JournoFest 2022: Thriving in a digital landscape

The JournoFest panel ‘Thriving in a digital landscape: telling stories with a difference’ explored the benefits of new technologies and changing consumption habits in journalism, writes London part-time trainee Charlotte Banks.

Digital technologies have often been lamented as harmful for quality journalism, as print sales have declined and social media has allowed misinformation to spread.

However, the final panel of JournoFest took a different route, emphasising how new technology is making the industry a really exciting place to be. 

The night was hosted by BBC broadcast journalist (and News Associates alumna!) Jacqueline Shepherd, and featured a panel who were involved in digital media from all angles.

The panel included the BBC’s Mark Blank-Settle, who witnessed the first attempts at the BBC to make the leap into digital using a (god forbid) Nokia, and Kesewaa Browne, a self-described Gen-Z ‘digital native’.

MyLondon editorial director Liz Hazelton and Mail+ head of digital Daisy Wyatt brought valuable perspectives on innovating to reach and grow digital audiences.

All the panellists stressed the opportunities of working with new technologies to update the storytelling tools journalists have available to them.

One of the key takeaways, especially for an audience of trainees trying to break into the industry, is how accessible it has become to learn the skills that make quality journalists.

15 years ago, it would have been difficult and expensive for a young reporter to learn how to use sophisticated cameras for film and photography. Today, the only tool today’s aspiring journalists need to make quality news content is something they’ve likely been using their whole life: their mobile phone.

This breaks down traditional obstacles to reporting, allowing journalists to report from anywhere, at any time.

Blank-Settle illustrated the point: if a fire breaks out, by the time a camera crew gets to the scene they can only capture the aftermath. With a mobile phone, journalists can inform the world about what’s happening, while it’s happening.

Another source of excitement from the panellists was about how journalists have been able to tell stories effectively in different forms.

Although Blank-Settle stressed that the fundamentals of story-telling remain the same, journalists have found innovative ways to use audio, video and tweets to capture imaginations.

TikTok presents even more ways of telling stories and bringing news to a younger generation. As Browne puts it: “It’s not just a dancing app.”

She cited a new trend of TikTok accounts popping up to combat misinformation.

Hazelton pointed out that with there being so many accessible forms of storytelling, it can be harder for traditional publications to attract attention.

On the other hand, social media has allowed her publication to reach wider audiences. Surprisingly, very few people visit news websites directly – most come across a story on Facebook and Twitter and click through to the rest of the site. 

By the end of the event, trainees had been given plenty of food for thought about how we might make the most of the opportunities to push our journalism further.

Thriving in a digital landscape: telling stories with a difference’ was the final panel in a week of captivating events. Read about the full JournoFest line-up here.

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