Credit Neil Hanna

Take a look back on Future News Worldwide 2018

We streamed key sessions of the conference on Facebook Live. Catch up on them all by following the links below. 

5 July 2018    
09:00, Catherine Gicheru, veteran Kenyan editor, ICFJ Fellow, Country Lead – Code for Kenya
11:20, Lucy Freeman, CEO, Media Legal Defence Initiative

6 July 2018
09:00, Carrie Gracie, BBC News Presenter
11:50, David Pratt, Foreign Correspondent, Herald Scotland

Live blog

We reported live throughout the conference on Twitter and below in our live blog. Big issues under the lens included tech vs trad media, business models for citizen journalism and trust in the digital present. Have a read below for the full low down. 

6 July 2018

Session five: Mary Hockaday, BBC World Service

‘It’s not about age; it’s about the attitude of mind’, says Mary Hockaday as she begins her session on addressing the challenges faced by today’s aspiring journalists. 

There are increasing dangers for reporters across the world. The freedom of the press is being challenged more and more. And, citing the recent shootings of journalists in a US newsroom, Mary notes, ‘we do important work, but many don’t want us to.’

Support is, however, available. International organisations like the UN have the right kind of legislation at their heart. And there are many people around the world who understand the importance of journalism; who get that reporters are part of the social fabric along with politics, government, political culture and society.

On ‘fake news’, Mary says the term is a new gloss on an old thing. We must be precise about it, as there are many types of ‘fake news’; for example, clickbait, propaganda and digital noise. It’s hard to know and decide what is true and what’s not true. And this in turn is causing people to mistrust both online and traditional news

What is the cause of fake news? It is often deliberate confusion, manufactured to deal with digital noise. This leads to panic and confusion among audiences - but this can change if journalists engage in the debate and keep their readers, viewers and listeners involved in what’s going on.

The good news:

  • Subscriptions to big newspapers are up. If we’re talking about money & funding, the battlefront is now at the local level. 
  • Once you have a relationship with your audience you can reduce mistrust. If you are transparent, they will make informed decisions on which news sources they follow, and whether they stick to them.

Turning to what the BBC is doing to help, Mary notes that:

  • They are sticking to their founding principles - those of fairness, objectivity, impartiality and independence.
  • The TV Licence gives the BBC a direct relationship with audiences and is crucial in allowing the corporation to remain independent.
  • They are working hard to provide engaging content and help audiences understand how they’re doing it.

Mary had interesting insights to share on young audiences. Apparently they are not consuming as much as their older counterparts, so the BBC working hard to be more engaging through positive stories. 

For example, BBC World Hacks is an innovative new weekly programme looking at how we can solve the world's problems, and has to date been very successful. 

They are encouraging a variety of different types of reporting, such as podcasts, videos, photo stories. They also have an under 30s, and recently an under 25s, advisory panel.

Turning to those in the room, Mary stressed that they are the future of news. It’s a basic human impulse to want to know what’s going on, to gossip and tell everyone about it. There are a lot of challenges, not least around funding, business models and connecting with audiences.

You may have a brilliant story but if you don’t sell it right you won’t reach the right people. You must stay independent no matter what you do, no matter who you work with. 

So have an independent style of working and stick to it. There is room for all types of journalism, as long as you are transparent with your audience, share your experience and let people know the facts.

The quote of the session was, ‘The only side you should really worry about it whether you’re on the side of your audience’. Closely followed by, ‘Choose your thing, work at it, and learn, learn, learn.’

Saoirse Docherty, British Council

Session four: Yusuf Omar, Hastag Our Stories

Yusuf opens an energetic and iconoclastic presentation with a comment on how many journalism courses in universities are preparing students for an industry that no longer exists. Don’t wait for a news room job; grab your mobile phone and start reporting now! Take your career and your future into your own hands, he declares. 

Yusuf took us through his journey toward co-founding Hashtag Our Stories. He started hitchhiking and documenting stories by himself with his phone, for example going from Durban to Damascus in three months and for under 3,000 dollars.

His big dea is that "reality is the new quality", which follows a belief that emotion has a big role to play in contemporary storytelling. Yusuf says “we are approaching an atmosphere where everything can be taken live, now”.

