XCity 2019

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For journalism alumni of City, University of London

Changing the face of journalism

Charlie BrinkhurstCuff

Infiltrating the online underworld

Exclusive Tony Hall

Decca Aitkenhead

Food critic fridge confessions

Africa’s fake news crisis

A letter from the editor


Editor Kieran Devlin

Deputy Editor City’s last editor’s note described the year that was as a Jessie Mathewson “turbulent” one for journalism. At this point, turbulence is the norm for our industry. Since 2018’s edition, we’ve lost Shortlist News Editor and The Pool; Vice, HuffPost and Buzzfeed have suffered Oliver Telling sweeping lay-offs; and more solemnly, 34 journalists across the world were murdered in 2018 as retribution for their work in speaking truth to Deputy News Editor power, more than double the number in 2017. It’s understandable feeling Branca Lessa de Sá fatalistic, but there are real, tangible rays of hope. Immensely talented and incorrigible journalists are building organisations and communities that are Features Editor disrupting, revolutionising, and changing the game for the better. For this Stephen Glennon year’s XCity, we want to give these people their due. The brilliant Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff is our cover star (p.72), explaining Deputy Features Editors the meteoric rise of trend-curbing gal-dem magazine and the importance Aisling O’Leary of actively platforming minority journalists over paying lip service. Our Lauren Geall gamechangers series also covers the emergence of constructive (p.77) and crowdfunded (p.88) journalism, and the significance of NewsGuard (p.90) Profiles Editor and data analysts (p.92) navigating the ever-evolving journalism landscape. Jessica Browne-Swinburne We’ve got terrific interviews with Tony Hall (p.27) and Decca Aitkenhead (p.58), breathtaking data stories about journalism’s gender pay gap (p.20) Deputy Profiles Editor and late invoice payments (p.6), and a deep delve into the fridges of our Calum Trenaman most revered food critics (spoiler: there’s a lot of booze) (p.32). We’ve even adapted our popular Listings section (p.109) to the post-GDPR world. The Production Editor result? Have a look for yourself. Sibelle Mehmet Journalism is in perpetual motion. The game changes, beloved institutions die, and the internet overwhelms, but a beautifully written, gorgeously Deputy Production Editor designed magazine you can physically grasp, read and keep forever will Daniella Saunders never become obsolete. As Joe Mackertich wrote in his final editor’s letter for Shortlist: “Magazines, with their beginnings, middles and ends, are a Managing Editor soothing counteragent to the internet’s infinite hall of shrieking mirrors.” Catherine Kennedy We at XCity are inclined to agree. Art Director Rhys Thomas

Kieran Devlin Editor

With special thanks to: Malvin Van Gelderen, The Guardian, Fiona Shields, Ian Baker, Amara Hussein, Vivienne Shao, Hanaé Sanchez, @bleeker_brand, Georgia Field, Mia Lenthall, Kezia Webborn Dear City Journalism Alumnus, You are receiving this magazine because your name is currently on the list of alumni held at City University, in compliance with the new GDPR legislation. As a result of the new legislation, we have discontinued the listings section of XCity as we were advised it was not GDPR-compliant. Instead of the traditional listings section, we have expanded our ‘where are they now’ coverage, with interviews with alumni across a range of years. Summary of City University GDPR policy: The University believes that its activities are necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interest of the University and other third parties. These interests are not overridden by the interests and fundamental rights or the freedoms of the data subjects concerned. Legitimate interests of the University and third parties focus around supporting educational activities. As legal views mature, the University may change its views on its legal basis for processing. We do not, in any circumstances, sell data to third parties and will only share data on a considered and controlled basis to third parties that advance our services to alumni. Concerns and contact details: If you have any concerns with regard to the way your personal data is being processed or have a query with regard to this Notice, please contact our Data Protection team at: Email: dpo@city.ac.uk. Telephone: 0207 040 4000. Our data controller registration number provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office is Z8947127. If you have any further concerns about being on the XCity mailing list please see: https://www.city.ac.uk/alumni/privacy-policy If you would like to be removed from the list, or your details have changed, please see: https://www.city.ac.uk/alumni/update-your-details If you have any other concerns about XCity Magazine please email the Course Director Sarah Lonsdale at: sarah.lonsdale.1@city.ac.uk or write to: Sarah Lonsdale, Journalism Department, City University, Northampton Square, London, EH1V OHB

Cover image: Daisy Schofield

Deputy Art Director Daisy Schofield Chief Sub-editor Madeleine Taylor Deputy Sub-editors Kavita Singh Aakriti Patni Pictures Editor Danai Dana Deputy Pictures Editor Susie Browning Advertising Manager Megan Kelly Publishers Jason Bennetto Sarah Lonsdale 3


How I caught my brother’s murderer

UK media pays one third of invoices late

Industry respects female journalists less, survey suggests


Image: City Press Office

Image: Penny Farmer





Lecturer Tom Felle leaves City over “nasty Brexit”


Suzanne Franks suffers online abuse



Supporting fresh talent 4

Image: Seren Morris

Interview with Tony Hall


Inside the fridge of a food critic

The art of the biography




On the margins of freedom: fake news in Africa

Freelancing and the gig economy


The pitfalls of live reporting

Decca Aitkenhead





Is good news good news?

79. 74. 100. Where are

Infiltrating the online underworld

Image: Positive News

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff Image: Rebekah Lichter

Conspiracy buster: Vicky Spratt

they now?

Profiles of City Alumni 111-130 For more content, visit xcityplus.com and meltingpotmag.com 5


Meghan leaves her mark at City Image: Jonathan Cole

Oliver Telling Meghan Markle visited City in January, on her first official engagement as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). The Duchess of Sussex was accompanied by her private secretary, City Journalism graduate Amy Pickerill, as she met academics from the ACU, an international network of 500 universities of which City is a member. Hundreds of students lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Highness leaving the university as she made the short walk from the main entrance to her chauffeurdriven car.

HRH meets students in Northampton Square Image: Linda Nylind, The Guardian

Snowden leaks a “complete failure” in UK, says James Ball Caitlin Butler

James Ball: “It was a noble failure” Investigative journalist James Ball, who helped break the Snowden revelations in 2013, has described the impact of the disclosures in the United Kingdom as a “complete failure”. Ball, who teaches on the Investigative Journalism MA at City, pointed to the lack of change resulting from the revelations in the UK. He said: “We have passed more sweeping and less effective surveillance laws since [Snowden], which did nothing to stop a horrendous wave of terrorist attacks in 2017.” In 2013, former security analyst Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents to journalists which revealed the extent to which governments were spying on their citizens. Ball, working for The Guardian, helped break the story. Ball and his colleagues were criticised by security agencies, 6

politicians, and other British media outlets for publishing the leaks. Ball said: “We were going against the rest of the media, who are very close to the agencies. There’s a culture here of attacking your rival scoops, as well as a culture that is very relaxed about surveillance. So given what we were up against, I think it was a noble failure.” Noble failure or not, the NSA revelations earned Ball and others working on the project a slew of awards, including the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Some of Ball’s other prestigious awards include the Amnesty International award for digital journalism (2011) and a Press Gazette British Journalism Award (2016) for his work on the HSBC money laundering investigation. Besides his role at City, Ball currently writes freelance, and is special correspondent at Buzzfeed. Of the university, he said: “What City has always been quite astute at is knowing that to turn out world quality journalists, you need people who are still in newsrooms working as journalists. That connection to working newsrooms is what makes City great.”

IImage: Penny Farmer

How I caught my brother’s murderer

Georgina Roberts

A Images: Penny Farmer

journalist has used her City training to track down her teenage brother’s murderer. Penny Farmer, who graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from City in 1983, recorded her shocking investigation in a bestselling true crime book, Dead in the Water. Now, her story has been retold in a BBC podcast and, she said, is “very likely” to be made into a feature film.

The killer: Silas Duane Boston Until Farmer’s investigations led to his arrest in 2016, Silas Duane Boston had been on the run for 48 years. He murdered 33 other people, including his own wife. Farmer told XCity that made him “one of America’s biggest serial killers and certainly one of the most evasive”. In 1978, 25-year-old Chris Farmer went missing while backpacking with his girlfriend. In his final letter home, he wrote that Boston, a sailor, had offered to ferry them to the islands off Belize in the Caribbean, for the “Robinson Crusoe experience”. The couple’s bodies were later found off the coast of Guatemala. Farmer immediately suspected Boston

on hearing that that her brother and his girlfriend were on his crew list when the boat left port, but there was no record of them when Boston next docked. She explained her frustration after the “futile” case went cold due to “sloppy police work” in the UK and California, where Boston was traced. Chris Farmer and girlfriend Peta Frampton In 2015, 37 years after the unsolved murder, Farmer said She said: “This was another stab in the she had an “epiphany”. She searched heart to us. He knew we were coming for Facebook for Boston’s sons, Vince him, he knew the game was up.” and Russell, who confirmed they had The author added: “I had to be quite witnessed the brutal double-murder as dispassionate to write the story. If it was children. They also revealed the police to have any value, it had to be written hadn’t believed them when they tried to without prejudice.” report the murders. The podcast, Paradise, which aired Farmer said: “I could’ve kicked myself on 25 February, is led by investigative that I hadn’t done it sooner.” The journalist’s investigations revealed journalist Dan Maudsley, and has interviews with 30 people connected to that during a three-day ordeal of torture, the case. Farmer said the BBC journalist Boston planned to film the couple had “gone a lot further than the FBI did”. fighting each other to the death. She said: The City graduate confirmed that her “This guy was 100% evil, like something second book is in the works. X you see on Netflix.”

“This guy was 100% evil, like something you see on Netflix” Because of her brother’s severe injuries after being beaten by the killer, the couple were instead tied to engine parts with plastic bags over their heads and drowned. “I don’t think we ever envisaged that their demise was quite as terrible as it was,” the City graduate said. Boston took his own life two weeks prior to Farmer giving pre-trial evidence.

City graduate: Penny Farmer 7


Image: Daisy Schofield

UK media pays one third of invoices late Exclusive analysis by Oliver Telling reveals how long it takes to get paid by British broadcasters and publishers


ore than one in three invoices sent to British media companies are not paid on time, XCity analysis of public data suggests. Since April 2017, the government has required large businesses registered in the UK to publish at least two reports a year on when they pay suppliers. The most recent figures from 45 news organisations, magazine publishers, and broadcasters to have published reports reveal that 35% of invoices sent to these companies were not paid within the contractually agreed terms. Phil Sutcliffe, co-membership secretary for the National Union of Journalists’ London Freelance Branch, said the figures “may well be symptomatic of media businesses’ growing tendency to disregard, disrespect, and devalue the work of


those who provide professional-standard content in the online age”. The data show that payment practices at some media companies are significantly worse than others. In the second half of 2018, both Telegraph Media Group and the UK subsidiary of CNBC paid only 36% of invoices on time – the lowest rate of all news organisations to have published reports. Express Newspapers took 58 days on average to pay invoices in the final six months of last year, longer than all other newspaper publishers to have released their figures. But the shortest payment period offered to contractors was 60 days, so 87% of the company’s invoices were paid on time. A spokesperson for Reach, the owner of Express Newspapers, said: “We are committed to paying our suppliers as quickly as possible, and are satisfied with

our current payment practices.” CNBC was approached but did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Telegraph Media Group said the company does not include invoices from freelance journalists in its report, but that it makes every effort to pay freelancers on completion of their assignment. Across the 45 media companies during their most recent reporting period, more than four in every 10 invoices were not paid within 30 days, while one in every 10 were not paid within 60 days. According to an industry analyst, any struggling media companies may be deliberately deferring payment to freelance journalists in an attempt to hold onto more cash. “Roughly 50% of media is funded by advertising, and the majority of advertising spend now goes to Google

News and Facebook,” said Sam Tomlinson, founder of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Media Industry Accounting Group. “That puts all media businesses in the UK under greater pressure. And when businesses are under greater pressure around revenue and costs, inevitably one of the things they look to is working capital management – collecting cash as fast as possible from customers and delaying paying it to suppliers.” The time it takes to register new freelancers and the fact that most media companies have moved their financial services abroad or to separate locations in the UK could also have influenced the efficiency of payment practices in recent years, Tomlinson said. Reuters News & Media was the best performing company on two counts. According to its report, in the second half of last year the news agency took just two days on average to pay invoices, all of which were paid within the contractually agreed period. It cannot be determined to what extent invoices from freelance journalists account for the figures in these reports. But freelance television journalists may be the least likely to receive payment on time, with 38% of invoices to TV broadcasters not paid within the agreed terms. This is compared to 34% for publishers of journals and magazines, and 30% for newspaper publishers. Across all industries in the UK, 30% of invoices are paid late, according to the most recent reports from around 6,500 companies. The Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance Regulations were introduced by the government to combat the “severe administrative and financial burdens” faced by smaller businesses that do not receive payment on time. The regulations apply to companies that pass at least two of the criteria for being registered as a large business: having more than 250 employees, a £36 million annual turnover, and an £18 million balance sheet total. All reports are submitted online and are available to the public. They are compiled by the businesses themselves, although publishing late, false, or misleading reports can lead to a prosecution or fine. XCity’s analysis includes reports from all companies registered as newspaper

publishers, news agencies, magazine publishers, or broadcasters. It does not count parent companies such as News UK and Ireland, which has only

published figures encompassing all of its entities, including those not directly related to the publishing of The Times, The Sunday Times, or The Sun. X

Average time to pay (days) by company

% Invoices not paid on time by company

Source: gov.uk (most recent reports) For an interactive graph including all 45 media companies, go to xcityplus.com 9


Personal tragedy inspires book about global death festivals Nicole García Mérida

fear of open spaces, after she found her deceased father-inlaw in his home in 2014. He had been dead for eight days. Buist recounted her experience in a memoir piece for The Guardian, where she

Image: Mario Rodriguez/Unsplash

The traumatic discovery of her dead father-in-law has inspired a City alumna to pen a book on death festivals. Erica Buist (Magazine, 2012) developed severe anxiety and agoraphobia, a

Buist delves into the world of the dead for her new book

was working at the time. The experience inspired her to learn more about people’s relationship with death, and she decided to write about a famous death festival in Mexico, where she spent two years learning to speak Spanish. She said: “After we grieved, and once I began to get over the agoraphobia, I travelled to Mexico and wrote about the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in 2015. I had an idea, but I had to get myself to a space where I was mentally able to write it.” Since writing her initial chapter on the Day of the Dead, Buist has visited Nepal and Sicily. This year she is planning to attend death festivals in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand,

and Madagascar. The latter, she said, “involves a corpse being dug up”. Unbound, a crowdfunding book publisher, has begun to take pre-orders for her book. Buist said: “People think that they’re funding my travel, but I’ve been saving for years because I didn’t want to start this and run out of money.” Reflecting on her time at City, she said: “The MA taught me everything I know. The one thing I knew when I arrived was that I was already a good writer, but I didn’t know the business of writing.” In conclusion, she added: “If I’m completely honest, City taught me most of what I know about being a journalist and writing in a way that the people want to read.” Image: Madeleine Taylor and Jessie Mathewson

New frontiers in journalism tech Madeleine Taylor and Jessie Mathewson An eagerly awaited multimedia room in the Department of Journalism is set to open this month, and XCity can reveal the first look at the space. When the plans were announced last year, former lecturer Tom Felle (see p.17) said it would be the “Starship Enterprise” of state-of-the-art journalism technology. Once completed, the room will include a TV green screen, radio broadcast area, and 24 computer desks, intended to simulate a modern newsroom. Across one wall, a large split-screen TV will display news broadcasts, data analytics, and live websites simultaneously. Sharing across platforms will be made easier by the installation of WolfVision technology, which will enable students to pool resources and collaborate with one another on a single screen. 10

The “Starship Enterprise” of state-of-the-art journalism technology The room was due to launch in November 2018, but was delayed by hold-ups selecting a contractor. Pressures on the budget, including fluctuations in raw material costs, meant a construction company was not chosen until August. Richard Evans, programme director of undergraduate journalism at City, said the room would help the department to teach the skills of the modern day journalist. He said: “We’re genuinely excited

about the new space. The university has already got world-leading teaching facilities, but this is the first time we’ve got audio, video and all this exciting new tech in the same room.” Evans said the room was designed to revolutionise the way students learn: “It’s not a teaching space as you would imagine, with the sage on the stage. This is the mentor in the centre.” He added: “We can’t wait to get in there.”

News Image: City Press Office


he head of City’s Department of Journalism has spoken about the online abuse that she received for several weeks after appearing on television in December to discuss the media’s treatment of Meghan Markle. Professor Suzanne Franks was subject to abusive comments on social media after she appeared to defend the press from accusations of bias against the Duchess of Sussex. She was sitting as a media expert on a panel for the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show.

“I’d had the odd tweet, which you can ignore, but nothing like this” The professor said that the audience misinterpreted her comments, which were “not meant as an attack on Meghan”. She described the abuse as “personal”, and not like anything she had received before in her career as a journalist. “I’d had the odd tweet, which you can ignore, but nothing like this,” she said. Prof Franks told XCity about the abuse in January, on the same day that the Duchess visited the university as a patron for the Association of Commonwealth Universities, of which City is a member. It was also a week before Prof Franks was due to speak at a conference in Vienna about online attacks on female journalists, run by the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe. The event featured panel discussions on the topic, as well as a documentary screening about the safety of female journalists, titled A Dark Place. Prof Franks believes the nature of abuse she received was related to the fact she is a woman. She said: “Men get attacked about the content of what they say, which is fair enough, but female journalists are much more likely to receive personal abuse.” Her comments were echoed by columnist Susie Boniface, also known as “Fleet Street Fox”, who teaches on City’s Journalism BA course and has long been the subject of online abuse. “Men do get

Image Caption: Here

Prof Franks at launch of major new report on UK Journalism at City in 2016

Department head Suzanne Franks suffers online abuse Branca Lessa de Sá abuse as well, but this is mainly for their opinions, while women will get abuse for speaking, or interrupting, or looking the way they look.” According to UK think tank Demos, female journalists receive roughly three times as much online harassment as their male counterparts. While journalists have always been subject to abuse, the advent of social media has meant that it is increasingly easy for them to be attacked by strangers. “Social media gives these people a platform which makes them feel

justified,” said Boniface. A study by Amnesty International found that one abusive tweet is sent to a female journalist or politician every 30 seconds in the UK and USA. Prof Franks is nonetheless hopeful that this will change. “I think we’re more aware of it now and I think there’ll be more pressure on the platforms to do something about it. “In the past, Twitter would put its hands up when it came to online abuse, and say it had nothing to do with them. But now there is less tolerance.” X 11


Investigative course is City’s most selective journalism MA Oliver Telling


Image: Daisy Schofield


pplications to City’s MA in Investigative Journalism have increased by 60% in the last six years, more than any other postgraduate journalism course at the university, new figures reveal. The number of applicants to the course rose from 50 for 2013/14 to 80 for the current academic year. As applications have increased, the Investigative MA has also become City’s most selective journalism programme, with only four in every 10 applicants for 2018/19 offered places. The course was introduced in 2009 and for the past two years has been led by Professor Heather Brooke, the journalist renowned for her role in breaking the MPs’ expenses scandal. “The upturns with investigative journalism always reflect the mood of the times,” said Dr Paul Lashmar, who will temporarily take over Brooke’s role when she leaves City in May (see p.17). He added: “The current political climate is focusing young people’s minds on the way that politics and power works, and they feel they want to do something. And investigative journalism is a great way to bring power to account.” Ellen O’Riordan, one of this year’s intake, said: “We are in the fake news era, so more people are looking to learn the skills needed to uncover hidden evidence. I applied because I am tired of fast, click-bait news and would rather delve into a subject and really nail it from all angles.” The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, also suggest a significant rise in the number of people interested in digital journalism. Applications to City’s MA in Interactive Journalism have increased by 34% over the past six years, with 47 applicants for 2018/19. Degrees in television and newspaper journalism have seen the biggest fall in interest since 2013/14, with applications

Number of applications by course

to the Television MA decreasing by 40% to 52 for this academic year. In the same period, the number of applicants to the Newspaper MA dropped by 31% to 68. The MA in International Journalism, which attracts students from across the world, has remained City’s most popular course, with 203 applications for 2018/19. The Magazine MA was the second most selective journalism programme at City this academic year, with offers made to 61% of the 93 applicants. Dr Lashmar said students on all of City’s journalism courses should be taught about the importance of investigative journalism. “I am very keen that the investigative course is not some little special area. Every student should be aware of investigative journalism and engaging with it on some level.” X

% Successful applications in 2018/19

Source: XCity FoI

Image: Lindsay Greenhouse

Image caption

From the newsroom to the ballroom Bethan Kapur Sandy Warr, a journalism lecturer, has taken the trophy in the university’s first ever “City Come Dancing” competition. The performance, inspired by the popular BBC programme, took place at the Student Union bar in March. Warr, who has presented for Radio 4, LBC, and The Guardian, said she wasn’t nervous about performing as she is used to speaking to thousands of listeners daily. “I’ve never been that bothered about

Warr clutches City’s prestigous Glitter Ball trophy Warr’s victory mirrors reality, as broadcast journalist Stacey Dooley was the celebrity winner of the BBC show this year. Warr doesn’t intend to continue dancing after her victory, but said she hopes the competition will run again next year. “I just don’t have time sadly. Someone else can challenge me for the trophy next time.”

whether I look foolish,” she said. The lecturer, who said she watches Strictly Come Dancing every year, last danced when she was 17. She used to do ballet, jazz, and tap at school but the competition was the first time she had done Bollywood dancing. She said she finds it easy to learn dance moves, but described the fast routine as “unexpectedly difficult”.

Sara Semic The first prototype of an artificial intelligence-powered app to help journalists identify fake news and investigate stories has been built by a team of City researchers. The web-based app has been developed by City Journalism staff and produced in collaboration with technicians from the university’s Human-Computer Interaction department. The Dataminer (DMINR) app will mine data from public records, open databases, and newspaper articles to verify information in real time. The team plans to visit The Daily Telegraph newsroom later this year where they will speak with professional journalists and learn more about how they carry out their research. The project was enabled by a £300,000 grant from the Digital News Initiative (DNI), a European organisation created by Google to support journalism through technology and innovation. The grant was one of the largest the DNI awarded to a single European institution in 2017. As well as identifying fake news, the app will save journalists time when

investigating stories by ranking the information it collects according to how relevant it is to their research. The project was launched in 2018 by Tom Felle, a former senior lecturer in digital journalism who resigned in December over fears about Brexit affecting the media industry (see p.17). It has since been taken over by Dr Colin Porlezza, a journalism academic from Switzerland who joined City last year.

“AI is another tool in the journalistic tool box” Dr Porlezza said: “We’re tailoring the tool to journalists’ needs in order to ease their research and the problems that they have, not only in finding and gathering information but also in verifying it.” The team stressed that the app is not a replacement for good journalistic practice. “We consider AI technology as another tool in the journalistic toolbox. So they will still rely on their professional expertise to identify fake

Image: Jonathan Brady, PA Images

Google and City in AI partnership

The app is funded by a £300,000 grant news, though AI will help to uncover novel connections and patterns in relevant data,” Dr Porlezza said. Dr Marisela Gutierrez Lopez, a technician working on the app, said: “With this app, we want to explore what kind of data is presented, where the data is extracted from, and why it is presented by the system as a suggestion, to be as transparent as possible with journalists.” The team plans to finish the project by July 2020, after which they hope to start distributing it to national newsrooms in the UK. https://blogs.city.ac.uk/dminr/ www.digitalnewsinitiative.com 13


Show a little respect A media expert decries the ‘disgraceful’ gender bias revealed by Oliver Telling in the NCTJ’s list of the ‘most respected journalists’


list of the “most respected journalists” in the UK published by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) included more than twice as many men than women, XCity analysis has revealed. The gender bias was described as “disgraceful” by a leading media commentator. Last year, the NCTJ asked journalists in the UK to name which living person they felt “most embodies the values of journalism that they respect and adhere to”. The 238-strong list of nominees, released in October, featured 75 female journalists – equivalent to just 32%. The list, the first of its kind from the organisation that oversees the training of journalists in Britain, also included 10 City alumni. But less than a third of these were women: Madlen Davies of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Amelia Gentleman of The Guardian, and Janice Turner of The Times. Professor Roy Greenslade, a journalism academic and former editor of the Daily Mirror, said: “I am surprised by the lack of women on the list, which is disgraceful.” But he added that a clearer picture of the voters was needed to truly understand what the survey reveals about the industry. The NCTJ told XCity it was unable to give the gender breakdown of the 411 people who responded to the question as part of its “Journalists at Work” survey, as it was answered confidentially. Susie Boniface, a visiting lecturer at City better known as Daily Mirror columnist “Fleet Street Fox”, was also on the list. She suggested that there were more male journalists nominated because they tend to stay in the profession longer after parenthood and “shout about themselves and their own abilities more often than women do”. She added: “Being on the list is obviously nice, it gives you a warm


fluffy feeling ... I worked really hard for my NCTJ so it’s appreciated.” XCity analysis also shows that those taking part in the survey believe that BBC journalists are the “most respected” in the UK by a considerable margin, with more than a fifth (48) of the nominees listed by the NCTJ as employees or former employees of Auntie. The Guardian had the second highest number, with 23,

closely followed by The Times, with 17. Despite the BBC boasting the highest number, newspapers had more nominees than broadcasters overall. In the UK, 56 people on the list wrote for broadsheets, 25 for regionals, and only seven for tabloids. Nine were journalists for international papers including The New York Times and the Washington Post. Prof Greenslade said he was


for female journalists The country’s 238 ‘most respected journalists’ by numbers

Image: Daisy Schofield

Source: NCTJ “altogether less surprised” by the list’s “overwhelming bias” in favour of broadsheet journalists. “There is a chasm of difference between journalism based on public interest and that which is interesting to the public,” he said. “Respect comes with the former, which is of public benefit, as compared to the latter, which is a form of entertainment.”

Some 83 journalists on the list worked for TV broadcasters, 11 for magazines, and seven for websites such as Buzzfeed and HuffPost. Several journalists were freelancers and a small number were listed as employees of more than one organisation. Despite the low proportion of women represented in the list, the highest number of nominations went to a female

journalist. Alex Crawford, who recently reported on the Rohingya refugee crisis for Sky News, was subsequently appointed as the first patron of the NCTJ. The NCTJ declined to reveal how many people voted for Crawford. It also refused to comment on XCity’s analysis of the survey, but directed attention to its “Diversity in Journalism” report, published in 2017. X 15

Image:Yeung Hoi On

News: Staff Changes

Hong Kong reporter lands MA lecturer job Catherine Kennedy A multi-platform journalist who has worked in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, is the latest addition to City’s International Journalism team. Yuen Chan took up the post of senior lecturer in February, having taught for nine years at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she was senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication. Prior to teaching, Chan worked across print, TV, and radio as a reporter, anchor, and columnist. She covered a range of stories, from the Kobe earthquake to the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997. She also produced features and documentaries about topical issues, such

as the rise of the Chinese middle class and the role of big tobacco in China. During her time at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chan oversaw the undergraduate magazine, Varsity. She told XCity that she enjoyed watching students “grow and develop” before seeing them graduate. “Witnessing that whole process is immensely satisfying, gratifying, and humbling,” she said. “As a journalist working in Hong Kong, I always felt that there wasn’t enough mentorship and it was difficult for young reporters to ask for advice – they were just expected to sink or swim. I always wanted to help these young journalists coming in.”

Image: Sarah Lonsdale

Sarah Lonsdale 16

On her new role, Chan said: “It’s exciting being here. It’s an international programme, so I look forward to learning [from the students], because they’ve had different experiences from me.” Dr Zahera Harb, International Journalism lecturer, said of the appointment: “This will bring fresh insights into what we do. We really welcome that international dimension to our members of staff.”

Dr Sarah Lonsdale takes over Mag MA Sara Semic course director in terms of making it what it is today, so I’m stepping into big shoes.” Every year, students on the Magazine MA pitch a magazine concept to industry professionals. Dr Lonsdale said the major change she made to the course was allowing one group of students to make their idea a reality: “I always thought it was a shame that all that work went in and didn’t become a real project, so I’m really pleased that’s happening.” She added: “I plan to build on the current multimedia offering by extending teaching on podcasting, a major emerging skill requirement on magazine websites.” Professor Suzanne Franks, Head of the Department of Journalism at City, said: “Sarah’s got great experience in the industry, great contacts and a really good track record as a lecturer. I think all of that will be to the benefit of the students.”

Chasing the comedy bream Daisy Schofield Journalism may be the stepping stone into stand-up comedy. Case in point is a former lecturer at City who is launching a career as a cruise ship comedian. Brendan Martin, 66, said he hopes to “unleash the frustrated performer in me”. Martin, who retired as a senior lecturer on the International Journalism MA in February, told XCity that he is currently compiling amusing anecdotes from his time as a showbiz journalist, including his experience of interviewing U2 before the release of their first album. “I thought they seemed a bit bumptious, and the music was just bad,” he said. “I ended the article by saying: ‘don’t give up the day job lads.’” Martin, who taught at City for 13 years, has written comedy for the BBC, where he worked on shows including The Archers and Dave Allen at Large. He has also been features editor of TVTimes and editor of RTÉ Guide, Ireland’s largest selling television magazine. Image: Andrew Matthews, PA Images

Dr Sarah Lonsdale, a senior lecturer at City, has taken charge of the MA in Magazine Journalism this year. She replaced Dr Barbara Rowlands, who retired as course director last year after 18 years in the role. Dr Lonsdale has taught on the magazine path of the undergraduate course at City since 2013, previously lecturing in journalism at the University of Kent. She worked as a reporter for The Observer and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Telegraph from 2006 to 2014. Dr Lonsdale said of her new role: “It’s a big challenge. Barbara was a legendary

Chan at CNN International

Ex-lecturer is to launch cruise career

News: Staff Changes

“Human dynamo” lecturer Tom Felle leaves City over “nasty” Brexit

“The social fabric is going to be debilitated, and what will replace it is Little Britain” He said that leaving the EU will have serious implications for media organisations, as broadcasters will face issues with licensing arrangements. Companies based in the UK can broadcast to any EU member state, but

Heather Brooke leaves City Branca Lessa de Sá Award-winning journalist Professor Heather Brooke is leaving her post as head of City’s MA in Investigative Journalism in May. Prof Brooke is best known for her work in exposing the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal. She has headed City’s

Tom Felle at the “Blue Line” Lebanon – Israel border in 2007 this arrangement may cease to exist following Brexit. He continued: “As an Irish citizen very happily based in the UK and very proud to be a taxpayer, Britain was a great home. One of the outcomes [of Brexit] is that the social fabric is going to be debilitated, that sense of being a global player, and what will replace it is Little Britain.” Felle has taken on a new role as head of media and communication at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Unlike his “frontline” work at City, organising visiting lecturers and heading up the digital modules, the head of department role will allow

Investigative MA for the past two years, during which time the course has seen a sharp increase in applications (see p.12). The head of City’s Journalism Department, Professor Suzanne Franks, said: “Heather was much appreciated by the student cohort who benefited from her wide experience and we wish her well in her new ventures.” Prof Brooke is the winner of

him to focus on work behind the scenes, such as long term curriculum development and managing staff. He admits that it was a difficult decision to leave City. “It’s a special kind of place, but it is very different from any other kind of degree you’ll ever do. There’s no better training for a career in journalism.” Professor Suzanne Franks, head of the journalism department, said: “Tom was a human dynamo who brought immense energy and excitement to his work at City. His work in transforming data journalism from a minority interest to a huge programme leaves behind a strong legacy.”

several awards, including the FoI Award from non-profit organisation Investigative Reporters and Editors. In her absence, the Investigative MA course will be temporarily under the direction of Dr Paul Lashmar, deputy head of City’s Journalism Department. A new director for the course will be announced in the summer.

Image: City University Press Office

The tense political situation surrounding Brexit has prompted a senior City journalism lecturer to resign and return to his native Republic of Ireland. Tom Felle, who led data journalism at City, returned to his hometown of Galway, a city in the west of Ireland, at the end of December 2018. His decision was motivated by mounting fears about how leaving the EU will affect those working in the media. He had been a part of the teaching staff since 2013, acting as director on the Newspaper and Interactive Journalism programmes in 2014 to 2015, and briefly covering the course director role for Magazine in 2018. Felle said: “It’s incredibly unfortunate that the political situation in the UK has turned so nasty. This [Brexit] is the wrong decision for the country and I didn’t see a future for myself in the UK.”

Image: Tom Felle

Olivia Rook

Heather Brooke 17


Alumni tie the knot Olivia Rook


wo ex-City Magazine MA students have married, with fellow alumni and City associate professor Barbara Rowlands joining the celebrations. Natasha Wynarczyk, a freelance features writer, and Pete Ellender, a production manager for networking company Procurement Leaders, met while studying for their undergraduate degrees at King’s College London. They enrolled on the same postgraduate journalism course at City in 2011. The couple, who have been together for almost a decade, got married on 15 September 2018 at Islington Town Hall. The past 10 years have not always been easy, however, and the couple told XCity that studying for the same journalism degree put a strain on their relationship. “It was a gift and a curse in equal measure,” said Ellender. “It was lovely to be with someone who understood the pressures of City but at the same time we were both under a lot of pressure throughout the entire course.” Their situation was made easier by the fact their journalistic skill sets were very different. Wynarczyk, who has written for YOU Magazine and Broadly, said: “I was quite bad at InDesign and subbing so he’d help me with that, but he really struggled with news reporting and interviewing

Images: Chris Bethell

people. There were a couple of times when he was very stressed and I would do my bit and then go and help.” Reflecting on the wedding, she added: “People always tell you your wedding day goes really quickly, and it did. We wanted something quite chilled but also quite fun – we had burgers for the main course so it wasn’t really fancy. It was very us.” Just under 100 people attended the ceremony and an extra 35 joined the wedding party at The Amadeus, an events venue near Paddington, for the evening reception. Bridesmaids Zing Tsjeng, UK editor of Broadly, Ellender and Wynarczyk with fellow City alumni and Kate Lloyd, Time Out from their year came. It turned into a bit features editor, were also on of a reunion.” the Magazine MA course. Ellender described the day as a Dr Rowlands, who led the Magazine “whirlwind” and said “it was lovely to see MA at City until her retirement last year, lots of people from different parts of our attended the evening reception. She said: lives come together”. “I kept in touch with Natasha and Pete The wedding celebrations are set to after they left City and it was a great continue in 2019 with a honeymoon to honour to be invited to their wedding. Japan planned at the end of July. X It was fun and moving, so many people

News Image: Computer - Unsplash/Logo - Inject

AI project threatened by Brexit INJECT uses artificial intelligence to help writers

Seren Morris

Britain’s departure from the European Union could threaten the development of a groundbreaking journalism project at City. Developed by City professors and researchers, INJECT received a €1m grant in January 2017 from the EU Horizon 2020 programme for innovation and research. The project is in its testing stage, and developers hope to eventually set it up as a start-up business. However, future EU funding could be withheld after Brexit. Neil Maiden, Professor of Digital Creativity at City and INJECT’s project leader, said: “In the case of a transition period the UK government would fund us until the end of 2020.” He added that if Britain were to crash out of the EU without a deal, “everything would be lost”. INJECT not only relied on the EU for funding, but also for access to engineers and researchers across Europe. Prof Maiden said: “It is hard to find British partners to work with; the tool would not exist if it was developed in the UK. “The breadth of the market in Germany has enabled it to grow, and the breadth and different capabilities across Europe enabled INJECT to be here.” The INJECT project works as a search engine, and uses AI

technology to help journalists find new angles by suggesting articles and visuals related to their story, prompting them to consider different aspects of their initial idea. George Brock, former head of journalism at City, said: “It [INJECT] does what search engines can’t, by prompting people with new ideas, to get them to think sideways.” The AI system also asks journalists questions to make them think laterally about the topic they are writing about. It is still in its development phase, and is being tested by journalism students at City using paper flashcards that mimic the AI’s logic. The students then give feedback on the questions proposed by the flashcards. Nathan Gallo, an Erasmus Journalism student at City involved in testing INJECT, said: “I was happily surprised to see how it would help journalists to find new ideas.” The INJECT team are keen to provide access to young journalists, especially at City. Prof Maiden said: “We want to make it available to journalism students, and within City it would be free. “Future journalists are more open to different ways of working and to using new technologies.”

Mouse papped at City

Olivia Rook

He said: “We had a room used by research students where biscuits and fruit were being left on or in desks, and this seemed to attract mice.” Dr Prescott added that littering is not just a problem among students. There have been “similar instances in staffonly offices”. “This is an issue that needs everyone’s cooperation to tackle. Pests do pose a health risk; rodents can chew cables, with this damage to equipment increasing risks from fire and electrocution, and

vermin may also carry disease.” A Freedom of Information request submitted by XCity in 2016 showed that nearly £200,000 had been spent combating City’s mouse infestation between 2009 and 2015. The mouse spotted by Buchanan made repeat appearances throughout the day and was later seen eating from a discarded chocolate wrapper. “I told Estate Services and I think they got pest control in that evening,” she said. “To be fair, we haven’t seen the mouse since.”

Image: Abigail Buchanan

The final weeks of term are stressful at the best of times – but an unwelcome visitor has left a few journalism students feeling particularly ratty. Abigail Buchanan, a student on the Newspaper MA, was working alone in the journalism department when she first spotted the mouse. She said: “I came in early and was working by myself. I looked over and there was this mouse sitting by the recycling bin and I’m fairly squeamish so I squealed. When I made a noise it ran into a hole in the corner.” Dr Philip Prescott, a safety liaison officer at City, explained that littering has been attracting vermin.



Plan to take student reporting online

Daniella Saunders

City’s Department of Journalism, said the department is behind it. Dr James Morris, lecturer in digital journalism at City, is leading the development of the website. He said: “Our students do some really great features and final projects that they might take forward. “But not everyone gets a successful piece to a publisher despite them being fantastic. We wanted to find a way to champion that and have a halfway house between the two.” Dr Lonsdale said: “It is very hard to operate as a journalist without having a publication for your work.” The long-term goal of the website is to focus on students’ designated patch areas and compete with other local newspapers

A website to showcase “patch” news stories, multimedia and features produced by City journalism students is set to launch. The digital platform will provide students with a publication for their stories and features, as well as a direct readership. The website is in the early planning stages, but the curators are looking for content to fill the site so that, when permission is given to go live, they can do so immediately. Professor Chris Greer, Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, has given his blessing to the project. However, various layers of university management, including the administrative and GDPR teams, are yet to provide formal approval. Dr Sarah Lonsdale, senior lecturer at

and hyperlocal websites. The site will also teach students how to write using SEO and other digital skills. Dr Lonsdale said students should have the opportunity to publish their work as they regularly interview members of the local community. She added that the publication will be a “good way of assessing people’s journalistic nous”. Dr Lonsdale also emphasised that the website needs considerable regulation and a dedicated lecturer who will oversee all content. There is no official launch date for the website at present, but Dr Morris said the department is working through the university procedures.

