Issue 34 Spring 2020
Emily Maitlis “Whenever the BBC does anything with the Palace, somebody always gets fired. But I didn’t expect it to be him”
The Cost of Truth
On Brexit brawls, Boris, and not caring what you think of her
I was bribed with a £450 bottle of champagne
11 journalists were murdered in Mexico last year. Why doesn’t the president care?
n the 24 hours before this year’s XCity went to print the university ceased all face-to-face contact between students and lecturers. Our prime minister urged Britons to stop nonessential travel. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK rose inexorably. The deadline for this magazine to be completed shrivelled from a fortnight to six days. The team reduced from 31 to 20 as colleagues had to selfisolate or catch flights before borders shut. Birthed in an academic year punctuated by the UCU strikes and the uncertainty of COVID-19, this magazine is defined by its climate, as all good journalism should be. But amidst the chaos of its creation, tangible hope has emerged for the future of our industry. In the face of adversity, journalists have contributed immeasurably to keeping the public well-informed. That is what journalism does – it revolutionises, and it adapts. From humanising the climate change crisis (p. 93), to navigating the media in the age of fake news (p. 104) – the lengths to which journalists have gone to expose the truth is what this edition seeks to celebrate. Succinctly summarised in our piece about reporting on the London Bridge attack (which you can read on p. 46): “How do you write what you know, when what you know is essentially nothing? You get someone on the scene.” In the words of BBC crime and terror reporter, Thomas Mackintosh, “as journalists we’re going to get as close as we can”. In an era plagued with lies, journalism is driven by resilient individuals seeking to find truth. It’s the crux of what we do. The interview with our cover star, Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis (p. 60), explores the significance of holding those in power to account. Meanwhile, profiles of Laura Kuenssberg (p. 29) and Marie Le Conte (p. 81) showcase two women who are shattering the glass ceiling of political journalism. Our article on investigative journalist David Harrison (p. 91) explores journalism’s role in unearthing societal injustices and triggering legislative change. The pandemic has proven the necessity of journalism. It highlights the lengths to which we must go to protect the longevity of an industry the world relies on for knowledge. And it thrives with the power young journalists currently have. It starts with us. I would like to thank the team behind this magazine for their determination and resilience in the Kelly-Anne Taylor face of unprecedented uncertainty. This is the fruit of your Editor labour and for that, I am proud and ever grateful.
Editor Kelly-Anne Taylor Deputy Editor Katie Jenkins Production Editor Robyn Schaffer Deputy Production Editor Patrick O’Donnell Art Director Emma Deeley Pictures Editor Charlotte Rickards News Editor Esther Marshall Deputy News Editor Bahar Yilmaz Features Editor Annabel Nugent Deputy Features Editors Pip Cook Lydia Spencer-Elliott Listings Editor Eleanor Howard Deputy Listings Editor Maud Rowell Chief Sub-editor Josiah Gogarty
City Magazine students:
Tilda Coleman, Sana Noor Haq, Kate O’Gorman, Mared Gruffydd, Max Copeman, Lauren Morris, Rachel V Wall, Rob Hakimian, Amelia Richards, Rob Collins, Ramsha Vistro, Zoya Raza-Sheikh, Clara Hernanz, James Hacker
And with thanks to:
Malvin Van Gelderen, Arkin Tyagi, James Hacker, Charlotte Rickards, Ian Baker, Emily Birch, The Guardian, Peter Carrick, Henri Cooney, Jonathan Pugh, Russel Herneman If you have any concerns about XCity Magazine please email the Course Director Sarah Lonsdale at: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Sarah Lonsdale, Journalism Department, City University, Northampton Square, London, EH1V OHB Printed in the UK by The Magazine Printing Company www.magprint.co.uk
Deputy Sub-editor Shruti Khairnar Managing Editor Catalina Ioana Oblu Advertising Manager Nora Popova Publishers Jason Bennetto Sarah Lonsdale
7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 22 24 26 29 32 34 37 38 41 42 46 48 52 54 58 59 60 66 67 69 73 75 78 81 84 86 88 90 91 93 96 98 100 102 104 106 109 130
“MY STUDIES HELPED KEEP ME ALIVE” NEW HEAD PUTS THE FOCUS ON DIVERSITY WEDDING BELLS RING FOR MAG ALUMNI HONOURS LIST CELEBRATES CITY GRAD CORONAVIRUS LEADS TO CITY LOCKDOWN NEW STAFF GHANA’S FIRST FACT-CHECKING PLATFORM XCITY AWARD COMMENTARY: NO COFFEE, NO INTERNS AN IDIOT’S GUIDE TO TIK TOK REPORTING ON LONDON FASHION WEEK LAURA KUENSSBERG BASED ON A TRUE STORY THE MONARCHY AND THE MEDIA THE BEST PLACES TO BE A JOURNALIST INSIDE LATVIA’S INDIE SCENE PRESSPAD HOW WILL NEWSPAPER CARTOONISTS THRIVE? REPORTING LONDON’S TERROR NIGHTMARE DYLAN JONES: A 21ST-CENTURY GENTLEMAN THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF TRAVEL JOURNALISM THE HUMAN COST OF TRUTH IN MEXICO WRITTEN IN THE STARS: HOROSCOPE SURVIVAL THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: SHORTHAND UPROAR EMILY MAITLIS WHAT’S YOUR TIPPLE? TAKING PRIDE IN LGBTQ+ JOURNALISM SHOOTING FROM THE SIDELINE BORIS AND THE LOBBY: POLITICAL REPORTING PIMPING OUT YOUR HEARTACHE TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEWSROOM MARIE LE CONTE YOU’VE GOT MAIL: NEWSLETTERS REPORTING THE PARALYMPICS THE EXPERTS’ EXPERTS WHAT’S ON A BOOK REVIEWER’S BOOK SHELF? DAVID HARRISON THE CHANGING FACE OF CLIMATE JOURNALISM FROM DEADLINE TO DANCEFLOOR: PPA AWARDS REPORTING NORTHERN IRELAND JOURNOS AND OTHER ANIMALS DIVERSIFYING THE INDUSTRY INFODEMIC: THE QUARANTINE OF NEWS PASSION PROJECTS WHERE ARE THEY NOW? REASONS NOT TO DATE A JOURNALIST
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“My studies helped keep me alive” Michelle Fredman opens up about battling cancer twice, graduating with distinction and her love for the written word By Ramsha Vistro
was finally able to mourn who she was before her illness and work through my grief.” During her graduation speech in January, Fredman reflected on her journey at City and suggested that everyone believe in their own story. She told the audience of graduates, family members, friends, and university staff: “While completing my studies over this past year, I added an involuntary elective in my curriculum – I survived cancer for the second time. So, while the privilege to be
“I knew before it was confirmed that my cancer had come back” busy writing my dissertation and finishing up our class project, and also still going through treatment. My mother was ill for about seven years so in some ways her death came as a bit of relief. I felt I
addressing you all today is immense, it feels like a fitting opportunity to honour another privilege that we all share: the extraordinary gift of being alive. “We are now deemed
ready to go forth into the world and achieve all of our dreams. But at these thresholds, at the start of something new and unknown, there is often a feeling of pressure. How do we navigate through the world with all this pressure? Well, the most poignant thing that I learned, and one that I hope will resonate with you all, is the importance of owning your story.” Dr Paul Lashmar, Head of the Department of Journalism at City, said: “Everybody, all 2,000 people at the graduation, stood up. It was a very emotional experience and very touching.” Today, Fredman works as a writer for an ad agency. “I don’t necessarily have a big journalism dream. I simply love the written word and being able to write for a living in whatever capacity. If I had a journalism dream it would be to have my own successful column, a podcast where I interview amazing people, and a published memoir.”
would have struggled a lot more to cope with everything. In many ways I think my studies helped keep me alive,” she said. Director of International Journalism MA Dr Zahera Harb said: “She just kept going. I remember Michelle scheduled her appointments for chemotherapy and then her immunotherapy for her stem cell transplant on a Friday, so that she could manage the side effects over the weekend and get back to university for Monday. When I would see her, I always felt like I shouldn’t intrude. She just wanted to leave the cancer outside university. And to be honest, she’s just an inspiration.” Fredman made the most of her time at City, whether it was having lunch on the sofa in the journalism department, socialising in Northampton Square or catching up with friends at CityBar. Alongside the physical challenges of her treatment, the passing away of her mother left Fredman devastated. She said: “I actually felt I was living my worst nightmare. My mother died of dementia in May 2019. It was towards the end of the course, when I was
Image: City, University of London
nternational MA graduate Michelle Fredman has said her studies at City helped “keep her alive” as she battled against cancer for a second time. Fredman, 26, made an emotional speech at this year’s graduation ceremony which brought the 2,000-strong audience at the Barbican Centre to its feet. Fredman spoke about her successful fight against cancer during her time at City, and how she refused to let it affect her studies – she was awarded a distinction, as well as the highest overall grade on her MA for her final project. “It felt like the universe was finally rewarding me after an extremely turbulent and painful year,” she said. Fredman was completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town when she was first diagnosed with stage 2B Hodgkin’s lymphoma at just 23. After getting the all clear, she lived and volunteered in the Amazon jungle before heading to London for the International MA at City. But in October 2018, just a month into her course, her cancer returned. “I knew before it was confirmed that my cancer had come back. I felt like I had finally overcome the pain and trauma of my first diagnosis so to relapse was an incredibly challenging pill to swallow. I felt extremely angry for the first few weeks,” she said. Yet Fredman never thought to drop out. “Although the treatment made me feel ill and exhausted, somehow carrying on helped with my mental health. I think if I had discontinued my studies I
City journalism in numbers
By Esther Marshall and Bahar Yilmaz
Exclusive analysis of Journalism MA courses by XCity has revealed that there has only been a small increase in the number of BAME students in the last five years. Far more female students are studying journalism in 2019 than male, while the number of non-UK EU students has dropped significantly since 2016.