With video content - the kind all of us can make on our phones - we can be more democratic: “the best journalism is that with the most perspectives”

Yusuf then went into detail on Hashtag Our Stories. Here’s some top lines: 

  • He founded the platform with his wife and it aims to train communities all around the world in digital storytelling by recording and producing videos on their phones.
  • They are most interested in the next billion people to come online, those from developing countries? Their primary input into technology will be video.
  • MOJO: mobile journalism means creating content on mobile devices for mobile devices. The focus is on enabling people to tell their own stories and achieve more authenticity. His motto: motto “audiences are your creators”. Through this philosophy they have trained people in 40 countries
  • The aim is to focus on ‘solution storytelling’; Yusuf says hope and positivity continuously outperforms a focus on negative representations often seen in traditional media.
  • They want to “change the metrics” by building a storytelling network: “the future of news is a god’s eye views of the world”, to actively see what’s happening through hyper mobile video based citizen journalism.

Delegate questions covered the role of traditional media amid the rise of citizen-led digital journalism. Yusuf believes that the role of journalists has become more important, as it is up to them to filter through all the noise. He also thinks traditional media organisation must bring on new talent and allow them the freedom to master their potential for creating great new content. 

Kate Bruene, British Council

Session three: David Pratt, Foreign Correspondent, Herald Scotland

David began by talking about the potential of the young students in the room, mentioning that he had kept in touch with one young alumnus from Zimbabwe, and has since been working with some of his young colleagues in Harare. This young Zimbabwean has just won a scholarship - testament to the calbre of Future News Worldwide participants in the room.

David said that while photography remains his first love, he is a storyteller first and foremost, and is willing to use whatever means he has at his disposal in order to tell the story.

He reflected on his long and varied career as a foreign correspondent at an exciting time for international affairs, which spanned the Cold War period and various conflicts around the world. Obsessed with the famous 1984 portrait, Afghan Girl, he decided to go to Afghanistan for his first serious assignment. In this period before digital technology, he said that the practice of reporting was very different, and recalls the struggles of lugging around large quantities of film. His experience in conflict zones has led him to specialise in war reporting, as well the humanitarian impacts of natural disasters.

For David, “it’s always been about the people on the ground, not the militaristic aspects” of conflict. He reminds his audience that journalism is about people; it’s about engaging with people, becoming intimate with them, and digging beneath the surface of their lives. He said that it’s the micro-detail of human experience that opens up a story, rather than the “broad canvas perspective.”

David runs us through a series of photographic portraits that he took in Mosul, capturing people who have been seriously impacted by the conflict. He admits that it was difficult as an outsider to come to terms with what these people had experienced, but adds that it was important to capture the detail of their experiences, as this illustrated the reality of the conflict. 

He then showed a series of photos of individuals experiencing conflict or natural disaster, ranging from Cambodia, Ukraine and most recently in Syria, which now occupies most of his time. He has worked extensively in Raqqa, Syria, over the last two months, trying to find out what the city was like since it had been ‘liberated’ from Daesh. He provides a frank account of his time shadowing Syrian volunteers in the country, watching them recover bodies after the ‘liberation’, and neutralising suicide belts from deceased members of Daesh. 

The rise of freelancers and staffing issues have changed the face of foreign news reporting today. Access has become harder and costs have become higher; journalists area increasingly targeted and exploited as propaganda tools. However, says David, the need for eyewitness reporting has never changed; in fact, we need it now more than ever, due to the threats posed by fake news and compilation journalism. He says that our generation will face a huge challenge in terms of meeting this demand.

We need journalism to cut through the sandstorm of propaganda, concludes David. It’s a hard calling, but truth matters now more than ever - not least when you have a cacophony of opinions and ideology drowning out the facts. Ultimately, he said, it’s about giving a voice to the voiceless. 

In the Q&A session, David was asked how he manages to cut through the propaganda when he’s on the ground with limited resources, for example in Syria. He admits that it can be hard to see propaganda when it is deeply institutionalised, and says that journalists need to build up the necessary networks and contacts in-country in order to gain a sense of perspective. In the past, he says, it used to be easier to move across front lines and interview both sides, for example in Israel and Palestine, but now, access has become much harder. 

One participants asks David how he approaches vulnerable people and encourages them to tell their stories. David says that often, people want to approach you and you shouldn’t underestimate people’s desire to talk. 

David receives a round of applause when he says that journalism doesn’t always have to be neutral; it is perfectly acceptable for a publication to take a stance on an issue, and some of the best journalism is campaigning. On a personal level, he says: “I cannot ignore the tremendous injustice faced by the Palestinians, and that’s my view. How can you be a journalism and not recognise fundamental injustice?”

Watch David Pratt's session.

Isabellle Younane, British Council

Session two: Donald Martin – Editor in Chief of Newsquest Scotland

In possibly the most interactive session so far, Donald Martin gave delegates the chance to be editors themselves, to decide which photos and stories they would or wouldn’t publish, and why. 

