JournoFest 2024: How to succeed in today’s changing media landscape panel

This year’s final JournoFest panel discussed how to really succeed in today’s ever-changing media landscape.

Our ‘How to succeed in today’s changing media landscape’ panel at JournoFest 2024, L-R, Dominic Ponsford, Eve Bennett, James Smith, Manuela Brown and Jacqueline Shepherd

JournoFest brings together News Associates and The School of Journalism trainees for a day-long festival of high-profile speakers and special guests from the media industry.

Our trainees heard from Press Gazette editor in chief Dominic Ponsford, Sky News TV producer Eve Bennett, Nub News head of content James Smith, freelance TV and radio journalist Jacqueline Shepherd, and Sky News social media producer Manuela Brown.

Here trainees Lara Bowman and Ina Pace share what they learnt from the panel…

The panel explored the impact of AI, the need for tenacity and self promotion in freelance work and the importance of social media.

Ponsford weighed in on the impact of AI on the industry which are widely feared to make many jobs in journalism redundant.

Ponsford said: “AI will transform things at a macro level because it can be an amazing digital assistant.

“So for sure, familiarise yourself with AI as a tool – but bear in mind that AI will never replace human interaction or pitching an interesting story.”

“The journalists who are currently rewriting press releases will find things tough.”

Bennett said young journalists need to prove to their editors that they aren’t a one-trick pony.

She said it’s becoming common to move between jobs and organisations with careers and work becoming less linear.

Brown spoke of the importance of social media within newsrooms. She described it as an instant feedback loop that allows broadcasters to adapt to what works for their audience from TikTok to WhatsApp or Facebook.

Agility on various platforms is increasingly vital with the growth of journalists creating their own personal brand. Many journalists for instance develop personal readerships on sites such as Substack.

Bennett said: “It can pay for your pint at the pub at least. There’s no harm in having extra work to put fingers in different pies.”

Shepherd stressed the importance resilience and organisation.

She said: “You have to be built for freelance work, to have the nerve, because your projects vary every few weeks. 

“It’s about having the strength of conviction to keep moving.”

When asked how she managed freelance work financially she advised not to go freelance off the bat when you haven’t established a reputation.

Ponsford added: “I wouldn’t suggest freelance work straight off the back for those starting out – pay is not great and is often slow. 

“Freelancing is partly a sales job, it’s about persistence, you have to contact people again and again.”

Bennett added that while she appreciates the stability of staff contracts, unusual and anti-social hours can have an impact on work-life balance.

The panel collectively suggested to always try and keep on top of your shorthand and listen to the news as much as possible, and be receptive to all opportunities.

Above all, they advised that your role as a journalist is to provide information, so you don’t necessarily need to be striving to be clever for the sake of entertainment, use your transferable skills to inform.

Smith said that quality local news was one of the few areas of growth in the industry and that they were actively hiring.

They also stressed that you should go into the industry knowing why you want to do it as it can be challenging but extremely rewarding. 

You can read all the highlights and top tips from JournoFest 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 here.