Brave New World? Lecturer brings post-Brexit dystopia to life on stage Georgina Roberts


humanitarian disasters to investigate the tropes and clichés the Western media uses to portray people in a humanitarian crisis and celebrity fundraisers in Africa. The academic, who worked in the press office of NGO Save The Children in 2010, said she started writing the play after the Brexit vote, when she “was looking at a divided country”. Sabrina Richmond, an actress who played an MTV reporter named “Taz” said: “I’m Image: Duckegg Theatre Company

A play written by a City journalism lecturer that showed post-Brexit Britain in a humanitarian crisis was performed at a London theatre. Aid Memoir, by undergraduate lecturer Dr Glenda Cooper, imagines the UK receiving aid from Africa after its departure from the European Union leads to violent civil unrest, food shortages, and poverty. The play reverses the traditional roles of developing and developed countries showing wealthy African aid workers and celebrities from “Kenya’s Got Talent” fly into refugee camps near Hull. The play was performed at The Pleasance Theatre in Islington, north London, in October before a one-off performance at City in November. Dr Cooper, a member of the Royal Court Writers’ Group, which nurtures emerging playwrights, said she aimed to “challenge audiences to think about their prejudices and preconceptions of how we see refugees; those caught up in humanitarian crises”. She asked: “If this was happening in Clapham or Croydon instead of Congo, would we present it in a different way?” The senior lecturer used years of doctoral research on reporting

Aid Memoir starred an all female cast

from African origin so I understand what it means to have someone land and be like, ‘Hey, we’re going to solve everything’. My heritage means I’ve had my own experience with movement. As a woman who is black in the business, I had the chance to play a different kind of role.” The performance highlighted that “there’s a colonialist ideology around who can suffer”, she added. Aid Memoir starred an all-female cast, a choice Dr Cooper made due to the lack of women refugee voices. It was directed by Matthew Evans, winner of the JMK Young Theatre Award in 2010. Rachel Edge, an audience member at the City performance, described the show as “pretty sobering”. She said: “It successfully got across the idea that this could happen in any country, including Britain, because people are people.” The play was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the nationwide Festival of Social Science. Dr Cooper is working with two other City lecturers on an academic investigation into the representation of asylum seekers in UK media and the under-representation of women in refugee stories.

Image: Dr Maria Tomas-Rodriguez

Winner: British Photography Awards 2019, documentary category

Photo award for City academic

A Lauren Geall

photograph of Senegalese boys taken during the healing period of their circumcision ritual has won a City academic a top prize at this year’s British Photography Awards. Dr Maria Tomas-Rodriguez, senior lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering, received the award for Best Documentary Photograph, presented by The Guardian at the Savoy Hotel in January. The image, titled “Tradition”, was taken during her trip to Joal, a town on the coast of Senegal, in 2016. It captures

the boys in the seclusion period after their circumcision, when they cannot be seen by women. Dr Tomas-Rodriguez was given exclusive access as the friend she was travelling with had a close relationship with their mother. Circumcision is an almost universal practice in Senegal and is carried out for a variety of religious, cultural, social, and medical reasons. Dr Tomas-Rodriguez was surprised to find out she had taken first place in the documentary category, after she had lobbied friends and colleagues within the engineering department to vote for her in an attempt to win the People’s Choice Award.

“I couldn’t believe it, because I’m not a professional, I’m a lecturer, and it’s a very big award. I went to the award ceremony completely convinced that that [the People’s Choice Award] was the award I was going to collect – then the surprise came when they told me that it was the first place award given by the judges. So it was amazing for me.” For Dr Tomas-Rodriguez, the photograph’s power comes from the intimate story it tells. “I think it has won because it is very different to the rest of the pictures,” she said. “We all have seen plenty of pictures from Africa – but it’s got the story behind it.” X 21


Women in media still earn less than men Media companies have made little progress towards closing their gender pay gap since last year, Julia Webster reports

Photo credit: PA


Last year’s figures showed that 91% of UK-based media companies paid men more than women on average omen in the media industry continue to earn less than their male colleagues, who tend to occupy more senior roles, XCity analysis has revealed. UK companies with more than 250 employees are required to disclose their gender pay gap for the second year ever since the Equality Act 2010 came into effect in 2017. The data shows that men are paid more than women on average in every major news organisation, magazine publisher, and broadcaster to have published its statistics in 2019. The Telegraph has reported the highest gender pay gap so far this year, revealing the average hourly pay for its female employees was 22.7% lower than for men in 2018. This represents a decrease of less than one percentage


point over the previous year, meaning women continued to earn around 77p for every £1 paid to male employees of the newspaper. XCity has used the median hourly rate throughout its analysis, which is calculated by ranking male and female employees from lowest to highest paid and taking the salary in the middle.

“The Telegraph has reported the highest gender pay gap this year” Compared to the mean hourly rate, it is less affected by extreme values such as a small number of high earners’ salaries.

Reuters has reported the second highest pay gap of 21.9%, down from 23.6% in the previous year. The median bonus pay for women, meanwhile, was 32.7% lower than for men. A Reuters spokesperson said: “We recognise that there is more to do and are actively working on it. We remain committed to 40% representation of women in leadership across Thomson Reuters by 2020, which will continue to reduce our pay gap.” The data show that women represented just 22.2% of the highest paid quartile of employees at the news agency in 2018, while making up 47.2% of the lowest paid quartile. The BBC has reported the smallest pay gap this year, at 7.6%, while Guardian News and Media has made the most progress. Women working at The

News Guardian and The Observer earned 92p for every £1 paid to men, up from 88p in the previous year. But the number of women in the lowest paid quartile at Guardian News & Media increased from 57% to 61%, while the proportion of women in the highest paid quartile remained at 35%. The gender pay gap should not be confused with equal pay, which measures earnings of men and women doing equal work. Companies also compile their reports independently, so the data may not be wholly reliable. Figures published last year showed that 91% of UK-based media companies paid men more than women on average, while The Economist was the worst offender, with women paid just 70p for every £1 earned by men, according to analysis by the Press Gazette. The Independent and Buzzfeed are some of the major media organisations not required to share their gender pay gap figures, as they have fewer than 250 employees. Earlier this year, the government rejected calls from MPs for this to change, saying it could be

Median gender pay gap by company (%)

Source: gov.uk “particularly burdensome” for small and medium-sized companies. Eleanor Mills, chair of the campaign group Women in Journalism and editorial director of The Sunday Times, said: “We’re looking at an industry which is in decline. What tends to happen in industries which are shrinking is that the men circle the wagons to protect their jobs. Fewer women in top roles inevitably leads to an unresolved gender pay gap.” Times Newspapers Ltd reported a

pay gap of 12.7% in 2018, but it is yet to publish a report this year. Mills said that both The Times and The Sunday Times have female deputy editors, and that the company is “going in the right direction”. She added that Rebekah Brooks, the CEO of The Times’ publisher News UK, is “very hot on this”. The government requires all private companies to submit their gender pay gap reports by 4 April. The deadline for public bodies is 30 March. X

Proportion of men and women in each pay quartile

Illustration: Lauren Geall

Women Men

Source: gov.uk (figures to nearest 5%) 23


“Utterly thrilling”: Sophia Smith Galer wins XCity Award 2019


Catherine Kennedy

XCity Award Shortlist


James Waldron Magazine, 2012 Image: C+D

Image: The Times

Image: Alex Morgan

Shortlisted for his contribution Shortlisted for her role as to ‘The Cube’ – a social media data journalism editor of news desk fighting fake news. The Times.

Madlen Davies Magazine, 2012 Image: BIJ

Leila Haddou Investigative, 2012

Alex Morgan Television, 2015

Shortlisted for her work with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Shortlisted for his investigations for Chemist + Druggist.

Image: Lai Jones

video about a Buddhist monk who doubles as a make-up artist is just one example of the groundbreaking online and social media content that has earned Sophia Smith Galer (Broadcast, 2017) this year’s XCity Award. Smith Galer, visual journalist for faith and ethics at the BBC World Service, was chosen as the winner out of 18 nominees. Along with its £500 prize, the award honours an ex-City student who has made an outstanding contribution to journalism in the past year. She said she couldn’t believe she had won the accolade, describing the news as “utterly thrilling”. Sophia Smith Galer was selected from 18 nominees for this year’s award The last 12 months have seen People say to you: ‘Oh, why do you want featured on the BBC homepage, and Smith Galer work on pioneering video to be a religion reporter?’ and having an she also makes versions for Facebook, content for the World Service and launch award like this helps validate what I’m Twitter and Instagram. its Instagram account – an idea she doing, so it’s very nice.” Smith Galer is also a trained opera pitched in her interview for the job. She She added: “Religion stories don’t singer and, in 2016, delivered a speech said: “My aim is that [it] helps us reach always get a lot of airtime, but actually our under-served audience. It’s important at the General Assembly of the United religion really is what pushes a lot of Nations in New York – in Arabic. to have an engaged community.” the news agenda in countries around She “happily wound up” in religion Her work complements the World the world.” reporting after her undergraduate degree Service’s radio programmes, while she Sally Webb, head of the Broadcast from Durham University in Spanish and also creates content based on stories MA, said: “This award is so well Arabic gave her an “academic interest” she finds herself. Recent videos have deserved, and all of us in the Broadcast in Catholic and Islamic art. focused on Catholic women who want Journalism department are very proud Commenting on winning the XCity to be priests in Rome, those fighting of Sophia’s achievements. She is carving Award, she said: “It’s utterly thrilling. for divorce rights for Jewish women in out a niche for herself in the industry and I can’t believe it, I can’t believe anyone Israel, and musicians from different faith doing so well.” X would think of nominating me for it. backgrounds. Her videos are regularly


Dillon Thompson: “I learned just as much from there as I did in my year at City”

Last orders at The Blacksmith & the Toffeemaker vegan pub

Branca Lessa de Sá


has provided a backdrop for induction week small talk, portfolio deadline meltdowns, and production fortnight or news day stresses. Kate Plummer, a former Magazine MA student at City, said: “Some pubs are just pubs, but others are more than that. And the Blacksmith was way more than that. “A place where cold pints of Amstel were sipped, anaesthetising us against another fruitless patch day; a place where fledgling friendships were made resolute and full of love; a place where pub quizzes were almost won and hissy fits were thrown when they weren’t. R.I.P, B&T.” Cameron Clark, a current student on the Interactive MA, believes that the pub’s decision to become veganonly was perhaps premature

“when attitudes are still in the process of shifting”. Whatever the reason, it is clear the loss will be felt deeply. Dillon Thompson, a former Magazine MA student said: “I learned just as much from the Toffeemaker as I did in my year at City. Every 5pm hunt for an open table was like a tough,

storyless day on patch, each trivia night was a high-pressure ‘Project Betty’ [a magazine business project] presentation, and every pint went down like a satisfying distinction mark.” The current manager plans to open a vegan restaurant, although the location is still to be decided. X Images: Danai Dana

fter five years of unrelenting service to the journalism industry, The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker served its last few pints at the end of last month. The Islington pub, which has long served as a spot for aspiring journalists to unwind from ‘patch’ [a news reporting project], will be leaving a hole in the hearts of City students both past and present. The pub closed on 29 March. However, it has been taken over by another group and will be reopening in early May with a new name. With its cosy interior, decently priced drinks, and loveable resident dog Stella, the Blacksmith has proved a favourite among students. For those completing journalism masters at City, it

Stella, the Blacksmith’s “loveable” dog 25



The Drawn Identity Jessie Mathewson and Lauren Geall

Image: Oliver Stratford

Have you ever drifted off in an editorial meeting? Found yourself scribbling in the margin of your notebook as your editor drones on? Your doodles might not be popular with your boss, but they could be more useful than you think. Tracey Trussell (www.handright.co.uk) is an expert in handwriting and doodle analysis with four years training at the British Institute of Graphologists. To her, doodling doesn’t signify a lack of thought at all. “Doodles are usually produced on autopilot, as a by-product of another activity, while you’re busy concentrating on something else,” she explains. So what do our absent-minded jottings reveal about us? We asked journalists to share their doodles and asked Trussell to take a look and tell us what insights are lurking in their absent-minded scribbles.

The Creative Oliver Stratford, Disegno magazine “The fox is deftly tiptoeing on the baseline of reality, and the feet have heavy retracing: the doodler is attempting to stay grounded, but this is causing some anxiety. The green ink is also relevant, telling us that the doodler has an intense desire to be unique. The fox itself is huge, taking up most of the page, which shows an outward appearance of confidence and a strong desire to get involved with everything that’s going on.” Image:Cole Moreton

The Broadcaster Cole Moreton, BBC & The Mail on Sunday

Image: Alice Fordham

“People who doodle faces are interested in personalities: they are people’s people. The triangular shapes in the face relate to resourcefulness. This means there is abundant creative potential hoisted by a determined, adventurous nature. Spirals are also to do with thinking outside the box. The doodler is likely to be highly individualistic AND doesn’t want to be perceived as ‘normal’. They thrive on variety, creativity, and change.”

The Podcaster Alice Fordham, The Economist “The lion reveals a strong, courageous personality with a secret lust for power. It’s the symbol of an independent and enterprising thinker, someone who is strong-willed, with big dreams, bags of energy, and a desire to have authority and command respect. The doodler needs plenty of social stimulation. They love being involved in everything that’s going on, and they can usually keep their head under pressure.”

“Doodling a frog reflects a strong desire for personal growth and metamorphosis: this drawing suggests the need for a complete change of image. The doodler tends to make jokes at their own expense, effectively hiding their shortcomings and complexes behind humour. The large size of the image and the positioning on the centre of the page suggests a fun-loving showman.” X

Image: John Ashdown

The Sports Journalist John Ashdown, The Guardian sport



Homes for hacks: scheme supports new journalists Seren Morris


nnissa Warsame was thrilled to land an internship with an investigative journalism project, Shine A Light. But there was a problem for the 19-year-old university student: it was in London. Coming from an underprivileged area of Birmingham, she could not afford the £514 she estimated it would cost her for two weeks on rent alone. While scrolling through Twitter one day, Warsame stumbled upon PressPad. She says: “I thought, ‘is this even real?’ I applied to PressPad just as it started up. It sounded too good to be true.” PressPad, which launched in 2018, is a scheme that provides interns with affordable accommodation in London by pairing them with journalists who have spare rooms.

“We want diversity from both ethnic and economic groups”


Illustrations by: Seren Morris

Without PressPad, Warsame would not have been able to complete her internship. In an industry as competitive as journalism, it’s difficult to begin a career without doing unpaid work. But it has been estimated that a one-month unpaid internship in London costs a minimum of £1,019. This means that an intern has to spend around £50 a day to work. The financial inequalities within the media industry create a lack of diversity that is damaging for everybody. Newsrooms miss out on having a range of voices working for them, and talented young journalists miss out on opportunities to work. This is often the case for those who live outside London, and especially those from working-class backgrounds. The only requirement to apply to PressPad is to have secured a placement in London and to live outside the city. Olivia Crellin, a BBC journalist, founded the scheme after her own experience with unpaid internships. When setting out to enter the world of journalism, undertaking unpaid work experience in London was so expensive that Crellin actually saved money by opting to travel to Chile to do an internship instead. Now, working at the BBC, Crellin says: “A lot of my colleagues have comfy lives. They’ve bought a house of their own, then rented a room out. Or they have older kids at university, and enjoy helping young journalists.” But while these relationships are beneficial for the interns, the scheme will hopefully help to increase diversity in the media by introducing senior journalists to people they might not otherwise have met. Warsame stayed with Meirion Jones, Investigative Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who says: “It was a

good opportunity to talk to [Warsame] and find out what her experience was. It is beneficial to us, to get exposed to new, young journalists coming into the industry. “Journalists group with other journalists, and have closed circles. None of that helps diversity. We want diversity from both ethnic and economic groups.” Crellin says: “Those that are typically in the media are white and London-based, but media companies want to expand. They want to provide a service to everyone. “Voices are not being heard from different socio-economic backgrounds. There is a need for diversity.” While PressPad is making it easier, it is a sign of journalists finding ways to deal with not being paid, rather than expecting to be paid for the work they do. However, the plight of young journalists is recognised by organisations like Journo Resources, who advertise paid opportunities. Journo Resources is a non-profit company providing journalists with the information they need to break into the industry – while getting paid. It never advertises unpaid work, and provides guidelines on how much a freelancer should expect to be paid. Jem Collins, journalist and founder of Journo Resources, says: “Journalism as a whole is supposed to be a representation of the population, and you cannot do that if you are only hiring a certain type of person.” X

Image: Danai Dana

Tony Hall When Tony Hall joined the BBC, it held a monopoly on the UK airwaves. Now it’s playing catch-up to new media giants. He insists to Jessie Mathewson and Kieran Devlin that the BBC can still lead the way





modern face is very much on show at the BBC’s new Broadcasting House. In the foyer, the towering figures of the Strictly Come Dancing duo, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, smile down from a larger-than-life mural. Staff twitch in and out through a row of revolving doors. Beyond is the gaping pit of the newsroom, the trading floor of the BBC. The director-general’s offices are on the fourth floor, at the heart of the building – an architectural rejection of top-down leadership. Here a labyrinth of corridors and glass pods, engraved with tributes to the corporation’s best journalists and broadcasters, leads to a surprisingly humble meeting room, and the welcoming smile of Lord Tony Hall. Throughout our interview, that smile rarely fades, no matter how testing the topic – from diversity, to gender pay, to balance, free speech and back again, Lord Hall is relentlessly charming. Only when we refer to a published email on climate change coverage as a “leaked memo” does he show a hint of irritation. Even as he ushers us out, hands shaken and goodbyes said, he can hardly contain his enthusiasm for the BBC, and optimism for the future of journalism. “It’s a wonderful industry,” he says, bouncing with almost conspiratorial glee. “You’ll love it.” It’s an industry that Lord Hall has lived and breathed for most of his adult life. In 1973, he entered the Belfast newsroom as a fresh-faced trainee reporter. Only a twelveyear sabbatical at the Royal Opera House, punctuated by a stint on the board of directors for Channel 4, interrupts his BBC career. His loyalty to, and encyclopedic knowledge of, the organisation is immediately striking. He refers repeatedly and in detail to the corporation’s guidelines during the interview. When he enthuses about Brexitcast, the BBC’s daily Brexit podcast, he sounds sincere. Since Lord Hall joined the corporation nearly a half century ago he’s come to personify it and is perfectly placed to map the BBC’s evolution across half its lifetime. The world is a starkly different place compared to the one the BBC entered 97 years ago. Fake news and misinformation threaten to drown out the organisation’s proud adherence to factual reporting; flashy streaming services are offering more bang for your buck than the telly license fee. With its pedigree bruised by the impositions of the new media age, has the Beeb finally flirted with anachronism? One such imposition is the increasingly saturated streaming service market. New competitors are on the rise, with Amazon, Youtube and Disney investing heavily in streaming platforms, while the BBC simply can’t keep pace financially with market leader Netflix. The Silicon Valley giant’s £9bn spend on original content in 2018 dwarfs the BBC’s 2018/19 content budget of £1.7bn. But Lord Hall is optimistic they can succeed by curating quality over quantity. “The unifier of all this, and the thing I keep stressing inside the organisation, is the content,”

he explains. “The danger is that we get carried away with the success of Netflix and how they operate, but in the end you’ve got to keep thinking about your content and how you distribute it.” But there’s an obstacle for the BBC which Netflix et al can conveniently bypass: a state regulator. Ofcom is currently investigating content standards on BBC television and iPlayer. “We’re going through a regulatory process with Ofcom at the moment which is a bit annoying,” says Lord Hall, smiling wearily at the extra bureaucracy. “They’ve said, ‘We want to look at your plans and check that they broadly fit within the industry as we see them’. You’ve got to move fast because Apple moves fast, Netflix moves fast. Can we move as fast in that regulatory environment?” A further obstacle is the growth of podcasting: the convenience of listening at your leisure poses a risk to radio and its structured scheduling, and the ease of creation has led to a market flooded with amateur competitors. The BBC has a counter-offensive, with the flagship Today programme launching a podcast-only offshoot, Beyond Today, last autumn – in part a response to the original radio show losing 800,000 listeners in 2017. But this doesn’t address the main concern: how do you maintain Today’s listeners when dozens of alternative politics podcasts are being recorded in living rooms across the country? BBC Sounds – launched last autumn as a hold-all audio app for music, news, documentaries, and comedy – is intended to be the answer. “I felt very strongly that iPlayer Radio was not good enough. I wanted to grow a new audience that other podcasts were reaching. We’re putting a lot of energy into BBC Sounds,” says Lord Hall. “Why? Because what’s happening in television is also happening in audio radio. Not just through podcasts but also in the rise of Spotify, which is a challenge to radio stations. So we’ve got to respond, and that response is Sounds.” The app has certainly not been without its problems. It is currently rated two stars on iTunes, with reviewers complaining of technical difficulties and a lack of content. There have been alleged hitches within the organisation too: a BBC journalist recently told a panel at City that staff, used to producing for distinctive radio brands, did not understand the need for a unifying platform. Lord Hall admits that “there’s growing pains”, but defends the potential: “The great thing with Sounds is from the off you’ve got a broad range of podcasts. There are areas around search and discovery we need to get better at, because we’ve got a huge archive, and each week we’re adding more fantastic audio to it. These things are bumpy getting going, but for me Sounds is the future.” The challenges of technology are not new, but in the modern world they have taken on new significance. The core values of the BBC, its struggle for balance – and oftenalleged bias – are not dissimilar in this regard. Perennial concerns, they have become all the more pressing against

“Misinformation is the biggest threat to our democracy after terrorism”


Features Image: PA

a backdrop of global turbulence, growing political divides, fake news and Twitter bots. For Lord Hall, this only makes the BBC’s role more essential. The public trusts the organisation, and when news is breaking it remains the go-to source for facts. Balance, he says, is “fantastically important” in this climate. But since the Scottish independence referendum, through two successive general elections spliced by the EU referendum, he has observed a change in the tone of debate. “There has been a polarisation of the way that people think about news providers,” he explains. “We are generally less willing as a people to listen to views and understand views that are not our own. This is something which we need to think very, very hard about – it affects all news providers.” Change is in part due to social media and the voices – trustworthy and otherwise – creating “noise” around news events, according to the director-general. He is wary of the emotion bound up in contemporary discussion. For him, the BBC has a responsibility to cut through the debate with clear, impartial reporting. “What impartiality means is your journalism is not answerable to anyone. It’s independent. You’re only acting on behalf of your audiences and what you try to do is to seek the truth from all sorts of conflicting evidence.” No conversation about impartiality in the UK today can stray from Brexit for long. The BBC has been attacked by both sides for its coverage of the issue: for lending undue credibility to arguments for leaving the EU on the one hand, and for pro-Remain bias on the other. Lord Hall chooses his words carefully on this subject – he shifts in his chair, less smiling now. “There are moments when you look at Brexit, or at other big issues like that, and you say, ‘Well, what evidence is there to support a view?’. If the evidence is compellingly in one direction, then you should say that –

despite the fact that other people may be disappointed.” Certainly there are many who have been disappointed. The BBC’s firm belief in evidence inevitably recalls Michael Gove’s now-famous rejection of experts. If his comments were an attack on media coverage of Brexit, then Lord Hall certainly numbers among Gove’s “experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best”. But there’s little arrogance in the director-general’s stance. Honesty about what the BBC doesn’t know, as much as what it believes it does, goes to the heart of his concept of the organisation’s values. Rigorous reporting is the antidote to so-called “fake news”, which has caused the mainstream media such concern in recent years. For Lord Hall, the risks are stark. “I think misinformation is the biggest threat to our democracy after terrorism. I say that because I profoundly believe in enlightenment values. A properly informed democracy is absolutely vital to our futures,” he says. But navigating that truth is a perennial challenge for the BBC. In its attempts to avoid bias, the broadcaster is frequently accused of creating false balance. “The notion that there is one view over here cancelled by another view over here, now you make up your mind, is not the way the world works,” Lord Hall argues. “There is a multiplicity of views, and that’s what we’ve got to reflect.” Whether the BBC always succeeds in that aim is a different question. We meet Lord Hall on a day of major climate action: protestors, many of them university and school students, are on strike across the world. In September 2018, a memo from Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of news and current affairs, admitted that the organisation had frequently got it wrong on climate change coverage. She advised producers that climate change deniers were not needed to create balance in programming. Lord Hall fully supports this policy. “On climate change,  31

Features scientific opinion is extremely broad,” he says. “There is stuff happening with the climate: the debate therefore is not ‘Is climate change happening?’. The debate, as Fran was saying, is ‘What do we do about it?’.” The BBC follows the climate protests throughout the day of our interview. That evening, Ross Greer, a Green Party MSP, turns down an invitation to appear on BBC Scotland’s current affairs programme The Nine. He would have been debating the issue with a climate change denier, he alleges. Change does not happen overnight at the BBC – or even over months, it seems. The position of the public broadcaster in the UK media landscape is unique, and as such it attracts particular scrutiny and criticism. It’s something Lord Hall is keenly aware of – but it doesn’t reflect the BBC as he sees it. “I’ve

“I am determined to change the culture of this organisation”


Image: BBC

never known an organisation which is as concerned to argue about what the truth is, what’s right, that worries about things, about the use of language, about what a story might be, as this one – never,” he says. “It’s easy for people to slur the organisation, to say it has a left-bias or a right-bias or whatever. Actually, people in this organisation come from all sorts of different backgrounds, social and political, but when they come in here they hang those hats up at the door and genuinely do come in and say ‘How do we get as near to the truth as we can?’.” But different versions of the truth are not always compatible – and the BBC’s commitment to freedom of expression means many contradictory voices are given a platform. And in an increasingly polarised political climate, the line between enabling hate speech and promoting free speech is a difficult one to tread. Lord Hall sighs, before reaffirming the organisation’s commitment to the ideal. “Freedom of expression is really important,” he explains. “It’s an important right fundamentally, and an important right for people to expect from an organisation like the BBC.” Although it seems to have intensified in recent years, the debate as to whether

controversial figures should be given a platform at all in case their message spreads is one the BBC has confronted its entire lifetime. BNP leader Nick Griffin was invited onto Question Time in 2009, a decision greeted by widespread outrage and an appeal to the BBC Trust to block the appearance. The programme aired as planned, and was viewed by more than 8 million people. The incident was credited with facilitating the BNP’s decline, as Lord Hall underlines: “That incident with Nick Griffin, his appearance on Question Time was the end of him [...]. We shouldn’t avoid putting controversial people under the spotlight, and ask them properly briefed questions. How often you do that, where you do that, when you do that? Different issues.” The issue of when you put controversial people under the spotlight weighed heavy on the day we interviewed Lord Hall: Britain woke up that morning to the devastating news of the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which 50 Muslim worshippers were murdered by a white supremacist. That same night, Newsnight interviewed Benjamin Jones, UK leader of Generation Identity, a white supremacist organisation. The BBC defended the decision, with a spokesperson telling the i newspaper that it was important to “challenge ideologies that drive hate crimes in a wider context”. But that challenge was weakly limited. When Jones claimed that Muslim integration into western society will only inspire terrorism, the interviewer’s response was simply, “That’s a very serious thing to say”. But Lord Hall is firm in his convictions about the public’s right to hear these voices, tapping the table at the end of each sentence, as if literally hammering home his argument: “Having been through the Sinn Féin ban a few decades ago, when we used actors to represent the voices of Sinn Féin spokesmen, I really do believe the public have the right to know what people are saying, as long as they’re


Image: PA

properly interrogated and grilled on issues.” was then over 9% – and the latest available figures show it The problem appears to be a flaw in execution rather is still hovering at 7%. than concept, given that the Jones interview could not Just a few days before we meet Lord Hall, the Equality be considered a grilling by anyone’s definition. But and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that when asked about the risk of alienating sectors of the it intended to investigate the BBC over alleged gender pay viewing public – in this case Muslim audiences – Lord inequality. But the director general greets the news with Hall simply refers back to the importance of freedom of sanguine composure. “If the EHRC finds something that expression. This is as close to dismissive as he gets, a hint we’ve not got right yet then fine, I’m relaxed about that. I of exasperation entering his unflappable tone. really just want us to be absolutely best in class at this,” he There seems to be a disconnect here, an organisational says. “I want a culture where there is a sense of opportunity failure to empathise with a diverse audience, or to for everyone to succeed.” acknowledge that the BBC’s sacrosanct objectivity might Lord Hall is happy to acknowledge that historically, be compromised by the inevitably subjective views of its BBC culture has not always fostered that sense of equal staff. But one solution is greater diversity in its workforce. opportunity – he is keen to stress the scale of ongoing In 2016, the BBC launched a series of diversity targets. The goals for LGBTQ+ and disabled staff, both to make up at least 8% of the workforce, have already been exceeded. Lord Hall says the target for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employment – currently 15%, reflecting the UK population – has now also been reached. But there’s still work to be done. At a recent event at City University, an exBBC employee expressed frustration at the insensitivity of the higher echelons of the organisation, where BAME employees are still seriously Lord Hall with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge underrepresented. The latest figures show that just one in every ten staff in senior roles reforms, which are changing “a culture set decades ago”. is from a BAME background – the second lowest of any Central to this is the review of women’s progression at the broadcaster, with only Sky performing worse. BBC, and a new framework for assessing pay. Here, Lord Hall does acknowledge the need for change, But he doesn’t accept the claims of complacency levelled at least to an extent. “I want to make sure that is properly repeatedly at the BBC since gender pay inequality hit the reflected at all levels of the BBC,” he says. “We’re not there headlines. “Honestly, I just don’t recognise it,” he says. yet – I don’t think any organisation is particularly – but Though Lord Hall is as impeccably calm as ever, there’s it matters because I think it will change the nature of the an unavoidable frustration behind his smiles. “I say that in programmes that we produce.” no sense of complacency. I really think that over the last But over the last two years, discussions of equal five years, but particularly over the last three, we’ve been opportunity at the BBC have been dominated by one concentrating on equality, fairness, progression for women. issue above all others – the gender pay gap. Pay inequality “I am determined to change the culture in this exploded into public view in July 2017 with the publication organisation because I believe in people who have different of all BBC salaries over £150,000. The highest paid man, views coming together to do great things.” Chris Evans, clocked in with as much as £2.5m in 2016/17. Lord Hall doesn’t shy away from the big fundamentals Claudia Winkleman, the highest paid woman, made less when he talks about the BBC’s journalistic mission. Truth, than a quarter of that. With a salary between £450,000 and honesty, impartiality – these are the values that guide his £500,000, she was one of only two women to feature in the leadership. And despite the criticism, despite the threats and top fourteen highest earners. challenges, that resilience gives him hope. A number of high profile women at the BBC – “I’m optimistic about the future, he says. “I think we’re Emily Maitlis, Victoria Derbyshire, Fiona Bruce and in an age where people are intelligent and want to find the Clare Balding prominent among them – called on the truth, and want to find out more about the world – and our organisation to change. In January 2018, BBC China editor job is to deliver that.” Carrie Gracie quit over pay inequality. The gender pay gap That optimism is sorely needed now. X



Inside the fridge Ever wondered what a food critic’s fridge contains? Do they reflect the impeccably high standards they set when reviewing restaurants? Helen Salter delves into their darkest culinary secrets

Tim Hayward Financial Times

Felicity Cloake The Guardian

What is a must in the fridge? Booze, mainly. Things like eggs, fruit and veg, jams and pickles that people routinely keep in their fridges are all better kept out… but if I’m brutally honest, I could happily starve or let everything go rotten as long as I had cold beer and wine.

What is a must in the fridge? You’ll always find whole-milk yoghurt, Pecorino Romano for grating over pasta (I prefer its aggressively salty flavour to Parmesan, and it’s cheaper too), kimchi, kombucha or whatever weird ferment I’m experimenting with, good tonic water, duck fat or beef dripping and, in the winter anyway, oranges. Citrus fruit is so much more delicious ice cold. Try it.

Go-to drunk food or a midnight snack? I’d love to say I knock out a quick omelette aux fines herbes but the awful honest answer is ‘Food In Tubes’. Principally squeezy Dairylea and/or Kaviar… a barbarous Danish smoked fish roe spread by a company called Kalles. You can eat it silently, without needing to use vulnerable crockery or potentially hazardous cutlery, it’s designed to pack a devastating umami punch and, best of all, it disgusts everyone else so much that they’d never eat it. Crackers are entirely optional. 7pm on a Friday: what do you reach for from the fridge? Amazingly predictable: ‘Flatbread Friday’. My daughter makes a batch of quick flatbread dough every Friday when she gets home from school, so at seven we’ll either be pulling out marinated skewers of meat, fish or chicken, a few bits of salad, or if the mood strikes her, mozzarella and pizza toppings.

7pm on a Friday: what do you reach for from the fridge? Whatever leftovers there are from the week’s recipe testing; I can eat the same thing for every meal for days on end, though I try and add an extra veg on the side too. Works well when it’s ramen, less well when it’s profiteroles. The only downside of my column is I very rarely get to make the dishes again as I’m already on to the next thing. Go-to drunk food or a midnight snack? Buttered toast and Marmite. Or when there’s no bread in the house, buttered digestives and Marmite. To be honest, it’s more butter with toast; the ratio tends to be a bit off and I can quite easily wake up to find I’ve eaten half the butter and need to go for a long run.



of a food critic Danny Kingston Food Urchin What is a must in the fridge? Mayonnaise in a squeezy bottle would probably be my ‘must’ – and if you can get hold of some Kewpie mayo, even better. Sliced gherkins are always handy to have around too. And anything meaty and potted, like shredded pork belly or duck. In lard. Stuff that is easily spreadable in a hurry. Go-to drunk food or midnight snack? I think so long as you have all of the above, I reckon you’d be good to go for an easy assemble sandwich. Might be nice to have some sourdough lurking in the cupboard. But if you’re drunk or famished, it doesn’t really matter. Anything ‘bready’ will do: crumpets, scotch pancakes, the thick ends of white loaves gone stale – you can always toast.

Keith Miller The Telegraph What is a must in the fridge? Anchovies – easy to chuck in with pasta sauces. There are usually cans of tonic, there’s quite a lot of alcoholrelated stuff. Quite a lot of cheese lurking in there, which varies according to where we’ve been – I do worry if the cheese level gets too low. Oh, and there’s usually always half a cabbage.

7pm on a Friday: what do you reach for from the fridge? Friday nights can go either way. There will be something like a nice aged steak. Or a load of picky stuff like cheeses, charcuterie and deli bits – I do enjoy a carpet picnic (we do honestly call it this at home but it has elicited some smirks before!). And a beer. But that usually comes out of the freezer, for speedy cooling purposes. 

Go-to drunk food or a midnight snack? Late-night grilled cheese on toast – despite the constraints about eating cheese late at night! 7pm on a Friday: what do you reach for from the fridge? What I would love to do would be to cook some type of Asian thing – there’d be some sort of protein, spice and vegetables – Sichuan chicken with chilli, peanuts and rice wine or a sort of Pad Thai. But in fact, on a Friday sometimes I don’t get home till 10pm, but that’s the ideal.

Is there any segregation in the fridge? When my daughter is round, she would help herself and help cook, but she doesn’t particularly have stuff in there that’s hers. If she did there would be hell to pay. 35


Jimi Famurewa The Evening Standard What is a must in the fridge? If you were to ask my sons it would probably be a steady supply of the powerfully sugary Peppa Pig yoghurts that they adore. But for me, it’s probably one of those murky jars of cheapo jalapeño peppers; I throw them in quesadillas, use them to augment quite bad supermarket cheese pizzas, or impulsively tip a bit of the brine in sauces needing an extra hit of flavour. They are always in the fridge even if no one can remember buying them. Go-to drunk food or a midnight snack? I get so intensely tired while drunk that I rarely have the energy to cook, but a fried egg sandwich on toasted, not remotely fancy white bread normally hits the spot if I can manage it. With midnight snacks, I have been known to rifle through cupboards in search of ancient, stashed pieces of Halloween chocolate my sons have long forgotten about.

Illustrations:Vivienne Shao

7pm on a Friday – what do you reach for from the fridge? Recently, I have been off booze for a month so I have become an accidental authority on nonalcoholic beer. The only two actively pleasant options: Nanny State and Lucky Saint.


James Hansen Eater What is a must in the fridge? Stock. I cook a lot of meals during the week and nearly all of them need some kind of stock – pasta, risotto, bean stews, anything that needs a pan sauce. We often have roast chicken on Sundays, so I make stock from the leftover bones and some extra roasted chicken wings and necks on the Monday morning. Sometimes we end up running out because I just drink it straight from a mug. Having heated it first. The jelly-from-the-fridge consistency is… slippery. Go-to drunk food or a midnight snack? Normally something on toast, as there’s normally the end of some sourdough knocking around. ‘Nduja with honey is a favourite. Salty, spicy, with a cut of sweetness. Best eaten furtively with the high risk of waking someone up. 7pm on a Friday: what do you reach for from the fridge? I don’t eat until fairly late, so probably a drink – either a beer or a chilled, light red wine maybe. If snacking is necessary after a long day, then the classic ‘fridge forage’ will normally involve an egg (not in the fridge), tomato (not in the fridge) and more ‘nduja. Bread if it’s there. X


The art of the biography


Obsessive, meticulous, truthful: why journalists make perfect biographers. Aisling O’Leary reports

Image: Hanaé Sanchez

n 2014, Lindsey Hilsum was lying on her sofa with the Penguin Books imprint. Nowadays, there’s not much a knee injury, wondering what she was going to do that people aren’t able to find out for free online. So what with the rest of her life. It had been two years since prompts someone to invest their time and money in a her friend and colleague, The Sunday Times war biography? Namely exclusive material, a newsworthy angle correspondent Marie Colvin, was killed in a Syrian rocket and an innovative approach to the subject. attack in Homs that was later discovered to have been Through writing biographies, journalists have the ordered by president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It had also time to go the extra mile and tell the subject’s story from been two years since the publication of her latest book, every conceivable angle. Hilsum trawled through 300 Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution. of Colvin’s old diaries as well as reporting notebooks; While the book was highly interviewed 115 people; praised, Hilsum was left slightly and had a fellowship at the dissatisfied. All she wanted to do Marie Colvin Center for was portray the reported conflicts International Reporting at she had been involved in. Unlike Stony Brook University’s Sandstorm, where she told the story School of Journalism, where from six different points of view, she researched Colvin’s she wanted to convey this through American years. The result is one character. a close-up, detailed portrait of “I just thought, it’s staring you Colvin the woman, not just the in the face! It’s Marie, obviously war reporter. The daughter, Marie. So I just propped myself the wife, the stepmother, the up on my sickbed, tapped out a devoted friend. proposal, sent it to my agent, and The biography genre has she came back at me and said, ‘Yep, an established foothold in that’s the book.’” the literary world; there will In Extremis: The Life of War always be a new book on Correspondent Marie Colvin is the Churchill, some new research first biography that Hilsum, Channel to contribute to the story of 4 News international editor, has Queen Elizabeth. But what written. Seeing the world through makes a bestseller? Lindsey Hilsum: “Be ruthless and tender” Colvin’s eyes, it was an experience “There’s got to be some sort she says she found “very rewarding”. of compelling reason as to why Last year, biography sales came to £30m so clearly there this person,” Hampson explains. “And I guess the subject is something to be said for a well-crafted chronicle. In of the book has to have a strong enough story to make it Extremis sold 20,000 copies in the first four months; Tom something readers are going to want to pick up.” Bower’s Dangerous Hero (a Jeremy Corbyn exposé) reached Succinctly narrating a person’s entire life can prove number three on The Sunday Times Bestseller List in March; daunting. What do you include? Can you leave anything and David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance out? New to the genre, Hilsum read a lot of biographies. Armstrong, exposing the infamous cyclist’s corruption, She reveals that some of the best advice she received was made into a film called The Program starring Ben was from Nicholas Shakespeare, the acclaimed author of Foster and Chris O’Dowd. Bruce Chatwin, which chronicles the travel writer’s life. Journalists make good biographers because “they work “He said to keep a file on your computer entitled “themes” to deadline and they know their subject,” according to because, ‘You’ll find as soon as you start to work, there Poppy Hampson, editorial director at Chatto & Windus, are themes that come through.’ So, with Marie the themes  37

David Walsh: “You don’t want to bore the reader” are things like bravery. Appalling taste in men is a theme. Recklessness,” says Hilsum. The other thing Shakespeare said was to be precise about date. Hilsum’s partner helped her to set up an Excel spreadsheet on which she plotted everything. “Having that spreadsheet with all these dates – I think I’m as proud of the spreadsheet as I am of the book! Because I’m not very well organised,” she admits.