The number of non-UK EU students enrolled on MA courses has diminished by 40 per cent since 2016. It is not yet known how Brexit will affect the price of courses for EU students studying in the UK.
In 2019, male students made up just 30 per cent of those studying journalism at MA level. The Newspaper MA is the only masters course where male students outnumber female at 18 to 14. Students on the TV course have the biggest gender gap with just four male students to 28 females.
The percentage of BAME students on masters courses at City has risen by just five per cent in the last five years. On this yearâ€™s journalism MA courses, 26 per cent of students identified as BAME compared to 21 per cent in 2015.
New head puts the focus on diversity Image: Robin Mills, City University
The head of City’s Department of Journalism has vowed to widen diversity among students joining journalism courses at the university. Dr Paul Lashmar, who took charge of the department in August 2019, said attracting more black, Asian and minority ethnic students, and more students from working-class backgrounds, is a priority in the next few years. He said: “It’s a really tough area, but we are completely focused on widening diversity. The industry as a whole has realised it needs to diversify, because if you only get your journalists out of a narrow strand of the population, they only ever bring a limited number of contacts and understanding of stories.” Previously deputy head of the department, Dr Lashmar worked as an investigative journalist for The Observer, The Independent, BBC Timewatch and Channel
4’s Dispatches before joining City. He was also a founder of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. City’s Widening Participation programme aims to empower underrepresented students to access and succeed in higher education. Within the journalism department, scholarships are an important way to attract and support a diverse range of students.
The Widening Media diversity scholarships offer participants a paid placement at either The Sun or The Daily Mirror newspapers. City has a third scholarship for postgraduate Muslim students with an internship at the Evening Standard. From next year the university will have up to five fees scholarships for Muslim students from the Aziz Foundation. Dr Lashmar said: “We’ve been working very hard at scholarships. I went to The Sun’s office with our scholarship students and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. They were introduced to all the editors, including the editor-in-chief, and the whole team showed a serious interest in them. “But these things take time and effort. There isn’t some sort of magic money tree that we can shake at the university. We are looking for external funders for scholarships. It is something we are working on all the time and we are having some successes.” Jonathan Freeman,
“There isn’t some sort of magic money tree that we can shake at the university” In July 2019, City partnered with two charities, the Randeree Charitable Trust and the COSARAF Charitable Foundation, to fund the fees for three Muslim students.
CEO of the COSARAF Foundation, said: “The need for greater representation of minorities in the media is well-documented. These new scholarships will play a key role in helping talented
young people from Muslim communities to succeed in journalism. We are delighted to have the support of The Sun and The Mirror in providing paid work.” The department’s Widening Participation work is also aiming to attract more students from non-Russell Group backgrounds. Dr Lashmar said: “I didn’t go through the elite route. I might have taken on middleclass mannerisms, but I come from a working-class background. In the 70s, I got my first job on The Observer because I was used to being with ordinary people and it was my community that gave me strength as a journalist. “There’s no doubt that journalism has been a bit of an elite occupation where if your parents happen to be the editor of a newspaper, you get ahead.” Dr Lashmar’s experience taught him that succeeding from a wider participation background can require more than financial backing. He said: “One of the biggest things I have overcome is building my own confidence. I had to prove that I was a good journalist at The Observer where I was surrounded by people who had come from the highest institutions. “When it comes to widening participation, we need to create systems that support people to build confidence. I’d like to see more tailored support for students who come from different backgrounds or don’t have English as a first language. That’s something we’re discussing within the department.”
By Esther Marshall
City broadcasters clean up at award ceremonies By Katie Jenkins
The 2018/19 cohort of Broadcast students has won big at two prestigious awards ceremonies over the last year. Broadcast students took home prizes at both the British Journalism Training Council (BJTC) and Mind Media Awards. Rosie Dowsing was named Student Journalist of the year at the Bupa Mind Media Awards in November for her documentary, Fathers on the Edge. The 15-minute film looked into
fathers’ struggles with postnatal depression and the inadequacy of the support they received. That same month, City students won prizes in three of the five TV categories at the BJTC awards. Laura Hendry and Georgina Turner won Best TV Feature for State of Limbo, which followed two individuals waiting to hear if they were going to be deported from the UK. Jannine Battis and Yasmine Mannan won Best
Prizes for alumnus’ Assam investigation By Bahar Yilmaz
register of all Indian citizens. Assam is the only state to use the register. Assheton said: “There are lots of allegations of Muslims being discriminated against through the NRC. I wouldn’t know whether this was just a bureaucratic issue that is common in India or whether we should see it as an anti-Muslim drive by the government. ‘‘I didn’t reach a concrete conclusion because there are lots of different factors involved but it’s clear that these policies are targeting Muslims and for the state and national governments to continue with them regardless is reckless and highly dangerous.’’
Image: Richard Assheton
A City alumnus who was the first journalist to visit a detention camp in Assam in northeastern India has won the Eric Robbins Prize and Richard Lindley Award. Richard Assheton, a 2019 Newspaper alumnus, won both awards for his final project about the construction site of a detention centre in Assam. When finished, the camp will have capacity for 3,000 foreigners, many of whom are Muslim. His story was published in The Times in August 2019. Assheton’s idea started when he came across a story about the impending statelessness of millions due to an update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a
By Katie Jenkins Image: Sally Webb
Image: Sally Webb Rosie Dowsing winning the Bupa Mind Media Award for Student Journalist of the year with, on the right, her producer, Anna Tetlow
TV Documentary for their piece. More to Life followed British millennials returning to West Africa. Both films are available on Youtube. For Battis, her project was a personal one, partially inspired by her own experience of leaving Sierra Leone when she was two. She said: “I was really determined to show a different perspective. It was an experience that I really loved and it definitely got close to my heart.” The Broadcast students were also runners up in the BJTC Award for Best TV Newsday. Sally Webb, head of the MA Broadcast and Television courses, said the awards success was “phenomenal”. She added: “It’s been a really good year. Some other universities who are our competition weren’t even shortlisted. So we’re very happy about that.”
Alumna wins big with story of mother’s cancer
A Television MA alumna has won the Today Programme’s student award for Best Broadcaster for a documentary about her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Georgia Stewardson, who graduated in 2019, was one of three students to be shortlisted for the national award, which she won in October. The documentary, which Stewardson submitted as her MA final project, was inspired by her mother’s attempt to ‘starve’ her cancer: a new field of research that hopes to prevent tumours spreading by depriving them of sugar. The method is practised by thousands of patients who use drugs such as antibiotics, supplements, and a vegan diet to try and starve the disease. Produced and directed by fellow alumni Saffron Amis and Freddie Ferguson, the film was an “incredible and terrifying” experience, said Stewardson. She added: “Winning the award was very emotional. It wasn’t just about having done a good film, it was about legitimising my mum’s story. It meant that we had done it justice.” Stewardson is now working as an ITV trainee.
Wedding bells ring for Mag alumni Graduates who found love at City make plans to tie the knot By Kelly-Anne Taylor Image: Eve Simmons
Image: Eve Simmons She said yes!
Image: Isabelle Aron
Red sky at night, marriage delight (Eve and Will)
to the proposal, a glass that had belonged to her grandmother had broken. She said: “He told me that there was something in the cupboard for me. He gave me a fairy light box; inside there was the same glass that my grandma had owned. There was a ring in the box too, and he got down on one knee. It was perfect.” The couple are getting married in Yorkshire in April 2021. Simmons’ best friends, Hannah Ewens and Emma Powell, that she met on the Magazine course while
studying at City, are to be bridesmaids. Isabelle Aron, Deputy Features Editor at Time Out, and Charlie Allenby, Bike Editor at Red Bull and freelance journalist, started dating in October of 2013. Their romance started while roaming the streets of London Bridge looking for patch stories. Aron said: “We would always end up at The Pommelers Rest, the local Wetherspoon, together, which made patch significantly less miserable.” Allenby proposed to Aron
Love at first pint (Isabelle and Charlie)
in the kitchen of their Bounds Green flat on a Sunday morning in August. Aron said: “He always wakes up earlier than me and he was pottering around. I walked past the kitchen and saw his face and thought something terrible had happened. And then, he got down on one knee, right next to our kitchen bin. We went to The Barbican Conservatory for afternoon tea to celebrate.” The couple are to be married in Aldeburgh in Suffolk in July 2021 before honeymooning in Sicily.