First he distributed the code of practice around the room, handing out a copy to every delegate, before presenting a serious of controversial photos showing public figures in embarrassing situations, and the aftermath of terror attacks and other major tragedies.

With each photo the delegates were asked:

  • Would you publish?
  • Why would you not publish? Or publish?
  • What do you have to consider?

They had to make fast decisions, just like editors do in the newsroom every day.

The session provoked in-depth discussion about the time-sensitive dilemmas journalists face, such as questions of privacy, public interest, cultural sensitivity, sticking to media embargos, fake news, child protection, the importance of incident anniversaries and privacy of social media photos.

Donald also covered the strategies editor can apply to crop or blur sensitive photos.

Delegates ejoyed some robust discussions, adding a further level of real-life mirroring to the newsroom scenario. Donald’s big take away: “the decisions an editor makes in these conversations can make or break a title, its reputation and relationship with its readers.”

Saoirse Docherty, British Council

Session one: Carrie Grace, BBC News Presenter and Former China Editor

Carrie Gracie opens by describing how moved she is to speak to so many young journalists from around the world, adding that engaging with young talent has always been where her heart is. She remembers being a journalist at a young age, adding that while this is a turbulent time for news reporting, the job doesn’t really change: “humans always need storytellers, chroniclers and minstrels.” Journalism will find different forms, but the essence will stay the same.

So what is the essence? “Have a compass, have a map.” The map is our mission to educate, inform and entertain; you need all three in tandem to be an effective journalist. The compass is truth-telling. Trust is the foundation, and there’s no trust without an attempt at telling the truth. She admits that it’s not always possible to get it right, for example in countries such as China where it can be dangerous to speak truth to power. However, if truth-telling is your “magnetic north”, you’ll generally be in the right place. 

Carrie notes that as young journalists, we also face pressures in our own societies and organisations, and it can be even harder to speak truth to power in your own community. She advises the audience to avoid getting “knocked off course” by personal and professional pressures because journalism is both a vocation and a duty. It’s important to at least try to get it right.  

Her final piece of advice is to treat your subjects with respect, and she cites the recent reporting of the gender pay gap issue as a prime example. Carrie stresses that journalists have a responsibility to understand their subject’s perspective; to engage with humanity. Then to tell their story respectfully, which can mean being critical. She concludes by saying that you should model the values of good journalism in your own lives, and this means treating colleagues with respect. This sense of humanity will inevitably shine through in your work.

In the Q&A session, one student asked what advice Carrie would offer to aspiring foreign correspondents. Carrie said that the deepest challenge they face is to translate between cultures, histories and world views. Foreign correspondents should seek to immerse themselves in the local culture, rather than treat the country as “just another stop on your career”. This immersion tends to mean language skills; aspiring foreign correspondents should make learning another language a serious priority. 

In response to a question about the gender pay gap, Carrie admits that this is challenging issue for women, emotionally. She advises the young women in the room to assert their value in a dignified way, rather than rushing to anger. She also recommends that young women retain a sense of history; if you’re being underpaid, you need to remember that it’s not just about you. It has been 100 years since some women won the vote, and we are now “sitting on the shoulders of giants”. We need to have a sense of shared experience across other women, and a sense of solidarity in pushing for further change. 

Watch Carrie Gracie's session.

Isabelle Younane, British Council

5 July 2018

Session one: Catherine Gicheru, ICFJ and Code for Kenya

Catherine opens by introducing Code for Africa, a pan-African Federation which will operate in 12 countries by end of the year. Code for Kenya is one national arm of this – they are a young, small and dynamic team, focused on story-telling.

She says that the media’s role has always been as a watchdog, but it now needs to go beyond that. We need to think about what we can do to mobilise our audience to hold political leaders to account; to equip them to take action.

But there is also the problem of too much information, and of misinformation. As audiences, we don’t always know how to identify ‘fake news’. Journalists have a responsibility to inform, and to be heard above the swathes of misinformation currently available in the public sphere.

Now, citizens are not just audiences – they are part of the news cycle. Journalists can ask audiences to provide them with information on the ground, e.g. during an election in Ghana, or in the aftermath of a Tsunami. Journalists rely on their audiences for content, but we must still be judicious about which information to use.

There is still a lack of women journalists, particularly in Kenya. Women need to force themselves into the newsroom because we tell stories that men often don’t think are important. The question is: how do we make women’s stories appear on the front page? Stories about health and lifestyle, commonly branded ‘women’s issues’, are important because they are about communities – they matter to everyday people, and therefore belong on the front page.