“You need an agent who believes in you” Journalists have a nose for a news peg and for Hilsum, the “Marie moment” was obvious. She sold it in England first but struggled to find an American publisher. Hilsum knew that it had to be published in November: the documentary Under the Wire had just come out, and the film A Private War, based on an article by Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner, was set to release in the US. “When it became clear that [the film] was coming out, American publishers started to be more interested and we managed to sell it to Farrar, Straus and Giroux in America. Initially they were all going to publish in February this year, and then I pushed and pushed and pushed and said it has to come out in November of last year, when the film was coming out [in the States] otherwise you’re going to miss the wave. Was I right? Yes.” In Extremis is an example of the perfect marriage of author and subject. The same goes for David Walsh, given his history of covering the former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong as The Sunday Times’s chief sports writer. He had written three books on Armstrong previously, making him an established authority. Then one afternoon in 2012 he received a phone call from businessman Richard Relton asking 38

him if he would be prepared to write a book about his involvement with Armstrong. That was the year the United States Anti-Doping Agency concluded that Armstrong had used performanceenhancing drugs throughout his entire career. Walsh felt vindicated; he had been investigating the ex-sportsman’s doping since 1999. Relton had been prompted by a friend who worked for the major publishing house Simon & Schuster: they knew Walsh would be the perfect man for the job. Walsh agreed, hoping the book would sell 20,000 copies. It far exceeded that, selling 250,000 copies to date. “In my view, it was a fortuitous phone call,” he says. However, writing any book, he goes on to say, is a serious undertaking. “Everyone starts out with great enthusiasm for the book,” he explains. “It’s like the idea that having a baby is great, the actuality of changing nappies isn’t as much fun. That’s what book writing is.” Having an agent is often viewed as essential for any successful writer, but Walsh prefers to negotiate deals himself. “Often, publishers have approached me,” he says, putting him in the fortunate position of being able to accept or decline projects. Biographer Susan Ronald, author of Hitler’s Art Thief, has a different view. “You need an agent who believes in you.” Case in point; in 1998 she pitched her agent a story about Hildebrand Gurlitt, Hitler’s art dealer. Ronald had the extraordinary experience of coming across the looted art collection in her previous career as an investment banker. Her agent didn’t believe the story was true. Flash forward 15 years and more than 1,500 works of art had been found in Gurlitt’s son’s apartment in Munich. Her agent had 12 interested publishers lined up the next day. It is this sort of connection with a biographical subject that makes a book a better sell. “I think what people are interested in is hybrids, for example a biography with something else, a memoir with another element. If it’s just a straight biography of a person, that is not a particularly Lesley-Ann Jones: “I have to be in love with their music”

Image: Hanaé Sanchez

Image: Hanaé Sanchez


Image: Hanaé Sanchez

Features front and then a certain amount if the film makes money. The best thing about this scenario he says is “you haven’t put any extra work in because you’ve already written the book”. Film operates on an entirely different budget to journalism and Ronald is shrewd about this. She specifically chose the publishing house with the lowest bid for her book Hitler’s Art Thief because, unlike the six other offers, St Martin’s Press didn’t ask for film rights.

“You’ve got to have evidence for everything”

Susan Ronald: “It’s people who make history” vibrant area of the market right now,” says Karolina Sutton, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. Which is exactly why Hilsum’s book is so successful. She opens with a preface detailing their friendship but apart from that lets the voice of her subject speak for itself. “I thought it just worked better as a book to not have me in there,” says Hilsum. Her editor agrees. “The really important thing about this book is that Lindsey is incredibly modest about it. She doesn’t put herself into the story at all and there are not a lot who would have had a similar approach – they would have put themselves in there. It’s not the point – it’s Marie’s story and that’s the important thing.” Knowing what to leave out can be just as important as what to include. Lesley-Ann Jones, a music journalist who has written biographies of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Marc Bolan, considers how some things have to be left out for legal reasons. “The lawyers at your publishing house are right on it – the legal teams are really, really hot. You’ve got to have evidence for everything. It’s not always good enough that somebody has said it to you,” she says. Her definitive Freddie Mercury biography added the role of script consultant to her resumé when writer Peter Morgan approached her to help with the original screenplay of Bohemian Rhapsody. Good biography writing can lead onto these sorts incredible opportunities, as Walsh experienced himself when his Armstrong biography was adapted for film by director Stephen Frears. “Thank god it was my book [rather than an autobiography]. Because I was able to be involved in that both as a beneficiary and a consultant to the film.” He clarifies that as an author you stand to gain 2% of the budget of the entire movie. You get a certain amount up

“Everybody except St Martin’s wanted film rights and documentary rights and I said no. There’s an awful lot of money to be made from this [...] it’s also a better way of keeping the publisher’s toes to the fire,” says Ronald. Like the perfect marriage of author and subject, Ronald is waiting for the perfect director to visually create her story. So far, the people who have approached her have fallen short of the mark. One man reached out offering $1,000 for the rights. Ronald declined. For most journalists, surviving on fees for writing biographies is unrealistic. But it is more lucrative to write a biography than ghost writing as you earn royalties. Despite this, both Walsh and Hilsum juggled very senior, full-time jobs while writing bestselling biographies. Their advice? “Don’t take a chance. Make sure the subject gives you an overwhelming desire to write,” says Walsh. Hilsum confirms this: “I think you have to love your subject - I spent three extra years with Marie, which to me was a treat. I missed her.” X

INSIDER TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE A BIOG • Will you be able to tell a story that is different than what is already available? Is it worth the investment of time – both of yours and the reader’s? • Start at the beginning. Go on to the end and then stop. • Try to write a certain amount every day because it keeps your nose somewhere close to the grindstone. • Don’t let your voice interfere with the subject’s story. • Make sure that you really can live for a couple of years with that person inside your head and inside your life. • If you’re writing about someone from way back, ensure access to enough material. If it’s someone who was alive recently, make sure to get the cooperation of family and friends. • Have an agent who believes in you. If you’re getting started, you want someone hungry, which generally means an agent starting out in their career. • Fundamentally, you have to be honest about the subject.



The Euro vision on a Bored of Brexit coverage? Yeah, we are too. But imagine being a UK correspondent for a European publication. They used to focus on fluffy pieces on British arts and culture, sport and the Royal Family – but now their job is primarily to explain the latest Brexit twists and turns to their confused home audiences. Stephen Glennon and Julia Webster hear from four correspondents for Ireland, Germany, France and Spain about their “bafflement” and “horror” over the referendum fallout

Rafa de Miguel UK and Ireland correspondent for El País How does a Spanish audience perceive what is happening in the UK? The Spanish public, in general, is deeply pro-European. This is even more pronounced in the case of El País readers. The UK’s decision therefore, is difficult to understand, and the tendency is to think that it has made a political mistake and that it has damaged the European project. How did you feel when the referendum results came out? I did not agree with the decision of the United Kingdom, but I respect it. I understand that there has always been a latent feeling of exceptionalism in Britain, and that it has never been firmly convinced of its adherence to the European club.

What will the legacy of Brexit be? The legacy of Brexit will undoubtedly be an increase in Euroscepticism in the rest of Europe. We are already seeing it in Italy or Hungary, and that is why Brussels wants to make it clear that leaving the EU comes at a price. But Brexit is not the only one to blame. The EU has made very little pedagogical or democratic effort to be an attractive and unifying idea for its citizens.

“There has always been a latent feeling of exceptionalism in Britain”

What do you think about Brexit coverage in the British press? Not all British media have covered the Brexit debate with the same quality and honesty. In general, in the tabloids and the conservative press there’s been more partisan, rather than informative journalism. 40

Image: El Pais

Has your opinion on Brexit changed over the past three years? My opinion about Brexit has not changed, but my opinion about the quality of the British political class has. With notable exceptions, I have seen sectarianism and fanaticism in the debate that does not correspond to the previous idea of the country in which pragmatism and consensus prevailed over the ideological battle.

Rafa de Miguel outside Westminster for El País


very British disaster Image: Declan McCaughey

Fiona Mitchell London correspondent for RTÉ real display of a lack of knowledge. It has surprised Irish people to get that sense of how little they understand us. We forget how much we in Ireland know about them, and how little they know about us. If you’re in Ireland, you are watching Coronation Street and Emmerdale and the BBC, and you’re following Liverpool or Man United. By osmosis you know a huge amount about British society, just by turning on your telly or opening up a newspaper. You realise they have no concept of our history, and why something might be offensive to Irish people. And that has also struck me. I think it has shown that Ireland has grown up quite a lot. We don’t feel insulted by it. Annoyed, yes, but not necessarily insulted.

“It has surprised Irish people to get a sense of how little they understand us”

RTÉ’s Fiona Mitchell at the Houses of Parliament How were the referendum results received in Ireland? Huge shock and a certain amount of disbelief. I’ve been surprised about how united it seems to be, both from people who are sceptical about the EU and those who are less so. They’re united in this sense of ‘What are they doing? Why are they doing this?’. I think we’ve had scepticism ourselves in Ireland about the EU. But when you look at the polls now, how people feel about being part of the EU, it’s made Irish people think about it in a slightly different way. How do you think Brexit will change Ireland’s relationship with Britain? You can’t try and pretend that it hasn’t damaged relations. You only have to see the kind of narratives from politicians here in relation to Ireland – there’s been a

Are there any perspectives that the British media failed to cover that were obvious in Ireland? Oh my goodness. That is a slam dunk of the border and Ireland. Some people I talked to in the Leave campaign said ‘we didn’t talk about it because we didn’t think we were going to win. And we didn’t think it was a very complex issue’. Which is almost more horrifying. RTÉ was covering people along the borders a huge amount, and they were worried and concerned. And it was just not getting traction in the UK at all. I mean, to a horrifying extent. What do you think will be the legacy of Brexit when we look back on it in 10 or 20 years’ time? I’m not sure the event will be over in 10 years. British politics is going to have an awful lot of repairing to do. Perhaps I stand outside Westminster too often and watch people yell things at one another. It has made me somewhat concerned about what this might mean. There’s going to be a fallout in the next election, and the election after that. People will be getting asked how they voted in Brexit, what they wanted, if they supported a second referendum, all of these things will still be getting dragged out. And when you’re talking about the past, you’re not talking about the future.



Image: Financial Times

Florentin Collomp London correspondent for Le Figaro it proved that she was completely unable to articulate a Eurosceptic policy or strategy. One of the main consequences in France and in Europe is that people have realised that their problems are not all the European Union’s fault. How do you feel about the coverage of Brexit in the British media, both now and leading up to the referendum? It has improved a lot because before the referendum it was covered as a campaign, it was very partisan and not very factual. It was not very in touch with what Europe and the European Union is. It was more about the British visions and Euroscepticism. There is still a lot of that in the British press, but it seems that the British media have stepped up to understanding how Europe works and what it means to be part of the EU, to be able to understand why it needs to leave it. There has been a lot of progress and many newspapers include a lot of bias but the level of expertise has really increased throughout, including in the Daily Mail or The Sun. Florentin Collomp, London correspondent for Le Figaro How did Brexit affect your work? Being a London correspondent used to be a very diverse job because I used to write about many different things: politics, business, culture, crime, royalty, etc. But since the referendum, Brexit has become 90% of my work. I struggle to find stories that are not about Brexit. The only other big stories were the terrorist attacks in 2017, and the Skripal poisoning. When I arrived in the UK, Marc Roche, who was a correspondent for Le Monde said to me: “Being a Britain correspondent involves a lot of small stories, you’ll never make the front page.” It has turned out to be the complete opposite. My stories have made the front page a crazy number of times. How do you think it has affected Euroscepticism in France? In France as well as in the rest of Europe, it has been a blow to Euroscepticism. It cost Marine Le Pen’s slim chances in the 2017 presidential elections. She didn’t have much of a chance, but it decreased those chances because 42

What do you think will be the legacy of Brexit? The legacy in Britain is a legacy of chaos and madness. When I first started reporting on Brexit I went to meetings of Eurosceptics in Parliament, and I used to think ‘these people have a point, they’re criticising the way the EU is organised and this scepticism is quite healthy’. But after a while I realised that was not the point. The main objective was actually to destroy the idea of Europe and of Britain’s membership. And when you see the Brexiteers’ reasoning, their refusal to vote for a deal that has been negotiated for two years, it’s clear all they want is chaos and destruction.

“It has been a blow to Euroscepticism. It cost Marine Le Pen’s slim chances in the 2017 presidential elections”

Jörg Schindler Der Spiegel London Bureau What was the feeling in Germany when the Brexit referendum results were announced? Bafflement. People were as surprised as I was. Nobody really took it seriously. Everyone thought, let them have their fun with the referendum, eventually it will turn out as every referendum in the EU does: namely in favour of the governing class.

What do you think will be the legacy of Brexit? Hopefully in 10 or 20 years’ time Britain will be back in the EU. Or maybe Brexit will be a success. Maybe Europe will fall apart and, nobody knows, maybe the British will be the figureheads and the frontrunners of these developments. X Image: Der Spiegel

Have those feelings changed over the last two and a half years? You have to keep in mind that Germany culturally and socially has a very close relationship with the British. We look up to you guys in pop-cultural terms and in political terms, for the diplomatic expertise of Britain, the democratic exchange and the exchange of arguments. The way Parliament works was always a role model for many people in Germany. There is still bafflement about the extent of the mess and the complete failure of exchanging arguments. I have to admit there is also a certain amount of amusement but I think as a whole, Germans are looking at the British theatre as a tragedy and not a farce.

“Germans are looking at the British theatre as a tragedy and not a farce” Were you taken aback by how partisan the British media landscape is? Absolutely. It would be unthinkable for the German media to endorse a party before an election. It’s also unthinkable; the kind of hatred needed to brand politicians or judges as mutineers or traitors. Even the Bild Zeitung [Germany’s largest tabloid] wouldn’t do that. There are certain rules and certain frontiers in the German media and I just don’t have the impression that they exist in England at all. The interesting thing is that much of the printed press in England is owned by EU-hating foreigners. With a less biased media, with a less prejudiced media, I think the Brexit result would have been different. In the run up to the referendum it was pretty shocking to see, especially the BBC, trying to be unbiased. I really don’t think it’s the role of the media to give conspiracy theorists, professors and experts the same amount of broadcasting time. I don’t think this is a sensible approach to journalism. Der Spiegel’s Jörg Schindler 43


The changing face of photojournalism How do images leave their mark in a world awash with visual content, asks Susannah Browning

I Images: Alice Aedy

n the Oreokastro camp in northern Greece, a child looks out; she is holding a baby wrapped in a bundle of white bedclothes. Captured midyawn, it is an intimate close-up of a young Syrian refugee called Yamamah from Deir ez-Zor with her newborn cousin. Photographed by Alice Aedy, the image was published on

the front page of The Guardian in December 2016 and led the way for the most successful fundraising campaign for child refugees in the publication’s history. The Guardian’s readers raised over £1.75 million for Help Refugees UK. Aedy is a 25-year old photojournalist and filmmaker covering humanitarian crises, migration, women’s rights and environmental issues. Over the past three years, she has been reporting on the frontline of the refugee crisis in Greece, Serbia and France. With the saturation of visual content published online, photojournalists have to find new techniques to document people’s stories in order for their work to be recognised. This has led Aedy to direct her attention towards in-depth, slow journalism where she can build strong relationships with people before she captures them on camera. She explains: “Photojournalists are now focusing on thoughtthrough investigative projects, which is a positive shift.”

“There is a sense of desensitisation around images of conflict”

Yamamah Matlaq and newborn cousin from Deir ez-Zor. Oreokastro camp near Thessaloniki. 2016 44

Aedy believes that photojournalists have to stop depicting stereotypes, as it allows us to distance ourselves from the reality and deny any sense of responsibility. Her work aims to find new ways of representation and storytelling rather than capturing ‘poverty porn’. One such example was in 2017, when there was a severe drought in East Africa affecting 18 million people; Aedy went to Somaliland to document the crisis. During the project, she created a photo series in a portable studio with a black backdrop and a flash used for fashion shoots. By removing her subjects from their immediate context, she wanted the viewer to engage with the image with a new assiduity. “I think there is a huge sense of desensitisation around images of conflict which is really worrying. I want to take photographs in an empowering way, to represent them as equals rather than portraying them as victims.” Can photography still have an impact if we are constantly consuming images with easy accessibility? Aedy says: “Everyone can have their own voice on social media which is powerful. My concern is that


Xaawa Ali photographed in Burao, Somaliland. 2017

with all these images, we don’t know the story, the context, the intention, we don’t even know whether they have asked for consent. The immediate image has lost its value; they can be impressive but the viewer is not informed. I think as a reaction to this, photojournalists are focusing on more thoughtthrough investigative projects. This is a positive shift.” The young, self-taught photographer is using her images as a form of activism, a vehicle for change and for raising political awareness. Last month, she was commissioned by Nimco Ali, a British Somali activist, to go to Kenya and Gambia and document the work of female African activists who aim to stop female genital mutilation by 2030. Josephine Kulea, founder of Samburu Girls’ Foundation, has rescued over 1000 girls from FGM in Kenya. Aedy adds: “Josephine gets over six calls a day from local villages, saying, ‘this girl is going to get cut, you need to save her’.” The photographs of Kulea on the frontline will be used at the forefront of Aedy’s campaign. If images are used for promoting a cause, is this still journalism? Aedy argues: “Where is the line? I don’t think you can be objective. Photojournalists are campaigners, we have to go that step further.” X

Zayneb Omar is dressed in a pink headscarf. 2016 45



London hot spots for the discerning freelancer Catherine Kennedy explores the capital’s best writing haunts

1. Timberyard, Seven Dials Timberyard is reinventing the coffee and co-working scene. Set up as both a café and communal workspace, it has meeting and event rooms available to hire. But if you’re just on the hunt for a place to work, you’ll be among many others typing away here – and there’s good WiFi and plenty of plug sockets as well. There’s also a mesmerising selection of cakes and biscuits.

5. V&A: National Art Library, Knightsbridge This is not a coffee shop – in fact you can’t bring food and drink in – but it’s more than worth the sacrifice. With book-lined walls and a pleasing feeling that you’ve just stepped back in time, this library will fill you with inspiration. It’s open to everyone and admission is free – you just need to leave bags in the cloakroom at the main entrance to the museum.

Crowd: people-watchers, freelancers, the odd TripAdvisor tourist. Tube: Leicester Square

Crowd: students, visitors. Tube: South Kensington

2. The Book Club, Shoreditch Tables here are well spaced out and sitting with a laptop seems to be the done thing. In fact, there are so many people working, it almost feels like an edgy library. Exposed brick walls, artwork and distressed wooden chairs add to the vibe. The former Victorian warehouse transforms into a bar at night, which hosts everything from club nights to art and photography exhibitions. Should you be in need of a brief distraction, you can also enjoy a game of table tennis. Crowd: beards, business meetings. Tube: Old Street 3. Caravan, King’s Cross As settings go, this one is unique. For its King’s Cross offering, Caravan has found a home in a Grade II listed former grain store. Opened as part of the King’s Cross Central Partnership development, the building’s surviving beams, metal detail and exposed brickwork hark back to its previous life, while the atmospheric lighting creates a relaxed space to spend a couple of hours. Crowd: art students, serial brunchers. Tube: King’s Cross 4. Ace Hotel, Shoreditch Rumours that the lobby of this Shoreditch hotel is a freelancer’s dream are not unfounded: its entrance is populated almost exclusively with trendy-looking people typing. There’s a productive vibe, and the grey walls, brickwork and gold lights are a nod to the chain’s American urban roots. Crowd: start-up employees, freelancers, the occasional man bun. Tube: Liverpool Street


6. The Wren, St Paul’s Hidden inside a 17th century church, The Wren is a gem nestled among the bustling streets of office workers and businesses around St Paul’s. The setting is stunning: high ceilings and stained glass windows, and seating formed out of repurposed pews, sofas and stainless steel chairs. There’s loads of space, coffee from Caravan Coffee Roasters and chilledout music. Crowd: friends, meetings, families after the school run. Tube: Mansion House 7. Vagabond, Holloway This north London coffee haunt began with its Lithuanian founders’ idea to create “a place called home”. That home was its first location in Stroud Green but since 2013, it has been settled among the second-hand shops of Holloway Road. From time to time, pop-up art exhibitions are hosted here, which could function as an inspiration or a distraction – or maybe both. There’s a laid-back atmosphere and, if the sun comes out, there’s even a garden. Crowd: artsy locals, connoisseurs of baked goods. Tube: Highbury & Islington 8. Ozone, Shoreditch Striking wooden tables, hanging bulbs and industrial steel pipes – you get the idea. There’s also more space in the basement, where the coffee beans are roasted, should the ground floor café be busy. Crowd: coffee aficionados, food lovers, roll-up jeans. Tube: Old Street

Image: Stefan Rousseau

On the margins of freedom


Madeleine Taylor examines reporting from Africa in the age of fake news

oday “fake news” is often little more than a cliché, an insult, a slur, used to decry negative media attention and discredit critics. But in newsrooms across Africa, journalists know that a charge of fake news could lead to a lifetime behind bars. It’s the phrase that spawned a thousand laws curtailing press freedom, with Kenya voting last May to impose fines of £37,000 and up to two years in prison for publishing “false” information. Last year, Egypt, Uganda, and Tanzania all legislated for harsher penalties. The news is in: governments across Africa are getting tough on truth. Last November, Cameroonian news reporter Mimi Mefo reported the death of an American missionary at the hands of the Cameroonian military. Cameroon, in its third decade of rule by authoritarian dictator Paul Biya, was in the midst of an armed conflict between Anglophone separatists and the Francophone majority. Mefo, a reporter at independent station Équinoxe TV in Cameroon, tweeted out news of the shooting of Indiana native Charles Wesco, who was caught in the cross-fire between state forces and armed separatists while sitting in a car with his wife and son. After her report went out, Mefo received anonymous threats to her life and career. One week later, she was brought before a state military tribunal, and found guilty of endangering the state by publishing “false news”.

“I was handcuffed by the five armed gentlemen present, and I was taken to prison. That’s how I spent the night of 7 November — behind bars,” recalled Mefo. She spent four nights in a prison cell, in which time the international human rights lobby ratcheted up the pressure on Cameroon for her release, and the hashtag #FreeMimiMefo trended on social media. Although the Cameroonian military has not admitted to the killing of Wesco, the government dropped the fake news charges after Biya issued the order for her release. “It was not an experience you’d wish even for your own enemy,” Mefo said in an interview with Poynter Institute. It was a lucky escape for Mefo, one of a handful of Cameroonian journalists who have refused to be silenced amid the escalating crisis. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 28 journalists last year were imprisoned globally on “false news” charges, which is three times higher than in 2016. Egypt was responsible for over half of the imprisonments, with Cameroon and Rwanda close behind with the second and third highest numbers respectively. What actually is “fake news”, and why is it responsible for filling African jail cells? Jailing journalists is nothing new to Cameroon or the continent. But while charges in the past have mainly been rooted in anti-terror and  47


“The foreign media has a tiny margin of freedom”


Image: Madeleine Taylor

state security legislation, the growing trend for “fake news” as a charge is seen as the latest justification for clampdowns on media freedom. Angela Quintal, the Africa director of the CPJ and a South African former journalist, sees it as a narrative that was co-opted from Western media by autocrats, politicians, and “anyone who has an axe to grind”, the newest mask for oppression and media restriction. Quintal explains: “The thing is that there is no such thing as fake news: news can’t be fake, news is news. There’s disinformation, there’s misinformation, and there’s propaganda. So if we can’t even call it what it is, then we’re part of the problem as journalists. “It’s an incredibly lazy way of speaking, in terms of the way that journalists have accepted the use of the term. Let’s not hide behind false news charges when the space for free expression and press freedom is being shut down.” Quintal herself knows what it’s like to fall foul of an oppressive regime. In December, she was deported Data supplied by the CPJ’S 2018 Prison Census from Tanzania when on a visit to investigate the disappearance of Tanzanian freelance journalist Azory with a lower risk of jail or intimidation compared to their Gwanda. Quintal had noted the government agents tailing local counterparts. her for days; but one night at 10pm she heard a knock at Of the 19 journalists jailed on “false news” charges her hotel door and she was marched from her bed. She in Egypt last year, all were local reporters. As the and her colleague, Muthoki Mumo, were driven by armed media climate across Africa worsens, the CPJ reports agents to a safe-house where they were harassed and that “perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press questioned, sometimes violently, about their investigations deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt”. for five hours. This included repeated attempts to hack “This government is trying to have total control over into their computers and phones, whose passwords the flow of information,” says The Wall Street Journal Quintal had instructed a colleague to change remotely. Cairo correspondent Jared Malsin, describing the “It was incredibly traumatic,” says Quintal, who turned “weekly, even daily” interactions that Egyptian reporters to social media for her and her colleague’s safety, sending have with government information services. “The state out updates on Facebook and is monitoring all media that Twitter to say that they had comes out of here.” been accosted by state agents. Operating within Egypt “One thing that stuck in since the aftermath of the my head was: how do I get the Arab Spring, Malsin witnessed message out to the world that waves of media restriction. we are about to be arrested, The first media gag came after so that we too don’t become the 2013 military coup that a missing statistic like Gwanda?” Quintal considers overthrew Mohamed Morsi, with partisan Islamist news herself lucky to have been deported and not charged. organisations banned and domestic TV outlets bought Meanwhile Tanzania native Azory Gwanda, who vanished out by businessmen with strong ties to the state. Egypt’s in 2017 after writing a series of articles about a spate of restriction on free speech reached another peak last year in extrajudicial killings in the region, is to-date still missing the run-up to the elections, when current president Abdel and presumed dead. Fattah el-Sisi’s government ordered prosecutors to monitor Quintal says that intervention by the South African media for “fake news”, and a law was passed making embassy, along with international pressure from her Facebook and Twitter accounts with over 5,000 followers social media following, forced the hand of the Tanzanian subject to existing fake news legislation. government. An official statement from Tanzania later The risks of reporting in Egypt are something Malsin stated that her questioning and subsequent deportation thinks about “all the time” for his Egyptian colleagues. was on the basis of immigration concerns and that she was “In the foreign media, we’re sort of on an island where “working on a tourist visa”. we can say things that aren’t allowed to be published in Quintal’s “luck” is the same as that of foreign the Egyptian press. We have an important role to play, correspondents. A foreign passport means that not because we’re somehow better at journalism, or doing governments pay a diplomatic price for mistreating a better job than the local media here, it’s just a function journalists, which allows foreign correspondents to report of the way this system works. We have a little bit of rope,

a tiny margin of freedom where we can write things that correspondents to cover regions, and are instead relying wouldn’t run in the Egyptian press, so we have to take this on local reporters, stringers, and fixers to get stories. Their as a responsibility.” safety is at greater risk, yet organisations are generally not Rather than losing their freedom, what foreign obliged to ensure the same degree of protection for them. correspondents risk is losing their access. In February, For Quintal and Trew, being “lucky” means being ahead of the election, Egyptian security threatened deported, rather than imprisoned. But for local African Bel Trew, a British correspondent at The Times, with journalists, prison is sometimes the alternative to simply a military trial and expelled her from the country with disappearing, like Azory Gwanda. Trew believes that no stated cause. She was picked up by the authorities the safety of local journalists should be prioritised by the when she was leaving a cafe in Cairo, where she had just international media, which benefits from the dangerous finished an interview with the work they undertake to get father of a man who likely stories out. drowned on a migrant boat in She says: “I’d like to create the Mediterranean. an idea like the concept of “I was arrested at noon fair trade. When you have a and then boarded a flight fair trade coffee, you know to London at 9:30 the next that the people involved in morning, with nothing but the the process of making the clothes I was wearing.” One of coffee were not exploited. the customers in the café had The idea would be to have a overheard her interview, and informed the authorities that standard for newspapers and correspondents.” she was asking questions about the government, which Trew argues that changes to the industry could mean she denies. Trew was questioned for hours by local police “that [foreign correspondents] have done a certain level officers, and then handed over to central security forces, of training, and you pay them a certain wage to ensure who intimidated her by filming her frightened reactions the way you got that story out was as ethical as possible”. on their mobile phones. Training may include how-tos for journalists interacting “I was accused during questioning of picking fights with local communities, from working with local fixers with people in the cafe and paying for testimonies against to interviewing vulnerable witnesses. A focus on the the Egyptian state,” she says. Trew’s investigation was process of story creation rather than the end product would not, in her view, a controversial one, as it did not involve emphasise responsibility over risk-taking. criticism of the state. Although she played her tape recording to security forces during questioning, she later learned that her evidence was excluded from the official police report. Egypt’s statement after her deportation claimed that she was detained for operating on an expired press card, ignoring the fact that Egypt had not yet issued any for that year. After seven years in Cairo, Trew considers it her home. “Unfortunately I’ve been in Egypt for so many years that I know exactly what’s happening at every Cameroonian soldiers killed in separatist violence are carried through the capital, Bamenda turn on the way. When they said deportation, and when they said military trial, I just As a journalist in Africa, Trew can’t turn a blind eye to knew, that’s it, I’m not coming back. They’re not going to the risks that she and her colleagues run. There is no reason let me go home. When the plane took off, I knew that it that her international audience should. Governments across was probably the last time I would ever see Egypt.” the continent have created conditions in which journalists But Trew is less concerned for her own future than are always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and for for the future of journalism in the region at large. As the handful of local and foreign journalists that persist, this media organisations face budget cuts, Trew warns means remaining safe is essential to remaining unsilenced. X that international newspapers are sending fewer

“When the plane took off, I knew that it was probably the last time I would ever see Egypt”

Image: AFP/Getty



Freelancing and the gig economy The Pool’s demise left freelancers £1,000s out of pocket. It underlined the job’s insecurity but as Kieran Devlin writes, there’s reason for optimism


Data Credit: : The Freelancer Club

n 31 January, The Pool, the online magazine founded by radio DJ Lauren Laverne and former Cosmopolitan editor Sam Baker, went into administration. Twenty-four staff were made redundant, with their January wages going unpaid. This was the latest blow to the viability of online publications. Only weeks before, Vice, Buzzfeed and HuffPost suffered heavy lay-offs. There was a side-plot to The Pool’s story that distinguished it from the others. Dozens of freelance journalists were left with unpaid invoices, with some owed up to four figures. One contributor, Laura Craik, writing in the Evening Standard, explained: “Overnight, I’ve lost a sizeable chunk of my regular income, as well as being owed for five months’ work. It wakes you up at night. It makes you anxious: a cold claw of fear that grips your stomach as you lie there wondering whether this is

1,000 freelancers 50

the thing that will finally break you.” Posted all over Twitter, the writers’ cumulative fury was infectious. Though there were fundraisers to reimburse them, including literary agent Julia Kingsford’s GoFundMe which had raised £31,030 at the time of going to print, that these writers were legally open to such blatant exploitation is alarming. Unprotected, unsupported, ostensibly helpless. Although industry tragedies like this have happened before, The Pool’s collapse felt like a watershed moment, a symbol of freelancing’s precarious lack of legal protections.

“It was clear that I just wouldn’t be paid at all” One such writer, owed “nearly a month’s salary in unpaid invoices” by The Pool, is Scotland-based Eve Livingston, who moved into freelancing from the charity sector. At first she was pleased at being commissioned regularly by the publication, but things started to sour. She recalls: “They got back in touch to commission more stuff when I didn’t have invoices already paid. I kept writing because I had delays with them before, and my experience is of most places being slow; you think it’s a delay rather than a huge problem. “I wrote five, six pieces maybe that just didn’t get paid in the end, which was a substantial chunk of my finances. It was scary to go through that.” Twitter exploded on 30 January with contributors, including Craik and Livingston, voicing their outrage at The Pool going into administration without even alerting their freelancers, never mind ensuring they were paid their invoices. Livingston adds: “People warn you about freelancing, but I’d been lucky before that point. I’ve had delays, but nothing like that before. People started talking on Twitter, and I thought ‘oh hang on, there’s obviously something going on’, and I logged an official email to the editor [...]


to flag unpaid invoices. “It quickly fell apart after that. It was clear quite quickly that I just wouldn’t be paid at all. I haven’t heard from the administrators. I know freelancers will be at the bottom of that pile.” With publications increasingly dependent on a growing freelancer population to provide content, The Pool, HuffPost and Buzzfeed layoffs prompted action. Anna Codrea-Rado, a London-based freelancer, launched one such campaign; #FairPayForFreelancers, featuring an open letter to editors and publications demanding an end to payment on publication policies, greater respect for late payment fees and updating outmoded payment systems, where bottlenecks of multiple invoices might lead to only

“There’s so much uncertainty it’s scary” one being paid. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,000 journalists since its launch in February, while CodreaRado has also begun hosting First aid for freelancers meet-ups in London to establish a supportive network. She was recently shortlisted for Women in Journalism’s Georgina Henry prize as recognition for her work with the campaign.  51

Features about losing future work to make a fuss: “I feel I’m in a precarious enough position to be unable to turn down any work, never mind make enemies of editors. On Facebook freelance groups and over Twitter, writers talk a good game of ‘get what you’re owed, be firm, add on late payment fees’, but in practice, I find that nearly impossible to do. It makes me feel so anxious it’s not worth it.” For writers just beginning their careers without established industry relationships, communicating with publications feels like treading a tightrope. Asking for prompt payments, or simply to be paid the entitled kill fees, risks alienating an editor the freelancer has worked so hard to get commissioned by in the first place. Harris tells a story most freelancers will recognise: “There was an American publication I wrote for where they just didn’t pay me, and when I complained about it they were adamant I had been paid, and I’m like ‘I’ve shown you the email receipts, and I’m looking at my account, and it’s not there.’ So I charged a late payment fee. They paid the money but not the late payment fee. They never respond to my pitches anymore.” It’s illustrative of how few workers’ rights there are in freelancing when writers can be this easily ignored or cast aside. The freelance section of the NUJ website offers “advice on fees, contracts, copyright, employment “A few years back, a magazine I did the bulk of my writing rights, insurance and much more,” while stating for was taken over by a new publisher, who refused to it “can also assist in pursuing late payers”. These honour previous commissions. So he wanted £3,000 of my assurances aside, there aren’t extra, concrete unpaid invoices to simply disappear. I took it to small claims legal protections within NUJ membership against court and he eventually settled in full but it screwed up my regressive payment systems. cash flow so badly, I carried the overdraft until recently.” It’s one thing lobbying a publication to update their payment practices; it’s another lobbying the “I’d been working for a magazine abroad for seven years government to introduce binding legislation. when they suddenly stopped paying my invoices. When I Campaigns like Codrea-Rado and Harris’s are started ringing every day and chasing up they told me that disparate, but there is however a wider movement of the contact I usually liaised with had left and the new editors freelancers across all industries battling for their work, weren’t prepared to pay for the editing I’d done - two whole and their status as workers, to be treated justly in law. issues of a magazine. Matt Dowling is a freelance photographer and The amount outstanding is more than £2,000, and they’re founder of The Freelancer Club, a site providing still refusing to pay, two years on. I don’t think I’m ever support and resources for freelancers across all going to see it. industries, which he launched after he starkly The worst thing is I outsourced some of the work to experienced freelancing’s insecurity when a client another editor, who was then also out of pocket. Because exploited him. that made me liable, I had to pay her £500 of my own “I had a run-in with a company who, after a really money. That was quite difficult to swallow as I had a one positive first year, just stopped paying me. They month old baby.” used excuses like they’re changing accountants, or the system was being upgraded, and this went on for “When starting out I pitched a travel feature with photos a few months. The long and the short was an £11,000 to an up-and-coming travel magazine and was asked to invoice which didn’t get paid. submit ‘on spec’, as I was still building my portfolio. Wrote “That sowed the seed for me to try to get myself it, sent it, and photos, but never heard back, despite constant educated and understand about protecting myself, chasing. Eventually drew a line under it. and others, as a freelancer.” A few months later picked up a copy of the magazine by One of The Freelancer Club’s principal initiatives pure chance… not only had my story and photos had been is #NoFreeWork, a campaign to eliminate unpaid run, but it was a lead feature. Took several more months of work in freelancing, and to educate freelancers and chasing to get my miniscule payment for it… and never had businesses on what defines unpaid work. apology or explanation.” #NoFreeWork also aims to unite the disparate Of course, helpful initiatives existed prior to the redundancies, including the website Who Pays Writers?, where freelancers provide anonymous feedback about rates and publications’ reliability. Harry Harris, a freelancer based in Edinburgh, started his own initiative, informally collating the details of reliable and decently paying, or unreliable and poorly paying, publications. “It had come about after I started seeing more and more coded things on Twitter, of people referencing familiar situations of late payments or pulled articles, and I DM’d them asking if it was so and so, and they were saying yes, so I started collating a list of sorts. It’s not official or anything, just letting people know they can DM me asking if this or that place is reliable and responsive.” Harris’s relationship to The Pool underlined the anxiety many freelancers feel in chasing editors about publication, and accounts departments about payments. He explains: “They often took an age to pay, but you felt bad for chasing because it’s a good mission, and the pay was good when it came in.” Livingston believes many freelancers are too worried

Horror Stories


Features Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

campaigns across all industries with similar messaging and agendas. As well as collaborating with #FairPayForFreelancers, they’re also in touch with Equity [union for theatre workers] and Pact [trade body for freelancers in film and TV] in a bid to join forces in lobbying for new legislation. More significantly, #NoFreeWork has received support from Westminster. Dowling has been contacted by the SNP MP, Stewart McDonald, who works on unpaid trials, and also reached out to the government-funded small business commissioner, Paul Uppal, who’s agreed to meet in March to discuss new legislation which might improve the plight of freelancers. With more and more journalists going freelance, not to mention the looming omnipresence of Brexit-related recession, concrete action on protection for Eve Livingston is owed “nearly a month’s salary” freelancers feels imperative rather than a welcome benefit. As Harris comments: “It’s a fucking gig economy job man, there’s so much if Dowling’s meetings make positive inroads. “With the uncertainty it’s scary at times.” backing of various campaigns, but also the ear of MPs Hopefully such uncertainty won’t haunt Harris, and the small business commissioner, we might actually Livingston and every other freelancer for much longer, start to see real change.” X

INVOICE Date: 15/03/19 Due Date: 15/04/19

Freelancing Tips ITEM




• Build a community of freelancers to use as a support network and information exchange. Solidarity and transparency is important, otherwise you have no idea if you’re being paid or treated well. • Never start writing until you have terms and fee in writing. Do your best to push payment on submission, not publication, as awkward a question as it might be; and most importantly, never write for free under the promise of “exposure”. • Send the invoice the day the project is complete, and communicate clearly with the clients when the end of the invoice period is coming up; with a reminder email a week before the deadline. • Example late fee email: “ I am, still, yet to receive payment. I understand things can get backlogged, but it’s now been [...] months since the original invoice was sent. According to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, I’m entitled to claim a £40.00 late fee when an invoice has not been paid for over 30 days, which is something I am now compelled to do. I’ve attached a new invoice to this email. If I do not receive payment within 14 days, I’ll have to start charging additional interest as well as the late fee, which would be 8% of the original fee.”