Paris is known as the romantic capital of the world, but for would-be journalists, it seems there’s a City of love closer to home. Four Magazine alumni came away with not just the ability to spot a news story, shoot a video and snare an exclusive; they also found love. Two alumni couples, who met while studying magazine journalism at City in 2013, have recently got engaged and are to wed next year. Eve Simmons, Deputy Health Editor at the Mail on Sunday, and Will Grice, Senior Content Strategist at Dennis Publishing, met on the first day of their course. Simmons recalled: “We were in the same tutor group. I thought he was a lot older than he was. I was sitting there thinking, ‘this is so interesting, there is a guy here who is almost 40. He has obviously had this super impressive career before studying’. But in fact, he was six months younger than me.” Simmons joked that it was in November that Grice “plucked up the courage” to ask her on a date: “He asked for my number as we stood outside Sainsburys. I had secured work experience at Drapers, so he asked for my number under the pretence that he would get their contact details. The rest is history.” Grice popped the question in their Turnpike Lane flat as Simmons sat at her dressing table, about to get ready. Two weeks prior
City plugs podcasts into journalism curriculum
City Prof to advise House of Lords
By Rob Hakimian Image: Nabil Mehdinejad
This academic year was the first in which MA journalism courses at City included podcasting on the curriculum. The popularity and number of audio shows continue to rise, and with one in eight people in the UK now a regular listener there is an argument to say they should have been added before now. Ian Parkinson, visiting lecturer in podcasting at City believes: “The growth in podcasting has taken most people by surprise. Changes in technology and listener habits have led to a rapid explosion, the whole industry is still catching up with it. “I think there was an instinctive understanding among students about what a podcast is and what people would want to listen to. Given the time constraints and the relatively short module, the quality was very high.” Molly Bergen, a student on the Interactive Journalism MA, believes that it’s important for the department because “it’s how a lot of people get their news now”. She particularly
appreciated learning about “what kind of microphones to use in different environments”, as podcasts can be recorded in all sorts of places. Bergen’s podcast spoke to expats based in London who reviewed restaurants serving authentic food from their hometowns. Students came up with a broad range of topics for their podcasts, from relationship advice to drunk quizzes to tracking down ghosts of dead writers. “Plenty of the ideas had the potential to be developed into ongoing podcasts,” Parkinson says. “I particularly remember Desert Island Desks, where authors talked about where they worked.” If there’s any complaint
about the podcasting at City, it’s simply that there isn’t enough. Bergen had five lessons, while Nabil Mehdinejad, on the Broadcast course, is perturbed that they only had one: “Considering how fundamental podcasting is to broadcast landscape and print journalism now, it wasn’t enough.” Parkinson is already thinking ahead: “I’d like to develop the course without losing the spontaneity and ever-changing nature of podcasting. “In future I’d get the students making things earlier, less talking, more experimenting. Being thrown in at the deep end and seeing what works is part of the appeal of podcasting.”
Feminism the focus of alumna’s new book By Bahar Yilmaz
types: personal memoirs or explorations of a single issue. “I wanted to write a book that took a broader view, not just of my own life and experiences, but the history of the movement. That’s clearly a huge task, so I focused it by writing about ‘fights’ – particular moments of social or legal change.’’ Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights was published in February by Jonathan Cape.
A City professor has been appointed as a Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and Digital. Professor Jane Singer, research lead and Professor of Journalism Innovation in the Department of Journalism, will advise the Lords committee as part of a 2020 inquiry into the future of journalism. She said: “I’m very honoured to be asked, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to have a little bit of a voice in policy formation.” Prof Singer gave testimony to the committee earlier this year and was then offered the position of specialist advisor. Among the topics the committee is exploring are trust in media, newsroom diversity, and local journalism. The role involves helping the committee identify the right people to talk to, providing background reading, and helping draft questions. Prof Singer said: ‘‘I think there’s a public service aspect in a way that’s different from teaching and doing research. So it’s a different way of helping; creating a better future for journalism. That’s fantastic.’’ The committee is scheduled to produce its report in July. Image: City University of London
A City Newspaper MA graduate has written a book examining feminism. Helen Lewis’ book, Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights explores the story of 11 battles for women’s rights, from winning the vote to the Irish referendum on abortion. Lewis who writes for The Atlantic said: ‘‘I have followed the many brilliant feminist books published in the last decade, but they seem to fall into two
By Bahar Yilmaz
Honours list celebrates City grad’s diversity recruitment scheme By Sana Noor Haq Image: Joanna Abeyie
City alumna Joanna Abeyie was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s
Honours list for services to diversity in the media and creative industries. Graduating in 2009 from the Magazine MA course, Abeyie founded her award-winning recruitment business Shine Media (now called Blue Moon) to source diverse talent and create bridges to success for young people from marginalised backgrounds. Abeyie has helped more than 3,000 people find careers in creative industries. While a student at City, Abeyie became aware of the lack of diversity in newsrooms during a spate of work placements at publishers and media streams. She said: “There were very few voices from people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds.
“In the creative industries, people expect you to be grateful for having an opportunity, because so many people want to be in your position. “If it’s the same people all the time that seem to be running these organisations, then they are totally unfamiliar with experiences that aren’t like theirs.” In 2016, Channel 4 commissioned Abeyie with a series of shorts called How to Make Hip Hop Millions, which was co-produced by Big Head Productions, LH with Sugar Films and The TV Collective. Speaking about the challenges she faced in TV production, she said: “Anyone that has any real experience of the story that they’re telling, if they don’t have the kudos or the
relationship profile, they’re not given the opportunity to tell it in that way. “We all know what our practical, financial and emotional limitations are, but you need to have a cando attitude. Remember that ideas are your currency.” Abeyie’s consultancy firm Shine Media has become a key diversity consultant for outlets including Channel 4, the BBC, ITV and Sky. When she first recieved the news Joanna was “concerned” about the relationship “we might have had with Empire in the past. “But it was also an indication that it would give me more of a profile and a platform to continue doing the work that I’m doing, which is to level the playing field.
Broadcasters ‘failed’ on election coverage, says lecturer By Patrick O’Donnell real political change going through great swathes of the country outside London, which was denied by Labour and by the leader’s office. Many people, including broadcasters, were taken aback on election night and were saying ‘I can’t believe the exit poll is that severe’. The exit poll was bang on. ‘‘That is one example of broadcasters not presenting the full picture, partly because they felt their
overriding duty was to report fairly what the hopes of each party were and to present all sides of a political argument, which sometimes obscured what was actually happening on the ground.’’ Prof Jones did single out praise for particular journalists, notably BBC Political Correspondent and former City alum Chris Mason for his ‘‘ability to actually speak to people’’ during the election.
understanding what was happening. We have to be bolder in the future.’’ In December 2019, Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to its biggest victory since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour’s share of the vote fell by 8 per cent compared to the last election, only winning 202 seats - the party’s worst result since 1935. Prof Jones claimed broadcast journalists failed to highlight this trend, partly for fear of appearing biased against Labour. He said: ‘‘You want to present all viewpoints but we need to do our best to report what we feel and see is happening. There was this
Image: PA images
The former editor of BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show and a Visiting Professor at City, has criticised coverage of last year’s General Election, asserting that broadcasters failed in their duty to fully inform the public. Prof Barney Jones, who teaches the Political Reporting specialism, argued that broadcasters’ efforts to maintain due impartiality, particularly during the election campaign, meant that sometimes the reporting was accurate but not particularly illuminating. He says: ‘‘I think we broadcasters did fail because of a determination to be fair and present all sides. All too often, that really left people not
International investigation earns City alumna Emmy award By Tilda Coleman found many cases where families claimed their children had been taken against their wishes, or disappeared. She discovered the difficulty was finding evidence to support their claims. Researching the story was never Cavell’s full time job, but for years she worked on it whenever she had time. Making the documentary taught her the value of persistence. She found documented evidence that families had objected before their children left the country. Cavell said: “In one case it was a complaint made to the police about missing children and in another it was court records and a letter from the US embassy to the judge in the case about the mother’s objection to the adoption.”
She said: “Over the years there were other reports that came out about the same subject but I believe it was worth taking a longterm view with a story this important. “Without credible supporting evidence, this story about fraud and exploitation would have been reduced to one about whether or not someone was telling the truth.” Her work has increased awareness about the issue in Uganda and countries like it which allow international adoption. Cavell said that many of the people whose children were taken “were targeted precisely because they were vulnerable and it was important to keep that in mind”. She had to make sure that interviewing
Image: Marc Bryan-Brown
A lengthy investigation into international adoption fraud has won a City graduate an Emmy award. Anna Cavell’s documentary Adoption Inc: The Baby Business won the 2019 Emmy for ‘Outstanding Investigation in a news magazine’. The film, which was published by Al Jazeera, investigates the story of Ugandan families who claim their children are adopted by Americans against their wishes. Cavell first heard stories that Ugandan families were losing their children in 2011. She could not investigate at the time, but she said: “It stayed with me, and, like all the best stories, it almost seemed like it couldn’t be true.” When she did begin to look into the matter, she
them did not lead to false hope that their children would be returned. Once a child has left Uganda, the Ugandan government has no jurisdiction to intervene even if the paperwork is proven to be false. Cavell said: “I hope the message from the film is that we should be very cautious about assuming we understand foreign cultures, and aware of the harm that our money can do, even when we believe we’re helping.”
University lecturers strike over ongoing pension dispute By Ramsha Vistro Image: Hamza Azhar Salam
City journalism lecturers participated in 14 strike days from February 20 to March 13.The University and College Union (UCU) members voted for industrial action spread over four weeks. The action was in response to proposed changes to City’s pension scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme
(USS), which requires members’ pension contributions to increase. Industrial action affected 74 universities across the country. In addition, there was also ‘action short of a strike’. This involved some UCU colleagues working to contract and not covering for absent colleagues or rescheduling cancelled
lectures and activities. George Negas, a lecturer on the Broadcast MA course, said: “Striking is always a last resort as I deeply care for my students, as I’m sure all my colleagues do too. But, we feel there are now too many serious problems with the industry we care, love and work in, that we have to take a stand.” Despite earlier industrial
action in November 2019 and negotiation attempts, UCU remains in dispute with the Higher Education employers’ organisation. Many students were supportive of the strikes. Inori Roy, MA Investigative Journalism, said: “The UCU is fighting for a more stable future for not only their members, but for everyone in the world of higher education.” However, other students felt the University did not put enough provisions in place for lost teaching. Hamza Azhar, MA Interactive Journalism, said: “The strikes affected my studies. There were no makeup classes for the missed lectures - there was like a sudden halt to our learning.”
