Student Media Summit 2014: Day Two

Bleary eyed and a little windswept, I arrived at the Amnesty building on Friday morning raring to go for the second day of the, so far, brilliant summit. Despite having a hectic journey into London due to industrial strike action and the standard rush hour commute, I was excited for the day to commence.

Newsnight's Emily Maitlis.  Image courtesy of @rima246 (Twitter)

Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis.
Image courtesy of @rima246 (Twitter)

Alex MacDonald, National Union of Journalists

After another warm welcome from the folks at Amnesty we were swept into the Auditorium for a ‘Welcome to Friday’ talk by Naill Couper (Head of Media, PR and Supporter Care at Amnesty). Niall filled us in on the day’s agenda which promised: two very valuable keynote speakers (Evan Davis & Stacey Dooley), another round of industry led workshops, a networking session, a press conference on Surveillance, and numerous cups of tea.

The first session I attended was one on Journalism Ethics, given by Alex MacDonald from the NUJ. I picked this particular workshop over ‘Photography’ and ‘Investigative Journalism’ meetings since I wanted a gentle introduction to ethical journalism law in preparation for starting my MA at City.

Alex explained how the NUJ aims to protect journalists in sticky situations when employers have unfairly treated them. The trade union also offers a number of benefits to student journalists, bloggers, photographers and camera personnel. The main offer that made joining the Union sound appealing was the student press card, which, whilst not as powerful as a journalist’s press card, still has its benefits. The student press card can get you into local gigs as press or onto the frontline of riots. It can even save you if you get caught up in a police kettle.

However the main advice Alex gave in his session, related to student media. He emphasised how much we ought to make the most of the freedom student media allows us to have. You can shout and scream, and hold people to account. This freedom, he says, isn’t always granted to real life working journalists.

This seeming lack of freedom Alex spoke of, reminded me of what The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan said to us on Day One of the Summit: ‘Blogs are useful for saying things you can’t say in a newspaper’.

Evan Davis, BBC

Legendary presenter, Evan Davis, led the next session. His personality and funny anecdotes had the audience enthralled. He spoke about his journey from economics graduate, to Economics Editor at the BBC, to stepping outside his comfort zone and becoming a presenter.

Evan gave us boundless advice, but the biggest piece of guidance I took away from the talk was the importance of finding your niche. Evan truly values his economic background, it gives him the ability to approach interview topics from an unusual angle. While many presenters would be out of their depth in economics, Evan takes to the subject like duck to water.

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BBC Newsnight’s Evan Davis

Evan advised us to have something other than journalism that we were passionate about – mostly so that we have a back up option if our journo careers fall through! I learnt that your passion can be turned into your specialism when working in the industry. Evan told us to become an expert in our chosen field – to live it, breathe it and consume it everyday.

Evan also opened up about his new role on Newsnight. Ever since the BBC announced Evan was due to fill the shoes of Jeremy Paxman, the whole country has been buzzing with gossip and excitement. Will Evan be as controversial as Paxman? Will his interviews engage viewers? Will he be able to make the smooth transition from Radio 4 to primetime television? And more importantly, will Evan wear a tie?

Evan more than proved his aptitude for the role in my opinion. I’m so excited to see how he will shape the show after Paxman’s 25-year stint in the job. Suddenly, of course, the tabloids have taken a severe interest in his life. Evan described the oddity of seeing photos of him walking the dog in the paper the day after it was announced he’d become Paxman’s replacement. But he takes it in his stride and acknowledges that this attention comes with the job.

Jordan Jarrett Bryan, Channel 4 News

My last session of the day was on ‘Sports Journalism’ with Channel 4 News Sports Reporter, Jordan Jarrett Bryan. I chose this workshop over ‘Showbiz Journalism’ and ‘Reporting Overseas’ because I know that female journalists in sport news are scarce. Especially, ethnic minority female sports reporters.

I’ve always loved watching sport – Football, American Football and Tennis in particular. Playing sport however is not my forte! Jordan was particularly kind and helpful. He obliged the small group of us by offering genuine heartfelt advice and pearls of wisdom that could help us break into the competitive industry. Much like Evan, Jordan explained that finding your own unique angle on a story would make your average sports report unusual and different to the generic ‘match analysis’ shows that are out there.

Jordan suggested using your differences to your advantage. So turn what some people might think as your ‘weaknesses’, into strengths. He told me to use the female perspective and viewpoint of an ethnic minority to create more interesting reports on sporting issues. His advice definitely got me thinking about the way I write articles and how to pitch my ideas to employers. I’ve already begun to think about the lack of Asian’s in football and the significant lack of women’s sport that’s shown on television. England Women’s Rugby team won the World Cup last week – why was this news not given the hype and attention it deserved? Food for thought I think.

Press conference on 'Surveillance' - Foucault anyone?

Press conference on ‘Surveillance’ – Foucault anyone?

Stacey Dooley, Investigative Journalist

Finally, to wrap up the Summit, the final keynote speaker to grace the auditorium was investigative journalist and all-round inspirational woman, Stacey Dooley. Young, fun and empathetic – Stacey is just real. She’s a born and bred Luton-er and I don’t think she’ll ever forget her roots. She seemed to me like she’ll forever be grounded!

Stacey Dooley, Documentary gal.

Stacey Dooley & Amnesty’s Press Officer Eulette Ewart

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve watched every single one of her documentaries. ‘Sex trafficking in Cambodia’. ‘Tourism and Truth in Kenya’. ‘Cocaine Capital of the World’. ‘Crime, Carnage and Cancun’. Everything – even her most recent features that aired last month on homelessness in Detroit and the insight into the lives of two young girls in America who were giving up their babies for open adoption.

I have always admired Stacey’s impeccable ability to be: heartfelt, compassionate and sincere, yet also firm and composed when interviewing her case studies. Her balance of personal and professional is spot on in my opinion. I think that her craft and technique is a reflection of her personality, as she was equally as warm and friendly towards us young, aspirational journalists.

Stacey spoke on a variety of issues. In particular, she voiced her disappoint over the BBC’s decision to shut down BBC Three, and also declared the effect her documentary on sweatshops has had on her shopping habits. Also, Stacey further discussed how she’s continued to build relationships with the people she’s interviewed in the past.

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However the final and most poignant point Stacey spoke on was the importance of ‘girl solidarity’. I’m going to finish off on this concept because I’ve always felt very passionate about female empowerment and the significance of ‘girls for girls’. Helping other women like ourselves, building them up and not tearing them down is important to me. Stacey was also a strong advocate for this ideal. She ended the session by sharing with us her thoughts on female empowerment and competition amongst girls in the industry.

It is here that the Summit came to an end for another year. I have learnt so much, and have met some wonderful people these past couple of days. I must thank the NUS and Amnesty International UK for hosting another great conference, which was both inspirational, and a pleasure to attend.

If you’re in student media and want to go into the media industry –I urge you to attend this summit. The opportunity is once in a lifetime, and can open doors for future employment, provide tips for work experience and advice from industry mentors.

A x

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