Features Image: Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman (left) reporting live from the Super Bowl

Live and Kicking Live broadcasting can produce the most memorable and most embarrassing moments of a journalist’s career. Will Strickson spoke to four stalwarts of “fly by the seat of your pants” reporting to discover the highs and lows of this exhilarating form of journalism

Mark Chapman Since graduating from City’s Broadcast Journalism MA in 1996, Mark Chapman has become one of the most recognisable faces and voices on the BBC, shifting through continuity announcing, to being Radio One’s ‘Chappers’, to being one of BBC Sport’s primary presenters. “I grew up listening to sport on a Saturday afternoon and to be able to say: ‘At 5 o’clock you’re listening to 5 Live and this is Sports Report,’ gives me goosebumps.” 54

With 10 years experience of being the BBC’s go-to for sports presenting, he’s no stranger to the unpredictability of live broadcasting. In 2012, when 23-year-old Bolton player Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack on the pitch during a match against Tottenham Hotspur, and his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes, Chapman and his 5 Live team had to navigate the ensuing drama. They were meant to be recording Saturday evening football phone-in ‘606’ in front of a live audience, however they decided to cancel the audience and just do it in the studio with no calls. They also refused to

Features announce that Muamba had died – which countless other organisations were doing – as it hadn’t been officially declared. Instead they just treated it as a news story. They received a torrent of abuse on social media for not reporting his death, yet when Muamba miraculously survived, it proved the importance of remaining calm under pressure. “I believe in getting it right rather than getting it first,” Chapman says. “While I don’t like using the misfortune of someone else as a proud moment, I’m proud that that production team and journalistic team, we did it correctly.” While covering Spain v Nigeria in the 2013 Confederations Cup, Chapman had to break the news of Gus Poyet’s sacking by Brighton and Hove Albion with Poyet sat just metres away as one of his pundits. “We

“I believe in getting it right rather than getting it first”

Andrew Sparrow Live blogging has become the perfect format to report all the twists and turns of Brexit. The Guardian’s Politics Live daily blog consistently attracts 500,000 hits on less eventful days and comfortably over a million when there’s major breaking news. Aided by the never-a-dull-day news cycle that Brexit produces, Andrew Sparrow, who writes the blog, has found himself at the centre of a revolution in live reporting. “I never get any quiet days anymore. The news is nonstop in a way that Westminster news never used to be in the pre-Brexit era.” Sparrow writes, edits and curates content for the blog every day: “When I started doing a daily live blog for The Guardian, which was about 2010 at the time of the general election [...] I got the sense that a lot of people found the blog really useful, as they felt they were getting a live feed of the day’s politics events that they couldn’t find anywhere else. “Ten years on, more and more people are now following politics through Twitter and that’s probably changed the way I write the blog, in that I’m now more conscious of the need to edit and contextualise and explain.” One of the benefits of the format is the ability to edit content when errors are made – which is rare, Andrew Sparrow writes “Politics Live” for The Guardian

Image: Maria Remle

were during the first half, so I had to tell him that Brighton had released a statement that he’d been sacked. He then went off to talk to his lawyer and then we spent the rest of the first half having this discussion off-air about: ‘I can’t ignore it and we’ll have to deal with it.’ There are still people to this day that think I kept that press release from him and then just sacked him live on-air.” Chapman also found himself on the receiving end of embarrassment when, during an edition of ‘606’ that was recorded in front of an audience, he began to read out a tweet from someone called ‘I. McHunt’ before he, and the crowd, realised what had happened. “I still to this day can’t believe that got me. As soon as it came out of my mouth I thought: ‘Ah, you dick.’” Last month, following a third successful season presenting the BBC’s two weekly NFL shows, Chapman hosted the channel’s Super Bowl coverage live from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. “The beauty of the Super Bowl is that it’s four hours of thinking on your feet because you’re never quite sure when the commercial breaks are going to come in the US coverage and then you just have to jump in.” In a situation like that it helps to have a good relationship with your pundits, so having the same two – Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell – throughout the season makes Chapman’s job much easier. “There is a real trust there and I love the fact that they feel comfortable enough to bring their own spin and their own slant on it. We ran a Harry Kane interview in the build up [to the Super Bowl] and they both felt very happy to take the piss out of me for how I shook Harry Kane’s hand compared to how they shook Harry Kane’s hand [they both did a casual shoulder bump compared to

Chapman’s formal shake]. I think that’s really important because it shows that they are comfortable being themselves and doing what they do.”

even though it doesn’t get sub-edited – as it takes only a couple of minutes for them to be spotted and changed. The quick-fire format also means he can insert comments or observations that wouldn’t normally be substantial enough to justify a story.“There are lots of things you come across in Westminster that are slightly interesting, but you would never be able to write them up if your sole vehicle for publication was the conventional news story. If someone says something a bit clever or a bit interesting or marginally unexpected  55

Features and you think people might be interested, I can publish it. You’ve got far more elbow room in a blog than you have as a newspaper.” However, like live TV, there is pressure to fill space: “You have an engagement with an audience in real time. The worst thing that can happen to a blog or a broadcast is when it just goes quiet, when nothing happens. It’s the immediacy of it that makes it interesting and people read my blog because they want to find out what is happening in that moment in a story that they care about.”

Chris Ship Someone who knows all about filling space is Chris Ship, ITV News royal editor, who’s had to learn “how to say a lot when absolutely nothing has happened”. Ship took on the role in 2017 and was at the helm for Harry and Meghan’s wedding as well as Prince Louis’ birth. “You end up just looking at a brown door at the Lindo Wing for a very long period of time with not a lot to say. I think we kicked [daytime game-show] Tipping Point off air that afternoon because the baby was about to come out, so therefore we had to fill a whole hour.” It did, however, provide new experiences as he got to appear on a range of ITV’s daytime talkshows to talk about the royal baby. “I did this thing for Loose Women, I think the news [that Prince Louis had

been born] must have broken while they were on air, and I finished talking and got this noise in my ear and thought: ‘What’s that? Is it some interference?’ It was just the audience clapping.” In January, Ship had to prepare to be the face of the channel when the Duke of Edinburgh crashed his car. “Everyone in that newsroom and me were all going: ‘Oh my god, is this the moment?’” Royal reporters and news presenters have to be ready all year round for ‘Category A deaths’, which include the main royals as

“I started talking and made absolutely no sense” well as the prime minister. In the case of such an event, all programmes are cancelled and the channel becomes rolling news, with Ship, in the case of a royal death, front and centre. They have to be constantly wellrehearsed in case they’re called into action, which, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh both in their 90s, could happen at any point. “We had to be prepared for the possibility that, okay he might’ve got out of the car, but what if there was an internal injury, or what if there

Chris Ship is royal editor for ITV Image credit: ITV

Sparrow’s Hit Parade *Number of hits that Politics Live got on the major Brexit days.

14 November 2018


Cabinet agrees Brexit deal

14 January 2019 1.2m

May appeals to MPs to back her deal

15 January 2019 MPs vote down deal


16 January 2019 May wins no confidence vote

29 January 2019 MPs pass Brady amendment



18 February 2019 Seven MPs quit Labour


12 March 2019 MPs reject May’s deal for 2nd time


Teresa Mannion reported during Storm Desmond

Image credit: RTE

was some delayed shock or anything that might’ve happened to a 97 year-old.” Although he’s a seasoned reporter, having been at ITV News for over 10 years, Ship is also no stranger to a live slip-up: during his first experience of reporting from a Tottenham v Arsenal match, a bunch of Tottenham fans jumped on him and he had to be taken off-air before his piece was finished. One of his live reports even ended up being ridiculed on BBC One: “I started and made absolutely no sense and after about 15 seconds I said: ‘Shall we just start that one all over again?’ and it made its way onto Have I Got News For You.”

back in the studio in Dublin. I was almost underwater myself trying to keep going, holding onto my earpiece and wondering if anyone was listening.” The clip went so viral that it led to Mannion competing on Ireland’s Dancing with the Stars, with her first dance to “Here Comes the Rain Again” packed with umbrellas and raincoats. Being an online sensation isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be though: “You think: ‘Oh my god, I’ve done so much good journalism and have been a hack for a long time and done serious, quality journalism and then you just get remembered for this mad viral video.’” The internet has completely changed how Mannion works. With RTÉ working with a digital-first policy, all of her stories, video tapes, and even tweets go onto their website. Having started as a broadcast news reporter in 2000, she has had to adapt her job to social media as it has developed, but Mannion is finding her feet in the online world: “I’m a regular tweeter, I put a fair bit up on Facebook. RTÉ have their own Facebook news page and it’s a great way of getting a straw poll of what stories are getting the biggest hits. It’s not always the main stories of the day. It’s not always Brexit. Quite recently, I had a singing donkey that got over a million hits.” As she mulls over the demands of social media, Mannion sums up why live reporting will always be needed and why live blogs have become so successful: “Everything is instant now, that’s the thing, everything is to be turned around as soon as it happens, almost as it’s happening.” X

Teresa Mannion The threat of becoming a viral sensation after doing a live broadcast is a very real one, as Teresa Mannion found out in 2015. Footage of her getting battered by Storm Desmond for an RTÉ News bulletin went worldwide, even being reposted by Snoop Dogg. “We were doing the story and there was a break in the weather, it was gusty but it wasn’t too bad, and then, while I was live, the heavens opened and it was just incredibly bad for the period I was on there, all of those couple of minutes and, because it was live, I didn’t stop. Everything was crazy, I could hardly hear the anchor 57


Sifting for gold on tech journalism’s frontiers


Max Freeman-Mills

f you want to do radical innovation, disruptive innovation, then you need to change the architecture of an organisation.” John Thornhill, innovation editor at the Financial Times, is reflecting on the launch of Sifted, a new online publication he’s established to cover the European start-up and technology markets. More than plugging a gap in the market, Sifted may offer a new journalistic business model. Could this innovation, a stand-alone brand under the wing of the FT, provide a vision for the future? As BBC media editor Amol Rajan said on Twitter: “What’s interesting is the idea that you launch a separate brand, rather than just fold that into your original title, and strengthen it.”

“Journalism has gone through this enormous maelstrom” The website, though a completely distinct entity, is supported by the FT to the tune of a 25% stake, alongside a raft of other investors. In his 30 years with the FT, Thornhill has held roles including deputy editor, headed multiple foreign bureaus and now adds the title of Sifted founder. He leads the editorial side of the venture Image: Financial Times with currently five full-time writers and a roster of freelancers. Sifted aims to cover, among others, startups too small or new for the FT itself to look at, and to find its audience in these growing and economically powerful communities. Establishing the editorial team, Thornhill and his colleagues were “intrigued by the idea of, ‘if you were to have a start-up, how could you do things differently from the FT?’” Sifted began with newsletters to grow an audience and has now created a beta version of its website. As he describes it, “the FT does a lot of incremental innovation, and it John Thornhill will expand a franchise that it already has”. Reactive recruitment is common: take, for example, The Daily Telegraph’s expansion of its technology coverage in 2018, creating its biggest ever foreign desk in Silicon Valley, and 12 new jobs. The FT is itself seemingly doubling down on technology. In March, it announced a controlling stake in The Next Web, an events business specialising in 58

start-ups. It would seem that, for established newspapers, the allure of the start-up world has become too much to resist. But to operate differently, and to play by looser rules in terms of formats and conventions, means that existing within a national paper isn’t viable. Instead, investment was negotiated, support is given on all fronts including marketing and design, and Sifted is separate. Where other media entities and newspapers, from a revenue perspective, are struggling with questions of paywalls, subscriptions and donations, could this spinout model offer a template for the industry to learn from? Initially the business will be based on a “part-subscription, part-sponsorship model”, according to Thornhill, and he admits that “the FT and Nikkei can learn from this. If we succeed, then I think there are a lot of institutional learnings we can take from this”. Thornhill, at least, is convinced that this presents a way forward, though not the only one. He says: “I think there will be new and incredibly interesting business models that will emerge over the next few years.” More dramatically, he adds: “Journalism has gone through this enormous maelstrom. The old business models have been blown up, and people have had to reinvent them.” What has changed little though, is “the enduring power of a lot of the big journalistic brands”. Jane Singer, professor of journalism innovation at City, agrees that this is a “creative” way to use the FT’s name. “It’s a good approach. You’ve got your name on it, there’s obviously a commitment, but it’s still experimental.” Journalistically, its size also allows for experimentation. Taking risks is viable since “if things go horribly wrong, you can head off in a different direction”. For Thornhill, this sort of platform is one of the futures that journalism is surging towards. To diversify into new areas of reporting, these sub-brands, or brands in their own right, could offer elegant solutions to top-down hierarchies in media. Given the ever-increasing potential to “create new media platforms incredibly quickly and cheaply”, it’s an eventuality that promises endless variety. In this context, Sifted is already looking like an early adopter, much like the start-ups it covers. X

Image: Owen Humphreys, PA Images

Give print a chance Gareth Thomas


rint media is an endangered species. With the shift in news consumption towards digital and online, production is facing a huge decline and print Are print sceptics barking up the wrong tree? publications are dropping like flies. As far as print is concerned, NME is dead, Shortlist is extinct, and The Independent is no more. It’s not too hard to imagine a future in which print is but a distant memory, like the 10p Freddo or the penny-farthing. Figures from international energy and climate That’s the assumption at least. For now, the so-called consultancy firm Ecofys show that the print sector “death of print” is little more than an exaggerated catchproduces only 1of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. all term. This very magazine will be printed 4,000 times, Compare this to other manufacturing industries; the making up 264,000 sheets of paper. With global warming production of iron and steel, for example, makes up 4.8% breathing down our necks, perhaps we should rejoice in of greenhouse gas emissions, and non-metallic minerals its decline. But the environmental impact of print is not as account for 6%. severe as you might think. Here’s why:

The industry footprint


Most newsprint comes from managed softwood coniferous forests in Europe. Two or three new trees are planted for every one that is used, so newspapers are not at fault for forest depletion. Greg Selfe is a country manager for Two Sides, a non-profit organisation that aims to restore confidence in print. “Myths around paper’s impact on forests have always been a core focus of the Two Sides campaign,” says Selfe. “Even though we have seen an improvement over the past 10 years, our latest survey found that 65% of consumers believe European forests are shrinking.” In fact, European forests have increased in size by 44,000 square kilometres between 2005 and 2015.

“The environmental impact of print is not as severe as you might think” Paper recycling

Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world. According to the European Declaration on Paper Recycling, the European recycling rate for paper was 72.5% in 2016. According to Selfe, 93.1% of the newsprint produced in Europe is made using recycled fibres.

Electronic waste

“The ICT [Information and Communications Technology] industry accounts for around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040,” says Greg Selfe. Increased consumption of digital media means increased production of electronics. Nine million tonnes of electronic waste from discarded mobile phones, tablets, laptops and computers is produced every year.

Conscientious publications

In January, The Guardian became the first national newspaper to use biodegradable packaging, by wrapping weekend supplements in a potato starch-based material. The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) is also committed to maintaining environmentally sustainable standards. They took a delegation of publishers on a trip to Palm Paper, a recycling plant in King’s Lynn, to see the magazine recycling process first-hand. The PPA said: “As with all our efforts to reduce our environmental impact, it is important we assess the whole product lifecycle to deliver true sustainability.” It might seem like the “death of print” is nothing but good news for the environment. With the UN suggesting that we may only have 12 years to save the planet, we cannot afford to ignore the climate change issue. But killing off print might not be the fix. X 59

Image: The Sunday Times

On her "forensic" approach to the interview, wanting to know all about Melania Trump's sex life, and how she’s never looking for the scoop, by Jess Browne-Swinburne 60


Decca Aitkenhead


tanding outside the door of Decca Aitkenhead’s North London home, dictaphone in hand, scouring for colour, I try to think like she might think before an interview. The problem is, all I find myself doing is making comparisons between my situation and an amateur footballer kicking a ball about with Beckham, or an art student painting a portrait of David Hockney. So as I wait, preparing myself to interview The Sunday Times' chief interviewer about the art of the interview, it all seems mindbogglingly meta. “My firm resolution of 2019 is to say no to literally everything non-essential,” Aitkenhead’s email had read to my interview request. “Trouble is, I can’t stand those journalists who don’t help younger ones starting out.” As the door swings open and she greets me with her convivial and warm nature, I feel far from non-essential. Wrapped in a bundle of jumpers, and swaddled in a woolly hat, Aitkenhead bounds around the kitchen, feeding her cat and fiddling with the dishwasher at the pace her hectic life, no doubt, requires. Knees pulled up against her chest, nursing a can of Diet Coke, Aitkenhead momentarily puts the brakes on her day as she settles onto the wide sofa in her dimly lit sitting room, stacks of her two young sons’ Top Trumps lying on the table in front of us, next to a tray of chocolate fingers. Having worked for The Guardian from 1997 until 2018, the last few years for Aitkenhead have been characterised by success, tragedy and change. The release of her book, All at Sea, an inspiring memoir of love, loss and grief, following the death of her husband Tony Wilkinson in 2014, was followed by a few more years of crafting countless Saturday interviews of leading public figures for The Guardian. During that time, she was broadsheet interviewer of the year twice, until The Sunday Times carved out a space for her as chief interviewer in their Sunday magazine supplement. Now at 48, Aitkenhead has successfully established herself as the authority on interviewing the unreachable figures of the world and writing for most national newspapers and magazines over the course of her career. Although Aitkenhead is now working exclusively for The Sunday Times, she is not one to let a once-in-

a-lifetime interview opportunity pass her by. “They’re letting me do something for Vogue this month, but I had to beg on my knees,” she says mysteriously. It’s hard to imagine who this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ could be, when her repertoire already includes influential figures from all realms of public life, namely Oprah Winfrey, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Usain Bolt and Nicole Kidman, alongside countless others. Whoever it may be, their fame is certainly stratospheric enough to make even Aitkenhead squirm with excitement as she resists the urge to reveal the name. “I really, really mustn’t say,” she says. Might it be Michelle Obama or maybe a Trump? The former, perhaps; the latter, not just yet, as she later lists off her dream interview bucket list, of which Melania Trump is one. “You would want to know everything about her relationship with him. I’d be amazed if they have had sex since their son was born,” she says, a flash of curiosity in her eyes. And she’s right. We have a morbid fascination with the sex lives of celebrities, and talents like Aitkenhead, are the ones able to ask these questions and satisfy our insatiable appetites. But with this privilege comes a responsibility to “prepare forensically”. As Aitkenhead begins to explain her process, her excitable tone switches to that of a professional, who is rigorous with her practice. “You want to go in knowing as much as is humanly possible and you want to spot some small detail, aspect, interest, event, that they haven’t spoken about before.” Whether the interviewee is Oprah Winfrey or Hillary Clinton, Clare Smyth, the world’s best female chef or Andria Zafirakou, the world’s best teacher, Aitkenhead approaches every interview in the same way. “People know when you have done your homework, and 50% of the reason I often find I can get people to open up is because they have registered that I have done the work. “It’s fucking time consuming,” she is quick to add. With most interviews having a two-week time period, Aitkenhead has whittled down the process to the way that works best for her; reading, watching and listening to everything she possibly can. Some people like to get in touch with people that the interviewee knows, but Aitkenhead finds that “your head can become a cacophony of gossip and you have no  way of knowing what is real or not”.

“I can’t stand those journalists who don’t help younger ones starting out”


Image: The Press Awards


As a young journalist, waiting for the day I blunder into an interview unprepared, it’s hard not to seek reassurance that Aitkenhead too, is only mortal and has at some point, fallen short of the mark. “I remember interviewing somebody and in the first five minutes they said something about being a vegan. And I said, ‘oh god, are you vegan?’” She pauses, reflecting on what went through her mind at that time. “And then I thought, fuck, I should have known that. It was very difficult to recover the trust and authority that I needed from one stupid comment about veganism.” If half of the skill in getting people to open up is thorough preparation, then what about the other half of the process? How important is the atmosphere that Aitkenhead creates over the course of the interview? “An interview is not the same thing as a conversation,” Aitkenhead once wrote in an article for The Guardian, “but it’s my job to make the subject feel as if it is.” In taking this approach, she recognises that this is where she and other journalists divide, as she explains how adverse she is to a plotted obstacle course of questions. “I am very opposed to an agenda,” she asserts. “Although my news desk might wish I had more of one. It just feels so unimaginably weird, but then some might say I don’t get as many scoops. “Sometimes things make a scoop and you weren’t even really aware in the interview that it was interesting.” The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson for example, revealed her history of self-harm to Aitkenhead, Katie Hopkins spoke to her for the first time about the epilepsy-induced seizures she has every week, and Rose McGowan

branded Hollywood’s approach to the #MeToo movement as “bullshit” in an interview with Aitkenhead, although the actress later claimed this was "fake news". But surely she must notice the newsworthiness of these stories as they crop up halfway through the conversation? “So much about the job is persuading them to forget that a BBC news anchorwoman will read out what they are saying,” she explains. “Because what could be more inhibiting? I think if I have that in my head, it’s going to be harder to make them forget.” For a moment, I catch a glimpse of the selfdeprecation of someone who still feels implausibly lucky to be paid to make conversation. “I have never quite got used to the idea that I will have sat in someone’s living room and had a natter and now the words we spoke to each other are being read out by a woman in a BBC newsroom,” she proclaims. It’s hard not to wonder how Aitkenhead deals with the more rigid interviewees who are less inclined to ignore the dictaphone and speak candidly. “This is going to sound a bit weird,” she tells me. “But one of the things that consistently unlocks people is conveying intelligence. I have never gone for the ditsy blonde, lull them into a false sense of security. People are much more inclined to open up if they think it is an intelligent audience.” She cites the example of a Sunday Times Magazine interview in October, with former US general Stanley McChrystal, best known for his leadership of Joint Special Operations Command in the mid-2000s. “I could see from the moment he walked in that he wasn’t particularly engaged, so for the first 15 minutes, I was on high alert (whilst trying to appear as though I couldn’t be more relaxed), listening out for some little button or trigger for something he cared about.” After briefly touching on how half of his employees were civilian millennials, Aitkenhead noticed the snowflake generation hit a nerve with McChrystal, who had set his bar high, commanding and disciplining troops in the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time. “This conversation got him interested and alive and by the time it got to the bit I really wanted to speak about – nuclear weapons – he was actually quite bold and said he didn’t think that army generals should press the button if Trump ordered them to in a fit of pique.” Surely an interview like this, in which she cracked this hard-edged, four-star former army general in 15 minutes, is vindication that she has truly honed the art of the interview? “Oh god no, I’m still waiting for that moment,” she laughs. As self-deprecating as she may be, what Aitkenhead does recognise is her ability to connect with interviewees who have suffered tragedy in their lives. “My life has gone spectacularly wrong in the last few years,” she says, “and there are a number of interviewees where, had that not been the case, we wouldn’t have connected as much.”

“One of the things that consistently unlocks people is conveying intelligence"


Image: The Guardian

Aitkenhead questions whether Melania Trump has had conjugal relations with her spouse

Image: The Guardian

Rob Delaney for example, the actor whose one-yearold was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in January last year, spoke to Aitkenhead in his first interview since the tragedy. "Tense, stilted and wary, he looks out the window," she describes in the copy. "Speaking gingerly, uneasily until I mention the recent bereavement and illness that has unravelled my own family. At once he visibly relaxes," and tells her he prefers to “'talk to people who’ve had terrible things happen to them'”. “That’s not an uncommon experience,” Aitkenhead says. “If you have been through a lot of shit, you feel more comfortable talking about it with somebody else who has gone through a lot of shit. It’s given me far more insights into the human condition, and I think it has made me better at my job.” Aitkenhead is a well-oiled machine, rigorous in her process with every subject, learning about them, listening to them and ultimately constructing a picture which gives us a momentary glimpse into the world of the unreachable. From the point at which she receives the transcript, I wonder how the piecing together process works, as I gather the final nuggets of her advice. “I spend the first part structuring and organising,” she

explains. “I print out the transcript, I edit it down, I put it under subject headings, then lay it all out on the floor and number each one. It is like doing a jigsaw.” How satisfying it must be when the dialogue finally pieces together into a coherent structure. “Oh!” she exclaims, “It’s the best feeling in the world. But then I think, fucking hell, I’ve actually got to write it.” X

Decca’s Top Interviewing Tips - Write your questions on one side of paper. I hardly look at them and then at the end I say, 'do you mind if I check if I have forgotten anything?'. - If you are going to be critical about somebody in the copy, if at all possible, say these critical things to their face in real time – partly because it is a bit shabby if you don't, but also because it can be very interesting to see their response. - When you leave, it’s very useful to ring your mate and see what the anecdote is that you tell them. Your brain is very good at identifying what is good, so the first anecdote you choose to tell them is probably the most interesting. Trust that. - If possible, at the end of the interview, ask for a contact to clarify anything. Nine out of ten times, it’s because you just want to ask them another question. - Don’t be late.



Reporting from the frontline I can’t just turn to our books editor as he catches me watching porn at my desk and be like ‘please don’t worry Michael – these tits are here for work’.” Sarah Manavis is explaining her job as digital culture writer for New Statesman, and the oddities involved. For a recent assignment, she was forced to trawl through Brexit-themed porn (which, according to her, exists for every stage of negotiations). “You might be surprised to find, but researching porn in an office is really difficult,” she remarks with humour. Fortunately, Manavis is used to receiving weird looks: it comes with the job. Other assignments she’s had include infiltrating the online kids game Club Penguin and pretending to be a ‘no-nutter’, a guy that pledges not to masturbate at all during the month of November. “To be fair, if I was just an average person working at an average job, I would be so creeped out by people talking to me about the weird shit I report on.” Manavis is part of a growing pool of journalists dedicated to understanding and explaining the strange happenings of the online sphere. As more and more of our lives take place online, and as increasingly extreme subcultures exploit social media to propagate hate, the need for writers like her increases. Amelia Tait, freelance writer for The Guardian, GQ, the i and others, has been covering online phenomena for years. Her first ever digital culture assignment was a piece for Vice in 2014 about a subreddit [forum on Reddit] where people posted pictures of their faces and asked if they were ugly. For the 1,300-word feature, she got in touch with picture-posters and commenters on r/AmIUgly to discover their motivations. The responses were varied, ranging from sufferers of body dysmorphia seeking validation to those who were just morbidly curious. “I


In an age where terrorists livestream attacks, understanding digital culture is vital. Branca Lessa de Sá explores the murky world of documenting the internet

think what was interesting about this piece was that it showed how the internet allows us to pursue our more instinctual desires without fear of repercussion,” says Tait. Since then, she has covered a vast range of issues, from political revenge porn to the radicalisation of white women online. Her stories often involve a long process of convincing people to speak to her, offline. There is also the challenge of verifying identities. Tait once wrote a piece about people who pretended that they had friends who went missing during major terrorist attacks. Many of those to whom she spoke tried to deceive her about their identity, or failed to prove they were who they said they were. She overcame this by writing it into the article. “In the end the piece itself became like an overview of my process, in terms of how difficult it was to find out someone’s true identity online.”

“We’re deceived, indoctrinated and radicalised online” Not everyone is as diligent as Tait when reporting on the digital sphere, however. In February, she wrote a series of tweets bemoaning media hysteria around Momo, an online challenge that was allegedly leading children to commit suicide, despite no evidence of a link. Stories based on one comment in a local Facebook group were published with sensationalist titles that branded the game as “deadly”. “The process [of reporting on the internet] should not be any different to that of normal reporting… the who, what, where and when; the sourcing of the right people to tell you the stories. People need to stop just being like, ‘Oh, well I can see the tweet right there, so I will just write it up,’ and actually do some reporting,” says Tait. Victoria Turk, senior editor at WIRED, agrees. According to her, the absence of verification is one of the biggest mistakes people make while reporting on

As Manavis pointed out in a piece she wrote for The Sunday Times, the attack was framed by internet culture. To understand the shooter and the horrific crime he committed, it was necessary to understand 8chan [online forum where the attacker linked his live-stream], viral memes, and systems of online radicalisation. This isn’t the first story of its kind, either. The 25-year-old who killed 10 people by driving a van down a busy street in Toronto last year was a selfidentified ‘incel’, a member of an online subculture of ‘involuntarily celibate’ men who channel sexual frustration into misogyny. Like the New Zealand shooter, his radicalisation was driven by web culture. The increasing frequency of such stories points to the urgent need for digital culture reporting: for writers like Tait, Manavis and Turk to investigate, interrogate and unpack online spaces and subcultures. “I have this analogy that it’s kind of like global warming. Internet culture is getting to a point now where it’s unavoidable in a similar way to global warming,” says Manavis. “When you’re having things like the alt-right, or terror attacks carried out by self-described ‘incels’, you can no longer ignore this stuff. People will be forced to cover it more.” Turk agrees that digital culture reporting will soon cease to be a niche. “Even if there isn’t a concerted effort to cover more digital culture, I think culture sections and culture publications will naturally find that it becomes a larger proportion of their beat, because, well, it is. Digital culture is culture.” X

Illustrations: BLEEKER/ instagram: @bleeker_brand

the internet. “When people see a tweet purported to be by someone, and they just take that at face value, that’s when problems can arise.” Unfortunately, taking digital culture “at face value” seems to be a common issue. As Tait explains, there’s a temptation not to question what goes on online, to gloss over it as ‘weird internet stuff’. When people hear about incels, trolls, alt-counts, or no-nutters, they don’t picture the men and women behind the screen. Ultimately, however, these communities are formed by real people – neighbours and friends and co-workers and family members. There are emotional motivations behind their online behaviour, and it’s the digital culture writer’s job to try to understand this. “I think the best thing we can do as digital culture writers is remind our readers that these are real people, and to try and understand their characters and the rationale behind their actions,” says Manavis. “That’s not to give it legitimacy but to realise that this comes from an understandable place, even if its outcomes are foreign.” Unfortunately, opportunities for writers committed to making sense of these online communities remain limited. Manavis believes that digital culture is still treated with negligence by many in the industry, evidenced by the fact that several “big national programmes and publications” still don’t have in-house digital culture reporters. Tait agrees, arguing that often digital culture is not covered until things get out of hand, or publications can find a “traditional” angle for story. For Turk, the issue may be a generational gap. “I think that there can be a lack of awareness among some publications about how big a role these platforms play in people’s – particularly younger people’s – lives,” she says. That role is indeed immense. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average adult in the UK spends the equivalent of an entire day a week on the web. We consume news and entertainment online, communicate and form communities online, produce and create content online. But we’re also deceived, abused, indoctrinated and radicalised online. Digital culture reporting is no longer just an important journalistic pursuit, it is an issue of international security. In March, an armed terrorist live-streamed his rampage through two mosques in New Zealand, and the murder of innocent civilians, to Facebook. The video was deleted, but not before it had been replicated and shared widely among other social platforms. In its opening, the attacker referenced a famous internet meme. The personal manifesto he posted online was also filled with in-jokes from alt-right online spaces, where extreme conservatism meets meme culture and twisted irony.



The Economist, 22-28 July 2017

Image: TIME

Through cunning satire and savage caricature, political illustrators have historically found a way of laughing at our leaders when words won’t do. From the 2016 referendum, to the threat of no-deal and calls for a people’s vote, Brexit reporting over the last three years has become bleak. Visuals offer an antidote to the headache of headlines. XCity has selected some of the best Brexitrelated magazine and newspaper covers and cartoons, proving that in times of political uncertainty, it’s often better to laugh than cry. By Daniella Saunders and Georgina Roberts

Image: The Economist

Visualising Brexit

New Statesman, 1-7 July 2016 Image: Art Direction - Erica Weathers/Illustration - André Carrilho

TIME, 11-18 July 2016

Image: The Guardian/Design: Chris Clarke


Image: By kind permission of The Spectator 1828 Ltd

The Spectator, 27 February 2016

Image: Rex Shutterstock Images

Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE magazine: private-eye.co.uk/PA Images

The Guardian Weekly, 26 October 2018

Private Eye, 5-18 October 2018

Prospect, 18 August 2016




The Telegraph, 5 October 2018

Image: Bob

Image: Peter Brookes

The Times, 18 January 2017

Image: Peter Brookes

The Times, 9 November 2017

Image: Peter Brookes


Image: Chris Riddell


The Guardian, 30 June 2018

The Observer, 2 February 2019

Image: David Simonds

Image: Ben Jennings

The Guardian, 24 February 2019



Meet the Podfather


Calum Trenaman talks to BBC Radio 1’s film critic and podcast aficionado Ali Plumb about surfing the podcast waves and whether we’re waving goodbye to radio.

Image: BBC

ack then, we were on the precipice of the recession. Every single one of us, walking out of that year at City, were panicking. Not only did we think there were no journalism jobs, we didn’t think there were any jobs at all.” For a journalist usually heard waxing lyrical about the latest Marvel movie and bantering with Greg James on BBC Radio 1, this is a striking start. Ali Plumb is austere Radio stations have taken note. Plumb’s current when he recounts his departure from City in 2009 and employers at the BBC recently launched BBC Sounds, his entry into the ‘real world’. Faced with the challenge a rebranded all-things-audio platform. This has blurred of not just the unknown, but an economy and job market the lines between what BBC product is a radio show and stacked against him, he realised he had to adapt to what is a podcast. The only separation seems to be when whatever opportunities were available to him. you listen to it – live or in your own time. This stretches “When I arrived at Empire in 2009, I was trying to to visual formats too. make myself indispensable. It was at the time of the first wave of podcasts, so I said, ‘Oh, we should do a podcast!’ And they were like, ‘Hmm yeah, maybe.’” The lukewarm reception didn’t deter him. Armed with some skills he’d picked up doing a bit of radio work during his undergrad at Warwick University, he set about founding The Empire Film Podcast. “I worked really hard to get them in a position where they could actually see it happening and working.” It paid off for the magazine. Their first podcast had 25,000 listeners. By the time Plumb left Empire in 2015, six years after joining the company, episodes were getting close to 100,000 downloads a week. Reflecting on why it was such a success, he says it all comes down to creating a community and a home for your listeners. “You develop more of a bond with people,” he reflects. “If you look at the Empire podcast, the number of in-jokes that have developed since my time and onwards, I dare not count them. And that is a sign of people’s affection and willingness to listen.” Podcasts have continued to grow as a “Podcasting is this gorgeous, wonderful adaptation of radio” format. Ofcom reported last year that the number of podcast listeners in the UK had nearly doubled Radio 1 seems determined to squeeze everything from 3.2 million in 2013 to 5.9 million in 2018 – or 11% they can out of Plumb. He is their resident film critic, of the adult population. Though all age groups saw an writing reviews as well as reviewing films on air. He also increase in listeners, the steepest growth was among produces his own podcast for them called Screen Time, people aged 15-24, with around one in five people in this where he interviews the Hollywood glitterati in segments age group listening to podcasts every week. like “Movies That Made Me” and “Becoming”, which are The most startling figure to emerge from the report was also filmed for iPlayer. focused on the listening habits of people under 35. This “You’re following in the footsteps of the likes of Mark age group makes up just under a third of radio listeners, Kermode, James King, Rhianna Dhillon. I was very but half of all podcast listeners. Proportionately, more nervous when I started, because, while I’d been with the young people are now listening to podcasts than listening Empire podcast, editing it, producing it, being on it for a to the radio. few years, it’s just not the same as live radio. And there



Plumb’s Picks Rule of Three Image: Great Big Owl

was visual stuff as well, and it was all just...” He pauses, as if it’s the first time he’s contemplated the enormity of what he took on. “It was a lot.” But in the three years since he joined in 2016, Plumb has grown in confidence and adapted to the role. He puts himself into the interview more, as he believes his role is to entertain as well as inform. The key to achieving this, he says, is establishing a rapport with the interviewee as soon as possible, and to get on their level, whatever that may be. “I recently interviewed James Cameron, which I was nervous about, as he has a reputation for being quite tough. One of my bosses at work, Joe Harland, is a really big watch buff, and he told me that James Cameron has a watch collection. He [Cameron] even has a range of Rolexes inspired by his submarine expedition to the Mariana Trench. So, when I sat down with him, I said: ‘Tell me about your watch.’ And he was just immediately in a good spot. It got him on side.”

How Did This Get Made? “A good one for film fans. It’s these three or four LA comedians who talk about movies that are as mad as a box of frogs and discuss not only the practicalities of literally how it got made, but also assessing the bananas-ness of films like Twins, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Room.”

“We may have reached peak podcast. I find that you run out of hours for your ears”

The Adam Buxton Podcast “The Adam and Joe Show and The Adam Buxton Podcast are obviously a staple. I’ve literally got an Adam Buxton Podcast poster in my flat. That’s the level of fandom I have.”

Image: Adam Buxton

How I Built This “It’s about entrepreneurs, Richard Branson for example, looking at how he made Virgin happen. It’s a very insightful podcast about how you make business grow.” Screen Time

Image: BBC

While podcasts are only one aspect of his job now, it is no longer less important than other formats. The surge in podcasts and listeners in recent years marks a second wave in podcasting. Plumb attributes much of why podcasts have become so successful to the range of content available to consumers nowadays. “We are really getting down to the nitty-gritty,” he explains. “Magazines have done that for a long time, and podcasts are doing that now. We are getting the drag queen agony aunt podcast; we’re getting the carpenters’ podcast; we’re getting the Tomb Raider podcast.” While more podcast content is being produced than ever before, is this necessarily a good thing? Plumb pauses, condenses and repeats my questions back to himself, the interviewer in him unable to switch off. “We may have reached peak podcast. I certainly find that you run out of hours for your ears. And it’s actually difficult to listen to everything you want to listen to.” Podcast Insights estimated in March of this year that there are currently over 660,000 different podcasts, with over 28 million episodes between them. On-demand streaming services for TV and film has meant live television programming is becoming increasingly out of date. Does he see a time when radio will become obsolete and podcasts will take over? He’s firm and dismissive in his response. “Podcasting is this gorgeous, wonderful adaptation of radio which is unique and special in its own wonderful way, but radio will always have the power of instant, constant community. That will always be amazing.” X

“Two comedy writers interview people within the UK comedy world and ask them to bring in their favourite bit of comedy that really influenced them. Dara O’Briain was on recently talking about Eddie Izzard. It’s really interesting.”