Coronavirus leads to City lockdown By James Hacker
measures are based on our commitment to the welfare and safety of our students and staff.” Mark Honigsbaum, a science writer and lecturer at City, said: “I would have preferred it if the university had taken this decision earlier.” Last year, Honigsbaum published a book - The Pandemic Century - which traces several disease outbreaks, highlighting the devastating role human behaviour plays in the spread of infection, and the limitations of scientific knowledge.
It is currently unknown how effective self-isolation or the government’s ‘herd immunity’ strategy are. There is as yet no understanding of whether having the virus confers immunity.
Honigsbaum said: “To conduct what is, in effect, a massive experiment on the British population based on uncertain science strikes me as irresponsible, if not reckless.” Image:The Guardian
Amid mounting concern and uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, the university took drastic action. All face-to-face teaching was suspended from midMarch for the remainder of the academic year. MA Magazine students worked through the shutdown to produce XCity. The decision follows the prime minister’s statement to the public, during which he ruled out the possibility of enforcing school closures and banning public meetings. In an email sent to students and staff, City University said: “The
Flippancy failed Andrew accusers, says City lecturer Image: The Guardian
A City visiting lecturer, who formed part of the original Mail on Sunday team investigating Prince Andrew, which led to the discovery of his links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has criticised the way the case was first treated. In an interview with XCity, Jason Lewis, who began investigating the Duke of York in the 1990s,
cited tabloid prejudice and reverential attitudes as reasons for the allegations not being “taken seriously” until now. Lewis’ initial interest in Andrew stemmed from a “fascination” with how the prince organised his financial affairs. It was while looking into this and Andrew’s high-profile alliances that the team uncovered more
about the allegations against Epstein and his associates. Among the stories originally uncovered by the team was the photograph of Andrew with Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke aged 17. Lewis said: “The Prince Andrew allegations have now become a massive issue again. But these are the same questions that we have been asking for a very long time, and which we were criticised for. “At the time, it felt like people saw the case as a tabloid newspaper having a go at people who should be above reproach. People weren’t thinking, ‘hang on, these are serious allegations of wrongdoing.’ It is really only now that those allegations are being taken seriously.”
Lewis argued that the attention the story has now garnered stems from a cultural change post #MeToo, as people question how abuse is tolerated. He said: “At one point, people didn’t really question the activities of the royal family. Wealthy, powerful individuals got away with a lot of things that were not necessarily reported because of fears of libel. “Now, the public mood has changed. People do not tolerate this behaviour anymore.” Prince Andrew stepped back from royal duties in November after an interview with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis (see p.60), which was widely panned as a “car crash”. He has so far resisted pressure to cooperate with the FBI investigation.
By Katie Jenkins and Kelly-Anne Taylor
From Hollywood to City, lecturer joins the university
Computer whiz heads up Interactive Journalism MA
By Rachel V Wall
By Shruti Khairnar
do know the environment reasonably well now. Interactive Journalism fits well with my knowledge about digital journalism and skill set.” Dr Morris said one of the major changes he’s made to the course is the addition of extra video tuition for students this year. “We’re planning to expand our portfolio to digital-specific offerings. In the future, there will be more than just the Interactive course available for people looking for very specific careers in digital journalism,” he said. Dr Morris is also the editor of the electric vehicle review publication, WhichEV.
in terms of the students. “They’re passionate, hands-on and have a brilliant sense of camaraderie which isn’t easy to find on a postgraduate course.” Dr Paul Lashmar, Head of Journalism at City, said: “Ben has a skill set that no one else has. He was the Press Association’s man in Los Angeles and has written six books.” Image: PA Images
A former computer magazine editor has taken charge of the Interactive Journalism MA at City. Dr James Morris has taught students on the Interactive pathway for the last two years. In his previous job at Ravensbourne University London, he headed up the BA in Web Production for seven years. Dr Morris climbed the ranks at PC Pro magazine having started out as a staff writer in 1995, to working as the editor from 1999 to 2004. Commenting on his new role, Dr Morris said: “It’s an exciting challenge. It is my third year here, so I
Entertainment journalist Ben Falk has returned to City - 20 years after graduating from the periodical course. Dr Falk has had an extensive career since completing his MA in 1999, which has seen him backstage at the Oscars and interview Daniel Craig (pictured), Jon Hamm, and Angelina Jolie. Having worked across print, online, broadcast, TV and multimedia, he described his career as “blended, just like students will have when they graduate”. He joined City in 2019 and runs the undergraduate journalism course at Coventry University simultaneously. He said: “City lives up to its reputation as one of the best courses in the country
Fashion writer brings creativity to City
Dr Zahera Harb takes charge of International MA
By Rachel V Wall
By Ramsha Vistro Dr Zahera Harb has become head of the International Journalism MA course this year. She will replace Dr James Rodgers who is now the Associate Dean for Global Engagement. Dr Harb has taught on the MA International Journalism course since 2012, previously lecturing in journalism at the University of Nottingham. She has more than 11 years of experience as a journalist in Lebanon, working for both Lebanese and international media organisations. She said: “My colleague James and I have always worked as a team, so my input on this course is not new; it will be a continuation of the work we have already been doing. We want to build and make changes
gradually, as a team.” Speaking of the developments she would like to see on the course Dr Harb said: “One of the things that I would like to put emphasis on is the fact that the International Journalism course is not a degree for international students. It’s for future journalists who are interested in international news, becoming foreign correspondents or working on international desks in newsrooms.” Image: City, University of London
between journalism and creativity. “Big brands like Google, Bloomberg, The Guardian, they can see the way that traditional media is going”, she said. “They need people who are going to come along and invent a social media channel or platform, and students need to be confident in their creativity to do this.” Image: Johanna Payton
An experienced fashion and lifestyle writer has joined City’s Journalism Department as a part-time lecturer. Johanna Payton, who started teaching at City as a guest lecturer two years ago, has worked at The Guardian, Sunday Times Style and Grazia during a freelance career spanning 20 years. She told XCity: “Having that experience, you’ve done everything, worked for so many publications, and it means I can tell students what it’s like in a truly authentic way”. Payton is a passionate advocate of creative learning and in September 2020, she will be both student and teacher as she begins a PhD at City exploring the relationship
Data innovator joins City team By Mared Gruffydd other kind of journalism.” Mottershead has already changed various aspects of the data journalism module at City, including its structure and its weekly lectures, making them “more practical and less academic”. One example of this is bringing in multiple guest lecturers to speak to students. This year, these have included Caelainn Barr, The Guardian’s Data Projects editor, and Allan Smith, Head of Visual and Data Journalism at the Financial Times. Plans are currently underway to develop the module further, and more esteemed guests are already lined up for next year.
Mottershead said: “I want the guest speakers to be as diverse as possible because our students are diverse. “I make a conscious effort to make sure that we’re looking at issues from as wide a perspective as possible. I think we’re doing people a disservice if we narrow down our focus.”
Former barrister and award-winning TV producer heads up Investigative MA By Eleanor Howard Prior to this, he coordinated Channel 4’s Dispatches Investigative Journalism Training Scheme for which he often recruited City students. Dr Danbury said: “I’m naive and idealistic but I think ultimately investigative journalism is finding things which don’t work in our society and trying to fix them using tools which aren’t available to other people. “The internet has been a great disruptor, for good and for ill. It means that there are now a greater variety of outlets through which the work can be done.
The bad thing is that it has fragmented attention so it’s difficult to get the same impact from publishing a piece because people are paying attention to lots of information flows.” Dr Danbury practised as a criminal barrister before joining the BBC where he worked for a decade on programmes such as Newsnight and Panorama. While at the BBC he was part of teams that won two Royal Television Society Awards and a New York Festivals medal. He then went freelance, and has worked for Channel 4, Sky
and ITN. He said: “There is a line that runs through everything I’ve done. It looks mad when you read it on paper but it makes sense to me.” Dr Paul Lashmar, Head of Journalism, said: “Richard has a fantastic reputation. He’s a very experienced practitioner, and very usefully, he has been a barrister. So he’s an expert on media law, which is essential in investigative journalism.” The new head of Investigative MA replaced Heather Brooke, who left in May 2019.