‘Big data’ stories are still important, but they need to be humanised. It falls to journalists to help people understand how ‘big data’ work and why it matters, for example relating Government budgets stories to individuals and their lives. Imagine if you were able to break down the budget to a single person on the ground. Imagine what a community activist would be able to do with such information.

Delegates asked Catherine about covering “tough news stories”, for example those on racism and sexual abuse, and how to cover “hard news”, which requires objectivity and facts. Catherine said that journalists need to ensure that their audiences don’t become numb to tough stories, but rather feel empowered to effect change. She said that all stories, ‘hard’ or otherwise, are ultimately about human beings, and it’s a journalist’s responsibility to draw out the real-life implications.

Isabelle Younane, British Council

Session two: Melissa Bell, Vox Media

Melissa introduces Vox Media as the fastest growing modern media company in the US, now with in an international presence. It seeks to provide a multimedia, multi-platform experience for young audiences who want to approach media in a different way, for example through podcasts, live events and documentaries such as the recent Netflix series, ‘Explained’.

Melissa talks about her background – her career began in law school, when her experience of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan, and the political aftermath, motivated her to shed light on the complex, often messy reality of national and international politics. She spent five years pursuing a career in journalism, before working at the Washington Post.

She admitted that while Vox is proud of the work that it does, she doesn’t feel like she has succeeded in ‘fixing’ the news. Misinformation and fake news run rampant, and there is no clear solution for how to tackle this.

She identified four ‘WTF problems’ with the current media environment:

1. Everything is entertainment

Over time, 24 hour news has inundated people with information, keeping people in a constant state of panic. This fed a belief that news should be exciting and addictive.

2. No one knows the worth of our work (including us)

Journalists should understand their own business models. It’s important they recognise the value of their work, and charge for it accordingly – either via advertising or by charging their audiences via subscriptions.

3. No one trusts us anymore

The number of people who trust the news is declining. We need to face the reality that a lot of people don’t think we’re doing a good job.

4. We have intimacy issues, especially with our audiences

When the Internet came into existence, journalists failed to come together and agree on basic standards of reporting. Journalists are often too focused on competing with other, rather than trying to please their audiences.

So what works? Melissa identified the following:

  1. Be interesting, not entertaining
  2. Know your worth and your purpose.
  3. Work with and for your audience
  4. Foster experimentation
  5. Always ask questions
  6. Try to be a little better every day

Watch Catherine Gicheru's session.

Isabelle Younane, British Council

Session three: Lucy Freeman, CEO, Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)

Lucy introduces MLDI, saying it provides legal advice in 52 counties around the world and seeks to protect journalists and defend their critical role in holding power to account.

The first and most important step is to assess all risks you might encounter when publishing a story; consider the preventive vs the reactive acts when it comes to powers trying to restrict your publishing rights. Consider the following:

  • Risk assessment in terms of your legal, physical, mental and digital capabilities
  • What are the broader protocols of your safety?
  • What are your individual, personal risks (e.g. journalists with a indigenous background, harassment of female journalists etc)?

Relationships are key: networks provide not only the opportunity to share and reflect on your experiences but to make shared use of strategies. So try to have a line of communication with those who are believed to be behind the threats and share stories across networks to reduce personal risk.

Lucy gives a snapshot of 2017: 27 cases of journalists charged with criminal defamation in 11 countries, plus 29 criminal defamation cases and 28 detention cases.

The online space now requires increasing media defence. MLDI worked with 54 cases in 2017, as compared to 42 in 2016. In many cases, the traditional media laws are simply applied to the digital sphere, which is problematic as there are fewer protections in law for a tweet than in articles.

Internet shutdowns on the increase: once a country shuts down, they tend to repeat especially in the run up to elections. Freedom of expression, unlike other laws, is not as much of a binary ok/not ok decision. If you restrict a journalist ability to inform, the right of freedom of expression is not being upheld.

Lucy next moved to discussing cases of violence and torture, and physical and administrative restrictions faced by journalists. On the whole it is usually not advisable for the state to restrict, however this can occur in certain scenarios, such as the criminalisation of speech when it becomes hate speech or matters of state security.

Delegate questions included:

“Can we actually hold the governments accountable when governments kidnap?"

Lucy suggested that if you suspect the state to be behind a kidnapping, make use of due diligence in front of court, for exammple by saying the journalist is missing and it is the state’s responsibility to investigate.

"What would you advise young journalists in terms of finding the balance between right to freedom of expression and right to privacy?"