“I would do myself a disservice if I didn’t recommend my own - Radio 1’s Screen Time! Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Ace, who’s awesome, and I talk about movies and TV. That’s where ‘Movies That Made Me’ and ‘Becoming’ also end up on Sundays.” 71


Failure is the I

The backlash against the ‘perfect life’ as failure takes centre stage, writes Hannah Mendelsohn


The Gen Z-ers – anyone aged three to 23 – are at it too. A group of young YouTubers have just launched a podcast called The Wooden Spoon – named after the tradition of giving a wooden spoon to the loser of a race – all about their experiences of success and failure at school and university. Within six days of launching their first episode, the podcast reached number one in the iTunes chart. Failure, and how to deal with it, has clearly hit a nerve – but how and why did this become a trend? Jade Bowler is a co-host of The Wooden Spoon. She is also a YouTuber, known as Unjaded Jade, who boasts nearly 300,000 subscribers and is on a gap year before going to university in September. She says she thinks the podcast has resonated because while the press loves to talk about the pressures facing young people, they don’t tend to delve into “the implications that stress has on how you view your own successes and failures”. Ormerod also noticed a large gap. While she and her friends were working hard to build businesses and careers, this was being hidden by the curated lives shown on their Instagrams. She says: “I started to feel really uneasy about the fact that I was only putting one side of my life out there.” After interviewing scores of women, Ormerod identified a common struggle that the press wasn’t talking about: the “pressure that consuming such vast quantities of images of perfection was having on people’s mental health”. There is science behind the impact of perfection. According to Caz Binstead, a counsellor and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, “our mammalian brain sets off a fear response when we feel like we’re not doing well enough, which is how we’d react if we saw a tiger.” Does this mean then that journalists and figures of influence have a responsibility to open up about their failures just as much as about their successes? For Ormerod, it depends. She says she feels able to share because she’s at a stable place in her life and wants Image: Georgia Field

f you scrolled down Katherine Ormerod’s Instagram feed in 2014, her life looked perfect – filled with glamorous trips, stylish clothes and an exciting career in fashion journalism. But hidden behind the New York Fashion Week pictures, Ormerod was going through a divorce and struggling with debt. When, in 2018, she started posting the very same photos with captions explaining the struggles she had been facing but hiding from her followers, it made national news. She says: “I think we’ve got so used to not seeing real life on social media, that when people were confronted with that, it made them pause. A story of breaking up with someone was enough to get me on Sky News and in newspapers.” As a society so used to seeing photos of perfection and success, this unusual honesty took people by surprise. Ormerod started opening up like this after she realised the disparity between the life she was living and the life she was presenting. Having previously worked at The Sunday Times Style, Grazia and Glamour, she founded a website Work Work Work where she could open up about the career realities that Instagram didn’t show. Then Ormerod started writing a book, Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life, all about the ways that social media is impacting how we live – including the fact that it allows us to hide the difficult realities we face. The Instagram posts were to share her book, and having already been sharing openly on her website, the reaction took her by surprise. Ormerod isn’t the only journalist opening up about real life – failure is becoming something that journalists are increasingly exploring. Writer Elizabeth Day hosts the podcast How To Fail with Elizabeth Day, in which she interviews the famous and successful about the failures that got them to where they are. It’s been so popular it landed her a book deal with the same name. Another example is UK Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr’s The Discomfort Zone, a guide on turning discomfort into success. Authenticity sells, it seems.


new success Image: Sixteenth Productions

to help: “I think it’s always your failures online makes negative job when you’ve overcome things feedback and trolls hard to avoid. like insecurities and mental health Bowler says: “I do think the struggles to pass a hand back to comments section can be quite those who are still struggling.” damaging when you’re in that raw That doesn’t mean everyone should state.” Ormerod agrees that writing have to do the same, says Ormerod, about real life was hard: “Every especially if they are in the midst of time I pressed send on either those a crisis. images or those articles on my site, Bowler sees things differently. She I just felt sick to my stomach.” She says she feels a duty to share both says it helped that she was sharing the highs and lows of life, because common experiences. “At the end she can “use that failure and success of the day, if someone’s going to inspire others who might have gone to judge me negatively for being through a similar thing.” honest about the realities of things As journalists become that happen in most people’s lives, increasingly public figures, deciding then it says more about them than how and what to share is a prescient Jade Bowler me,” she observes. question. While not everyone Does this honesty really makes will become influencers, the expectation to have an a difference? Therapist Binstead thinks it does. “I have online presence and share work digitally means that all a lot of clients who may find it of some comfort to read journalists will have to consider their online persona. autobiographies or blogs about people who’ve been in a There’s a notable difference in generational approach. similar position because they feel like they’re not alone or While Ormerod says that she would never share they’re not the only one going through it,” she says. something if she was in the middle of a crisis, preferring It doesn’t look like talking about failure and reality is to take time to process what’s happening, Bowler – who going out of fashion any time soon. Ormerod says “there’s has grown up with social media – is more reactive. a bit of an eye-roll” now at overly curated lives. She thinks people who have had social media for around 10 years know real life isn’t all Instagram makes it out to be and are looking for reality, not a glossed over version of it. She says now “perfection is quite old-fashioned”, which is why content examining failure and real life are on the rise. People have always both talked about and hidden their failures, but For example, after documenting her experiences in Ormerod says “social media applying to Oxford University on YouTube and then has exacerbated it and finding out she did not get a place, she made a video turbocharged the situation informing her audience that very same day. She recounts: of self-presentation.” For “I wanted it to be as raw and in the moment as possible, Bowler, she sees social which is why it is horrific to watch back because I was media as becoming “more just sat there crying.” of a positive force in Her reason for this immediate honesty, she says, is to normalising failure”. help others in a similar position. “I knew that more people As Generation Z grows get rejected than accepted, and if I couldn’t even own up, this trend of openness is up to my own rejection, then how must other people feel surely going to infiltrate the when they’re rejected?” she asks. media even more. Perfection Turning your vulnerabilities into content isn’t easy. and success can move over – With constant notifications and comments, sharing real life is back. X

“I wanted it to be as raw and in the moment as possible”

Image: Georgia Field





Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff Showcasing women of colour, gal-dem has propelled diversity from the margins to the front page. Nicole García Mérida speaks to the magazine’s deputy editor about changing the game


al-dem felt like something that should have already been there,” says Charlie BrinkhurstCuff. “The success we’ve experienced comes from the fact that it felt so necessary.” Brinkhurst-Cuff is soft-spoken and tentative in front of the camera. She got back from Italy at two in the morning but if she’s tired it doesn’t show. “I’ve been obsessed with this type of pasta called pici pasta for about two years now, and have been thinking, ‘how can I make this into an article?” She laughs between shots. “Finally I found this tiny pici festival in a tiny village in Tuscany. It made a great travel piece.” Her eyes move around the room. It’s her first cover shoot without her collective, the gal-dem team, and although they’ve posed for everything from Dazed to The Guardian she doesn’t seem to be used to the studio lights just yet. Once the ice breaks, the small talk stops. She continues talking about gal-dem, where she is deputy editor. “I was shocked someone hadn’t come up with the idea,” she says. “We’ve had women-focused platforms for years, but never anything that catered to our demographic.” What began as a university project in 2015 has now turned into a magazine and brand with a secure future,

thanks to a recent round of philanthropic and private equity funding. gal-dem is making waves in a cut-throat media world where startups fail after a few years. Good ideas can thrive when combined with sound business planning, which is what sets gal-dem apart from similar publications like The Pool, which collapsed this January despite raising over £4 million from shareholders since its launch in 2015. gal-dem is a publication by women and non-binary people of colour (POC) for women and non-binary POC. Their submission guidelines ask hopefuls to please only pitch to them if they fall into either category. BrinkhurstCuff says: “We have been and will continue to be quite strict with who we platform. It’s a unique set of issues that we face in the industry as people of colour.” The magazine, which now sells for £10, started in Bristol with founding editor Liv Little, who was frustrated with the problem contemporary media has with representation. gal-dem has become synonymous with positive change, with a newfangled age of media that is inching towards diversity. Print journalism’s state of affairs is dire enough to put anyone off starting a platform, but that didn’t faze gal-dem three years ago, and it hasn’t slowed them down.  Images: gal-dem


Features A damning survey of over 700 journalists conducted by She adds: “There were only two white kids in my City in 2016 suggested that the UK journalism industry whole class in Hackney. Suddenly when we moved to is 94% white, 55% male, and 86% university educated, Edinburgh, I was aware that I was mixed-race black. In highlighting the lack of representation in the media. terms of identity issues, it wasn’t the easiest.” At the time, 5% of the UK population was Muslim and Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish) touches upon the identity 3% was black, but the data indicated only 0.4% of British of a mixed-race child, based on her own experience journalists were Muslim and only 0.2% were black. as a Ghanaian-English woman raised in Wimbledon. Numbers, and experience in Brinkhurst-Cuff’s case, In her exploration of identity and racism in Britain show the industry is predominantly white, and galshe concludes, “There is no manual that provides dem created a platform that not only delves into POC’s an explanation for your lived experience as a brown experiences but gives a voice to journalists that are too child growing up in this society. There is not even an often left out of the conversation. acknowledgement that there is anything to explain.” Brinkhurst-Cuff’s not surprised by the statistics. Hirsch, like many others, had mixed feelings about her She shrugs and says: “I think it’s redundant to put it blackness. Did Brinkhurst-Cuff? “My dad would say, into numbers when you can go to any newsroom in the ‘you have to remember to be proud to be black’. I would country and see it for yourself.” insist I was mixed race. But even though I didn’t like it She talks about one memorable instance where she was originally, as I grew older I grew proud to call myself black doing work experience at The Times in 2015, when her interchangeably with my identification as mixed race, section editor came up to their desks after a girl had been while also acknowledging that I have light-skin privilege.” reported missing. “He said to us, ‘This girl is white, she’s pretty, she’s middle class – we have to get on Brinkhurst-Cuff: “As I grew older I grew proud to call myself black” this, our readers are going to love it!’ and I just sat there thinking, did he really just say that out loud?” This comment is painfully relevant now after the disappearance and murder of black 21-year-old, Joy Morgan, a tragedy Brinkhurst-Cuff has been increasingly vocal about on Twitter. A 40-year-old man has been charged with her murder. “It’s not hyperbole to say that our systemically racist media didn’t investigate her case or platform her family’s pleas for information in the way they should have,” Brinkhurst-Cuff writes in a recent piece for gal-dem. She adds: “Joy’s story is such a virulent example of how the media chooses to prioritise some stories over others.” “Obviously there’s multiple layers at work here,” she says in person. “There’s systemic aspects to it, in terms that if you are of a working class background you’re less likely to break into the media industry, and people of colour in this country are more likely to be from working class backgrounds – especially black Caribbean or Bangladeshi. There’s also the combined forces of racism and sexism.” We’ve made our way from the studio to a coffee shop in Exmouth Market. The winter sun is out, and February has been unusually warm, so we sit outside. As we’re talking, a beagle puppy with floppy ears walks past. We squeal in unison. Brinkhurst-Cuff has her natural hair out and brown liner curves atop her eyes. Aside from that, she has no make-up on and her coat covers up the white blazer she wore for the shoot. Her skin is milky brown, the result of a white father and a black mother of Jamaican descent. Born in Hackney, Brinkhurst-Cuff and her family moved to Edinburgh in 2001 when she was eight. She says: “My parents wanted change, and back then Hackney wasn’t gentrified so I think they had legitimate worries about schools.” 76

Features Image: Danai Dana

Image: Danai Dana

gal-dem has moved to a new office in Bethnal Green after a round of private funding She thinks Hirsch’s book is a positive first step towards productive conversations about identity. She adds: “At the moment it’s all rudimentary and a lot of people are very prescriptive when it comes to how people like us should identify. I think only you can try and understand yourself.” As deputy editor of gal-dem Brinkhurst-Cuff has seen the magazine transition from a side project, to a magazine whose offices were burrowed in a cupboard-sized HQ in Peckham, to a business that has collaborated with The Guardian, the V&A, and has moved to a significantly larger office in Bethnal Green. “I got involved with gal-dem just before I was about to start at City,” recounts Brinkhurst-Cuff, who studied the Newspaper MA in 2015/16. “They read an article I wrote for Vice on what it was like to be a mixed-race girl on Tinder and got in touch to see if I wanted to get involved. I met Liv in Brixton, there’s actually this really weird photo of me and Liv on the day doing an awkward hover-hug,” she laughs. “I’m wearing a galdem t-shirt, too.” Going-on-four years later, the days of the awkward hover-hug are long gone. Brinkhurst-Cuff and Little give the impression of being childhood friends. She says: “We’ve never said a cross word to each other. Working relationships can be quite fraught, but we’ve never had that. I respect her work and she respects mine.” The side project they once worked on has now turned into a well-respected, award-winning publication with a yearly print issue that hosts dozens of contributors and has featured interviews with the likes of Amandla Stenberg, Lena Waithe, Regina King, and Roxane Gay. They’re not only giving a voice to people of colour, they’re changing the narrative about them too. “I like to think that we’ve disrupted the media,” She continues, “There’s no way of knowing where the

conversation would have gone without us. I think the fact that we were able to take over The Guardian’s Weekend magazine is a sign that we’re doing our job correctly in terms of actually getting people to pay attention.” When gal-dem took over Weekend for an issue – which showcased Michaela Coel on the cover and featured pieces by Diane Abbott and Afua Hirsch – sales spiked significantly. In her own piece reflecting on the takeover, Melissa Denes, editor of Weekend, wrote: “I was blown away by the appetite for a whole different perspective. The cast of Hamilton [the musical] tweeted photos of themselves reading the issue in their dressing rooms, young women posted pictures of themselves buying it on Instagram, and we have had more requests for back copies of this issue than any other in my five years editing Weekend.” Despite their roles as disruptors of traditionally white media, Brinkhurst-Cuff doesn’t seem to think there’s a formula to their success. She says: “I think it was a combination of really talented people coming together right from the very beginning. Our careers came up alongside gal-dem so we poured all the knowledge we were getting from places we worked at into it.” Her time in the industry, the work she’s put into galdem, and her freelance writing have taught her a lot, she explains: “The most important things are knowing your morals and values, and not being afraid to challenge people you disagree with. It baffles me that people choose to work at places they morally disagree with. “At a point in my career I was made to feel stupid for not going for a Daily Mail grad scheme. I went to the talk at City just so I could walk out halfway. As a woman of colour, that was never an option. It was absolutely the correct call, and I don’t think anyone should be working  for publications they ethically disagree with.” 77



Image: Danai Dana

gal-dem has achieved more than moral success. her disappearance. It’s as though she feels personally Founding editor Liv Little secured funding for the responsible for Joy, or at least for getting the world to pay magazine after a pitch to a private equity investment attention to her. event last November. The AllBright Pitch Day, in “I was at this panel once,” she says. “And a journalist partnership with HSBC, is a monthly event that invites from the Evening Standard said ‘you have to be thick female-founded businesses to present to a network of skinned in this industry, you can’t survive otherwise’. investors, wealthy individuals, and business leaders. I’m not thick skinned and I’m still here. Kindness is an Brinkhurst-Cuff breaks it down a little, but the underrated quality in this industry. It’s easy to be cutwhole team have been keeping quiet about specific throat, but I’m not interested in that at all.” facts and figures. She says: “Liv pitched the business The last rays of sunshine sink into brick walls as we plan to wealthy people with philanthropic interests in get ready to go our separate ways. It still feels like the independent media, and people have been interested in beginning for gal-dem, but what a strong one it’s been, investing in us. We’re not doing what The Pool did, for winning a Comment Award a year after their launch. instance, which is a million-pound affair, and then a “I’m not sure but I would say as an indie mag, that’s few years down the line you realise you’re not making pretty unprecedented when you’re up against the enough. It’s very modest and hopefully sustainable.” Financial Times,” Brinkhurst-Cuff recounts. Though they remain secretive about the intricacies “They said at the beginning ‘everyone look, it’s not of their investor round, gal-dem’s success is evident. that big a deal, don’t cry!’ When it was announced I was Their social media channels boast a collective 135,000 literally sobbing.” She says, a smile on her face as she followers at the time of print and grow every hour. Little looks back on those tears, still only two years ago. also told Campaign that their print-run is doubling every gal-dem has reshaped the media landscape by creating year, but didn’t go into specifics. a space for women and non-binary people of colour, and gal-dem hasn’t shied away from brand extensions. they don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Brinkhurst-Cuff For the launch of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming last asserts: “It’s never been our intention to solely produce November, the magazine opened a pop-up bookshop content for people of colour. We believe that everything which exclusively offered books by women and nonwe do, from events to written work, can and should be binary people of colour. Their International Women’s consumed by as wide a spectrum of people as possible. Weekender featured everything from yoga classes to We set out to prove that we should be in the mainstream their sell-out story-telling event, which invites members media. And you should be paying attention to us.” X of the community to talk about Brinkhurst-Cuff: “I’m incredibly afraid to fuck it up” womanhood. Aside from partnering with Weekend, their last print issue was completely funded by multimillion-dollar make-up and skincare brand Glossier. Brinkhurst-Cuff says: “Turning gal-dem into a business was a conscious decision. We realised it wasn’t going away and we didn’t want it to go away. It was either turning it into a business or that all the other jobs we took on to keep gal-dem alive meant that we couldn’t continue.” Walking into the new office didn’t feel real for BrinkhurstCuff, and still feels too good to be true. “I’m incredibly afraid to fuck it up,” she says. “It just doesn’t happen does it? Especially being from the backgrounds that we’re from, you don’t just get to do your dream job.” Empty coffee mugs sit to the side and she’s folded the white paper bag her scone came in into a little rectangle. After this she’s going to go to Joy Morgan’s church to see if she X can get any more information about

Is good news good news? Lauren Geall examines a positive approach to news reporting

Image: Lauren Geall


here was a train attack on a French train to Paris,” six-year-old Elvin announces. “They got the knife and got the guard and stabbed them.” He’s talking to “the camera” – a pretend one formed by the hands of his friend – and is accompanied on “the sofa” – a playground bench – by two others. “And it even killed the conductor,” one of his copresenters, Beatrice, adds. “Sad news, isn’t it?” Later on in this unofficial episode of “Sky News”, there will also be a plane crash, road closures and a series of tube strikes. But this isn’t some kind of scripted comedy skit – it’s the unfiltered make-believe of the children on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of 6 Year Olds. The news, according to Elvin, Beatrice, and their giggling peers, is characterised solely by darkness and disaster. It reflects a world filled with murder, terrorism and chaos – as well as the closure of the “M21”. And this simplified view of the news as inherently negative isn’t one restricted to the realms of child play – it’s just one of the examples cited by news-researcher Jodie Jackson in her new book You Are What You Read, which explores the impact that consuming negative news can have on our mental health and worldview. Jackson came to write the book through personal experience; having once been someone who watched and listened to the news on a daily basis, she found herself so depressed and disheartened by what she was being shown that she could no longer stand to watch. But instead of switching off completely, she decided to do something about it. “Although I’d had enough of the news, I still wanted to remain informed,” Jackson explains. “So I started searching for stories, or people, or groups, or organisations who were attempting to solve some of the biggest problems and challenges that we face… so I sort of accidentally stumbled across what we now call

solutions journalism, just by a desire for what I kind of wanted to know – and it helped me feel more connected to the news.” Solutions journalism, or, as it it more commonly known, constructive journalism, is an approach to reporting that aims to highlight both the problems and their solutions, in order to give a more balanced view of what is going on in the world and stimulate debate around those solutions. Importantly, those who adopt a constructive approach advocate for a greater awareness of the impact what we read and watch can have on our wellbeing. “We’re all familiar with the saying ‘you are what you eat’... and what I sort of learned is food is to the body what information is to the mind, so the way it’s produced and the way it’s consumed is going to affect our mental health,” Jackson says. “Our information diet may seem less visible but it’s just as powerful, if not more powerful, and important for our overall well being.” In a world of self-care and healthy eating, consumers are becoming more aware of the impact of the information they consume. A 2015 survey by BBC World Service reported that 64% of under 35s wanted to see the news  79

Features adopt a more solutions-focused approach, rather than simply tell them about issues. And it’s not just a matter of opinion - people are putting their money behind it too. In December 2018, Dutch start-up The Correspondent crowdfunded over $2.6m (£1.9m) to launch an Englishlanguage version of their platform De Correspondent,

“The industry saw positive news as fluffy or PR stories” which aims to be “an antidote to the daily news grind”. Seán Dagan Wood, co-founder of the Constructive Journalism Project and publisher at Positive News magazine, is one of the growing number of journalists leading the charge. Founded in 1993, Positive News reports solely on progress, possibility and solutions – a recent feature reported on a new ban on junk food advertising which has been implemented across London’s entire public transport network, and looked at the progress being made to counter childhood obesity. “[At Positive News] we’re still pursuing truth, we’re still being accountable, and as transparent as possible, and we’re using the same techniques of good journalism, but with that [constructive] mindset,” Dagan Wood says. “So I think what’s key to that is taking responsibility for the impact of how we choose to frame information, and where we put our focus – the impact of that on audiences.” He continues: “Rather than leaving people feeling depressed, cynical and disengaged, we can connect them

to an issue in a way that helps them to be engaged with it, and to ultimately be better informed, and to be able to then act on that information, whichever way they choose.” Understandably, however, there has been a considerable amount of incredulity towards the idea of “positive news”. For many, choosing to highlight positive stories falls short of their ideas about the role of the journalist. “The problem in the past was that I think the industry saw the idea of positive news just as fluffy stories or PR stories,” Dagan Wood admits. “Naturally, and understandably, no journalists want to be writing something that’s actually distorting the truth and making light of it, just putting on rose-tinted glasses. So there’s an understandable scepticism to the idea of positivity.” Jackson agrees. “We’re not talking about light hearted, uplifting, entertaining puff pieces that are perhaps celebratory, or just made us feel good. “Reporting on solutions can lead to more accountability, not less,” she explains. “If we’re made aware of a problem, especially an ongoing one, we may come to accept it as inevitable and permanent, but when we learn about how another community solved it, even marginally, it puts pressure on people, organisations and officials to respond to these same problems in their own community – because they suddenly become unacceptable.” However, negativity and cynicism will always have their place within the media industry, she adds. “Negative news reporting is hugely important and valuable – it’s righted many wrongs, it’s created legislation for our betterment, it’s kept us safe – we wouldn’t necessarily want to unwind the value that it provides, not when it’s done well. “It’s important when we’re talking about this to say Image: Positive News

Features by developing one [approach], we’re not reducing the other. They exist alongside each other; I think rather than penalising or demonising negative news reporting, we have to really understand and adopt the importance of

“The more alarming the headline, the more people pick it up”

Image: PA

solutions focused journalism - we need to revere that with the same power and potential as we do [the negative].” Importantly, however, negativity sells. Alexander Farber, deputy editor at Broadcast magazine, a B2B publication for the television industry, says there is something about bad news which draws a reader in. “I definitely think that there is some truth in the fact that there is something in human nature that means people do take satisfaction or whatever from others’ misfortune,” Farber says. “Whether that’s because one company performing poorly means opportunity for another to do better, or whether they think that there is an opportunity for them to exploit that.” Dagan Wood agrees. “It’s biology. We have a hardwired survival response, so alarming information and threats grab our attention. So consciously or not, this has been the basis of the news business model – grab attention – because that sells papers and then, in recent years, creates clicks, and obviously people want to sell as many papers as possible. So the more alarming the headline, the more people pick it up.” Despite this, some media companies are taking the plunge and adopting ultimately successful constructive projects – proving that negativity isn’t the only way to command an audience. The Guardian’s “The Upside” series is one such example. Launched under the command of special projects head Mark Rice-Oxley, the series “seeks out answers, solutions, movements and initiatives to address the biggest problems besetting the world”. For Rice-Oxley, there’s no secret to the success of the project, now in its second year: “It’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? If you read about a plane crash, you’re probably not going to share that on social media. It’s a bit too grisly. But if you read about a man who has invented a parachute to save everybody in an air crash, that’s exactly the kind of thing you’re going to want to show your friends.” And the power of constructive journalism isn’t just restricted to the digital world. Recently, a report from Bethan McKernan in north-eastern Syria shined the light on a group of Yazidi women who are attempting to rebuild their lives in a female-only commune, after spending the last decade at the hands of Islamic State. The response from readers, Rice-Oxley says, has been “superb”.

He continues: “We’ve had readers writing in saying, ‘can we give them money, I’d like to send some books, I’d like to get involved’. As a journalist, when you ask yourself, ‘what am I in this for? What am I trying to do with my journalism?’ one thing has to be to try and, you know, make the world a better place, doesn’t it? And when you see that happening, you think that journalism has really succeeded.” Historically, however, constructive journalism hasn’t fared so well. In 1993, ex-BBC newsreader Martyn Lewis was met with significant backlash and ridicule for suggesting television news was too negative, and that those who work in the media should take accusations of negativity seriously. Journalist Peter Sissons even went on BBC Radio 2’s Jimmy Young Show at the time to disparage the idea, insisting that “it is not [the journalist’s]

Martyn Lewis CBE, now official patron of Positive News job… to make people feel better. Even if it makes people slit their wrists, we have to tell it the way it is”. What isn’t mentioned, however, in Sissons’ argument, is the fact that there is always more than one way to “tell it the way it is”. Every story ever told makes choices – what to include and what to leave out – and the power of telling audiences about potential solutions should not be dismissed. Constructive journalism is no longer the ridiculed younger sibling of traditional journalism: it’s claiming a name for itself in its own right. X 81


Snapchat: the ghost of social media past? Caitlin Butler investigates whether the social media platform is past its prime


n February last year, American reality TV star Kylie Jenner tweeted to her then 24.5 million followers that she no longer opened Snapchat and wondered whether anyone else did the same. Snapchat, a social media application on which users send pictures of themselves that delete automatically soon after, saw their shares tumble by 8%. They lost over $1.3bn (£1bn) of their stock market value. Is Jenner right? Is Snapchat a has-been? A year later, the app still has over 186 million daily active users, in comparison to the average of 176 million in 2017. However, its peak was 191 million active users at the beginning of 2018; use has plateaued since then. People are still engaging with Snapchat, particularly via the Discover function. This channel allows publishers as varied as The Sun, The Economist and Cosmopolitan, as well as influencers, advertisers and celebrities, to post content in a unique way. Introduced in 2015, Discover enables news outlets to publish content specifically for audiences aged overwhelmingly below 25. But is it worth it for brands to be investing time, money, and most importantly, staff? It’s a difficult question, and one that Adam Tinworth, digital publishing consultant and City lecturer, is unsure how to answer. Tinworth strongly recommends publishers launching on new platforms to thoroughly investigate whether they think they will see a return on their investment. “The general tendency is for people to jump on platforms without necessarily asking themselves the hard questions about whether the audience or the revenue is there. You have to be very clear about whether you can see some manifest gain,” he says. The way publishers make money via the app is through a revenue share model. The advertisements appear between each snap. If Snapchat sells, the publisher gets a cut, and if the publisher sells, Snapchat gets a cut. So, money can be made. But, as Tinworth says, Snapchat has certain requirements for publishers to appear on their Discover function, including number of staff producing content specifically for the channel. The Economist, as of March last year, has five staff explicitly for this purpose on both


sides of the Atlantic. “Snapchat Discover is a very limited environment where you have to dedicate a lot of resources to be able to have a revenue sharing deal with Snapchat advertising,” explains Tinworth. In terms of time and journalist involvement, it is a commitment. “They ask for people who will produce regular content.” And even if this commitment is made, there are many publishers in the Discovery channel, all vying for swipes. Content appears on the channel, and users move through stories by swiping through snaps. The journalist’s perennial struggle of how to stand out is tricky on any format, and Snapchat is no different. As Lucy Rohr, Snapchat editor of The Economist observes: “When we launched on the platform, we were one of about 40 publishers. Since then, it has become a much more crowded platform. It’s now about roughly 90 publishers. There’s been a shift in the way people work with the Discover feed.” For The Economist, having a presence on the app is an opportunity to reach younger audiences, who they hope will eventually become subscribers to the physical magazine. It’s a long-term investment, but revenue gain is possible. “We see our presence on the platform as being an opportunity to reach the younger audiences we wouldn’t otherwise necessarily have direct access to,” says Rohr. This audience is notoriously difficult to reach, and if an organisation has the resources to access these users, then the opportunity for bringing a younger audience on board is valuable. If they can be brought on board, it is vital to provide accurate content that suits the tone of voice. A young audience is able to spot poor quality content, or even misinformation, far more than older readers. All social media suffers from misinformation, but Rohr says: “Someone younger is actually more critical than an adult, probably more switched on. They have a better developed bullshit detector.” It’s also important to not talk down to a younger audience, because “they’re not dumber, they’re just younger”, explains Rohr. As Tinworth observes, because they’ve been in the digital environment for much longer, younger people are less likely to be influenced by fake news online than older people.

Image: Miles Rowland


Snapchat Discover requires a big commitment from publishers

Publishers can struggle to present their content appropriately. It’s a tricky balance to strike between imparting information without straying into opinion and alienating the readers, which is incredibly important to get right on Snapchat, as it is on any platform. For Tinworth, it’s a matter of taking journalistic values and applying them in a different, communicative language. It’s important to be relatable and accessible for a younger reader. The Guardian, for example, found that a lot of their amateurish content on Snapchat was doing better than their more formally curated content in the stories format, adds Tinworth. It’s about building a relationship with the reader.

“Someone younger is more critical than an adult. They have a better bullshit detector” If this relationship is built, Snapchat can provide direct engagement. Polls and quizzes generate audience feedback and shape future content in a unique way. Eleanor Lees, deputy Snapchat editor at The Sun, says that they are able to be quite interactive and really get to grips with what their readers want. “I use polls to gauge opinion on various things,” she says. “There was a study that came out that said young people are the loneliest demographic, so I used a poll to see if our readers identified with that and felt the same way, which they did, so we

produced content on how to tackle loneliness. Snapchat helps us understand what our readers really want from us.” The future of Snapchat, however, is far from certain. Rohr thinks Instagram, owned by Facebook, is mounting a big challenge to the app. Both platforms copied the ‘Stories’ format initially innovated by Snapchat. Tinworth states that Snapchat has a big question mark over it. “People are starting to de-emphasize their Snapchat efforts,” he observes. “Traditionally, we have never really seen an age dependent social network survive. The next generation of people don’t tend to like the exact same things of the previous generation.” For all this uncertainty, Lees is optimistic about both Snapchat’s future and purpose. “We have a demographic that’s really engaged in what we’re doing, that other platforms aren’t getting. It has a lot of readers. I think there’s a lot more that can be done with it, and in a way, it’s where journalism will be headed. “We’ve got a lot of young women reading; over 1 million daily users. Given the number of women’s lifestyle brands that have closed recently, I don’t think it’s worth writing Snapchat off.” It’s not certain the app will live on. However, the skills gained from using Snapchat can be transferred to most social media. Journalists now are multiskilled, so having the ability to translate content into a visual and snappier format is a valuable one. As Rohr sums up, “regardless of the future of any of these platforms, for us, being able to translate our journalism into short form visual stuff is important. While these platforms may come and go, the future of visual journalism is relatively assured.” X 83

Features: Social Media Special

Bon appétit, mes amis


Helen Salter on the viral videos cooking up a storm


With this in mind, is this fast-form of food eroding the pillars of print? Is the conventional restaurant review written by the established food critic - under threat from the rapid circulation of the digital food world? Videos are almost guaranteed to score higher reach, engagement and impressions and with many national reviews hidden behind paywalls or lost in rambling rants on veganism - not to mention print sales remaining in steady decline - the plight of print feels more precarious than ever. The Illustration: Mia Lenthall

n the age of fake news, trolls and an onslaught of Brexit updates, spending time online often feels like drowning in a stream of content vying for your attention. However, among this noise are soothing counteragents - light-hearted and easy to consume which are hugely popular, with views exceeding 200 million: food videos. Food videos have become one of the most popular forms of content on the internet, and the format has been professionalised to reach epic virality. Take the remarkably successful Tasty, a video division of juggernaut Buzzfeed whose mini-burger recipe boasts 210 million views and counting. Launched in 2015, Tasty has grown into one of Facebook’s biggest brands and the stats are hard to ignore: it gained 85,417,182 views in three months after its first year. Highly regarded food magazine olive, with a print circulation of 32,400, and delicious. with 60,000, have likewise followed suit: olive regularly embeds video in its social feeds. Are readers, then, turning online for their food fix? Alice Johnston, former food editor at digital magazine Culture Trip, believes the answer to this online success is simple: “It’s that food is such a universal thing. Everyone has to eat, so a food video automatically appeals to a large audience. Also, people get hungry multiple times a day - that’s many times a day when they might pause in their activities to watch a minute long video on a social platform.” Tasty’s unprecedented success has incited a wave of similar brands such as Delish, Tastemade and So Yummy. While the majority are produced on US media assembly lines, ‘Proper Tasty’, the British spin-off, is gathering momentum with over 9.2 million likes in its first four months (it now stands at 19.5 million). These millions of views are monetised by high-budget ads, native advertising and consultancy offered to smaller advertisers.

Features: Social Media Special answer as to whether the written format will adapt or fight against this fast-form of food, seems clouded. Johnston is not so sure: “They’re competing on different platforms. It’s unlikely that a restaurant with a five-star review in traditional print will also go viral on social they’re almost not speaking the same language. People who trust traditional restaurant reviews are less likely to go sharing the latest viral sensation than those who follow 10 food pages on Facebook.” Setting aside food videos’ indomitable influence, Johnston raises an interesting point: “The secret of viral food videos is that often the foods aren’t as delicious as they appear. I filmed a video featuring a lot of avocado, which, as every millennial knows, is an insanely popular ingredient. In real life, it was awkward to eat and didn’t really taste of much. It looked amazing in the footage, however.” Food’s successful relationship with social media is predicated, then, on the addictive quality and aesthetic, rather than the taste. Even so, when asked whether videos can make a positive impact on businesses, Johnston says: “Just look at the bubble waffle, which has featured in countless videos. That sort of item would never be reviewed in print, but because it’s been successful on video, queues are out the door at the bubble waffle shops in London. Viral food videos can achieve incredible influence.” X X

Image: Pixabay

The Secrets of Success Prep

Most videos feature overhead shots of disembodied hands assembling a recipe from scratch; ingredients presented mise en place. Brands are also stepping away from the kitchen and onto the streets, shooting glossy close-ups of melted cheese plastered over fresh, hand-rolled tagliatelle.


The ideal video length now ranges from 40 seconds to 2 minutes. The pace of the video is bitingly sharp; we watch a bowl of ingredients spring swiftly to life, finished with a sprinkle of spice and a fork diving in. It’s the digestible, punchy videos which cut through the noise and the longer a user stays tuned in, the probability of interaction increases.


Food channels respond to what scores well and repeat ad infinitum; cheese, bacon and pasta are the most popular ingredients in Tasty’s top five videos of 2018. You’ll notice videos are peppered with alluring moments - a lingering cheese pull or a stream of melted chocolate – a move guaranteed to titillate taste buds. A large portion of content tilts toward the absurd – take a oneminute recipe for a cookie ice-cream sandwich the size of your head – but with 27 million views under its belt, there’s little to be laughing at.


Pizza pot pies, cheeseburger onion rings and mozzarella-stuffed meatballs have one thing in common: it’s the ultimate guilty pleasure. These junk food recipes stay firmly in the 21st century, straying from the boeuf bourguignons, coq au vins and the other complex and highbrow offerings of a broadsheet food section.


Illustration: Kezia Webborn

Features: Social Media Special


Sara Semic on how Instagram became a vital tool for journalists


hanks to its mobile functionality and cornucopia of beautifying filters, Instagram has become the favoured platform for the voraciously visual world of fashion. But with fashion influencers and brands now able to lift the curtain on the industry like never before, what does this mean for fashion journalists, the industry’s chief gatekeepers? Undeniably, fashion criticism has become more democratic. A slew of self-appointed fashion critics has arisen, sparked by the creation of @diet_prada, an account dedicated to calling out fashion copycats and industry missteps. Launched in 2014 by New Yorkbased fashion aficionados, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, the Instagram watchdog has racked up an impressive 1.2 million followers, who eagerly wait to see who the latest victim of their scathing captions will be. The meteoric rise of Diet Prada suggests people want more than just fluffy fashion coverage. While fashion publications are beholden to their advertisers and stakeholders, which can influence editorial direction, Diet Prada, as an independent entity, can say everything the glossies can’t. Daisy Murray, digital writer at ELLE UK, also admits that Diet Prada “keeps us on our toes in terms of being lazy journalists and getting people’s names wrong,

which I think is a good thing”. In January, Diet Prada called out American Vogue for misidentifying Muslim American journalist Noor Tagouri as a Pakistani actress, which helped bring awareness to the incident. Although the account is a welcome corrective to an industry notorious for its blind spots, Murray does think it “can sometimes say quite mean things about people which magazines won’t do and shouldn’t do”. Last year, an account called Diet Ignorant was set up as a reaction, dedicated to calling out Diet Prada’s more tenuous accusations, such as when it accused London-based designer Richard Quinn of making Balenciaga references. Diet Prada aside, the sheer amount of action that takes place on Instagram has made it an important tool for storygathering in fashion journalism. For staying apace with the latest trends and new designers, Instagram is invaluable. “Although we still get images from traditional image sites like Getty and press releases from brands, Instagram is the place where you can see how people are interacting with brands,” Murray explains. However Caroline Leaper, acting senior fashion editor at The Telegraph, thinks that it’s “more the fact that we’re on it constantly anyway in our own lives. Stories bubble up very organically from Instagram because of the fact that you see what people are buying and sharing”. Beyond giving anybody a platform, Instagram has also raised the individual profiles of fashion journalists. Most use their personal Instagram handles to post work-related content, giving followers sneak peeks into exclusive events and providing little details that perhaps wouldn’t make the cut in print. Fashion editors and writers are encouraged by their publications to promote their work through their personal posts and stories, “because we all have our own little micro-communities”, Leaper says. Sometimes, these micro-communities can outgrow those of the brand itself, as happened to Glamour NL’s former fashion features editor, Stephanie Broek, who now has 73.4k followers (compared to the magazine’s 65.5k followers), as a freelance journalist and influencer. The murky world of influencers has encroached on fashion journalists too. Stricter disclosure rules have made it necessary for influencers to signpost their sponsored content, which, for fashion journalists habitually showered with gifts from brands, means disclosing when products were gifted as well as being crystal clear about any sponsorships. Despite the conflict of interest, Murray thinks the titles that encourage journalists to boost their Instagram presence will last longer. “If the magazine industry is struggling, instead of ousting the influencers from the magazine, why not allow writers to be influencers too?” Leaper also believes that there will always be a demand for traditional journalism. “It is wonderful that we get such a diverse range of perspectives on Instagram, and they’ve all got a platform,” she concedes. “But I think that people still appreciate having an authority on a subject.” X

“Stories bubble up very organically from Instagram”


Features: Social Media Special bombarded by the media. We’ve had people say ‘it’s getting too much, we don’t want any more phone calls.’” The BBC has a policy to combat this torrent of calls. “When we are aware of someone’s distress, or if it’s a very sensitive story, we get one correspondent to do the interview and share the material,” explains Miller. This multiplatform practice limits the number of BBC journalists a vulnerable UGC creator has to be badgered by, from three to one. It’s a win-win situation for media outlets like the BBC, but there can be ramifications for the eye-witnesses he blurry image from the phone camera reveals who captured the event. With no preparation for the a wave crashing through the wall of a building consequences of footage shared, they can be distressed with a deafening bang. Screams ring out from by being hounded by journalists, or abused by trolls behind the camera. The screen goes black. accusing them of making money from others’ misery. Footage of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami changed This is known as ‘virtual doorstepping’, where a UGC the way major humanitarian stories are reported. The creator is deluged with a comment chain of requests from Indian Ocean wave was the first disaster where dominant 20 news outlets, which can be stressful if they cannot be images in the news were shot by ordinary people. The sure if their own loved ones are safe. Dr Glenda Cooper, volume of shocking UGC (User-Generated Content) was author of Reporting Humanitarian Disasters in a Social partly responsible for the unprecedented aid donations Media Age (2018) explains: “We’re used to journalists as the victims received. The coverage challenged the a pack on a physical doorstep, door-stepping a politician, foundations of journalism but people online can find and heralded a new era. themselves accosted on Fifteen years on, all sides.” Indeed, you content shared on social can’t just slam your door media has revolutionised shut online. disaster coverage. The One victim of this tradition of those affected cyberspace pursuit by humanitarian crises was ‘Interviewee 65’ being spoken for by NGOs of Dr Cooper’s book, a or reporters has been security guard whose challenged by technology, Vines became the as any citizen with a defining images of the phone and 3G can record 2013 Oklahoma tornado. events. This year alone, Interviewee 65 said Footage of disasters is often captured by locals or tourists from the Indonesian floods within 20 minutes of to Hurricane Michael, the Nepalese earthquake and tweeting: “I was hounded by media attention. It was all Syrian refugees, iconic images of crises have often been pretty overwhelming. For many days after, I was pretty filmed by tourists and locals rather than reporters. stressed about what I had seen and felt guilty about my Newsrooms’ picture researchers scan social platforms part in taking videos of it.” as a humanitarian story breaks, then verify footage The ‘virtual doorstep’ allowed Twitter users to abuse by checking source, date, location and credibility of Interviewee 65 for filming rather than helping to search accounts. However, in the photoshop era, verifying for a lost boy called Tommy. He confessed, “One of the citizen journalists’ photos is tricky. The ‘migrant hoax’ hardest things for me is getting over that I could have of 2015 slipped through — the fake Instagram account done more to help the people I had seen in that situation.” appeared to document a migrant’s route from Senegal to After the media storm, the UGC creator exhibited Europe and earned thousands of followers. stressed behaviour and deleted his Twitter account. To UGC often captures dead bodies, creating further prevent these overwhelming situations, online viral layers of ethical issues, as in the 2011 Japanese hubs such as Storyful have cropped up to manage earthquake and tsunami. Last year, extreme weather communications between content creators and the press. events, including California wildfires and Rwanda Although UGC is invaluable for capturing the landslides, claimed 5,000 lives and left 29 million unexpected and allows news agencies to ‘see’ dangerous people in need of humanitarian aid. How journalists situations instantly, an Instagram story by no means communicate sensitively with traumatised survivors of provides the whole picture. It comes at a price for those tragic events raises questions around ethics and privacy. who found the footage they shared with followers Natalie Miller, assistant editor of UGC at BBC News, splashed across the news after being relentlessly pursued says, “After a major terror attack, you’ve already seen or trolled. In these cases, UGC creators are left wishing something traumatic and distressing, then you’re getting they had never clicked ‘post’. X

UGChaos? Is there a dark side to User-Generated Content, Georgina Roberts asks

Image: David Mark



Image: Robin Kennedy, PA


Who shot the paparazzi? Aakriti Patni reports on the love-hate relationship between the paps and social media


t’s a test of endurance, patience and agility. Sometimes it’s about sitting stagnant in our cars for 10 hours at a stretch and sometimes it’s about running to tail the target.” This, in a nutshell, is a regular day for Miles Diggs. A celebrity photographer for seven years, Diggs co-founded 247Paps.TV, an independent paparazzi agency based in New York, with fellow photographer Cesar Peña in 2012. Celebrity photographers, or ‘paparazzi’, make it their mission to shadow high-profile people to photograph their every move. “It depends on who I’m photographing, but I’ve waited outside people’s homes from 10 minutes to 10 days,” says George Bamby, a Devon-based paparazzo who has been in the industry for over 25 years. The paparazzi earn money by selling pictures to photo agencies or directly to tabloids, gossip magazines and entertainment websites. While the star craze has intensified with evolving technology, this hasn’t spelled success for ‘pap’ culture.