Image: Richard Richard Danbury Danbury Image:
An award-winning investigative journalist and former criminal barrister has taken charge of the Investigative Journalism MA at City. Dr Richard Danbury joined City in September 2019 from DeMontfort University where he established and ran their Investigative Journalism MA.
going into teaching. After completing a Master of Science degree for E-learning Technologies at the University of Portsmouth, he became a lecturer in Digital Journalism at Cardiff University’s journalism school. Mottershead worked at Cardiff for 12 years, during which he co-designed a new journalism master’s course, MSc Computational and Data Journalism. When it comes to teaching, Mottershead’s aim has always been to make data journalism as comprehensible as possible. He said: “Most journalists come from an arts and humanities background and we’re all terrified of numbers. But as soon as you start realising that numbers are just another way to represent people doing things, it becomes a lot easier. “Data journalism is not an armchair sport – you find the interesting facts and figures and then you go away to talk to people, just like any
Image: City, University of London
One of the country’s leading data journalism teachers has joined City from Cardiff University. Glyn Mottershead joined the journalism department as Senior Lecturer in June last year and runs a series of data journalism courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students. He is also co-chair of the European Data and Computational Journalism Conference, which will be held this summer in London. The two day conference will bring together both journalists and academics from across the globe. Mottershead said: “There are exciting things happening globally and we at City have to keep up with new developments. Things change, the industry changes, and unless we change with it, we’re going to get left behind.” Originally from Manchester, the Senior Lecturer worked as a journalist for local newspapers before
Remembering Hanna Yusuf By Sana Noor Haq
Image: Phil Coomes/BBC
City alumna and BBC reporter Hanna Yusuf has passed away at the age of 27. The reporter, who took the lead on a number of key investigations, graduated from Newspaper in 2017 after receiving The Guardian’s Scott Trust bursary. Prior to that, she completed a French with Spanish degree at Queen Mary University of London. Yusuf was born in Somalia and lived in the Netherlands and Manchester before settling in London. She spoke six languages including Somali and Arabic and was praised for her investigative work. In August 2019, she wrote her breakthrough article about Costa Coffee workers’ allegations of poor working conditions across 20 franchise stores. Her story
included details of managers’ refusal to pay for annual or sick leave, the withholding of tips, and working outside of contracted hours. Last February, Yusuf broke the story that Shamima Begum’s family had informed the then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, they were going to appeal his decision to revoke her British citizenship. In 2015, Yusuf posted a viral video for The Guardian about wearing the hijab at the time. Talking about her decision, she said: “The liberation lies in the choice. By assuming that all veiled women are oppressed, we’ve belittled the choice of those who want to wear it. “Even when women are vocal about wanting to wear the hijab, they are conveniently unheard or silenced.”
Tara Joshi, a friend of Yusuf’s from Newspaper, said: “I feel privileged to have known Hanna. “She was a very warm person. The main thing I remember about her is the joy and exuberance that she carried, and the kindness that she had for everyone else.” Yusuf was shortlisted posthumously for a British Journalism Award. At the ceremony in December tribute was paid to her. In a statement, Yusuf’s family said: “Hanna’s passing was sudden and unexpected and has come as a shock to us all. “Hanna was a dedicated young vibrant professional who became a bridge between the media and the community, helping break boundaries in providing a voice and representation.”
City graduates honour “funny and welcoming” Marcel Berlins By Esther Marshall
the grounds of being a household name, was not even “a household name in his own household”. Berlins presented the popular Radio 4 legal show Law in Action for 14 years until 2004. He had reviewed crime fiction for The Times since the early 1980s and had a weekly legal column in The Guardian for over 12 years. Alex Marshall (Periodical Journalism, 2003) said: “I remember most how funny
and welcoming he was. At the start of lectures, he’d always tell us the latest injunction gossip, normally involving footballers. That instantly made us feel as if we were part of the journalistic world even as kids with only a few clippings to our names.” Popular and respected by his City students, Berlins will be remembered for the clarity and wit he brought to complex law concepts. He died in July 2019.
Former City law lecturer and broadcaster Marcel Berlins has died aged 77 after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Berlins taught media law to students across journalism MA and BA courses in the early 2000s and was well known for his sense of humour and his exasperation with celebrity super-injunctions. He once said a low-profile Premier league footballer, seeking an injunction under
Ghana’s first fact-checking platform pioneered by alumnus By Sana Noor Haq City alumnus Rabiu Alhassan, who founded Ghana’s first fact-checking platform in August 2019, has vowed to hold politicians to account ahead of this year’s elections. Graduating from the Journalism, Media and Globalisation MA last summer on an Erasmus Mundus scholarship, Alhassan conceived the idea for his organisation while on the programme. Since the first story on the fact-checking website went live in September, GhanaFact has offered training for student journalists at the University of Ghana and the Ghana Institute of Journalism. It has also secured a $5,000 Shuttleworth Foundation flush grant upon recommendation from Peter Cunliffe-Jones, the founder
of fact-checking organisation Africa Check. When establishing his social enterprise, Alhassan conducted a study of 400 Ghanaian people. 69 per cent of participants suggested they had encountered disinformation in the past year. More than 90 per cent agreed that there was a need for a factchecking organisation. Speaking about why he started GhanaFact, Alhassan said: “Disinformation around the world is being weaponised, quite evidently from some investigations that have been done and laid out as facts in the US and in Britain during Brexit.” Ahead of elections in Ghana this winter, Alhassan is intent on providing readers with verified sources related to government and policy. “Disinformation in Ghana
is not new. We’ve always known politicians to twist facts and to project whatever narrative they’re pushing,” he said. Professor Jane Singer taught Alhassan on the Journalism Innovation course at City. She said: “Factcheckers have established themselves as a compliment to journalism, but also as a corrective of what journalists don’t always do as well as they should. “They are non-partisan and non-profit, and they value their dissociation from people in power, because it gives them credibility.”
For Alhassan, the next job for GhanaFact is to mediate misinformation that users may come into contact with on social media. “With the advent of social media and the internet, and with the penetration of the internet in Ghana, it looks like people have been able to relax in fact-checking because nobody is holding anyone to account on the internet,” he said. GhanaFact will also begin collaborating with Africa Check, after the latter group received funding through Facebook’s Fact-Checking Innovation Initiative.
Student introduces accessibility officer role for XCity By Rob Collins is primarily an “advisory” one. She has created an accessibility handbook with advice on different types of media and how audiences with differing abilities might interact with them. The handbook has sections on colour, font, readability, and layout, as well as on features specifically used online, such as animations, podcasts, and videos. She said: “City is supposed to represent the cutting edge of journalism – but that can’t just mean cutting-edge tech or data journalism techniques. We have to take the world of journalism forward in terms of our values, too. And diversity and inclusivity are so important on that front.”
difference to the people who need them to be made. This could be the simplest of features such as alternative text, which describes what the image is showing, or adding subtitles to videos and transcripts to podcasts. It doesn’t have to break the bank.” She added that in the digital age, providing features like those described is getting easier and easier. Rowell said: “It’s not that these changes are difficult to make. What is most important is informing people about them, so that they are then aware enough to make the changes in the first place.” For this reason, Rowell explained that the role
Image: Maud Rowell
A visually impaired Magazine student has become the first accessibility officer for XCity and its sister website XCityPlus. Maud Rowell created the new role after realising the design of the alumni magazine and its accompanying website was not being created with accessibility considerations in mind. The idea to pitch the role came in a XCity meeting in February, when Rowell realised that the two projects were an opportunity to inform others on how to accommodate audiences with disabilities, rather than “suck it up”. She said: “Really small changes make a big
A room of our own By Esther Marshall For years City journalism students have had to fight for a spot on the department’s one cramped sofa, or risk being booted out of a computer room for sneaking in a snack. Often their only option was to take refuge in a nearby pub, or if really desperate, the library. But in a recent seizure of territory, a former staff room has now been converted into a student common room. The room even comes with a kettle, although tea bags are not included. The facilities in AG18 have been met with mixed reviews. Eleanor Howard, an MA Magazine Journalism student, Charlotte Irwin (Magazine, 2017): “I used to like the sofas in the main cafeteria after lunch. After the midday rush it was the perfect place to hang out, as you could spot people passing through the two buildings and beckon them in. Being near a place to buy coffee (and M&Ms) was a bonus too!”
Eimear O’Hagan (Magazine, 2006): “To my shame, I and City friends, would frequent the Walkabout bar on Upper Street for cheesy pop music and cheap(ish) drinks.”
said: “The décor is drab, but I like having somewhere to go between classes to do work or have lunch.” For Newspaper MA student, Sam Merriman, the common room is one of the only places at City with a guaranteed seat. He said: “The atmosphere is relaxed and it has really helped having somewhere to work because you don’t have to fight for a seat or put up with loud 18-year-olds talking about last night’s Arsenal game.” But before the common room,where did City students used to hang out between lectures? Esme Wren (Broadcast, 1990): “I’m very embarrassed to say but for that whole year, I probably kept the pub opposite called The Bull, in the black. When I think about what I spent my student grant on, it was putting it behind the till in that bar.”
Dermot Murnaghan (Broadcast, 1990): “We used to go to the George and Dragon. But it’s been Islington-fied and is now called The Peasant.”
Books from the City staffroom By Esther Marshall
Dr Sarah Lonsdale, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and head of the Magazine MA, is releasing her second book this October. Due to be published by Manchester University Press, Rebel Women Between the Wars: Fearless Writers and Adventurers charts the lives of remarkable women who fought to maintain the economic and social freedoms they won during the First World War. The book uses unpublished diaries, letters and other materials to chronicle their remarkable achievements. Dr Lonsdale said: “Women who wanted to participate in journalism and other aspects of public life in the interwar years often had to do the most extraordinary and dangerous things. Alison Settle, for instance, who was editor of Vogue in the 20s and 30s, was a war correspondent for The Observer in the Second World War. Because Field Marshal Montgomery disliked women war correspondents, Settle had to hitch-hike to the front line. She sent the most moving dispatches about Dutch refugees fleeing the German army.” Dr Lonsdale’s first book, The Journalist in British Fiction and Film: Guarding the Guardians from 1900 to the Present, was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2016.
Image: Manchester University Press
Image: Adriana Brioso
Dr James Rodgers, Reader in Journalism, who teaches on the International MA, has written a book analysing Western news coverage of Russia and its global impact. Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin to Putin explores journalists’ influence on Western attitudes towards Russia, from the First World War to the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Dr Rodgers, who spent 15 years working for the BBC and blogs on conflict reporting, said: “I’m arguing that in many cases, journalists have understood the country rather better than a lot of policymakers because they’ve made the effort to go there, learn about the country and speak the language.” Dr Rodgers’ first assignment in Russia was in 1991, the last year of the Soviet Union. He said: “I’ve got a press pass with the USSR on it. In Russia at that time, we didn’t really have good access to the political elite. So we ended up speaking to a lot of ordinary people and I think that’s why we understood where Vladimir Putin’s popularity came from rather better than a lot of policymakers at the time.” Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin to Putin will be published in July 2020 by Bloomsbury Academic.
