on to discuss the problems and opportunities of the increasing role of ‘social media’ in journalism today. The LSE PhD student questioned the changing nature of ‘networked journalism’ and presented an analogy of how the news room has been transformed into ‘a national conversation’. With the inevitable rise of the ‘Twittersphere’, the use of social media to communicate with a new demographic may seemingly bring endless benefits. However, Tang also importantly highlighted the problems broadcasters faced when interacting with the public of authenticity, accessibility and agenda setting.
The Globalist interacted with the delegates and speakers throughout the conference via a stream of live Tweets. Positive reviews were received from the LSE Academic Chair @dreallamcphereson who thanked the society for ‘a fascinating #journalisminacion conference’ whilst @AnaamAfridi remarked ‘long chat with the Economist editor Edward Lucas about ‘criminal’ Snowden…#lovelse’.
Edward Lucas, Energy Editor for the Economist also presented a series of workshops on the ‘Dark Arts of Journalism’. A wealth of experience and a brutally honest approach gave an intriguing insight into the realities of the profession. Memorable pieces of advice on gaining sources included how pretending to write a book can be a licence to ask questions and the importance of always being ‘super punctual’ to appointments as 15 minutes with the secretary can be well invested time in gathering information. A combination of anecdotes and expertise enlightened his guidelines, from avoiding the dreaded words ‘interview’ and ‘journalist’ and justifying asking for an interviewee’s phone number in a bid to avoid the press officer. The ‘Dark Arts of Journalism’ was extremely useful session and brought questions and lunchtime debates among the delegates about the morality of journalism.
Lucas’ afternoon workshop focused on a framework of advice for developing an ‘Economist’ style of writing. For a delegation of students without 10,000 hours of writing experience, his ‘checklist’ for concise journalism was both pragmatic and insightful. The LSE Alumni spoke about structuring a coherent article and explaining the difference between a ‘drop lede’, ‘nutgraph’ and ‘kicker’. Informing the delegates about the Economist’s golden rule of ‘making complex things simple and boring things interesting’ the Editor also stressed the paramount importance of gaining a reputation for reliability as a journalist. All in the room benefited from Lucas’ wealth of knowledge, greatly appreciating his indisputable journalistic counsel.
The penultimate speakers Andrew Weir, Deputy Editor of Africa Confidential and Nizar Manek commented on the risks for Foreign Correspondents in the world’s most volatile continent. Africa Confidential has for 50 years provided an in-depth analysis of the relationships between power and politics across the continent. Weir highlighted the importance of investigative journalism in predicting and understanding political events. Whilst Manek, a LSE graduate who had recently been forced to leave Cairo, spoke passionately about his recent articles on Egypt and the problems of security he has faced whilst writing abroad. In response to questions from the audience about how to succeed as an intern, Manek and Weir advised to constantly ‘be a pest’ as it is only through tenacity and enthusiasm that a wealth of experiences can be gained.
Ending the day’s events Barbara Serra took to the stage with an inspiring awe of professionalism; her extensive broadcasting experience ensured she captured the room. Serra currently works at Al Jeezera, an international news network which she believes already threatens both the BBC and CNN. Providing an insight into the world of television, Serra emphasized the significance of being well-informed and well-read as a journalist. As an anchor one must know a ‘little about everything’, with the likelihood of having to ‘ad-lib’ in front of the camera it is not always possible to rely on the get out of jail card of ‘bring us up to date’. Whilst it is true inherent determination is needed to succeed in the world of television, Serra like Bloomfield concluded that due to the expansion of so many news channels across the globe there has ‘never been a better time to be a journalist’.
The Conference was a compelling day of advice and lively discussion from all perspectives of ‘Journalism in Action’. Concluding remarks praised Events Officer Anthony Adams and the society for organising the conference which inspired the next generation of London journalist. The London Globalist- we are already looking forward to the next event