Fan-generated images are giving the paparazzi a run for their money. “Now the technology has changed, with iPhones and iPads, everyone’s a paparazzi,” Bamby declares. “Social media allows every single person with a camera phone to be our competition. They can devalue our story or photos with one click and the right hashtags. Just one snap can make it all fall apart,” says Diggs. Before everyone was armed with camera phones, the paps were paid comfortable sums for basic photos. “10 to 12 years ago, a photo of a celebrity shopping at Tesco would go for £5,000 - £6,000 easily. Today, such a photo would not fetch more than £1,500,” bemoans Bamby. He recalls snapping a picture of the royal couple, William and Kate, on a beach in Cornwall in 2016. It would have guaranteed him close to £7,000 a few years ago. But the highest price he got was £300. “Close to 500 people were waving their camera phones to capture a picture of the couple. When I went to sell it, it was clear that many others had the same image to sell.” With online publications and entertainment websites paying “peanuts” for photos, Bamby targets tabloids like the Daily Mirror. But even then, he isn’t paid extra when the print article is published online. “If I sell a set of photos to a print publication, they’ll print it in their physical copy and use the same images for their website.”

Features The paps have been further undermined by picture editors sidelining them and going straight to fans, or “citizen journalists”. Olivia Foster, a former entertainment editor for Marie Claire and news reporter for Grazia and Heat, reveals that publications reach out to official fan accounts to buy the celebrity photo that is doing the rounds on Instagram. “It does occasionally happen, especially if there is a great story behind the photo – for example, a fan snapping a young pop star and her new boyfriend at a music festival.” But it’s not just growing celebrity fan bases with camera phones that are to blame. Celebrities with social media accounts are rendering some of the paparazzi’s best efforts useless. While on holiday in 2016, a pregnant Anne Hathaway was photographed by the paparazzi on the beach. But before the pap-generated image could make waves, the actress herself posted a picture of her bump from the beach on Instagram, leaving the paparazzi high and dry. “Celebrities posting on social media is a huge challenge for us. Remember, social media is all free. So if someone posts a nice shot of themselves, why would [publications] pay for the same shot that we took in the same outfit?” explains Diggs. The paparazzi have yet another struggle with social media. Their images are often reposted by other users who don’t realise that they are protected by copyright. “Fan accounts, brands and celebrities all post our photos, and it is a consuming challenge trying to keep up and track down every stolen image,” explains Diggs.

Legal troubles are not new to this world. Private property is out of bounds for the paparazzi under UK law, but it’s not so straightforward when it comes to public places. Media law Professor Claire de Than explains: “A photograph taken in a public place can still capture a private moment, so there is a need to consider the image itself, not just the location.” There is also the question of celebrities’ children, who act as muses for many paps. Photographing children can come at a high price. In 2014, singer-songwriter Paul Weller’s three children were awarded a sum of £10,000 following their privacy claim against Associated Newspapers (now known as DMG Media). The photos, published on MailOnline, showed Weller’s daughter, aged 16, and his twin sons, aged 10 months at the time, relaxing at a café in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. “Children have stronger protection for their privacy rights than adults,” says Prof de Than. The paparrazi is also falling over itself to capture images of the royal children, particularly Prince George. In 2015, the royal family publicly published a letter

“Social media allows every single person with a camera phone to be our competition” Although social media has proved to be a curse for photographers, there is a silver lining. Diggs admits that “If you’re smart, you can follow social media trails that can lead to big money. Celebs often give their location away, or someone may catch a new couple alert that we can follow up on.” The paps have another trick up their sleeve which preserves their reputation and careers – their talent for capturing a scandalous shot. Despite stars sharing photos of themselves, they do not reveal the gossip. Foster explains: “The images celebrities post on social media tend to be very controlled, whereas pap shots are showing up at the moments they don’t always want you to see. Anyone can take a picture of a celebrity on the street, but can they get a picture of them cheating on their wife, or cosying up to someone they shouldn’t?” X Image: Matt Crossick, PA

“I’ve waited outside people’s homes from 10 minutes to 10 days”

detailing the lengths the paparazzi were willing to go to capture pictures of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and asked publications not to buy such images. While Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights spells out the right to respect for “family and private life”, there is a grey area. With celebrities sharing intimate details and photos of children on social media, they open a discussion of what defines “privacy”.

Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro at The Intern premiere 89


Pitching to the public Jess Browne-Swinburne explores how crowdfunded journalism is giving more power to the people


ucked away off a side street near Hampstead Heath is the Highgate Society Hall, which hums with the mumbles of white-haired pensioners and grand old retired army majors. While first impressions may suggest this crowd is gathering for the next book club meeting, they are in fact here to discuss their new hyperlocal cultural magazine. Less than a year after backers pledged £5,511 on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, Village Raw magazine has printed five monthly editions filled with local stories of craftsmanship, food and music. This form of alternative financing allows individuals, groups and organisations to raise small – or in some cases subsantial – amounts of money from the public for entrepreneurial ventures in all industries. As the founders of Village Raw chart the journey of their publication, the same question is on everyone’s lips. “The main thing we want to know,” one elderly man asks, “is how can we help?” This question is becoming increasingly common among communities who are no longer just readership bodies, but more and more the financial backbones for these crowdfunded creative ventures. Oriana Leckert, journalism outreach lead for Kickstarter, the platform through which Village Raw obtained their initial funding, speaks of the growing importance of this kind of grassroots engagement. “The media is such a slow-moving catastrophe these days, it’s finally permeating the general consciousness that if we want it to exist, we have to actually pay for it.” Although Leckert is speaking from her New York office, the demise of the traditional media structure transcends national boundaries and has become an all-too familiar story in the UK. From 2005 to the end of 2018 there has been a net loss of 245 UK local news titles, according to Press Gazette research. Among closures last year were publications such as the Midlands Chronicle series of seven newspapers, and Newsquest’s merger

of three east London titles into one. Elsewhere The Independent transitioned to a digital-only model in 2016. While online news may be more immediate and saturated than ever, the migration of advertising away from traditional print has quashed the diversification of local news. A print media created by conglomerates, corporations and billionaires is stifling diversity. In response, platforms like Kickstarter have evolved into touchpoints for journalism experimentation. “This model is not an intuitive fit for journalism,” continues Leckert. “You’re not going to kickstart an ongoing financial plan for a newspaper for the rest of its life, but we can help people brainstorm ways to effectively use a discreet piece of funding to make a big difference.” Mark McGinlay, a resident of south east London, is proof that complacency around print is by no means universal, having successfully crowdfunded three hyperlocal newspapers: the Dulwich Diverter, the Peckham Peculiar and the Lewisham Ledger. “We think it’s [print] a bit like vinyl,” he tells me when explaining why the circulation of all three publications will increase from 12,000 to 15,000 in April. “Although we all love modern technology and use it so effectively, people are tactile and love things that are old fashioned. The newspaper may be on the verge of extinction,” he admits, “but people don’t want newspapers to die just like they don’t want records not to exist.” Following the launch of the first paper, the Peckham Peculiar in 2014, all three crowdfunding campaigns attracted the support of 150 backers, reaching their targets within the 60 day limit and avoiding the merciless ‘all or nothing’ policy implemented by Kickstarter. This means that if a campaign does not reach its set target, all of the money raised will be returned to the donators and the project will lose all traction gained. For smaller campaigns who set these targets just to “get their head above water”, at the early stages as McGinlay explains, this policy is perhaps less detrimental. It is a greater loss

“The media is a slow-moving catastrophe”


Image: Charlie Clift Tortoise co-founders: James Harding, Katie Vanneck-Smith and Matthew Barzun for those projects looking to attract much larger sums, as this model caters for both low circulation, local print publications as well as global journalism outfits. Eliot Higgins, founder of the open-source investigation platform Bellingcat, spoke about the anxiety surrounding his crowdfunding process, despite the global and groundbreaking success his work has now achieved. “We literally just hit our goal, we definitely didn’t blast past it,” he told me, which was £45,000 in 30 days. “It was only a few days before the end of our Kickstarter so it was nerve-racking watching it creep up to 100%.” However, just as support for the Lewisham Ledger was boosted by a strong social media presence which they had built up over the last few years, Bellingcat had also established a substantial following. “I had 20 or 30,000 people following me on social media beforehand,” explains Higgins, who launched his hobby on his Brown Moses blog, through which he closely followed the Syrian conflict. As the final days of his Kickstarter approached, Bellingcat broke the story that pinned the responsibility for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in July 2014 on the Russian army. “The reason the MH17 investigation was so powerful was because the groundwork I had laid previously meant that journalists knew we were a trustworthy source of information. If we had no reputation at all and we did the same thing, it wouldn’t have had the same fundraising impact,” explains Higgins. Since then, Bellingcat has transformed the way that news and intelligence is gathered, successfully investigating multiple stories including the Russian agents involved in the Salisbury attack and more recently the weapons used in the airstrikes in Yemen. “It was a very stressful process,” Higgins continues, “which I think is the experience for most people unless you are hugely successful.” Although he does recognise the value of crowdfunding as a good place to start, he is adverse to the suggestion that it is a sustainable model.

“Unless you are going to make it a core part of your model, as The Correspondent have done, you need to think about other sources of income.” Described as an ‘ad-free antidote to breaking news’, The Correspondent, a Dutch organisation, has become the fastest growing member-funded journalism platform in Europe, raising nearly £1.3m from 19,000 backers. Its British equivalent, Tortoise, a membership-based slow journalism enterprise, reached its funding goal in the first 24 hours, and went on to become the most-funded journalism project in Kickstarter’s history. “Tortoise depends on an active and involved member base,” explains Katie Vanneck-Smith, its co-founder. “We didn’t just want to raise money, because we have investors. What we needed was members who were interested in what we’re doing and who would be involved from the getgo and vocal in their feedback on what we’re doing.” The interaction between members and editors therefore goes much further than a financial transaction, with daily news conferences taking place during which the editorial team discuss what they’re covering and members are able to join in and share their perspectives on stories and issues. “The backers have all played a very hands-on role in shaping Tortoise,” continues Vanneck-Smith, “which has been incredibly valuable. From the size and the type to the mix of the stories, we’ve been blown away by the quality of ideas.” Just as Village Raw have offered a platform for community-based cultural news, and McGinlay’s south London hyperlocals have provided a medium for positive local news, Tortoise has established a platform for “people who are exhausted with news as it is”, says Vanneck-Smith. “They feel there has to be a different way.” This is certainly true, as industries increasingly place more power in the hands of the consumer, the media is no different. “It’s so heartening to read all these local stories,” says Tom Szekeres, digital strategy director and first ever local resident to donate to McGinlay’s campaign in 2014, “and to be part of a bigger movement of public news which goes against the tide.” X 91


Guardians of the Truth Image: Daisy Schofield

What if your browser could tell you when you’re reading unreliable news? Catherine Kennedy and Jemma Slingo investigate


n January of last year, Melania Trump banned White House staff from having flu vaccinations. A few months later, protesters vandalised Brett Kavanaugh’s house and Malia Obama was caught streaking around Harvard’s leafy campus. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger, a new Trump Tower opened in Pyongyang. Actually, none of these things happened at all. Not in the real world anyway. They are prime examples of fake news, a phenomenon that is shaking the very foundations of journalism. These days, as you scroll through Facebook or browse your Twitter feed, it’s far from guaranteed that the stories you’re reading are true. Disinformation is infecting the web like a virus, and most of us don’t know what to do about it. Two journalists, however, are trying to provide an antidote. NewsGuard, the brainchild of Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, was launched last year and ranks


websites according to how trustworthy they are. When you install the browser plug-in on your computer or mobile phone, a small icon pops up next to news links on search engines and social media feeds. The icon will be red or green, depending on how the site measures up to NewsGuard’s nine criteria for reliable reporting. “We are both lifelong journalists,” says Brill, who founded The American Lawyer magazine, “and we’re looking to solve what is becoming a big problem for journalism.” Along with Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Brill oversees a team of around 50 journalists who scrupulously read, review and rate the reliability of news sites. So far, they have graded 2,200 sites, which account for 96 per cent of online engagement in the US, and have attracted $6 million worth of investment. The question is, will NewsGuard revolutionise the way we consume news or have its founders taken on a Sisyphean task?

Features another problem. Paul Farhi, a media reporter at The Washington Post, argues NewsGuard will make little difference to the typical Credibility consumer of fake news if its icons do not • Doesn’t repeatedly publish false content automatically appear on the web. • Gathers and presents information responsibly “I think the people interested in • Regularly corrects or clarifies errors using NewsGuard are already informed • Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly consumers,” Farhi says. “It’s like getting • Avoids deceptive headlines a vaccine. If you care about the spread of disease you will make the effort to get a Transparency vaccine. If you don’t care, one way or the • Website discloses ownership and financing other you’re going to get infected and carry • Clearly labels advertising the disease around.” In other words, the fact • Reveals who’s in charge you have to actively install the software • The site provides names of content creators, along with either means most people won’t bother and will contact or biographical information continue to swallow fabricated stories. Although NewsGuard is currently installed SITE RATINGS by default on the mobile browser Microsoft Edge, other, more popular, browsers like A few red-rated sites A few green-rated sites Safari and Google Chrome are yet to follow • RT International • Columbia Journalism Review suit. What’s more, Farhi is sceptical about • Denver Guardian • Reuters how NewsGuard can keep on top of the • FoxNews15 • The Daily Signal constant flow of news reports. • Natural News • The Daily Caller “The internet is like the ocean. It’s so vast • FloridaNewsPress24 • Huffington Post and has so many miles of water that you could not create a team large enough to vet it Crovitz is optimistic. “Our key to achieving scale is rating all,” he says. the general reliability of news sites, not individual articles,” Dr Colin Porlezza, who is involved in creating an app he explains. It is also important to mention that NewsGuard that helps journalists verify information through artificial uses artificial intelligence, albeit sparingly. “We are alerted intelligence, also suggests it will take more to deal with if an article is suddenly trending or is starting to trend on a the disinformation problem. “We have to work on other website we haven’t rated,” Crovitz adds. “We review it and issues such as media literacy, data literacy... It’s a far put a rating on it before it goes viral.” slower process but I think it will have a better effect on According to Brill, NewsGuard has a basic people’s lives,” he says. advantage over more traditional fact-checkers. “We are Lee, of The New York Times, is more hopeful: proactive,” he says. “In contrast, by its very definition, “NewsGuard is something that accrues value over time. a fact-checking organisation is reacting to something Because it’s human centred it will take time for the team that has already gone viral.” to vet everything. Once they have, though, it is a system But can a small group of journalists really do a better that could be very robust.” job than the clever strings of algorithms and factchecking software currently used by websites and online platforms? Edmund Lee, who covers the media industry for The New York Times, thinks humans and machines need to work together. “Facebook and YouTube are still looking for a software solution to the problem of fake news but software only gets you so far,” he claims. According to Lee, a company like NewsGuard needs to collaborate with social platforms to get to the root of the problem. “NewsGuard could say ‘Hey Facebook, why don’t you The tide is starting to turn. In January, the European whitelist news posts that go through the NewsGuard Commission said Facebook, Google and Twitter need to System? Just allow these articles through, then you will do more to combat mis- and disinformation. Meanwhile, have taken care of most of the issue,’” he adds. Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select NewsGuard is currently in “intense conversation” with the Committee advised digital platforms to either develop big internet players, according to its founders, who plan to new tools to identify disinformation or to use existing charge social media sites and search companies to use their ones, mentioning NewsGuard as one option. product. (“The companies that inadvertently created the Only time will tell how the battle against fake news problem should pay to solve it,” Brill declares with gusto.) will play out. But next time you see a report of Malia Until they reach an agreement, however, there is Obama’s university antics, maybe take a second look. X

What’s behind a NewsGuard rating?

“The companies that created the problem should pay to solve it”



Analyse This

Detailed data mean journalists know their audience better than ever. But is this focus on the numbers changing the newsroom? Bethan Kapur and Jessie Mathewson investigate

T Image: Amara Hussein

here are a lot of dirty ways to use analytics, and a lot of tricks – a lot of ways that don’t lead to quality content.” Beth Ashton knows the pressure of analytics better than most. As head of social media at The Telegraph, she works closely with audience data on a daily basis. “It’s easier if your ultimate goal isn’t scale,” Ashton says. “Scale can be easily got, and in the wrong hands can be easily manipulated. But something that has purpose and uses data intelligently, produces content that people will be interested in but stays within the confines of what you’re about – then the use of data is really good.” For media organisations big and small, audience data has become an intrinsic part of the journalistic


process. From Google Analytics to custom built, inhouse software, numbers are providing insight into who audiences are and what they want. But just how much influence do these metrics have on journalism today? Raul Ferrer-Conill, a researcher at Karlstad University, Sweden, has studied audience data in newsrooms around the world. He believes that a focus on data is shrinking the sphere of journalistic influence. “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is that suddenly news organisations have started measuring engagement in a very quantified way,” he says. “You ask journalists how they tell if a news item is successful, and they’ll tell you ‘if it has some kind of impact in society’, which is the traditional form of engagement. We push and say: ‘But how do you actually tell?’ Then they start referring back to the metrics. You can see in that transition that metric information is becoming the idea of journalistic success, rather than journalistic outcome.” Ferrer-Conill believes this new focus on data allows publications to reinforce established readerships, providing an ever closer match between the content readers want, and what publications provide. He says it’s too soon to know if this new relationship with audiences is positive or negative. But for Professor An Nguyen, a journalism researcher at Bournemouth University, the risks are clear. “While in the past journalists wrote for the editors, now they are increasingly writing for the

Image: Amara Hussein

audience. But what the audience wants isn’t necessarily what’s best for them. There’s a high risk of journalism being dumbed down because of web metrics. If they aren’t used in a conscientious way they could destroy journalistic values,” says Professor Nguyen. At The Telegraph, Ashton is aware of the risks, and says chasing what the reader wants is not the main priority. “What your core audience think is important, but if you just followed that all the time, it would be a pretty non-controversial product,” she says. The Telegraph’s focus is on the whole audience. “So you could say, I know the audience really like reading about millennials and avocados and getting fit; how can we create something that reaches those touch points? How can we keep them? Could we do a series about millennials, rather than rewriting a comment piece about how all millennials are snowflakes over and over again?” Driving traffic takes on a different focus with a paywall in place. From a social media perspective, Ashton is aware of the challenge of attracting new readers while engaging the existing audience. “How do you satisfy a subscriber who’s reading all your content anyway, and another reader for whom it might be the first time they’ve ever seen it?” she asks. Quality engagements, not mere quantity, become a priority. Charlotte Seager, engagement editor at The Times, agrees. “Having a paywall means that we get much higher engagement from readers than other publishers.

Our readers are loyal because they’ve already committed to reading. “Because we’re a subscription-based model we’re more focused on slower journalism and analysis. Clickbait definitely wouldn’t be in our strategy.” The raw numbers may be more of a priority at publications without a paywall. Ann Gripper, executive editor of Mirror Online, explains: “For us the money largely comes from advertising, so it’s about getting as many pages in front of eyes as possible.” She argues that there’s no point in writing something if it doesn’t get views. “It’s not good for business but it’s not good for the journalists either.” For smaller news organisations without established readerships, the challenges are different. Daniel Lanyon is editor of AltFi, an online media startup founded in 2013 to report on a new breed of finance, operating outside the traditional structures of the industry. For him, audience data is about efficient returns. “Time is so incredibly important when you’re running a startup. Everything you do is affected by how good a use of your time you’re making,” he says. Unlike larger publications, AltFi doesn’t have a dedicated team to focus on audience engagement – with a core editorial staff of seven, everyone is watching the data. According to Lanyon, data use has grown since he joined AltFi three years ago, in part because a growing audience make the numbers more reliable. Though team members now check their metrics 

“Metric information is becoming the idea of journalistic success”



Image: Amara Hussein

regularly, Lanyon takes the long-view, comparing data with the previous year, rather than week-by-week or day-by-day. “There’s always going to be a danger, an omnipresent problem in online journalism, that you become too bogged down with the short term, and put that ahead of what is a good story,” he says. “I think that it’s all too easy for publications, particularly smaller ones who are battling for growth, to have a race to the bottom. We’re trying to avoid that by not focusing on the data as much.” A data-obsessed approach can also impact writers themselves, according to Professor Nguyen. His 2017 book, News, Numbers and Public Opinion in a DataDriven World, shows an increasing number are leaving the industry because of the pressures of their workload. “The constant feedback can be addictive and is causing journalists high levels of stress,” he warns. “We need to get rid of that habit of having journalists constantly influenced by it.” At Mirror Online, Gripper sends an email to her team every day with information about which articles have had the most views. She says journalists are often disappointed because their article hasn’t got as many clicks as they expected but compares this to the disappointment writers feel if an editor puts their article at the back of the print paper. However, Gripper admits that working online can be more competitive than print, since analytics show the performance of each individual article. She also believes this granularity can help journalists to better understand why news isn’t performing. “There’s no hiding place for the website team. You can see what is performing and what is not – with a newspaper you don’t know why.” At The Telegraph, analytics are displayed in real time in the newsroom, and journalists can access a detailed breakdown via the in-house data system. These insights are supported by editorial analytics; a dedicated team of audience data crunchers.

“I think journalists are intrinsically interested in how many people have read their stories,” says Ashton. “How you get that information can vary but ultimately you have to make sure that the journalists know a lot of people have read their stories – and why.” That ‘why’ is the challenge, according to Ferrer-Conill. Even as data literacy increases, he believes publications are showing “a complete lack of awareness” of the limitations of audience metrics. “This data only collects certain types of behaviours,” he says. “It checks how long I stay in a story. It doesn’t say whether I hated it, whether I’m fascinated by it, whether I’m just talking to somebody on the phone and I left the computer on.” He believes that eventually there will be “a backlash” – a move from pure quantitative analysis back to the qualitative, to real interactions with the audience. But in a digital age, the concept of ‘real’ interactions may also be mutable. For Ashton, comments on articles provide the insight she needs. “You can tell from numbers what’s doing well. But the only way you’ll have any clue why is by reading those comments, working out which bit has caught their imagination and has driven them to engage with it. “It’s not enough to know how many comments something has got – that’s neither here nor there. It’s just a number. Unless you know what bit of that story they’re talking about you can’t build on it.” According to Lanyon, scouring comments doesn’t go far enough in terms of real engagement. “One of the stupidest things you can do, if you’re a big publication, is sentiment analysis of your comments. All you’re going to learn about is a tiny subset of your audience, people who sit there commenting all day for a reaction. That tells you nothing, in fact you unlearn stuff,” he says. AltFi has an approach which he believes strikes the right balance when it comes to understanding their audience. “Because we’re smaller, we’re always meeting people, calling people up, and getting comments in emails. We have a pretty good sense of what people think of us, of what they like and don’t like. That massively helps – probably more than Google Analytics helps us.” For larger publications, there is no denying the role of reader data – but Ashton believes that metrics will be used more responsibly as algorithms and readers begin to pay more attention to where news comes from. “Control for publishers is coming back. I think it has been way too far the other way,” she says. “My view is that if you write a great story, and all of the elements are there, your story will travel. That’s basically algorithm proof. People are going to want to read it.” X

Image: TwitterUK/Women in Football

Jacqui Oatley blazed a trail for women in football, becoming the first woman on Match of the Day in 2007

50/50 challenges: women changing football reporting Hannah Mendelsohn investigates the new state of play for women


ackground noise” is how Suzanne Wrack dismisses the regular trolling her articles about football receive. Even in 2019, there are those who comment that women journalists should be off the football field and “back in the kitchen” and they are making their voices known online. The FIFA Women’s World Cup in France is set to be one of the biggest sporting events of the year, especially since the Lionesses’ chances of bringing football home look increasingly likely. The spotlight will be on women in football like it’s never been before, but what about the women reporting on the game rather than kicking the ball? Is this a golden age for them as well? While women are now familiar faces in football broadcasting, that wasn’t the case when Jacqui Oatley started out. Although Oatley was always an avid fan of the game, working in football journalism wasn’t something that had occurred to her growing up, until aged 27, after a stint of working in recruitment, she decided to retrain as a sports journalist. After covering non-league football for local radio stations, Oatley started working at BBC Radio 5 Live and

in 2007, went on to be the first woman on the most sacred of football shows: Match of the Day. Oatley’s appearance made such a stir that the tabloids put her on the front page, questioning whether she was experienced enough to take on the role. Oatley says: “I couldn’t have done any more, and yet I was being judged on the preconceptions of all these people who’d never known a woman in their life who knew anything about football, therefore they couldn’t quite get their head around it.” Things are different in 2019. “I feel more accepted now because I’ve been around for so long and I don’t feel like I have to prove myself all the time.” Since Oatley led the way, she has become a familiar face in football coverage, joined on Match of the Day by the likes of Gabby Logan and Eilidh Barbour. Oatley says: “Being the first woman to do something at least means that the other women who do it now don’t have that nonsense to deal with.” Like Oatley, football writer Suzanne Wrack never thought growing up that sports journalism was a career she could go into. A women’s football writer for The Guardian since 2017, Wrack recalls: “I was in an Arsenal baby-grow before I could walk.” But despite reading the  97

Image: Tom Johnson

sports pages and writing for noted Arsenal fanzines such as The Gooner she admits: “I never equated that to being something that you could go into as a career.” Instead Wrack trained as an architect, but after becoming disillusioned with the industry she’d chosen, she worked in communications for a youth unemployment campaign. From there, Wrack moved to the Morning Star as a sub-editor. When the sports desk discovered her interest in football, they asked her to start writing for them. Then, Wrack was asked to write a column for The Guardian covering the Women’s Euros in 2017. The idea was that the column would be reviewed and potentially continued into the league season. It was so successful that the review was never needed. “It’s been going from strength to strength ever since.” Despite this success, Wrack still has to field negative comments on nearly every article. She doesn’t mind responding to comments that are constructive and

Felicia Pennant combined football with fashion to create a safe space for women 98

genuinely discussing the issue at hand but “there is a lot of rubbish, there’s a lot of ‘why is The Guardian wasting time covering women’s football?’” It doesn’t matter that Wrack has written in defence of the coverage of women’s football – the “they-should-be-in-the-kitchens” are still trotted out regularly. Sometimes it’s even about Wrack herself. She reveals: “I’ve had personal emails slagging me off, I’ve had weird creeps on Twitter private messaging me because my DMs are open. But you get used to it. It becomes background noise.” The hostility that women in football can face is one of the reasons that Felicia Pennant, ASOS magazine’s deputy features editor and Chelsea fan, started her own zine, SEASON, in 2016. The publication was inspired by traditional fanzines and looks at football and fashion. The zine celebrates women in the sport – whether players, fans, pundits or chaplains – and fashion is a different lens through which to explore the impact of the game. Pennant says she wanted to do something creative and different to longform newspaper journalism because “I was meeting so many women that were just as eloquent and passionate as the men around me but who didn’t necessarily feel safe in football spaces”. For Pennant, in football there was a “lack of representation and diversity, all together”. Unsure of how SEASON would be received and whether or not it would be a viable long term project, the first issue was envisioned as a one off and celebrated the female football fan. Instead, “people loved it and it sold out”. Now, Pennant is working on issue six and the magazine is stocked across Europe and America with issues sent out as far as New Zealand and Japan. What can be done to make the traditional media more welcoming? Oatley is working to see more women consider football as a viable career and welcoming environment as a board member of Women in Football. She says: “It’s a positive movement – men are welcome. It’s all about sharing experiences and trying to help women boost each other’s careers. We champion each other.” The group’s latest award-winning campaign, called #WhatIf, focuses on encouraging groups to identify a way they can change the industry. Oatley says: “My pledge is to host an event that would try to explore and do something about the lack of female football writers, because while there are lots more of us in broadcasting there are so few [of them].” Wrack says she thinks this disparity is down to optics. “You can see when there are less women on TV covering sport, but you don’t see a lack of women in print unless you’re more consciously wanting to answer that question. It’s been easy to ignore.” Pennant wants SEASON to be a space for men too. “Men need to be part of the conversation when it comes to women’s football because, at the moment, they are in the positions of power. Although the number of women in football is rising, we are in a minority so we need to come together and work together.” Increasing coverage of the women’s game in traditional media could also have a knock-on effect on the number of

women working in the sport more widely. Wrack credits the BBC and Channel 4’s airing of previous World Cups and Euros as being a big driver in the increased visibility. The papers have followed the broadcasters’ lead. Since Wrack’s column started, The Guardian has expanded and now regularly covers league games and developments in the sport. The Daily Telegraph has a women’s football

“The ‘they-shouldbe-in-the-kitchens’ are still trotted out”

Image Adam Davy, PA Images

reporter and as of March a dedicated women’s sport editor and team. Wrack says: “There are very few areas of football that are growth areas, and more places are seeing women’s football as one of them.” You only have to look at the viewing figures from previous Women’s World Cups to see that the interest

is there. In 2015, 12.4 million viewers tuned in on the BBC – more than double the viewers of the 2011 contest. Oatley says times have changed. “There’s a wider respect for women’s sport now and the realisation that it deserves to be covered on its own merit.” Pennant is optimistic that women in football are becoming more visible. She believes that how England do in this summer’s Women’s World Cup could also have a dramatic impact on not just participation in the sport but also how it’s covered in the press. For SEASON, its long term viability could be made or broken by the contest. “I think the Women’s World Cup is the test to see if it’s going to really take off. I think it probably will but there’s no way of telling until it happens,” says Pennant. Wrack agrees: “A lot rests on the shoulders of the players – they’re facing more pressure this time because they know that if they do well it will have a massive knock on effect on the rest of the country.” There are still a lot of challenges facing women off the pitch reporting on football, but the newsrooms are opening up – and if football comes home this summer, that’s sure to help. X

England’s national women’s team are looking strong ahead of the Women’s World Cup and a victory could transform women’s sport and reporting 99


Conspiracy buster T

Vicky Spratt made the NHS and the government take notice, writes Georgina Roberts

he age old question right – is it conspiracy or cock-up? When you’re doing FOIs, most of the time it’s cockup, but occasionally it is conspiracy.” Award-winning journalist Vicky Spratt has battled hard to expose these conspiracies in hormonal contraception and in the plight of ‘Generation Rent’. We’re meeting at Palm Vaults, a Hackney haven of millennial pink plates, discussing the meaning of the word ‘activist’ over smashed avocado on sourdough toast. The 30-year-old shuns the title despite tireless campaigning. “I find it problematic,” she insists, shifting her glassy blue-eyed stare to her mango juice. “I’m very reluctant to be labelled an activist, because as a journalist it’s really important that you’re impartial.” Her girlish voice takes on a harder tone: “You’re not a hero. You’re just doing your job.” That ‘job’ encompasses being former editor-atlarge of Grazia, making BBC documentaries and writing a book, alongside investigations which “hit the sweet spot between policy and people’s lives”. The concrete success of these projects shows “the idea that content has to be short, clicky, light and fluffy is a false assumption”. What makes Spratt burn to fight injustices? “You’re giving voice to people who otherwise wouldn’t have had a voice. Best case scenario, you might influence policy, make change, make something better.” And the pint-sized force for change did influence policy. Spratt didn’t just write about the housing crisis, she tangibly changed things. As deputy editor at The Debrief, her landmark campaign, “Make Renting Fair”, revealed an epidemic issue: a housing crisis being ignored by the government. As a direct result, in late 2016, the government banned the £420 fees unfairly slapped on renters to change the name on a tenancy agreement. The fight is far from over, and her journalism continues to influence policy. In March this year, officials at the Ministry of Housing discussed her investigation for The Independent into property guardianships and asked Spratt to explain her findings. To give voice to the marginalised in “desperate situations” can be “personally triggering”, she admits.

The Independent investigation brought her face-to-face with a young single mum living in a converted shipping container, a woman who lost £6,000 to letting agencies, and toddlers at a nursery with no heating. Her passion for exposing injustices is evident, but her reaction as a human and a reporter are in conflict. “In one of the interviews I just burst into tears, I couldn’t stop,” she confesses, shifting on the pink leather sofa. “Part of me was like, it’s really unhelpful that I’m crying ‘cause this woman doesn’t need my tears, she just needs me to tell her story and that’s my job.” The real scandal, Spratt explains, is how mammoth problems in the rental market have been ignored for decades by successive governments. She blames the fact that people in positions of power are older and homeowners. Spratt decided to act, “because it was affecting me so badly, I couldn’t afford my rent and I was getting into debt to pay it”. She explains that this is the reason we need diversity in newsrooms currently filled with homeowning elites. “If you have a room full of editors who all own their own homes and aren’t worried about it, then it won’t get talked about. That’s why housing wasn’t on the agenda for a long time.” State school educated, and the first person in her family to attend university, class is an issue close to the journalist’s heart. It was non-homeowners who made the stand. The ‘Make Renting Fair’ campaign converted clicks into tangible change, garnering 400,000 signatures. The signatures from mobilised, millennial, The Debriefreader traffic proves “the stereotype that millennials are apathetic, is just lazy”. ‘Clicktivism’ is often used pejoratively to describe armchair activists on social media. “It shows you that clicktivism works. I know this from discussions I’ve had with the Ministry of Housing – they sat up and took notice of that. They could literally see where public opinion was, that’s why they decided to change the law,” she confirms.

“If trials were done today, would the pill still get through?”



Image: Rebekah Lichter

effects are often dismissed by doctors. “I lost it on the pill,” her baby-face knits into a furrowed brow, as she describes “panic attacks so traumatic I couldn’t leave the house”, which forced her to take a year out from Oxford. The investigation, ‘Mad About The Pill’, was born of this personal experience. Hard-fought FOIs built a body of concrete evidence to prove women on the pill were raising their mental health concerns with the NHS - and being ignored. In her role as deputy editor at The Debrief, she also surveyed over 1,000 readers aged 18-30. It revealed: 93% had taken or were taking the pill, of these, 45% had experienced anxiety and 45% had experienced depression. Just under half said taking the pill had decreased their sex drive, while 58% believed the pill had a negative impact on their mental health. The NHS was rattled. After revealing these findings on BBC Woman’s Hour, Spratt was told “by someone incredibly senior who advises on NHS policy, ‘Oh fuck, we always knew this was gonna come up, what do we do?’” But why would the NHS cover up the effects the pill has on mental health? University of Copenhagen’s Professor Øjvind Lidegaard told Spratt: “Drug companies ‘Mad about the Pill’ revealed half of women believed are covering it up. The NHS is very nervous about talking about it, because the pill negatively impacted their mental health they don’t want a teen pregnancy rise.” The myth that depression is a Her knowledge of policy came from her first, and “rare” side effect of the hormonal contraceptive pill last, internship - working with Conservative MPs has been disproved by the sheer volume of readers who while studying at Oxford University. She’s a political confirmed their experiences. When I mention that the journalist at heart: “I know how parliament works. I NHS website lists “mood changes” as a side effect, she know about the idiosyncrasies in Westminster.” Spratt interrupts, “I actually really don’t like the term ‘mood’, explains: “A lot of journalists who have not worked in because it’s ‘mental health’ – ‘mood’ makes it sound Westminster wouldn’t know that.” like ‘you might feel a bit annoyed.’” She’s right - the When she’s not weight-lifting to bust anxiety, Spratt guidelines don’t mention suicidal thoughts or crippling wakes at 5am to write her book, Tenants: Stories of anxiety attacks commonplace for many women. Britain’s Housing Shame, set to be released in summer The journalist is battling for an NHS policy change, 2019. It came from the realisation that her hard-fought where GPs must warn women who start the pill about its triumph had only scratched the surface of why the British mental health side effects. “If those trials were done today dream of homeownership has broken down. The day after on women, would the pill still get through? It’s time for our brunch she will interrogate the Mayor of London, hormonal contraception to get a complete re-think.” Sadiq Khan, about who is responsible for the crisis. What’s next for Spratt? As well as investigating sex Spratt’s other investigative passion is female trafficking in Nepal, last week she went undercover to contraception. As someone who lives to shine a light on report on ‘Abortion Buffer Zones’ – safe areas outside the human stories behind overlooked crises, the negative clinics preventing pro-lifers from intimidating patients. mental health side effects of the pill were next. Her voice becomes incredulous as she says: “Why is Worldwide, over 100 million women rely on the no one reporting on that?” This statement hangs in the contraceptive pill to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The air. It is what drives each of her conspiracy exposing problem is that those who do experience mental side investigations. X 101


Hot off the press


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Jabra Elite 65T wireless earbuds £149.99 from jabra.co.uk If you’re interested in buying some Apple AirPods but want something a bit more discreet and less ‘mainstream’, consider these bluetooth wireless earbuds by Jabra. The Elite 65Ts come with three sets of ear gels to make them mold perfectly to your ear shape – these won’t be going anywhere.

Forget dictaphones and coffee, these are the essential items you need to be 2019’s breaking news. By Lauren Geall and Aisling O’Leary

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It’s thirsty work scouring for news. Eco-friendly and cost effective, reusable water bottles are the way to go now. Sometimes, though, they take up just a little too much space. Enter Que Bottle: a fully collapsible bottle that shrinks to half its full size. It comes in a variety of colours and 10% of proceeds will go to The Rainforest Trust.

Feeling overwhelmed by your never-ending to-do list? Swap your deadlines for this weighted ultra-soft blanket and feel the stress melt away. The glass beads inside the cotton inner make it heavier than a regular blanket, and the science suggests this can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as helping you get a better night’s sleep.

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You’ve got a scoop and you’ve gotta go places. Sick of your phone dying when you’re travelling for work? Make your journey more efficient with this nifty number. Including an ejectable battery that charges your phone and a hidden laundry bag, Away’s Carry On will ensure a career that’s more Christina Lamb than Barbara Windsor. Image: Papier

Whether you’re drowning your sorrows or toasting a promotion, add some jazz age glam to your life with the Gatsby Bar Trolley. Sure to be the envy of friends and colleagues, give pints a miss in favour of highballs. Its four wheels mean it can be carted to wherever is most convenient for thirsty journos. With a marble top, a shiny brass frame and a glass base, serve in style.


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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a freelance journalist in possession of an unruly desk, must be in want of a plant. Meet Gus – he’s simple, sophisticated, and will make it seem like you’ve got your life organised, when you know you definitely don’t.

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Papier personalised weekly planner £21.99 from papier.com The art of life admin starts with making it pretty. Elicit gasps of envy when you pull this out of your bag to pencil in a coffee date. Be on brand with your own personalised red and pink weekly planner.