By Jos Gogarty
Greta scoop earns Reuters reporter £500 XCity Award By Catalina Ioana Oblu
Image: Colm Fulton
Colm Fulton’s ingenious interview with the notoriously media-shy Greta Thunberg is just one example of his pioneering and diversified coverage. The Financial MA’s fresh editorial angle on the environmental activist beat 16 other nominees in the race for the XCity Award and its £500 prize. Scoring interviews can sometimes be an uphill climb – especially when they are with climate change activists who are recognised internationally. But when you master the art of small talk and know how to approach you have an ace in the hole. The Stockholm-based Reuters correspondent’s interview with the activist was up against the odds because the 17-year-old refused to speak to anyone working at the international news organisation. Knowing that Thunberg protests outside the Swedish parliament every Friday, he approached her introducing himself as a journalist with an interest in the environmental movement. Fulton, who only graduated last year said: “I wanted to make it a bit different and make her feel comfortable. I used that approach, being patient with her. At first, she only gave one-word answers, but you got to hang in there.” Most journalists focus on Thunberg as one of the leading voices of the environmental movement, but Fulton did not follow the herd. On the day he interviewed her, Thunberg turned 17, so the correspondent aimed his attention at how she was spending her birthday. “I wanted to do something different on her because most of the articles focus on her as an activist,” Fulton said. “I took a different approach to see if I could find out a bit more about her, and write a profile piece because you don’t see a lot of those,” he added. “It’s a surprise – but a very welcome one,” Fulton said after finding out he won the XCity Award. “The other nominated journalists are at the top of their game, so I felt lucky to even make the longlist. But it’s great to have your reporting appreciated and see hard work pay off like this.”
XCity Award shortlist Katy Balls Magazine, 2011
Ben Hunte Broadcast, 2017
Gesbeen Mohammad Investigative, 2015
Image: Elisângela Mendonça
Image: Katy Balls/Twitter
Image: Ben Hunte/Twitter
Image: Gesbeen Mohammad
Shortlisted for her financial coverage for Private Equity News, much of which has focused on diversity.
Shortlisted for her coverage on Brexit in various publications such as The Guardian and The Spectator.
Shortlisted for becoming the BBC’s first LGBT correspondent as well as his reporting on LGBT affairs.
Shortlisted for her groundbreaking investigative reporting and production of television programmes.
Elisângela Mendonça International, 2019
No Coffee, No Interns
Unpaid media internships are a facade, only giving more to those who have more, argues Kelly-Anne Taylor
In compliance with the legalities of the future law, a s it stands, we are in the midst of political indecision; a halfway point as stagnant as number of organisations still offer unpaid work experience, Trafalgar Square’s water feature. Shelved but cap the length of working time to a month, ensuring between the omnipresence of Brexit and a that they do not have to pay interns. This safeguards ravine of new immigration proposals is a matter individuals who can afford to complete the unpaid which young journalists are invested in — The Unpaid internship in accessing the industry. In truth, it fuels the fire — those with a month-long internship up their sleeve are Work Experience Prohibition Bill. Proposed by Lord Holmes, the Bill had its first reading more likely to be successful candidates for the six-month in the House of Lords in January this year. It intends to internship placements. They’ve got experience, after all. So, how can we end the cyclical nature of journalistic eradicate the divisive social impact unpaid internships currently create. An endless list of renowned publications exclusivity? It’s simple: pay all interns. Pay those who drop find their homes in London: a city defined by elegance, in for two weeks, pay those who linger for a month and pay booze, and its ability to break the bank. Most news outlets those who you hire for six months. It’s not a ridiculous idea. Of the 31 postgraduate magazine journalism students at offer unpaid work experience — an opportunity to harbour exposure, reap in bylines and network. But, it’s down to the City, I was the only person to secure a paid internship over individual to make ends meet. Rush from work experience the Christmas holidays. I earned £631.40 whilst working at Publishing Business, a small, to your part-time bar job, spend publishing house that produces entire Saturdays tutoring students, “Journalism will only four London-centric magazines. ask your parents to re-mortgage During that time I was given their home, sleep on couches and become an inclusive industry two long-form features to write floors of friends’ homes — do it, or if we break down the for print, and responsibility for fall short in the journalism rat race. social media coverage. I spent A survey, by Sutton Trust in barriers that are currently all hours excitedly travelling around 2018, revealed that 27 per cent of London, interviewing individuals graduates had completed unpaid excluding voices” and working on my articles. I had work experience. Of those, 43 per cent relied on living with friends or family, 26 per cent meetings with the editor who provided extensive feedback relied on financial support from parents, and 27 per cent for my features. I left after the two weeks feeling valued and having worked a second job to fund their internship. The report demonstrates that unpaid work experience is preventing honed a considerable number of skills. I’d also managed people from low-income backgrounds from accessing their to focus on the day-to-day running of the magazine as I was not sleep deprived. I’d been able to take two weeks off industry of choice. I pose the question — will The Unpaid Work Experience from my part-time job as it was financially viable to survive without the additional income. Bill actually make a bloody difference? My time as an intern made me question: if a small This year a number of organisations ceased their two-week unpaid internships in lieu of a six month paid publishing house can fund a two-week internship and internship. Which, in principle, sounds like a good idea. their journalists can put in the time and effort to give me But, will it not just continue to feed into a narrative that, independence, creative license and extensive guidance to once again, excludes those who are already on the outside? better my practice — why can’t every organisation? Journalism will only become inclusive if we break down A six-month internship is a good thing in theory, but to legitimise capability, candidates will need prior experience, the barriers that are currently excluding voices. The way we proof that they are capable writers and credentials to start is by paying our interns. Whilst the Bill sits sluggishly expose their talent in light of their competitors. Basically, amongst other parliamentary matters, and the legalities to stand a chance, you’ll need to have previous placements behind unpaid internships remain blurred, why don’t under your belt. And now, we find ourselves back at the magazines and papers take it into their own hands to make a genuine difference to the future of our industry? root of the issue.
An idiot’s guide to TikTok If you think TikTok is a Ke$ha song, the sound a clock makes or a brand of breath mint, here’s a basic guide to the social media app dominating the teen market Written by Lauren Morris
TikToks from The New Statesman, BBC News camera journalist Emma Bentley, BBC World Service’s Sophia Smith Galer and The Washington Post
ith the technology industry growing and attention spans shortening, it’s hard to keep up with the newest apps, trends and viral sensations. Just as you’ve got to grips with the latest platform to be flooded with teenage influencers and stay-at-home dads, its 15 minutes are up and the app disappears back into the digital ether (RIP Vine). So, if the mention of TikTok confuses, bemuses or scares you – don’t worry, you’re not alone. The video-sharing platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has shot up the app charts over the last two years. According to data website Sensor Tower, it was the most downloaded app after WhatsApp in 2019. With TikTok being most popular among 16 to 24-year-olds, brands like Chipotle, Guess and Calvin Klein are flocking to the app to tap into its lucrative teen market. Very few over 25s use TikTok, with many adults failing to understand why mindlessly scrolling through 15-second clips of tweens dancing to the latest Selena Gomez track is so appealing. Last year the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK launched an investigation into how the app handles young users’ data, and the app was banned in India after concerns regarding the risk of child exploitation. Why then should journalists and publications care
about engaging with TikTok? One reason is access to new customers. According to Ofcom, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds consuming news through printed newspapers has fallen from 36 per cent to 20 per cent in the last six years, while their use of the internet as a news source has shot up. Media giants are waking up to TikTok’s potential to capture the fleeting attention of its young audience. The New Statesman, The Washington Post and The Daily Telegraph are posting memes, parodies and video content on the app to boost brand awareness within that age group, with The Washington Post’s content receiving 19.7 million likes in total. Sophia Smith Galer, who joined the BBC World Service in 2018 as a visual journalist, has 51,400 followers on TikTok and thinks her presence on the app has boosted her career. “I’ve definitely gained a bigger internet profile from my TikToks.” She adds: “Brands that are looking to engage with youth audiences would do well to be on TikTok, but they need to get the tone right, and the only way you can do that is with a dedicated team. “There’s no one TikTok that works well for journalists – experimentation and variety is key if you want to find gold and go viral.” With that in mind, here’s a layman’s guide to TikTok’s biggest trends.
Audience participation is a driving force of TikTok as its ‘For You’ page is rife with #challenges. Anyone on TikTok can start a challenge and it shows – from dancing to voicemails from your ex to impersonating a tumbleweed by rolling around on the floor, pretty much anything can be a challenge as long as it’s a bit ridiculous. For up-and-coming artists, creating a dance challenge on TikTok featuring your song can prove quite lucrative. R&B singer Doja Cat rocketed up the
It seems that meme culture manages to infiltrate every new social media platform and TikTok is no exception. The app’s extensive range of video effects and audio clips allow users to easily create Gen Z-relevant memes (a jokey picture or video spread via the Internet), such as lip-syncing to infamous Gemma Collins quotes or dancing to the Wii Shop music. Despite the initial ridicule, becoming a TikTok meme yourself can lead to career success. Brittany Broksi – also known as Kombucha Girl after a TikTok of her trying the fermented drink went viral – gained 724,400 followers on Twitter
How journos are doing it: The US Cosmopolitan team undertook the #lipcolourchallenge, which involved applying a $4 black lip balm which changes colour based on your lips’ pH level.
charts after her songs “Say So” and “Candy” became popular dance tracks on TikTok, while music critics speculate that Justin Bieber wrote his new single, “Yummy”, with the app in mind.
after posting the video. She was featured in a recent Superbowl advert for Sabra hummus. How journos are doing it: Dave Jorgenson, The Washington Post’s video producer, recreated a popular TikTok which involves dropping a piece of kitchen roll into water to reveal a secret message while Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” plays in the background. The coronavirus-themed video shows a paper towel with “I love you” written on it, before Jorgenson drops it in a bathroom sink to reveal the message, “I love when you wash your hands for 25 seconds”.