Lucy said to do the initial piece of work about how your own courts in your countries have drawn lines and the potential role of international courts too. The important thing is balance, to work out when a restriction is necessary and proportionate. A key principle is: public figures, in politics and the media, have a much higher threshold, so the right of privacy for those figures is reduced. 

Watch Lucy Freeman's session.

Kate Bruene, British Council

Workshop with Matt Cooke, Google News Lab

‘Story first; technology second. If tech enhances your story, gives it a new angle or new approach that’s great. If tech gets in the way of a story, ask yourself why you’re bothering.’, Matt Cooke. 

Matt starts by briefly introducing his own career, from the Guardian to the BBC and now to Google News Lab. The rest of the workshop is packed with information, hints and tips for journalists wishing to make the most of Google’s technology.

According to Matt, Google cares about high quality news because the future of the company is interlinked with the journalism industry. The company want users to find trustworthy, high quality journalism from their searches. They believe it is the role of tech companies to try to find solutions to the continuing problem of a journalism business model in order for the industry to thrive. 

Google News Initiative works with publishers and news organisations to empower them through technological innovation and to teach them the use of different and innovative tech tools. They want to provide the future tools for journalism and do so in a human way, working directly with journalists to train them and overcome challenges.

Matt gave us an impressive list of Google software and explained its potential as tools for journalism, for example:  

  • the Google News Training site with its guides on best practice, mobile journalism and data security; Google Advanced Search, Google Scholar and Public Data. 
  • There’s a big focus on the move from desktop to mobile, happening at different rates across the world.

The second part of the workshop focused on the verification of photos and videos:

  • Matt highlights that no technology can replace your own analysis, view and opinion of content.
  • Lists and explains verification software, such as Reverse Google Search and TinEye.com, Amnesty International YouTube data viewer and video analysis tech.
  • Archive.org which allows you to date back websites & see coverage from previous years.

The third section of the workshop focused on the use of maps: 

  • The use and potential of Google Maps/Earth for journalism.
  • Highlights Elliot Higgins, an investigative journalist who uses SunCalc to verify photos & videos against maps & sun direction.
  • Takes us through a short tutorial of Google My Maps & explains the different ways journalists use maps to tell stories, or add different aspects to a story. For example, CTV in Canada used My Maps to plot the flight of MH17. And a company in Berlin plotted an interactive bus route linked with demographic information to tell a story of the city.
  • With My Maps you can create interactive maps for readers to tell a better story, provide more information, or plot photo maps across a country.
  • Introduced Google Pro - worldwide satellite imagery that’s free to journalists to use and download as they wish.

Matt finished the workshop by letting us know that we can get support from the Google News Lab.

Saoirse Docherty, British Council

Workshop with Sian Cox-Brooker, Facebook Strategic Partnerships Manager

Sian introduced the Facebook Journalism Project, the platform’s framework for engaging with the news industry. The team works on product development to help journalists do their jobs; and help audiences interact with and understand the news.

There are sveral core functions of the Project that young journalists can start using straight away. Building a brand is the foundation stone. Story telling comes next and you should follow four rules to make your content sing:

  1. be timely
  2. be relevant
  3. be conversational 
  4. be authentic

For example Bob Herzog, a US newsreader, broadcasts live videos from his phone while he’s getting his make-up done, to give a behind-the-scenes view.

Facebook groups are great for engaging audiences and telling their stories. Join them to connect with people and get the pulse of what communities care about. Focus on your beat - so if you are interested in women’s rights, join groups where people are discussing that issue.

Sian covered some other Facebook tools, such as Crowdtangle, an open analytics platform that journalists can use for news gathering and gaining insights on how their stories are being received by audiences.

Facebook Live is transforming the way we do storytelling. Anyone can start broadcasting from anywhere – all you need is a smartphone and a story. Going live is especially good for telling stories in interesting and innovative ways, with examples given from the New York Times and IGTV, which launched just 10 days ago, to show delegates how they can use the platform. 

Facebook is also looking into how it can work with breaking news and help publishers gain subscriptions to their content. Finally, Sian spoke about Facebook’s work on integrity, which is a major focus given the high profile of fake news in the current media landscape. Their approach has three broad aims:

  1. remove content
  2. reduce the spread of malicious content
  3. inform audiences on how to spot news that is not high quality

Sian said there was no easy solution but stressed the importance of working hard to try and deal with the issues.

Jordan Ogg, British Council

Carrie Gracie ©

Credit Neil Hanna

Lucy Freeman ©

Credit Neil Hanna

Catherine Gicheru ©

Credit: Neil Hanna

See also