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If you thought you couldn’t find anything more British than afternoon tea and moaning about the weather, look no further. Teasmith Gin blends premium Scottish distilled gin with hand-picked tea leaves to give it a light and crisp taste – one-up your colleagues when you crack this out at Friday drinks. 103


The times, they

Jessie Mathewson examines the world’s oldest publications to find out what we can learn from the past As print readerships decline, there’s never a shortage of voices declaring that the end is nigh – for real this time. It’s easy now to forget that the printing press was itself an innovation, democratising the written word in ways thought impossible in an age of scribe and quill. Print technology has never stood still. Video and audio have long eroded the monopoly of the written word. And the digital revolution has had its own profound impact. But through turbulence and change, political and commercial pressure, and revolutions both technological and bloody, a handful of print publications have endured down the centuries. Here, publishers from around the world reflect on their persisting successes, struggles, and the future of the industry.

Image: National Library of Sweden

Image: Bolagsverket

Post-och Inrikes Tidningar Sweden

Dating back to 1645, the Post-och Inrikes Tidningar or “Post and Domestic Times” is believed to be the world’s oldest publishing newspaper – technically. It began life as a state-backed public bulletin posted on notice boards throughout Sweden, reporting legal and government announcements, and during the 17th and 18th centuries 104

it was a major source of news. But competition from commercial papers saw its editorial role decline into the 20th century, and it reverted to its original function. Since 2000 it has been online only, providing a publicly searchable database of official announcements. The much-reduced print edition, archived in the national library, ended in 2007. Communications manager Ulf Karnell believes digitisation was a natural evolution. “It’s sad in a way. But at the same time it’s still being published – although not on paper – and it has all the same basic functions that it had when it started.”


aren’t a-changin’ Images: Wiener Zeitung

Wiener Zeitung Austria

Like many early publications, Wiener Zeitung or “Vienna Newspaper” began life in 1703 as a government bulletin. The paper remains state-owned today, and current editor Walter Hämmerle stresses the importance of its public interest role. “We do things that we judge to be very important for Austria, for our readers, and for our republic,” he says. “Strong European level, strong international focus: we cover stories that other newspapers don’t cover in detail.” Today, Wiener Zeitung is known for long-reads, analysis, and the traditional German Feuilleton, an arts and culture supplement. Hämmerle believes this type of journalism is better on the page than on a screen. “If anything in print survives it will be journalism like we do it,” he says.

The paper will continue to produce a daily edition for as long as it remains financially viable, and with average circulation over 30,000, Hämmerle is quietly optimistic despite industry uncertainty: “Nobody knows how long print is going to be around, but my guess is that it will be a bit longer than the prophets of the apocalypse are convinced.” Still, Wiener Zeitung is transitioning to a digital-first model. Online brings a potential audience of 100m German speakers, but maintaining a loyal readership is a major challenge. Ultimately, Hämmerle believes the paper thrives on niche appeal. “We write for a tiny number of very interested readers who appreciate our quality and depend on us,” he says. “Whatever the technology, what stays is the basic business, high-quality journalism – at the core of it that doesn’t change.”


Features Image: The Scots Magazine

The Scots Magazine Scotland

The Scots Magazine is a monthly culture and lifestyle publication covering all things Caledonian – established in 1739, its back catalogue includes Robert Burns, James Boswell and Sir Walter Scott. With a print circulation of 25,000, brand content manager Katrina Patrick believes that continuity is key to the magazine’s continuing success: “Despite the physical and visual changes over the years, our core value has remained the same – celebrating the best of Scotland.” But Patrick also emphasises the role of innovation. “I think we’ve endured because we change with the times,” she says. “We have changed our design


and magazine format to suit the modern reader, but still keeping true to our heritage.” Today, The Scots Magazine faces challenges seen across the industry. “I suppose the biggest challenge any publication faces right now is remaining relevant and visible in the digital age,” says Patrick. “For us especially this means reaching out to younger readers while retaining our traditional, loyal readership.” But while digital content is important, she believes it must “complement the magazine, rather than copy or replace it”. Print is still at the heart of what The Scots Magazine offers. “It has been relevant since 1739, and we don’t plan on that changing anytime soon.”


The Straits Times Singapore First published in 1845, The Straits Times began life almost by mistake. Businessman Catchick Moses bought a printing press from a friend to help him out of financial trouble. Unsure what to do with it, he was convinced to start a newspaper. Today that paper is a multiplatform brand, publishing audio, video and written content – and current editor Warren Fernandez believes adaptability has been the secret of its success. “We’ve kept changing the paper to try and make it relevant to each generation of the audience,” he says.

With print circulation of the daily paper at 232,500, Fernandez isn’t writing-off print just yet – but it’s the digital sphere where the paper is making gains. The challenge is brand loyalty. “People are timestarved, they’re distracted. They have many things to do with their time and their money and many sources of information in news and entertainment. We have to work very hard to interest them in what we’re putting out,” he says. But Fernandez believes established brands have an advantage as readers seek out credible voices. “You look for people you know, people you’ve come across in the past, people you’ve found reliable – and this presents a huge opportunity for the mainstream media.” Connecting with the modern reader is key, and The Straits Times has hosted more events in recent years, from political seminars to an annual coffee festival. “The audience these days loves to interact with journalists. They want to come along and ask you questions, pose new arguments and challenge you. They don’t just want to read you, they want to engage with you.” X Image: The Straits Times 107


Art on Trial: Life as a Courtroom Illustrator Priscilla Coleman talks to Megan Kelly about the relationship between journalists and court illustrators, and the sketchy business of avoiding contempt of court



of defendants and witnesses on the stand, and rushes outside the courtroom after a trial, to produce a drawing for journalists to use alongside their reports. She is often only given a 15-30 minute time frame to do so by broadcasters like ITN, and gets paid for her time by the media company. Working with such a quick turnover means Coleman uses mostly oil pastel, so that her work doesn’t smudge. Coleman was drawn to the career through her natural artistic background, influenced by her mother who was a fashion illustrator. Majoring in fine arts and graphics back in her home in Texas, she found herself working for a printing company to make some extra money as a student. While studying, one of her professors suggested she go to a trial to try out court sketching, and although she drifted between other jobs to support herself financially, such as being an air hostess and working at hotels, she always came back to this career. After meeting her husband while working in Texas, she decided to return with him to his UK home and look for work as a court artist in London. When she is not rushing around the country, Coleman also produces silk screens and colour block interior graphics, and does personal sketches on commission. “I have to know all the rules that journalists know about contempt of court, and then some. We can’t include certain things in our drawings, like handcuffs on the person before they go on trial, because that puts some prejudice out there. There are all kinds of rules, such as access and restrictions on how many people can go into court. It’s really frustrating because all of a sudden you can’t do your job anymore. Like yesterday, there were seats in court, but they wouldn’t allow us to go in. “Even with the images, you still have to be really careful if some victim or some victim’s family are sitting behind the barrister they’re working with, because then you have to blur or crop them out of the picture.” Although jury members are sometimes included in the Image: Christopher Dodd

ournalists are all too familiar with the art of walking the tightrope of rules and restrictions around court reporting. One misstep can mean losing access to a story, and one slip-up in reporting could mean contempt of court, a possibility that can make even the most aggressive of reporters quake in their boots. But journalists aren’t the only ones that have to work under the scrutinising eye of the court. The UK’s main courtroom illustrators, all three of them, have to play by the same rules, with even more limitations. Tasked with the responsibility of portraying what happens in courts across the country, Priscilla Coleman has to draw up her sketches as accurately as possible, and from memory, due to reporting restrictions in place as per the 1925 Criminal Justice Act, which means that illustrators are not allowed to draw in courtrooms in the UK. Coleman, an American court illustrator based in the UK, laughs about her brushes with contempt of court in the early days of her career: “You can’t draw on a piece of paper in court to help you, as I discovered the hard way! Priscilla Coleman “When I first started with ITN, they said ‘you can probably do little drawings on your notepad, and then do a drawing for us based on that,’ but even that wasn’t really allowed. I remember I was working on the Jeffrey Archer libel case, and someone in the public gallery up above me saw that I was doing little drawings on my notepad. The court usher pulled me out of the court and she said ‘I don’t have to let you back in, you know? This is contempt of court.’ I will never ever forget that.” Coleman’s UK work has spanned over two decades, working with ITN and every major newspaper, who have all bought her sketches for use by paying a reproduction fee. During that time, she has covered high profile cases, such as the trial of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr, and the inquests into the 7 July bombings. To navigate around the forbidden act of sketching in court, Coleman makes notes about the appearance

Image: Priscilla Coleman

Coleman’s sketch of the Russell Bishop murder retrial 2018 background of Coleman’s sketches, their faces are slightly blurred and not immediately recognisable, to allow them anonymity but also because of the speed of the sketch and the lack of time to add details. “I have to keep an eye on things. I guess I’m the eyes of the courtroom.” If illustrators are the eyes of the courtroom, then court reporters are the mouth. Due to tight deadlines, Coleman has formed close working relationships with journalists over the years. While working on the Operation Flavius investigation in Gibraltar, known as the ‘shoot-tokill’ inquiry in which three unarmed members of the Provisional IRA were shot dead by the British Special Air Service, Coleman recounts the attention to detail needed in her drawings. Working with television reporter Colin Baker, the pair reconstructed scenes to sketch to demonstrate particular scenes for story angles. “He would say ‘okay, so this person was turned around with their hands behind their back, and the gun was here’, and he would pose for me and say ‘it was like this, Priscilla! Draw him doing that’. We worked really closely together on that. A lot of reporters point out specific people that they need sketches of because they are really important to their story.” Although Coleman’s job is one that comes with high

responsibility, it is one that could soon be prised from her artistic hands due to the threat of additional cameras appearing in the galleries, a move driven in part by our ever-growing greed to consume drama live on screen. Working on a recent appeal, Coleman spoke to a journalist from the Old Bailey about the limited camera shots that are allowed to be taken inside the courtroom. “On television now, they’ve worked it out so that they can do a static shot of the judge reading the decision, but let’s face it, that’s kind of boring. You want to see the whole court as if you were there, you know?” Up until recently, filming was only allowed at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, but an upcoming appeal could change that, and there may be fewer restrictions on filming. “After this appeal they are going to be allowed to show all of the camera shots, not just that static shot that they have been given permission to use. That’s what I think most people want to see, I want to see it.” So is the future looking bleak for what few courtroom artists we have left? “There are still so many restrictions in court illustrating, but it is doable. You just have to go with the flow and pop up where you’re needed, which is the same for journalists too, and the surprises and challenges are all just part of the fun.” X

“I guess I’m the eyes of the courtroom”


Don’t settle for half the story... www.womeninjournalism.co.uk

Where are they now?


ince XCity began, it has been known as a magazine of two parts. The first half made up with news and features, while the second half documented City’s comprehensive list of alumni. This year however, following issues raised with GDPR, our listings section is no more. The thousands of names and job titles, categorised by course and year, instead, have been replaced by a selection of alumni interviews from across all courses and all years. From political editors to social media reporters, data journalists to investigative journalists, and freelancers too, the variety of roles City alumni play in the media is extensive. We hope this is reflected in our 83 interviews. We have also sought to profile an array of alumni who have made their impact on the world outside of the media.

“A few of us female journalists had to walk in formation and ask passers by what they thought of it” p117

“I once interviewed a dog” p116

“I pretended that I was at a protest, but I was actually at the pub” p115

“My life was probably slightly in danger, but I didn’t realise it because I was just so excited to be there” p112 “I ended up in the hearse with the coffin by my head and sat at the back of a stranger’s funeral” p129 111


What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Going to Baghdad in the summer of 2003, immediately after the US-led invasion of Iraq. I spent a month covering the news out of Baghdad and writing features [for Bloomberg]. I don’t think that I will ever be in a situation like that again – witnessing history in that way – where my life was probably slightly in danger, but I didn’t realise it because I was just so excited to be there.

What was your big break in journalism?

After graduating from City, I came back to Paris. The niece of a couple who were friends of [my parents] was the office manager at Time magazine in Paris. She introduced me to one of the correspondents and he took an interest. It was incredible as a first experience for me to be reporting for Time magazine.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

If it wasn’t for City I wouldn’t have gone on to get that first stringer position with Time magazine. Journalism school is pretty essential, because no matter how clever you are, no matter how many politics or media classes you take in university, you’re still not going to know how to be reporter.

Image: Ros Emery-Kay

Gareth Thomas

Nicola Naylor Director of a property management company Newspaper 1987

Very jaggedly! The key thing is I was very ill around that time. I lost my sight. I’d already decided that I wanted to be a journalist and was looking at options. Then in that last year at university, I lost what remaining sight I had. City had already offered me a place when I graduated in 1983 but I didn’t actually get to City until 1986 because I was in hospital for those years.

How did you find your time at City?

I hadn’t really adjusted to the new situation and was pretty frustrated. I had pictured being a sighted journalist, not a blind journalist, and I wasn’t in a place to accept it as a reality. I was young, and rather arrogant, and at the end of the course I just went, well, if I can’t be a sighted journalist this will be a nightmare, I don’t want to do it anyway. So I walked out. I never actually sat the exams. I still appreciate the opportunity City gave me.

What do you do now?

I now compete and ride a lot. I’m aiming for the Paris Paralympics in dressage. Max Freeman-Mills 112

What was your big break in journalism?

Visiting Moscow in May 1991 in what turned out to be the final days of the Soviet Union. When the failed coup kicked off, I realised this was the biggest story since the war. I moved here permanently after a few years to cover the story of Russia’s transition from Soviet communism to free market chaos, nascent democracy, and, eventually, the return to a simulacrum of the Soviet system within a Potemkin democracy.

What is it like being a British journalist in Russia?

Challenging at times; officials often ask for questions to be faxed to them and then answer days or weeks later, if at all! Otherwise, people talk to you if they want or have a line they wish to peddle. Ordinary Russians are often very open and warm.

What’s the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

My favourite is Helen Mirren, whom I met in Moscow when she was a guest for the British Film Festival. I was the only British journalist at the press conference and when I introduced myself, like a true luvvie, she remarked: “Nick, what are you doing here?!” as if she knew me. Another was with Agafia Lykova, Russia’s Siberian “forest hermit” and the last of a family of Russian Old Believers who fled religious persecution in the 1930s to live deep in the forested taiga in Siberia. She speaks a form of Russian last used 400 years ago. Julia Webster

Margaret Keenan Producer at BBC Radio Wales Periodical 1987 What’s one thing you learned at City that you still use today? Harry Butler, who taught shorthand, said he got an exclusive story by closing a gate. Lots of journalists had door-stepped this woman and she’d said no to everybody. When he returned, she said yes to him because he was the only person to have closed the gate. If you treat people decently, it might help you in your career.

What was your big break in journalism?

I became a crime correspondent on the Western Mail. There were lots of miscarriages of justice then, so I had the privilege of going to the High Court in the Strand and being able to report on cases like the Cardiff Three.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

In broadcasting, we used to be very tech-heavy – and by that I mean literally and metaphorically. Nowadays, I just go out with my iPhone and I can do anything. Sara Semic

Image: Margaret Keenan

How has your career path unfolded since City?

Nick Holdsworth Freelance journalist and filmmaker in Moscow Newspaper 1986 Image: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Image: Ali Azima

Farah Nayeri Culture Writer at The New York Times International 1985


Image: Richard Warry

What was your big break in journalism?

The BBC set up a news site at a time in my career when I was looking for the next challenge. There were a lot of questions about whether working for an online news operation was a sensible move. It seems silly to think that now, but at the time it was a slight risk.

What’s one thing you learned at City you still use today? To push yourself. I think it’s dangerous when journalists become complacent.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? I had an exclusive on the medical press when the leader of Britain’s GPs was negotiating a new contract. It was the biggest story in medical press for 10 years. I was the one to break it.

Have you ever done anything that in retrospect you regret in order to further your career? I tried working on Fleet Street as a freelancer for a very short period of time, and that was disastrous. I was sent out on a story about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s nephew cohabiting with his partner, and I fundamentally disagreed with the whole concept. It taught me that I did not want to be a news hound working for the ‘red tops’.

George Parker Political Editor at Financial Times Newspaper 1988 What has been the most exciting political period of your career?

Nothing really compares to the brutality of politics at the moment with Brexit. Not just Brexit itself, but the way that the political system now is fractured.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a political reporter at Westminster. My dad worked for Hansard, the Official Report of Parliament. When I was 12, I think my parents used to read Daily Mail so I imagined myself working there. However, I’m very glad that I’m working for FT rather than the Daily Mail at the moment, certainly during the referendum campaign.

What advice would you give to students at City?

There is no substitute to meeting people face to face. If you speak to someone, they’ll answer your questions, but nearly always the second or the third thing they tell you is much more interesting. I did a story once about Tony Blair’s hairstyle and how it had changed, allegedly to make him more popular to female voters. This came from a conversation with a source who just let it slip. It became a bit of a cause célèbre. Oliver Telling

Gareth Thomas

Warren Deutrom Chief Executive at Cricket Ireland Newspaper 1994

What did you find most exciting as editor at Dow Jones in Mumbai?

India has a tradition of investigative, innovative, and progressive journalism, so I found that really exciting. It was an exciting time for India – the media was becoming more pluralistic. There were lots of start-ups, lots of radio startups, and it was a time when India was opening up its economy so there were broad and dynamic changes taking place there.

Image: Cricket Ireland

Image: Steve Percy

Steve Percy Editor at DevEds International 1992

Image: BBC

Richard Warry Assistant Editor at BBC News Online Newspaper 1988

What is your fondest memory of City?

Keep writing. Write, write, write. To keep a critical perspective on the world. Also, you have to be merciless in your own self criticism of your work to help other people grow.

It sounds a bit obvious to say, but the people with whom you share experiences are what makes anything worthwhile. Those few months from 1993-94 were fantastic – living in central London, training with talented people who share the same passion, experiencing a bit of pressure in my newspaper placement at The Observer. The day we did an “off-diary” has stuck with me for some reason – take a pad and a pen, roam around your patch, and come back with a story by a deadline. I thought there was a certain purity to that.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

A Swiss army knife is always good for opening a beer occasionally!

Ireland being awarded Test-playing status by the ICC in 2017 – only took 10 years!

What is your fondest memory of City?

I’m not sure if it was one particular thing; it was just being among a bunch of very interesting people who were passionate about journalism who came from different cultures around the world. I found that environment really exciting and I’ve made lifelong friends from that. Calum Trenaman

Where do you think you’ll be in five years’ time? Provided I’m continually challenged and engaged in what I do, and I love going into the office every day, I won’t have too many complaints.

Calum Trenaman


Profiles Jack Baine PR Consultant at Good Broadcast Broadcast 1995

What was your big break in journalism?

After City, I moved to Jerusalem. I noticed the International Editor for BYTE, which was a major computing magazine in the 90s, was also based in Jerusalem. I got in touch, we went out for lunch, and I started writing for them. I started writing for WIRED magazine too, just by asking if I could. Create your own opportunities – that’s what I’ve done ever since.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

The greatest thing I learned was an appreciation for brevity. Also, listening skills, which are so vital as a journalist. You’re not just listening to what your interviewee is saying, but the way they are saying it.

Did you always want to be journalist? Why did you decide to stop working as a journalist?

Stephen Glennon

What is your favourite programme you’ve worked on?

I loved Newsbeat because there was a real sense of working towards one goal. I enjoyed producing news for younger people who might not be interested in traditional forms of news. Hannah Mendelsohn

Suzette Ebanks Chief Information Officer at Government Information Services, Cayman Islands International 1995 What is one of your fondest memories at City?

In the international specialism, we got to dress up and visit a press office and that was something I really enjoyed.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

Tess Lamacraft Freelance journalist Periodical 1998

The Five Ws. Not everyone gets it and even today, when you’re having writer’s block, the Five Ws will get you through.

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Accosting celebrities at the National TV Awards while brandishing a life-size cardboard cut-out of Brad Pitt wasn’t great.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Interviewing one of my favourite actresses, Brenda Blethyn, at the Soho Hotel in London was such a treat. We had tea and biscuits and it was like spending an hour with your favourite auntie. She was fabulously chatty and indiscreet.

Kavita Singh

Niall Couper Head of Media and PR at Amnesty International UK Newspaper 1998 What is one thing that you learned at City that you still use today?

Where do you think you’ll be in five years?

Navigating the stress of my children’s GCSEs and A-levels. Writing in some capacity. Worrying that I haven’t pressed ‘record’. Contemplating hormone replacement therapy.

Shorthand, but also finding off-diary news stories. Trying to find a news story from nowhere got my news sense going. It helps you train to be aware that there is news all around you and that you can trace it and get to the bottom of stories.

What advice would you give to young journalists considering going freelance?

Have you ever done anything that in retrospect you regret in order to further your career?

A specialist knowledge of something that really interests you and will set you apart from other freelancers. Know your own worth and never agree to work for free. Make use of the good support networks that exist.

Olivia Rook


The story I feel embarrassed by was when I was doing work experience at City. I wrote this story about a toy that was broken and was being flogged, but it was a con. I exposed that over Christmas and I remember thinking about how far removed that was from what I was going into journalism for. Jess Browne-Swinburne

Image: Amnesty International UK

Image: Tess Lamacraft

I was at the BBC for 21 years. I did everything from working as a reporter in local radio to the national BBC Radio newsroom. I then went to BBC Radio 1 and worked on Newsbeat for 11 years. After that, I went to 5 Live and worked on the Richard Bacon Show. Then I went into TV and was an output producer on BBC World TV. I left because I wanted a new challenge.

Image: Bina Mani

I always wanted to be a writer, and I started writing fiction when I was a child. I thought science journalism would be the way to combine my two loves, science and writing. I did enjoy journalism, but it wasn’t the kind of writing I was really passionate about. I wanted to tell my own stories, not someone else’s.

What were you doing before consultancy?

Image: Jack Baine

Image: Naomi Waddis

Tania Hershman Poet, Writer, and Teacher Periodical 1994


What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

A record company begged me to interview an up and coming singer. I did it as a favour, and interviewed this fresh-faced 17-yearold from the Caribbean who was living the dream. It was Rihanna! I was the first UK journalist to interview her. The PR was so grateful that I helped him out he took me to New York to interview Jon Bon Jovi, which was obviously insane!

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

I’m so old school, but my dictaphone. I have never subscribed to the idea of using my phone, there are just too many variables that could go wrong, like your mum calling during a crucial question.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Appearing on BBC Breakfast doing a live link from Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington is probably my favourite.

Sibelle Mehmet

What will the main format for journalism be in future? I don’t think there will be one main format. Just as TV didn’t kill off radio, I doubt video will completely write off written news.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

Write with a genuine voice – be authentic and avoid clichés.

Is there a reason you moved away from journalism and became a communications specialist?

Science communication has always been my passion. I moved from journalism to PR because there was a dearth of university press officers with science backgrounds. I’ve loved every job I’ve done since and have embraced social media and technological advances to tell science stories in varied and visual ways. Crisis communication plays an increasingly greater role in my work – it’s difficult but rewarding when you get it right. Helen Salter

Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a film director. During my undergraduate degree, I really got into the student newspaper and the local community radio station. I did some work experience at BBC, and that’s when I got the bug.

What is you fondest memory of City?

Sitting in The Peasant pub drinking overpriced pints with my friends from the course, who I’m still friends with now. It was the camaraderie of the course. It was intense. Everyone had the same interests and goals. We were a very tight unit as a course.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

When I was on Newsround, we would get a lot of entertainment stories. I remember going to interview Will Smith, as I had a junket for I, Robot. I wasn’t a particularly big Will Smith fan, but everyone in the office was really jealous. The nine minutes I spent with him were just incredible. He’s so charismatic and so funny. It was this big Hollywood star power being turned on me, which made me feel so special.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Covering the Brexit negotiations. I’ve never worked on such a big, important, all-encompassing story that needs all my skills and all my waking hours, just to help people understand this massive thing that is happening.

Kavita Singh

Hugo Ward Executive Producer at The Economist Films Broadcast 2004 What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Image: Patrick Litchfield

Image: Andrew Trythall

Adam Fleming Brussels Reporter at BBC News Broadcast 2002

Jenny Gimpel Head of Research Communications at Wellcome Broadcast 2002 Image: Jenny Gimpel

Image: Mark Setchfield

Selina Julien Freelance Editor & Consultant Periodical 1999

Probably the Dalai Lama or Richard Branson. The Dalai Lama because he’s the Dalai Lama. Richard Branson because he was nervous and I played it all wrong. I thought I had limited time so I just carried on asking questions but he was really nervous so I ended up stopping the whole thing and starting again. I introduced myself properly and we had a chat until he was relaxed and then we started again.

What was your worst moment you ever had on patch?

I pretended that I was at a protest, but I was actually at the pub and we had to do a live two-way radio programme back to uni. I got some people in the pub to make some rowdy noise behind and mentioned that the protest was kicking off. It just so happened there was a report at a similar time on Radio 5 Live saying that the protest had been cancelled, so I was caught out.

Where do you think you’ll be in five years time?

On a second career probably out of journalism. I want to leave journalism but take my filmmaking and journalism skills with me to start a company which can have a greater impact on children’s lives in helping them to deal with mental health Will Strickson problems. 115

Profiles Naomi Gunasekara Partner at Jade Law Solicitors International 2004

What was your big break in journalism?

I was working at The Observer as assistant editor of the sports magazine which has folded since. We sat back-to-back with the weekly Observer Magazine and they were looking for someone to try meow meow, which was just about to become illegal, so they had to sneak in a story about it before that happened. As I understood it, they couldn’t convince any of their real grown-up writers to try it because it was quite intense. In their scouring around, the story dripped down the levels of seniority until it got to me. I ended up taking some of it and some synthetic hash, and meeting a few of the people who sold them. It was my real first grown-up feature for the magazine and they really liked it.

What has been the most embarassing moment of your career? As a junior, you end up saying yes to the things everyone else has said no to. I spent a month eating only food that was advertised on television, which was absolutely horrendous. It was Old El Paso Tacos and Subway, horrible, not a lot of vegetables. I wrote that for the Observer Food Monthly and I would never do that again. I once played American football for Observer Sport Monthly and hated every second of it. It was for an experiential section they had; I got the shit kicked out of me for half an hour and then hid at the back somewhere. I once interviewed a dog. Uggie from The Artist. That was a career low... or high? I squeezed 800 words out of Uggie.

Did he say much?

Rhys Thomas

Image: Mark Hayman

Ellie O’Mahoney Deputy Editor at Fabulous Periodical 2004 What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

I interviewed six women who had breast cancer surgery and they agreed to be photographed naked to show their scars. Speaking to those brave women, hearing their fears about showing their bodies and scars, and talking about how difficult it had been. It’s the real people and their struggles that remain with you.

How was your time at the NY Post and how was it different to your work in the UK? I came back able to be more direct, to be clearer with people and realising the value in that, and making my position known. It’s an ambitious place and not just in the office. They’d come back over the weekend and say “I ran a marathon” or “I swam 50 miles”. It’s a busy, frenetic place, and it was a real adventure.

Jack Saddler


Working as a journalist in Colombo gave me a sense of authority and recognition. I recognised the power of the profession in making a difference and sought stories off the beaten track. I reported on less spoken about topics like fertility treatment or investigating the environmental impact of highway construction. I chose to tell the stories of ordinary people, wherever possible.

Where did your career take you after leaving City? I completed an MSc in Social Policy and Planning from LSE and with my qualification as an attorney-at-law in the supreme court of Sri Lanka, I started my current job as a registered foreign lawyer at a north London immigration practice.

What are the similarities between law and journalism?

Although it is a different world from journalism, it is equally challenging and rewarding. Where journalism endeavours to give a voice to the voiceless, my current work enables me to help migrants who are in limbo regularise their stay in the UK and in turn see them flourish. Helen Salter

Nabeel Irshad Head of Retail Accounts & Partnerships at Metro Bank Broadcast 2005 How has your career unfolded since you left City?

I applied for the BBC trainee scheme and ended up working at BBC Radio 5 Live. I was becoming more politically interested and active, but you have to be impartial at the BBC, so I had to make a choice. I left and ended up working, for my sins, for the Tory Party in 2008. I fancied a change in 2011 and worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for a few years. I then got the job at Metro, I’m still here, and it's a fascinating place to work.

What is the most useful thing you learned at City that you still use today?

Our broadcast training encouraged a real clarity of thought, pithy comments, and very concise thinking – which is important in any walk of life, but particularly in business and politics. It also helped my presenting. They told me to use very short pauses, and that’s a good technique.

What advice would you give to your younger self? My genuine advice would be not to measure your success by narrow parameters. The skills you are learning on the course have wider applicability than working in newspapers or TV.

Max Freeman-Mills

Image: PwC

It was more inference, he was a real hound that dog. You know, he was really laying it on for me, doing the whole bag of tricks... classic Uggie. You sort of direct the questions at the handler, and then wangle it into the writing, or so I have learned.

What was it like working as a journalist in Sri Lanka?

Image: Naomi Gunasekara

Image: Tom Lamont

Tom Lamont Freelance Writer Periodical 2004


Image: Ray Wells

What is your fondest memory of City?

David Roper’s entertainment writing course. He emphasized that it didn’t matter how good a writer you were, journalism is always about the scoop.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

In interviews, never be afraid to admit to something you don’t know. It’s a powerful position to be in if your interviewee thinks they know more than you. Kavita Singh

John Kjorstad Senior Policy Advisor at HM Treasury International 2006

Image: Olivia Farrant

What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

It’s an existential question really. Journalism is the passing of knowledge, and the platform for that will change. Podcasts are more popular than ever now. Maybe it’s the romantic side of me that still loves radio, but I’d like to think that the audio platform will continue to be important well into the future.

Gamal Fahnbulleh Presenter at Sky News Broadcast 2006 What was your big break in journalism?

I got onto the ITV Bursary Scheme. Not only did ITV give me a hand with the tuition fees, but it allowed me to get a six month placement with a regional news room. They put you bang in the middle of a buzzing newsroom in big cities like Manchester and Liverpool where there is lots going on.

What is it like adjusting to being in front of the camera?

As a presenter, you have to be across all the big stories of the day. In many ways you’re like a swan: on the surface you’re composed and graceful, but there are many moving parts. You’re spinning a lot of plates at the same time.

What is the funniest thing you’ve done on the job?

I had to eat insects. It was part of a supermarket promoting a new range of barbecue grasshoppers. I think you could tell by the expression on my face that I wasn’t feeling it whatsoever.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Relax. You’re in an intense environment because from the get-go you’re told it’s a very competitive industry. Competition is good, but at the same time you will find your feet and you will find the opportunities. Jessie Mathewson

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

Image: Avishek K.C.

Eleanor Goodman Deputy Editor at Metal Hammer Magazine 2006 What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

It’s about diversity at this point. People like to consume media in so many different ways. It’s about using your content in different ways across a variety of formats.

What was your big break in journalism?

I was part of a team reporting on the world’s longest flight on one fuel tank called the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. We were based at a mission control base, in a room with scientists monitoring the progress of the flight. When the pilot was landing the aircraft, I did the first interview. Nicole García Mérida

Laura Barnett Novelist and Theatre Critic Newspaper 2006 Image: Chris O’Donovan

Google Drive. Even when I’m moving around, I can work seamlessly from my Google Pixelbook. The ability to operate on the go is so important. When I reported on US sports events in the 90s I would be begging people to use their phone to connect to the modem on my word processor to send a story across to my editor. Megan Kelly

Image: Light Hackers

Martin Hemming Deputy Editor at The Sunday Times News Review Magazine 2005

What is the funniest thing you’ve done on the job? At The Guardian, we did a piece called "What's with all these women walking?" A few of us female journalists had to walk in formation and ask passers by what they thought of it. It was a slow news day.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

I interviewed rap artist [and host of MTV’s Pimp My Ride] Xzibit for a slot called "Portrait of the Artist" at The Guardian. I went along assuming he’d not have much to say but he turned out to be this incredibly thoughtful and creative person.

What was the most embarrassing moment of your career?

At The Telegraph, I was interviewing an eminent person and he mentioned his wife. I didn’t check her name. The next Monday we got a very concerned phone call from this person’s PR because it turned out the name I had used was his ex-wife’s. Bethan Kapur



What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

This is going to make me sound shallow, but one of the best pieces of advice we got was if you go to an event and you don’t know how to dress, dress like a school teacher. If you go too formal it can be quite intimidating, but if you go too casual you look sloppy – so dress like a primary school teacher.

What sparked your interest in reporting on the advertising industry?

It wasn’t something I initially sought out but it’s turned out to be quite an interesting industry. It covers a lot of different things that I’m interested in, like creativity, film making, and strategy, but it’s also interesting in that it’s a way to understand the world. I talk to people from all different countries, and obviously I’m talking to them about their local ad industry, but you also learn a lot about the countries’ economy, politics, history, and culture. For example, I’ve been working on stories about advertising in Eastern Europe like Romania and Poland, and they’re really interesting because they tell me: “We had communism until the 90s, we didn’t have advertising – we had propaganda.” So all of a sudden you’re learning about that culture and social-political things. Lauren Geall

Image: BBC News

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Lady Gaga gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was a bit starstruck.

What is the worst career advice you’ve ever received?

When I was at Sky, a woman who was quite high up in the newsroom took me into one of those windowless corporate rooms and told me she didn’t think I was up to it. She said I don’t know why you’re paying for this course at City. I actually had a scholarship, so I wasn’t paying. I told her this and it kind of shut her up. She was renowned for being difficult. At the time I found it worrying but I guess looking back I never had to worry.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Being a producer I don’t do the actual interviews but I remember having Kim Cattrall on the show. She was a character. Also Naomi Campbell, she had a massive entourage and Serena Williams was similar. I have never seen so many people tending to one person. I was amazed that someone was taking their appearance on BBC Breakfast so seriously. Bethan Kapur


What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I think what I found in my research about masculine standards in journalism. There’s a body of research that I’ve been reviewing by Margaret Gallagher, and she said that women who progress to high positions in journalism become so ‘bloke-ified’ that a younger woman cannot look up to see her as a role model. My research is to see to what extent women can actually find female role models within the communications industry, because there are not enough women in high positions to support other women.

Have you ever done anything that in retrospect you regret in order to further your career?

When I worked in journalism, I was one of the ‘blokes’ because I kind of always fitted in with the boys, and I was okay in that masculine culture. I knew that some female journalists didn’t like me because I was treated like I was better than they were, but I think I just fitted in more into that masculine culture, and at the time I just wasn’t aware of it. If I could time travel and go back now as a feminist researcher I would help my colleagues more and show more solidarity and fight to change that culture. Megan Kelly

Nicola Trup Associate Editor at National Geographic Traveller Newspaper 2008

Image: Nicola Trup

Jack Lamport Producer at BBC News at One Broadcast 2008

Martina Topić Senior Lecturer in PR at Leeds Business School Erasmus 2007 Image: Martina Topić

Image: Little Black Book

Laura Swinton Editor and Managing Director at Little Black Book Magazine 2007

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

In terms of personal highlights in my career, there have been some really incredible travel experiences. Things like climbing Kilimanjaro, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, canoeing down the Mississippi.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d just say don’t worry too much. If you’re persistent then things will work out. When I graduated from City in 2008, the recession was hotting up, so it was a stressful time to be entering journalism. After graduating I went to intern at a newspaper in Australia for a few months though, thanks to a prize awarded by City. When I came back I had some really good experiences under my belt and things eventually fell into place.

If you could only cover one country out of those you have visited, which one would it be?

The US because it’s so vast. There’s a huge amount of variety there, whether it’s the people, the culture, the landscape, or even the food.

Calum Trenaman


Image: Lydia Mossahebi

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

I interviewed Charlie Brooker and Jon Hamm for a Black Mirror Christmas special. Charlie Brooker was good fun because he talks exactly how he writes. Jon Hamm was just another Hollywood star but was quite different from anyone I’d spoken to.

What would you say is the main thing you need to focus on when talking to kids? The main thing is the topic. What’s most important is making sure that I get the voice right so we’re not patronising kids.

Have you ever got it wrong?

How a joke lands with kids is often quite different to how it lands with adults. We did a joke about that moment when you awkwardly wave at someone because you think they’re waving at you. We found it hilarious but the kids didn’t like it. They didn’t like imagining themselves in that situation. So instead we did it on the teacher rather than a kid. That really shifted it. Bethan Kapur

What is your fondest memory of City?

I met very good friends there, quite a few of whom are married to each other now. I’m godfather to a little boy of City alumni who was born just a few weeks ago.

What do you think will be the main format for journalism in the future?

I think we are in a pretty bleak environment for journalism currently because of social media and its unregulated nature, such as clickbait and news being driven by viral shares. That’s been driven by Facebook’s algorithms essentially. But that is about to be regulated and I think that really damaging period, which is directly responsible for the election of Trump and Brexit and so on, is going to come to an end.

Where will you be in five years’ time?

It’s been quite entertaining having a front row seat at Brexit but also deeply demoralising, heart-breaking, and spirit crushing. My vague ambition in life was to do political journalism and work for the Labour Party, but I hadn’t foreseen the Labour Party taking the turn that it has done and that’s not my style of politics.

It was great when the Modern Slavery Bill came in, because we hoped that our investigation into human trafficking in the UK helped to shape it a bit. When we did the doping scandal a few months later, the president of International Association of Athletics Federations was arrested. When we first published the stories exposing the scale of cheating and accusing the world governing bodies of turning a blind eye, they accused us of sensationalism. So obviously, when the head of IAAF was arrested, we felt that was a real vindication of what we’d done.

What is your fondest memory of City?

Probably when we were making a documentary about legal highs and their dangers. I was on Camden High Street with a couple of my fellow students trying to film some of the shops that were selling these drugs and we got into our first argy-bargy with some of the shop owners who weren’t so keen on us filming. That was quite fun.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

Our undercover kit, but I can’t give you the details because we keep it a secret! Sara Semic

Daniella Saunders

Jesse Whittock Insight Editor at Broadcast Magazine 2009 What has been the highlight of your career?

I really enjoy the international travel aspects of my job. In a previous role I was the deputy editor of a title called Television Business International for about five years and that often involved going over to L.A. There’s this big event that happens every May called the Elephant screenings, where all of the international television buyers go to see what’s new. You spend two weeks in the Californian sun and get good access to really good people. I had a 45 minute sit down with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan a few years back. It was a one-on-one just to dig into his career and some of the things that he’s done. That would probably take a lot to beat.

Image: Informa

Image: Ray Wells

George Arbuthnott Deputy Insight Editor at The Sunday Times Investigative 2009 What has been the highlight of your career?

Image: Jade Osborne

Tom Peck Political Sketch Writer at The Independent TV & CAJ 2008

Lydia Mossahebi Editor at Beano Magazine 2008

What is the funniest thing you’ve seen on the job? TV is full of pretty ridiculous people who are good fun, so there’s always some sort of ridiculous scandal going around. There’s lots of stuff we don’t report on in broadcast that if we did I think people would probably quite enjoy – but we’d have some legal issues.

Lauren Geall


Profiles Nick Carvell Editor at The Jackal Magazine 2010

Rebecca Buchan Business Editor at The Press and Journal Investigative 2010

Image: Rikesh Chauhan

Writing for the sadly now-defunct manual section of Esquire when I interned there for two weeks in 2010. I ended up writing for that section for two years.

What is your fondest memory of City?

Marcelle D’Argy Smith’s feature writing classes and having to write really interesting, slightly bonkers features. I remember having to rewrite the lyrics to a song: “You’re the Top” by Cole Porter. I spent ages coming up with a rhyme for frappuccino.

Where do you think you’ll be in five years’ time?

Well, I’ve just become editor of The Jackal which is a dream come true. So I hope in five years’ time I will still be at The Jackal, helping to craft a magazine that I feel is really relevant to men today.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

Julia Webster

Image: Lizzie Pook

Lizzie Pook Acting Deputy Editor and Travel Editor at Brides magazine and Freelance Journalist Magazine 2010 Where is the most interesting place you’ve travelled to for work?