It’s difficult to swipe through TikTok’s ‘For You’ page (the equivalent of a Twitter timeline or Instagram ‘Explore’ feed) without stumbling across a gaggle of school children attempting a viral dance routine. These short dance sequences, which receive millions of views, are often set to a song climbing the charts that week or an 80s bop chosen ironically (Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” is a popular one). Dance trends, such as ‘hit the woah’ and the ‘Renegade’ dance, consist mainly of simple lyricbased moves, like air punches and body rolls. The idea of watching teens perform repetitive
dance moves sounds brain-numbing, but it seems to be a popular pastime for the youth of today. American 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio quickly became a TikTok star after posting dance routines; she’s amassed 36.7 million followers, 2.2 billion likes and an invite to dance at an NBA Basketball All-Star game since joining the app. How journos are doing it: Sophia Smith Galer promoted an Interhacktives article in which she was interviewed by recreating the #hiteverybeat challenge – a macarena style dance to a remix of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This.
How journos are doing it: The Telegraph posted a TikTok reporting on landmine-detecting rats in Tanzania.
How journos are doing it: The Washington Post took a viral clip of two women reacting happily to something off-camera and created a split-screen. The other side of the screen showed a video of video producer Dave Jorgenson submitting a TikTok with the caption: “Leaving work after publishing the daily Washington Post TikTok.”
A key rule of thumb on the internet – you can never go wrong with cute animals. Some of the most popular videos on TikToks include a dancing ferret, a dog greeting its owner who returns from work and a cat clapping to “Mr Sandman” by The Chordettes.
TikTok has a ‘duet’ feature, which allows users to take another person’s video and add to it. They often showcase funny reactions to the original video or add humour to a TikTok initially posted in earnest.
These popular trends may sound too ridiculous to be true, so it’s probably worth checking them out for yourself. It’s hard to tell whether TikTok will be another short-lived phone fad or the next social media monolith – either way it’s likely that, much like its users, TikTok will dance another day at the top of the download charts.
From the front row: reporting on London Fashion Week 2020 Image: Acielle Tanbetova for The New York Times
Twice a year, Elizabeth Paton flies back and forth across the Atlantic, providing biannual fashion week coverage from New York, London, Milan, and Paris. But life as the UK correspondent for The New York Times ‘Styles’ section isn’t always frocks, frills, and front rows. Here, she gives us a look into a day in her life during London Fashion Week Written by Robyn Schaffer
The roaring twenties: The Erdem show at the National Portrait Gallery was inspired by 1920s flapper girls and the Bright Young Things
take you from day to night. On the Sunday it was the middle of Storm Dennis, so it couldn’t have been less suitable weather for 12 hours of running between 10 different shows across London. The shadow of the coronavirus was also looming since a lot of Chinese press and buyers who would normally have been there weren’t able to come. The first show of the day was Victoria Beckham at the Banqueting House in Westminster. I went to a preview on the Friday, so I’d already talked through the collection with her. There were lots of elegant pieces, which Victoria is often known for. The New York Times always sits next to American Vogue, so we were right next to Anna Wintour and the Beckham family and ended up in the background of lots of photographs of them. When I’m watching a show, there are three things I’m thinking about. Firstly, am I doing social media for that show? If so, I watch for bold looks that will stand out on Instagram – the ‘money shots’ really. Secondly, I have to think about the designer’s message: have they managed to translate that into the clothes? Does it bear any relation to what’s going on in the world around us, or is it art in a vacuum? And thirdly, I’m from a business background, so I look at things from a commercial viewpoint too. Will it look good on a range of people? Will it sell? I’ve done a lot of Instagramming this season. We have 2.8 million followers on our @nytimesfashion account, so we have to make sure we post the right content. The relationship between fashion and Instagram has always been powerful, and we realised it was an amazing way to show our readers what really goes on at fashion week. But one thing that’s difficult is tone. We like to be flippant and carefree, but the NYT has quite strict rules about how you should be on social media. We’re not a brand or influencer, so we want to ensure our tone remains authoritative, but still personable. We have a photographer at every show but generally myself or one of the other reporters mans the account. We take and post photos, write captions, and post stories. We have a very international audience, and not everyone’s >>
Image: Elizabeth Paton Larger than life: At the JW Anderson show, oversized coats were mixed with elegant evening wear and sharp tailoring
Image: Elizabeth Paton
normally wake up very early during fashion week, at about 6.30 a.m. I’m currently working on a big investigation into labour rights in the luxury supply chain, so over coffee I’ve been doing edits on that. One of the difficult things about reporting from fashion week is that you’re working twice as hard as normal. It’s a juggling act between covering the shows and delivering my other assignments for the paper. Our fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, is the chief critic. I write everything that comes around the reviews. For example, I just wrote something about how coronavirus is impacting luxury brands. But what I’ve learnt is that if I can write anything before fashion week, I do. There’s nothing worse than being up at 3 a.m. in a hotel room in Paris or Milan trying to file that last piece. I write short news stories on my phone in between shows, but I sometimes bring my laptop with me too as I write better on big screens. This season, LFW took place on 14-18 February. There are three of us – all NYT reporters – sharing a car that drives us from show to show. It can be difficult because we don’t all have the same schedules. Many magazines have assistants who go through the invites and make the schedules for their editors, but we don’t. Every reporter is responsible for their own schedule. We make sure to cover a mix of shows by established designers, shows by lesserknown, more emerging designers and big, exclusive events. Lots of people organise their outfits months in advance, but as a reporter I see myself more as an observer than a participant, so I feel less pressure to dress for the street style photographers. I spend about five minutes deciding what to wear before leaving the house at 9 a.m. For example, I’ll look at the schedule and if it’s a younger, newer designer showing, I’ll wear something more casual, like white Adidas trainers with a white t-shirt, slacks, a mac, and some fun jewellery. In winter, your coat is always the biggest focus. If it’s a smarter west London venue, I love a long-sleeve knee-length dress, especially because it can
first language is English, so we’ve been thinking about how much detail we go into. Sometimes we let the image do the talking. There’s not really time for lunch. I snack a lot; all the most seasoned fashion week pros know you have to stock up on water, nuts and crisps to eat in the car in between shows. In New York and Paris, I often take the subway or metro depending on traffic, but in London we have a driver that takes us around. I feel less bad about that because I’m constantly filing stories for immediate coverage, and if I’m in a car I can sit and get something written. That’s not so easy if you’re running around on the Tube. In the afternoon, Serbian designer Roksanda showed at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Westminster, which is a common show venue these days. There were some gorgeous, rich, jewel tones and Cate Blanchett was in the audience too. We were very excited on Sunday because for the only time this season we had a team dinner, which never happens. We went to Carluccio’s opposite the Tate Modern, which is where the final show of the day was: Tommy Hilfiger. He usually shows in New York, but this was a collaboration collection co-designed by Lewis Hamilton, so it was a bit of a spectacle with lots of celebrities both in attendance and in the show itself, including Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon.
“People think we spend all day swilling champagne and having a whale of a time. But for most editors and journalists it’s long, long hours and a huge amount of work ”
Image: Elizabeth Paton
Finally, at about 9:30pm, it was time to go home. There’s usually a party or dinner every night at London Fashion Week, but between doing my work early in the mornings and having a terrible cold, I wasn’t that keen on going to many. One thing I love about LFW is being able to sleep in my own bed. On Monday, the best show by far was JW Anderson. It blew me away. When you see a show like that it makes it all worthwhile. There were these terrific oversized coats which packed a punch, but he mixed it with some simple black dresses and a number of shimmering, metallic looks. There was also some really elegant tailoring. Erdem also did a lovely show inspired by the 1920s at the National Portrait Gallery. He covered the whole floor in silver, and there were lots of flapper-inspired pieces and some great, big headdresses. I sat opposite Billy Porter and Courtney Love and I could see them eyeing up some looks, perhaps for their next red carpet. One thing about LFW is that it spans the length and breadth of London. So, at a time when more and more questions are being asked about the carbon footprint of fashion week, you have moments when 500 cars descend on one street that you ask yourself: “Is this really the best way of doing things?” At the Burberry show on Monday evening at Kensington Olympia, it really felt that way. It’s bumper-to-bumper traffic of cars carrying reporters,
influencers, buyers, business executives, and top clients to a show. It causes absolute carnage. On Monday night I did actually go to a dinner. With parties you can pick and choose, but dinners are more like work meetings so you basically have to go to them all. What’s nice about these dinners is that it’s an opportunity to have proper conversations. You often spend all day with these people, but at dinners you can build friendships and learn from the people around you in a way you can’t do when you’re squished on a bench or waiting in a queue in the rain outside a show. This was the Anya Hindmarch dinner at Phillips auction house in Berkeley Square to launch her latest ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’ campaign for her new collection of bags made from recycled plastic. She also had a waste management CEO speaking to us about how waste is processed, reused and recycled. He was fantastic. Historically, New York and Milan are the more commercial cities. Paris is the most powerful. But what London has always had in its back pocket is some of the best design schools in the world, like Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion. As these students graduate, they spill onto the pavements of London, whether working under designers at larger houses or starting their own brands. But, Brexit has cast a long shadow over LFW in recent years, because the vast majority of the talent that shows here is European. And fashion designers in their early years don’t make much money, so they often can’t pass some of the visa checks which require a certain baseline of salary. I try to be in bed before midnight. It’s normally a 13hour day – that’s not including the hours I spend in the morning working. If I don’t have dinner out, I’ll have dinner with my husband, have a bath, and fall asleep. Fashion week can be really fun. You get to see some amazing art and collections. But it’s absolutely exhausting. I think people think we spend all day swilling champagne and having a whale of a time. But for most editors and journalists it’s long, long hours and a huge amount of work. It’s hard to juggle your everyday life, your personal life and your other responsibilities. It can be draining, but it’s a sacrifice people make to work in this industry.