Last year I went to the unexplored east coast of Greenland which was incredible. It was filled with polar bears, crackling glaciers and amazing, beautiful silence. Our ship went into this unexplored fjord that no commercial vessel had ever been into before. That was probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to.

What was the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Have you ever done anything that in retrospect you regret in order to further your career?

Anything I did that involved tablets. I took smart drugs in the office for a feature once and ended up just googling Rastamouse for hours. Another time, I took female Viagra, which was an interesting experience. I should probably have put more thought into what was going in my body. Hannah Mendelsohn 120

What will be the main format for journalism in the future? I love print and worry that if there were no newspapers, the world would be a sadder place. Journalists wouldn’t get that buzz anymore.

Daniella Saunders

Débora Miranda Freelance Health Communications Consultant Science 2011 What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be so insecure. When I came to City I was really struggling with my English. But the fact that we all came from different backgrounds meant that we could help each other in different ways and slowly that gave me confidence.

What was your big break in journalism?

When I was working on radio in Germany, my boss always gave people an opportunity, no matter how early in their career they were. Coming from Portugal where everything is very hierarchical and young people are seen as a threat, that was the best thing that happened to me. He let me go out there and present the news live. It was professionally life-changing for me.

Stephen Glennon

Jennifer Francis Marketing Manager at Refinitiv Financial 2011 What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

Image: Henrik Andersen

When I did an internship at the now-defunct ‘erotic’ women’s magazine Scarlet, I had to write ‘pithy’ reviews of femalefriendly porn. I was slightly mortified but agreed to do it anyway. However, the only computer that would play the DVDs was halfway across the office with the IT team, which of course was made up entirely of middle-aged men, who took no shame in watching over my shoulder and making filthy comments. I still cringe when I think about it now.

I interviewed Donald Trump before he was president. He has a golf course in Aberdeenshire where The Press and Journal are. He was talking about the success of his golf course and his plans to play a round with Bill Clinton, which is ironic, given who he ended up running against in the election.

Image: Erik Braga

When I was a child I wanted to be a town planner, because I was obsessed with SimCity. I like to think that there’s a nice thread there of having an appreciation for design that comes through in journalism.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Image: Rebecca Buchan

What was your big break in journalism?

The future is fully immersive news through the use of technologies like 360 videos, virtual reality, and bots. That is not to say this will replace journalists, but I think a growing number of formats will aim to enable people to be part of the story regardless of their location.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

I like Dictate + Connect. It is a very intuitive platform, and virtually eliminates the use and storage of tapes and cables. It provides secure encryption, and several options to transfer your dictations.

Jemma Slingo


Image: Olivia Farrant

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

I think the most useful tool is actually a survey. The questions you ask your audience will drive everything that you do. I don’t think organisations survey their communities enough in a way that drives insights.

Have you ever done anything that in retrospect you regret in order to further your career?

There have been times when I should have fought my corner more and pushed for certain stories to take precedence, but in the grand scheme of things, they are relatively small regrets. I’ve still got time to make mistakes.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

I think the advice that your classmates are your contemporaries for the next 30 years. They end up being your sources, your boss, or somebody in your team. Megan Kelly

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

A recent one was Richard E. Grant. It was actually just a really lovely, honest and heart-warming chat. Certain people you speak to are very into their films and can be quite patronising. Richard just seemed really genuine and lovely.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

My earpiece mic for phone interviews. It’s easy when I’m out and about. One time I had to do an interview and I was actually on a date. I had to stop the date and luckily, I had this earpiece.

Has being a critic had an effect on the way you watch and enjoy films?

It’s more that I analyse films in a way that I wouldn’t before. I’ve been watching them since I was a kid, and it’s always been a part of our family. I would watch to just enjoy, but nowadays I watch a film and I can appreciate that I enjoy something but look at it in a different way.

Gareth Thomas

What’s your favourite piece of journalism tech?

FaceTime. Last May, I travelled to Zimbabwe to find a woman whose arm had been bitten off by a crocodile while on her honeymoon. After convincing her to do the interview, I discovered the Zimbabwean television network does not quite match the standard of our own. There were no studios or trucks within a ten-hour drive. We set up my laptop on FaceTime, sat the couple in beautiful sunshine in front of a swimming pool with palm trees framing them. We dialled my phone into the gallery, and hid one earphone in each interviewee’s ear. The quality was flawless.

What was it like working on This Morning?

This Morning is brilliant. I was on the first bus, train, or flight to cover some huge news stories. There were also moments where I couldn’t believe I’d trained to be a journalist, like when I was sitting on the floor hair drying watermelons in preparation for a woman’s world record attempt to crush three watermelons between her thighs in a minute.

What is the most memorable interview you have ever done?

For our final documentary at City, we drove to Wales to film an interview with a young guy who was paralysed from the neck down after a bouncer had attacked him in a nightclub. He was the loveliest man, living a shadow of his former existence, in a wheelchair with a carer in an isolated house. He had been sporty and had his whole life ahead of him. We were really quiet on the drive back from his house because we were so moved by his story. Olivia Rook

Nicola Merrifield Deputy Editor at Pulse Magazine 2012 What is the most memorable interview you have ever done?

Image: Cogora

Image: Hattie Hamilton

Hattie Hamilton Freelance Journalist TV 2011

Hanna Flint Freelance Film Journalist Broadcast 2011

Image: Hanna Flint

Ben Whitelaw Engaged Journalism Accelerator at European Journalism Centre (EJC) Newspaper 2011

Interviewing Jeremy Hunt when he was Health Secretary. We went into this official house across from the Buckingham Palace where they were holding a patient safety conference. The whole experience of being in this really ornate, opulent room, with 20 press people that were directly behind him just staring at you was quite stressful.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always read the small print. If you get a briefing document from a government department, sometimes the bits that look the most dull have the information that you can work up into a story.

What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

Digital will continue to be seen as the prime platform for people to consume their news and journalism. I don’t think that means print is dead altogether. There’s a sense of completion that comes with print, when you have something in front of you that has a clear start and end.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

Tenacity – to always keep going. Keep asking, keep persisting, keep trying to find new ways into a story.

Branca Lessa de Sá


Profiles Tom Metcalf Wealth Reporter at Bloomberg Financial 2012 Image: Bloomberg LP

Going to Covent Garden market, getting up at 5 or 6am and then realising that the person I needed to speak with wasn’t in that day. Ever since then, I’ve remembered to confirm all meetings.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

I was trying to decide whether I should leave this comfortable job [as an auditor at Deloitte] and go into journalism, but it was an obvious decision. It’s more fun on this side of the paper.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Where do you think you’ll be in five years’ time? Maybe I’ll be in Asia. For a financial journalist, that is the biggest and most exciting area to be. But the one thing I’ve realised is that it’s best not to have too many plans; just make sure you can react and take advantage of any opportunity that comes along.

Daniella Saunders

Image: AltFi.com

Daniel Lanyon Editor at AltFi Investigative 2012

Who are your favourite up and coming journalists?

Katy Balls at The Spectator has a great career ahead of her. She does a lot of our political coverage now but she didn’t when she started. Jack Saddler

Hannah Stanton-Jones Film Producer at WaterAid TV 2012 What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

My first trip with WaterAid where I went to Mozambique. One of the mums was the same age as me. She had four children and was going with her young baby and daughter and collecting water from puddles. I realised the world is a small place and it just happens to be where you’re born and the situation you’re born into.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

What was your big break in journalism?

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

My first big interview in Istanbul was with the band Massive Attack just before they were set to perform a concert. At the end of the interview, Robert Del Naja invited me to their backstage party after the gig. Something of a dream come true.

Julia Webster

Be bold. City opens so many doors and I put my toe through them – whereas now, having seven years experience, I would jump through them and not leave until someone gave me a chance.

Catherine Kennedy

Rob Grant Open Data Lead at ONS Interactive 2013 What has been the highlight of your career so far?

At the beginning of my career, we did a project for the 100th anniversary of WW1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have a database of all the soldiers who fought in the war. We were able to produce an online search tool, where you search for the name of a town or a street and you could work out who died.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

A lot of people think about what position they would like to have. In reality, you need to think about what you can do for a news outlet rather than what they can do for you. You get a job by learning a skill that is in demand and putting yourself in the right position. Jess Browne-Swinburne

Image: Office for National Statistics

I wrote a letter to the editor of a Turkish newspaper [Hürriyet Daily News] explaining that I had no experience in journalism or Turkish, but that I had always wanted to be a journalist and live in Istanbul. He said: “When can you start?” I was thrown in at the deep end of reporting for a print daily newspaper and worked with a brilliant group of both international and Turkish journalists. In that period, Turkey was booming with double digit economic growth. Istanbul was the European Capital of Culture [2010] and mostly full of optimism. I missed all the rioting and coups! It was an incredible experience, like living in a movie. I moved back to London following an opportunity for work experience leading to freelance work at The Times, which then took me to, and helped finance, my MA at City.


I went to The Spectator for work experience, then went to The Telegraph and to CNN. The Spectator was looking for someone and because I’d done work experience, they asked me. It was supposed to be a month, and seven years on, I’m still there. In a way, my work experience was my biggest break.

Image: WaterAid/ElizaPowell

It was with a Nigerian billionaire called Aliko Dangote. It was really fun because I got to go out to Lagos. I did tours of these huge plants. I even jumped on his private jet to see the cement plant in the middle of the country. It was pretty memorable.

What was your big break in journalism?

Image: Cally Squires

What was the worst moment you ever had on patch?

Camilla Swift Editor of The Spectator Money Online, Spectator Schools and Spectator Supplements. Investigative 2012


Image: Simon Bajkowski

What was your big break in journalism?

After City, I did shifts at the Manchester Evening News on their digital desk. When I arrived, it was clear that nobody on the digital desk knew about football, and I was assigned as the sports person. We merged with the principal desk and now we’re a fully online operation. I was in the right place at the right time when digital was becoming massive and I knew about football which not many people did.

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

Reading and writing religiously - reading everyone else’s copy. In sports reporting, you’re at a game with 15 other journalists and you’re all writing on the same thing. You might think you’ve written a great piece but it’s important to read everyone else’s to pick up tips.

Hannah Shaddock Sub-editor and writer at Radio Times Magazine 2013 What has been the highlight of your career at Radio Times?

I’ve been at Radio Times for five and a half years, and I’m now a sub-editor and a writer. The writing part is probably where most of the fun stuff comes from. I got to go to Australia last year for a travel piece. I got to ride on a train called the Indian Pacific, which goes all the way across the island from west to east or vice versa. That was because Michael Portillo rides on it in his upcoming programme about Australian train journeys.

What do you think the main format for journalism will be in the future?

There are now publications that serve communities and readers that might have felt more marginalised in the past. gal-dem is a good example of that. It’s done so well because it has a very clear vision and knows who it is writing for and the voices that it wants to showcase. That’s the future of print and of magazines and of journalism generally I think.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

I interviewed a TV writer called Hugo Blick, who wrote Black Earth Rising and The Honourable Woman for the BBC. I went to his house, which is this incredible windmill in Kent. I’m very nosey, so I loved seeing what was going on behind the scenes at his house. I was impressed by the swimming pool. Miles Rowland

I have a terrible, purely accidental, habit of walking around and getting caught on camera at races looking a bit lost. I’ve got moments when friends or family have spotted me on TV just walking round photobombing cameras everywhere.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Covering the Tour de France. Last year was the fifth time I’ve done it. Even if you don’t know anything about cycling, everyone knows what the Tour de France is and it’s what I always watched on television. To be there reporting from it every summer has got to be the pinnacle. Will Strickson

Sarah Rowland Southern USA Correspondent at Monocle International 2013 What is your favourite thing about freelancing?

I wanted to do something where I could work with different brands and different publications and not just write in one voice or style. You get to work with lots of different people and make new connections all over the world – as long as I have my computer, I’m able to work from anywhere in the world.

What is your favourite place you’ve travelled to for work?

I think the next place on the map is always the most exciting to me. The next trip is always the most fun.

Hannah Mendelsohn

Philippa Wain Political Producer at BBC TV 2013

Image: Philippa Wain

Image: Hannah Shaddock

Colleagues have been the highlights. I don’t think people appreciate how much everyone at rival newspapers get on. My career has been helped because people who were nominally my rivals have taken time to help me and give me tips. Caitlin Butler

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Image: Eduardo Cerrati & Stepahnie Draime

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Sophie Hurcom Staff Writer at Procycling Magazine 2013

Image: Simon Bajkowski

Simon Bajkowski Digital Sports Editor at Manchester Evening News Newspaper 2013

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

While working for BBC Breakfast, we covered the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. At the same time, I enjoyed covering the 2015 and 2017 general elections too. That’s the best part of working for news – you can do anything.

What was your big break in journalism?

My first job actually came on the heels of a story pitch I made about diet pills. I pitched to the ITN network when I was doing an internship there, and the story made it to the news bulletin. It was my first national news story.

What is the worst thing about being a producer?

My job varies but especially in the cold of winter, if you are on a field producing shift, you’re getting a lot of cold feet. We have to do a lot of waiting for that perfect shot. Aakriti Patni 123


Image: Ruben Sprich

What is the funniest thing you have seen on the job?

I went to interview the CEO of Lindt chocolate in the Alps. Beforehand there was an exhibition tennis match in the snow between Roger Federer and Lindsey Vonn the skier. As they were playing there were a dozen Lindt chefs all dressed in white with sunglasses on, standing behind them. Then at one point, the umpire got up in the middle of the match and drew a semicircle on the court around Roger Federer with shaving foam.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Think about what you read and when you do read an article, understand what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. This will help with your own writing.

Huw Fullerton Sci-Fi Editor at Radio Times Magazine 2014 Image: Sarah Doran

What is the funniest response you’ve ever had to an article?

“Huw Fullerton’s about as funny as setting fire to an orphanage.” After that, a few of my friends and I tried to create a rating system based on how alight the metaphorical orphanage would be. The level of the flames, from lightly smouldering to a raging inferno.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

What will the main format for journalism be in the future?

I’m not sure about online in general. In one way it’s the future, but it’s quite difficult to monetise and it will have to become more streamlined. We’ve seen all these sites lately dropping people or shutting down. There’s been a boom in online in the past five years, which I think will start to settle down. Print is dying, but there’ll always be an audience for it - print is like vinyl. Vinyl sales were up for the first time in decades a couple of years ago, and that’s because people like the experience. It’s more tactile. Madeleine Taylor 124

It’s not that different to journalism because it’s another way to tell a story using typography or illustration. It’s not as powerful as a report or a gallery of photos but it’s also art.

What is the worst career advice you’ve ever received? When I studied in Spain, on my first day my professor told my class, ‘We’re in the middle of a crisis and journalism is a complicated career. Are you sure you want to do this? If not, leave the room now.’ Sometimes I look back and think, ‘Shit, I should have left’ – but I absolutely wouldn’t.

Jessie Mathewson

Ellie Pitt Production Journalist at ITV TV 2014 What was your big break in journalism?

I entered ITN’s ‘Breaking into News’ competition before I went to City. It made me understand what goes into producing a TV report and realise that the newsroom is where I wanted to be.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

The father of an acid attack victim. This kind of story reminds you that when you’re interviewing someone, they are letting you in to some of the most vulnerable moments of their life. That is a privilege, and there’s a real responsibility to do the story justice. Aisling O’Leary

Cass Horowitz Co-Founder of The Clerkenwell Brothers TV 2014

Image: Cass Horowitz

I would not live without my dictaphone. It’s the same one I bought myself when I was at City and it’s come round the world with me. I remember once, when I was at City, standing in an alleyway behind a cinema with my dictaphone in one hand and my phone in the other, doing a phone interview. Someone had suddenly rung me back after cancelling a lot of times while I was watching a film and I had to run outside to do it. It’s come with me to America, I’ve taken it into haunted houses, into Hollywood interviews, into the Tardis. I even take it with me on holiday, just in case. If you have your dictaphone, it doesn’t matter if you forget everything else, you’ve got it recorded.

How have you transitioned from journalism to graphic design?

Image: Lucy Thomas

Susie Browning

Laura Fernandez Graphic Designer International 2014 Image: Laura Fernandez

Joshua Franklin Private Equity and IPO Correspondent at Reuters Political 2013

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

I was sent to an election count where the results are posted, but I didn’t realise they actually posted the physical results on the wall long before they announced them. By the time I got to this wall, the results had all been taken down by the other journalists.

What’s your favourite piece of journalism tech?

A broadcast tool called SnappyTV, which allows you to clip up live broadcasts and put them out on multiple social media outlets. Sibelle Mehmet

Image: Phil Adams

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? I’d love to be a voiceover artist, that sounds really fun!

Who are some of your favourite up-and-coming journalists?

Tobi Oredein, founder of Black Ballad. I really like that she’s a journalist and an entrepreneur who’s seen that there’s been a lack of representation of black female writers and has created a platform specifically with that audience in mind. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff as well and Ash Sarkar.

Jack Saddler

Image:: Daniel Rzasa

Daniel Rzasa Editor in Chief at 300GOSPODARKA Financial 2015 What are the challenges of combatting fake news?

What is your fondest memory of City?

As part of the Financial Journalism programme, we went to two summer schools: one at New York University and the other one at Fudan University in Shanghai. One of the memories that I have was going to The New York Times office and seeing all the pictures of the famous people who had visited. There were autographs from Albert Einstein to the Pope! Olivia Rook

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Taking on a full correspondent role in Brussels post-referendum has been an interesting introduction into the politics of Europe. It has been an exciting time to be covering stories.

What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

With world events such as the Brexit referendum and the election of Trump, there seems to be a growing interest in quality news and a willingness to pay for it. This has been a good development for various outlets. With scandals that have happened such as Cambridge Analytica and various worries about how social media platforms have been manipulating information, there seems to be a growing awareness and I think more people are spending time on quality content. Susie Browning

Nick Marsh Broadcast Journalist at BBC News International 2015 What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

A couple of weeks ago I got a clip of Justin Trudeau reacting to the recognition of Juan Guaidó as President [of Venezuela]. I needed this clip to get out at 2pm. When I put it in the system, I accidentally put the 30 second clip out of Trudeau speaking in Persian, and there was no way of stopping it. That was pretty bad.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau CEO and startup founder Financial 2015 Image: Jonny Weinberg

Rochelle Toplensky Journalist at Financial Times Financial 2014

Image: Susan Zur-Szpiro

Throughout 2018, I was a teaching fellow for Central and Eastern Europe at Google News Lab. I visited 14 countries in 12 months and taught journalists basic skills in verification and fact-checking. Fake news is a big challenge. I think journalists don’t know how to battle it. I found that many people don’t know what tools to use and they are not critical enough of the content they find online.

Image: Charlie Bibby

Toni Sekinah Senior Features Editor at DataIQ Financial 2014

What do you think will be the main format for journalism in the future?

Bite-sized. There will always be an audience for long-form journalism, but the mainstream now wants to know what’s going on ‘as it happens’.

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

I had the incredible opportunity to interview Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York [and current attorney of Donald Trump], just a few years after the 9/11 attacks. A meeting like that really makes you see the bigger picture. Catherine Kennedy

There’s a piece of kit called LUCI LIVE software, which means you can do live interviews using Wi-Fi and it connects you to studios. I used that quite a lot when I was broadcasting the Dutch elections.

What was your big break in journalism?

Getting into the BBC. I got in doing work experience while I was still at City. A lot of people spend their careers trying to work at a big news organisation, and I was very lucky that I managed to do it at the beginning of my career.

What is your fondest memory of City?

Production Fortnight. We made three radio shows and three TV shows in two weeks. It was a news bulletin about the General Election in the UK. Sibelle Mehmet


Profiles Laura Gozzi News Researcher at BBC Monitoring International 2015

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? A photographer who writes poetry and tailors clothes on the side.

What sparked your interest in reporting on pharmaceuticals?

The opportunity to give a voice to pharmacists who would otherwise be unheard, at a crucial time of crisis for UK healthcare. In a small sector, you can make a tangible difference with news, sending ripples in policy across the industry.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I got to work on the World Cup quite extensively last summer and that was really fun. For once it was a happy, upbeat topic to cover.

Where do you think you will be in five years?

I think I would like to stay with the BBC. I’d like to be working abroad in regional bureaus, ideally in Russia as that’s my area of expertise. But it depends on so many things really… I mean, we’ll have to see how Brexit goes firstly! Branca Lessa de Sá

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? Listen to people when you interview them.

Georgina Roberts

I was on location when the van attack at Finsbury Park happened. I phoned it in to the desk and took some pictures, which were ultimately used by The New York Times, Sky News and the BBC.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

Definitely Excel. It is versatile and useful, and has proven to be a great tool for any data journalist. Aakriti Patni

What was your big break in journalism?

When I graduated, I worked freelance for two years. I worked in local radio, at Sky News, and freelanced at the BBC World Service. Then a job came up at the BBC in the department that I freelanced in and I started on a contract there. I’ve been working for BBC Africa for a year now.

Jennifer Guay Government Innovation and Briefing Editor at Apolitical Erasmus 2016

Did you always want to be a journalist?

In 2013, I was working as a junior correspondent for USA TODAY when the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I was at the scene when the bombs went off and ended up co-authoring a front-page story about the bombing.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do after my undergraduate years, so I taught English in China for a year. I had a lot of time to think about what I was good at, enjoyed and was interested in. I didn’t want to do something just for the sake of money. But it was a hard slog.

What was your big break in journalism?

How did City help you in the various freelance jobs that you did?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Caitlin Butler

Stephen Glennon

It made me realise what was expected from a journalist. It also gave me confidence that there are jobs in the industry. The appetite for news hasn’t died.


What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Image: Jennifer Guay

Image: Andre Lombard

Andre Lombard Broadcast Journalist at BBC Africa Broadcast 2015

Ritvik Carvalho Financial Data Correspondent at Reuters Financial 2016 Image: Ritvik Carvalho

Booking a flight for the wrong day. I was on the way to the Malaga, Spain to speak at a conference for C+D. It was a rare opportunity for a reporter to promote the brand and do some public speaking. I was on the way to the airport when I realised my flight was booked for a week later. I had to stay overnight at a Stansted hotel and get another 5am flight. I made my speaking slot but have never lived down the mishap.

Image: Laura Gozzi

Image: Chemist & Druggist

Thomas Cox Features Editor at Chemist+Druggist Magazine 2015

Don’t stress about finding the ideal job post-graduation. I ended up taking one I wasn’t particularly excited about as a foreign reporter at the Daily Mail, but I learned how to write quickly under pressure.

Profiles Tom Calver Senior Interactive Journalist at The Times Investigative 2016

What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

With David Lammy MP. It was at Jezfest in north London. I asked him if he thought ticket sales were down because of the antiSemitism in the Labour Party, at which point he looked at me and then grabbed the camera. You never expect an MP to suddenly go for you.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

At the moment I’m doing a lot of investigative journalism so I use a lot of hidden cameras. The great thing about the camera, whether it’s hidden or not, is that it paints a picture for the world to see. Thirty seconds of footage can be as good as 10,000 words of print with the detail it gives.

What was your big break in journalism?

Some may say I’m still looking! I covered a big Tommy Robinson demonstration. The police were retreating, and there were scaffolding poles being thrown, and I followed the police for 400 metres as they ran away. I had this amazing footage when I was running backwards, and all you can see is police running and things being thrown. If you’re willing to take some risks, you can get some fantastic footage and fantastic stories.

Stephen Glennon

I did work experience at a national newspaper in my City year, and the section editor sent me to a village several miles outside Tunbridge Wells to hand-deliver a letter. It took me an hour and a half to get there by train and bus, but when I tried to head home, there were no buses for two hours. I had to walk up the side of a busy A-road in the dark, knocking on random people’s doors and begging them to call me a taxi, as my phone had died. In the end, a man working in a Shell garage gave me a lift about five miles to the station. I got home from work experience at 2am and was too embarrassed to tell the editor what had happened.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Learn to code, meet more people, and don’t despair when given the terrible work experience jobs. I wish I’d learnt earlier that there’s no data story without the story itself. You can’t be a journalist on numbers alone.

What is the funniest thing you’ve heard on the job?

Some of the BBC idioms made me chuckle. One of my excolleagues who’d been there for years genuinely thought that Ed Pol - the BBC nickname for ‘editorial policy’ - was an actual guy called Ed Pol.

Aisling O’Leary

Jasmin Lavoie Freelance Journalist based in Nigeria Investigative 2016 What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?

Chris Sibthorpe News Reporter at BBC Broadcast 2016

I was a correspondent in Pakistan, and I did an interview with a mother suspected of having participated in the killing of her own daughter. It was an honour crime. We interviewed this woman and my fixer (local journalist), who was conducting the interview, was telling me he was pretty sure she was lying, but on camera she was crying. The emotions were mixed, and we were at the top of the mountain in a remote village with no electricity at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

What was your big break in journalism?

One news day in the middle of December and we must have spent around five or six hours walking up and down the canal vox-popping people. It was so cold and wet, the rain went through all of our clothes and our camera got drenched. Oh my god, it was awful.

I covered the Nigerian elections here in Lagos. The polls were supposedly opening at 8am, and 200 voters showed up but no one from the electoral commission was there. They had to wait until noon. Some voters decided to do the electoral commissioners’ jobs and tried to put order in the chaos. I thought that was a moving moment.

Danai Dana

Image: Maria Gibbon

Image: Thibault Carron

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Image: Tom Calver

Image: Richard Hendron

Richard Hendron Freelance Investigative Journalist TV 2016

On my first day, when I saw the studio and I did my first programme. Watching it go live the first time, it was probably the best thing I’d ever done.

What was the worst moment you ever had on patch?

What was your big break in journalism?

I was on work experience with BBC Radio 4 and a job came up. They asked me if I’d be interested and I did the interview for it and I got it. Nicole García Mérida 127

Profiles Sonia Hadj Said Founder of Why Magazine International 2017

What was your big break in journalism?

I joined Inside Housing at the most interesting and important time to be writing about housing because my first day of proper employment was the day of the Grenfell fire.

What will be the main format of journalism in the future?

I am not one of those people who thinks that print is totally dead. Newspapers aren’t a very sustainable model, but things like magazines and weekly newspapers are.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

The in-ear mic on my dictaphone, which loads of people don’t have but everyone should have.

What was the worst moment you ever had on patch?

I was wandering around the area and I thought I had found a really good story because there was a park and I saw that a number of travelling caravans had turned up and they had all moved in. Then I got my phone out and checked the patch boundaries, and it was just on the wrong side of the road, so I had to give it to someone else. Jess Browne-Swinburne

What will be the main format for journalism in the future?

I think it’s hard to make ends meet for print journalism, so it’s good to find ways to incorporate interactive journalism into stories. It’s a great way of bringing data to life, and it helps people navigate the news better.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

I wouldn’t say I use any gadgets per se, but VLOOKUP is my go-to spreadsheet function. It essentially looks for, and retrieves, data in a column. Once it finds a match, the formula will return a value from any cell in the same row as the match. The “V” stands for vertical, which means the data in the table must be arranged vertically.

What was your favourite memory from City?

I loved the editing weeks we had. We were given roles like news editor, video editor and so on, and we had two weeks where we ran Islington Now, and the Hackney Gazette. I was news editor it was a lot of fun running right up to the deadline. Miles Rowland


After graduation, when I started applying for jobs, I ended up doing interviews for jobs that I was just not cut out for. There was this lawyer magazine and they gave me all these things to write about. It was specialist language. So I had to say “Look, I don’t actually know what I’m doing.”

Where do you think you’ll be in five years’ time?

I hope I can actually grow Why Magazine. I started the magazine while I was doing my MA. I thought, well I don’t see any stories about actual creatives failing at trying to succeed, and I thought this is just as important as all the success stories - maybe more important. I started writing my own stories about how I was struggling to have a breakthrough and then people started sending their own stories.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Pitch more ideas, more articles to newspapers, magazines. It’s really easy to get discouraged, and I was excited after I got published by The Debrief. It’s best to try and define yourself as what kind of journalist you want to be. From there, it might be a little easier to know which directon to go.

Georgina Roberts

Gabriela Jones Producer at Wisebuddah Broadcast 2017 What is your fondest memory of City?

It was the Journalism Innovation specialism with Jane Singer. We started out with a terrible idea but then suddenly, we thought of trying to do something with smart speakers instead. We ended up entering the idea into the CitySpark business ideas competition and made a prototype. It was a game where you pretended to be the prime minister and had to deal with different situations and see how it affected groups of people in the country. The company that we founded ended up releasing a game and was then bought by a bigger company.

What was your big break in journalism?

Right at the beginning of my course at City, I emailed the head of audio at The Guardian. We went for coffee, and it was great, but I thought “I’ll never see that person again”. But many, many months later, just as I finished the course, I got an email from him, asking if I wanted to be a producer on a new daily election podcast at The Guardian.

What do you think will be the main format for journalism in the future?

The most exciting medium of journalism right now is podcasts. Miles Rowland

Image: Gabriela Jones

Image: Alice Cachia

Alice Cachia Data Journalist at Reach Newspaper 2017

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

Image: Sonia Hadj Saiid

Image: Inside Housing

Luke Barratt Business Reporter at Inside Housing Interactive 2017


Image: Rhys Thomas

What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?

I was interviewing film director Hiro Murai recently. I phoned him, and he was in California, so I replied with “oh my god, I bet it’s so much nicer in California, the weather is really grim here” forgetting this was at the high point of the fires. I’ve also definitely spilt a drink down myself moments before an interview, that’s very on brand for me.

Who are your favourite writers?

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an incredible profile writer. The level of detail she’s able to convey is amazing. If anyone wants to know how to write profiles, she is pound for pound the best. In terms of publications, I really miss Shortlist. I thought they wrote fantastically and that they really occupied a space in men’s magazines that wasn’t being occupied by anyone else.

What did you learn at City that you use every day? Media law is invaluable. You realise this when you work in a team of people who haven’t undertaken a similar course: they’ll come to you and ask if things are okay. I guess it gives you a sixth sense in realising what needs to be flagged up.

What will be the main format of journalism in the future?

Rhys Thomas

Image: Victoria Noble

Victoria Noble ITV Investigations Investigative 2018

What was your big break in journalism and what is your proudest success?

While I was studying at City, a friend who was also on the course and I did an investigation into addiction referrals for The Sunday Times. I’d say that was probably our big break, and I’m very proud of that. In terms of other things professionally I’m proud of, I just published an article about US sanctions against Venezuela recently in The Independent.

What advice would you give to your younger self? I’m still pretty young and early on in my career so I probably wouldn’t be too condescending to myself. I’d reassure myself that journalism is a really great pursuit. It’s really worth doing and, so far, it’s what I hoped it would be.

What is your fondest memory of City?

Having the time and space in that environment with other investigative students working on stories together, and the excitement I felt working on those stories. You might have been doing different ones from the people next to you, but it was all interesting and exciting. Kieran Devlin

LaToya Harding Business Reporter at The Daily Telegraph Financial 2018 Image: City University

In terms of revenue, I think we’re seeing that traditional advertising models aren’t working. So I think publications need to start thinking outside the box in terms of generating revenue, in a manner that doesn’t sacrifice any of their journalistic integrity. I know what Huck and TCO [the larger company] do is create media partnerships and branded content. We see that as a more viable and long-term solution.

Image: Michael Selby-Green

Michael Selby-Green Freelance Investigative Journalist Investigative 2017

Niall Flynn Associate Editor at Huck Magazine 2017

What is your fondest memory of City?

We went to Brussels to the European House of Parliament and spoke to MEPs there and got a really good insight into Brexit. We studied for a week at the Fudan University in Shanghai and we also went to NYC to speak to economists and lecturers.

What has been the highlight of your career?

What is one thing you learned at City that you still use today?

The sources where you can get information. There’s a lot of information available to ordinary people, it’s just hard to find.

What is the funniest thing you’ve done on the job? At City, I followed a local funeral director for a profile assignment. I ended up in the hearse with the coffin by my head and sat at the back of a stranger’s funeral. Which wasn’t so much funny as very, very awkward, strange, and quite sad.

Kieran Devlin

In January I was given a new position. After only four months at The Telegraph, I was given the opportunity to edit and sub-edit on the business desk alongside reporting.

What has been the most memorable interview you have ever done?

Back in September, I was an early reporter, so I was in from 7am. All the breaking news that happened in the morning I had to cover and follow up. I remember one of my favourite calls was hearing about Greggs introducing their vegan sausage roll. It was a media conference call with journalists, the FCO, and CEO. It was quirky and different to what I had done before. Susie Browning


Profiles Marigold Warner Online Writer at British Journal of Photography Magazine 2018

Megan Agnew Editorial Assistant at The Sunday Times Magazine Magazine 2018 Image: Megan Anew

Writing about being a hostess at Ascot, and being told by my exboss from Ascot: “Well done for getting in a newspaper, I hope you get a job out of it” – and I did!

What was your worst moment on patch?

The first time was awful. Wandering the streets of Rotherhithe and gearing myself up to go into a pub and speak to some old geezers who’d been in there since 9am. It was so awkward.

What is your fondest memory of City?

Hanging out with Barbara [Rowlands] once a week in our little therapy sessions. I’d just go and hang out with her and sort of cry. Also, finishing XCity as deputy editor and drinking warm prosecco from plastic glasses in the computer room.

What is the most memorable interview you have ever done?

Recently when I interviewed Jennifer Hudson, she said she made a whole load of boiled eggs to eat as snacks throughout the day, for “A day in the life”.

Georgina Roberts

Fiona Leishman Trainee Reporter at Cambridge News & Media International 2018 Image: Fiona Leishman

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

Things like Facebook Live are good. I’ve been doing stories out and about, and it gives the brand a face. I can see what’s doing well and what’s not doing well, and I can tailor it as I’m going along.

Did you always want to be a journalist? Up until I was 17, I wanted to do medicine and be a surgeon. I tried to do A-level maths, and I cried. I did English Literature with Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and I got involved with the student media. The light-bulb moment was during my semester abroad in Canada, when I took a creative and non-fiction course and I fell in love with it.

What do you think is the future of local news?

I think it can survive, I just think that it has to adapt to what people want. People who aren’t involved in journalism, so the readers and consumers, also need to have a bit of an awareness of what is being produced. Local news is expanding and it will survive, I just think it might change its format and delivery. Jess Browne-Swinburne


What is the one thing that you learnt at City that you still use today?

Image: Marigold Warner

What was your big break in journalism?

The writing advice: not using jargon, simplifying statistics; how to avoid these bad writing habits. Essentially, all of the simple and obvious stuff that you thought you knew how to do, but really didn’t.

What advice would you give your younger self starting at City?

Put yourself out there more: take every opportunity and don’t be lazy or scared. For example, I think I would have been intimidated by political journalism because I felt I was inferior to everybody – so not being afraid to be worse than other people, or at least, not letting it stop you.

What is your favourite piece of journalism tech?

My dictaphone. I think it’s the only piece of tech I use, except for my computer. I would be very lost without it!

What is the most memorable interview you have done?

I interviewed a guy called Jake Adelstein and I ended up becoming friends with him in a weird way. He’s a crime reporter in Japan and reported for one of the biggest newspapers for 25 years on Yakuza. He taught me so much of what I needed to know about them. When I went to Japan the following year, we met up and had coffee, and now, he’s coming to London. That’s probably the most memorable. He’s the most famous person I’ve interviewed too, or at least, to me because I’ve read a lot of his articles and his books.

Who is your favourite journalist?

I really like Anna Leszkiewicz at the New Statesman. And also Katie Goh who writes for Huck. They’re doing really good work.

How important are young journalists to the industry?

I think they’re really important to the industry, especially when it comes to online. How they write and what they’re writing about is probably more relevant to us. I guess older and more established journalists will get paid more for what they’re writing but young journalists are going to bring fresh ideas to the table. I don’t necessarily think more experienced journalists do a better job, which is a shame because it’s really hard for us to get started. Freelancing is really difficult unless you already have a solid contact at that magazine. A lot of the time, even if I have an idea that a magazine would definitely want to publish, my emails won’t be seen, or they’ll think ‘why would we let her write the article when she’s never written for us before’. Rhys Thomas

Illustrations: Daisy Schofield


Starry eyed: the rise of millennial astrologers

Olivia Rook

am something of a horoscope sceptic. For years, I’ve considered them an afterthought and a spacefiller in women’s magazines. You read them on your evening commute to unwind after a long day: a bit of mindless prattle and light-hearted fluff to fill the journey. I was surprised to hear, therefore, that horoscopes are experiencing a renaissance. The stalwarts of the horoscope world are still writing: Russell Grant for the Daily Express, The Irish Independent and the Daily Mirror and Mystic Meg for The Sun. But online-only magazines, independents and the glossies are contributing to a new breed of horoscopes, which are giving millennials direction in a gloomy world. Jake Register joined the US Cosmopolitan team in May of last year when the magazine branched out into sexoscopes: a series of horoscopes making predictions about love and relationships based on the zodiac. He had been spotted by the team after launching his astrologyinspired Instagram page at the end of 2017, and as he puts it, “caught the [horoscopes] trend”. Register says the appetite for horoscopes has increased “because the world is falling apart in so many ways”. “People are realising old belief systems and hierarchies are not working anymore. Younger generations are the ones bringing back this new age stuff. People are seeking out their own spiritual experiences,” he explains. This is exactly the guff I’m talking about. However, there is actually more to Register and his brand of pop astrology than meets the eye. Some astrologists choose not to pursue official certification but this doesn’t mean that they lack knowledge. In fact, Register only knows one person in his field who has undertaken professional examinations. Instead, many of the people writing magazine and newspaper horoscopes are self-taught and have cultivated an interest that goes back to their teens. Register gives me the “astro 101”. He explains that research begins with an ephemeris – a number-based map of planetary movements. He then serves up some mind boggling pseudoscience – apparently the moon moves pretty fast compared to Pluto, who knew? When I ask for the information in layman terms he struggles to find the words. With such complex work going on behind the scenes – Register compares the process to “a puzzle” – it makes me wonder how the average reader is supposed to differentiate between a good and a bad horoscope. For Marissa Malik, gal-dem’s brand new astrologist, it’s about the reader doing their

own research and knowing the astrologer before they judge the text. This is the first time gal-dem has introduced horoscopes to its website, although much of its previous content has been interested in mysticism and spirituality. Malik explains that astrology is an interesting subject for the magazine’s millennial audience because women and non-binary people of colour are often excluded from “traditional modes of spirituality”. She believes that “astrology is a great way of finding your own path”. Louise Court, former editor of Cosmopolitan UK, says that interest in print horoscopes has waned but online there is “steady traffic for astrology”, likely due to the millennial audience Register and Malik cater to. “Twenty years ago magazines used to make good revenue from horoscopes but no one would do that now when they can just search for it online,” she adds. The move towards inclusivity in this online community is heartening. I have to admit that the colloquial, friendly writing of the Internet’s millennial astrologers is appealing in a world consumed by depressing news headlines. I’m still not convinced by the science and without reading up on astrology myself, it’s difficult to separate the experts from the charlatans. But perhaps it’s time I gave horoscopes another chance – Mystic Meg says I have a prosperous month ahead if I play my cards right. I’d be a fool to ignore that kind of advice. X

The best horoscopes for millennial readers Elle – The Saturn Sisters This horoscope gets you on side by using cute nicknames like “Sagi”. Fun and upbeat, you can tell these horoscopes weren’t written by a middle-aged man stuck behind an office desk. Broadly – Annabel Gat Broadly horoscopes have developed something of a following in the last couple of years – astrologer Annabel Gat makes you feel as though you’re listening to the kind words of an older sister. Cosmopolitan Sexoscopes – Jake Register Full of abbreviations like DTR (Define The Relationship) and FWB (Friends With Benefits), Cosmo’s sexoscopes provide advice for singletons and committed partners.


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