Victoria Beckham showed her latest collection against the grand backdrop of the Banqueting House in Westminster
LAURA Written by Annabel Nugent
ntimidated. That’s the overriding feeling you get when meeting Laura Kuenssberg. The BBC’s political editor – no matter your thoughts on the network or party affiliations – is undoubtedly impressive. If the pope is the people’s dial-up to God, Laura Kuenssberg is the equivalent direct line to Westminster. Delivering the Downing Street lowdown at what seems like all hours of the day, the presenter makes a racehorse look lazy. It’s a wonder she has time for anything else – and she doesn’t. Securing an interview with her is not easy, and when it comes to Kuenssberg, any sliver of time at all is to be taken gratefully. Scouring the depths of the internet turns up the only two interviews Kuenssberg has ever done; one for Vice and the other for The Times, both conceded to as part of promotion for her documentary, The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story. The journalist’s faint digital trail speaks to her only confirmed quality: inscrutability. Sitting in the lobby of Four Millbank opposite Kuenssberg, who is wearing a dress in her trademark fuschia, it feels like we’re still in the eye of the storm. The 2016 EU referendum redefined Britain’s political contours – and Kuenssberg’s career, when she was made the BBC’s first female political editor a year later. The landmark appointment was the culmination of five years of Brexit coverage in which Kuenssberg’s Scottish accent and blonde bob became so ubiquitous that one journalist coined the phrase “Kuenssbergovision”. After studying journalism at Georgetown University in Washington DC, followed by an internship at NBC, Kuenssberg returned home to Glasgow where she worked for local radio and cable television, before joining BBC North East and Cumbria in 2000 as a trainee journalist. Bar a brief stint at ITV from 2011 to 2013, Kuenssberg the political journalist has been made at the BBC.
“Why does it look like everyone in Westminster has gone mad?”
What looks like a quick and determined rise through the ranks has, in reality, been more reserved. “I didn’t really want to be a journalist and I certainly didn’t want to be on air. I wanted to make programmes because I really like watching TV,” Kuenssberg says. Her enthusiasm for television is perhaps one of the increasingly few points of concurrence that the journalist has with the British public. Brexit may have made Kuenssberg’s name in politics, but being at the centre of it all has meant the reporter is not immune to its divisive – and volatile – reverberations. In the shoddy pantomime that is the Brexit saga, Kuenssberg is its reluctant narrator. Political reporting has never been such a hot commodity, as the electorate are flooded on every device they own with a deluge of historymaking headlines daily. “It was a time of controversy, and we’re not used to it in the UK. We’re watching this kind of slow-motion boxing bout that feels strangely unfamiliar. People are thinking like, ‘What’s going on here? Why does it look like everyone in Westminster has gone mad?’” And the reality? “Oh, it is mad!”
It feels equal parts reassuring and disconcerting to know that the situation is as absurd from the inside as it appears from the outside. Kuenssberg’s two-part documentary that aired last December offered a rare peep under the hood of Parliament, as well as the mechanics of reporting on it. The boring bits (huddled under an umbrella waiting for some – any! – sign of movement from within the House of Commons), and the humanising moments, like when Kuenssberg and a pre-interview Theresa May connect over the “dropping it down moment” of having to readjust one’s skirt before appearing on television as a woman. Kuenssberg speaks quickly – as on television – except for when she doesn’t, then she speaks slowly with speech punctuated by pauses so long others might consider it awkward. She talks like someone who knows the weight of words and the consequence of ill-considered ones. “One of the things I wanted to get across was that actually, all of the…” She pauses and corrects herself. “Pretty much all of the politicians were genuinely trying to do what they thought was the right thing. I’ve always thought that most politicians go into it for the right reasons. You might completely disagree with everything they believe in, but even during the most acutely hot days of Brexit, people were arguing largely because they felt it was the right thing. There’s just a fundamentally enormous disagreement over what that is.” Kuenssberg’s sympathy for the MPs she reports on is surprising for someone who must know their dirty laundry better than anyone. “Their aims…” – again Kuenssberg stops and qualifies – “Not all of them, but most of their aims are noble.” It’s a safe bet that the words “noble” and “Boris” have never once come together in a word-association game. But what Kuenssberg’s documentary made clear is that for many on either side, from Dominic Grieve to Andrew Bridgen, these were beliefs that were dearly – and genuinely – held, no matter how much they were reviled from the other side. More surprising, and certainly unwarranted to some, are her sympathies which appear to apply even to the 2009 expenses scandal, in which a number of MPs were discovered to have been claiming expenses on absurdly non-work-related things. On the whole affair, she says: “That was a mixture of complacency and arrogance from some politicians, actual wrongdoing by very, very few, and deliberate wrongdoing by very, very, very, very, very few.” But it’s those MPs in the latter category, what with their duck houses and moat clearings, that everyone remembers – not the odd taxi fare taken from the kitty. “Also there were various times MPs hadn’t had pay rises because it wasn’t politically possible, so it was kind of nudge nudge wink wink [in] that some people thought you could basically top up on your expenses and that was okay. So it was the product of a series of bad decisions and a culture that’s been allowed to fester.” To her critics then, more damning than any confirmed party bias is her amicable rapport with an old-school political establishment. But that’s how the game has always been played. Only now the public, armed with smartphones and Google, are tipping the table over, chucking the dice away and refusing to play with an increasingly loathed institution and its mouthpiece. In February, Kuenssberg’s programme The Decade of Distrust aired on BBC Radio 4. The presenter names
“For politicians and journalists, trust has never been top of the pops” Twenty-first-century scandals aside, Kuenssberg knows that personality is the currency that counts most in Westminster – and some are evidently better off than others. “Theresa May is just not somebody who has what you might call banter,” Kuenssberg smiles. Viral videos of the former PM awkwardly dancing on stage and memefied clips of her waxing lyrical about “fields of wheat” seem to confirm. “People who know her say that privately, she’s lovely. She’s very considerate and always remembers people’s birthdays. But she just never lets that side of her show, certainly not to a journalist.” Boris Johnson though? “Well he’s a showman, right?” Kuenssberg poses the question before answering it herself: “I mean he is, whether some people say he’s a clown or a showman, he has many different kinds of masks that he wears.” Kuenssberg adds, “But he’s quite a solitary figure actually.” BoJo the sad clown – sounds about right. Kuenssberg herself is notoriously silent on all personal matters. “I suppose some people want to share everything blow-by-blow, but I’m always careful. I don’t ever talk about my personal life.” That hasn’t hampered her Twitter following though, which stands at 1.1 million – although a quick scan of the comments suggest she’s a magnet for the hate-following phenomenon. In 2016, a campaign to fire Kuenssberg over her coverage of Jeremy Corbyn was signed by over 35,000 people before being taken down after it was hijacked by offensive, and overtly sexist, abuse. More recently, when covering last year’s general election, the political editor was again the subject of controversy (and questioned for breaking electoral law) after she prematurely reported speculations that postal ballots painted a “grim” picture for Labour. The journalist has found herself on the bad side
of Conservatives too after she tweeted that the Tories’ decision to rename their press office’s Twitter handle as “factcheckUK” was “daft”. “Of course we don’t always get everything right, but we don’t just stand there and say the first thing that comes to the top of our heads,” Kuenssberg says. This transparency was a driving factor for making the Brexit documentaries: “It’s a really good thing to show people [behind the scenes of reporting] so they can understand how journalism works, and what we do. The sort of thought and care that goes into these things,” she says. “Thought and care”, however, haven’t saved her from daily accusations of bias. The Decade of Distrust may have focused on the unravelling spool of people’s trust in politicians, but the parallels with journalism are obvious. Kuenssberg is unfazed though: “For both politicians and journalists, trust has never been top of the pops.” She’s right. Despite the sense of a growing anger directed towards journalists (aired mostly in the throngs of comments accompanying every article, no matter how innocuous), the IPSO trust ranking of journalists was lamentable years before Kuenssberg picked up a mic, and will most likely remain so long after she puts it down. “Everyone has access to almost any piece of information on their phone, so it’s more important now than ever that information you can trust is visible, and that everyone knows what it is,” Kuenssberg says. When we meet, the BBC, which Kuenssberg affectionately calls “the Beeb”, is still reeling from allegations of bias from its critics in government and national press. Once the first port of call for impartial news, recent years have put the network under the microscope. Last year’s election played a huge role in feeding the ‘BBC bias’ conspiracy theory after a series of reporting missteps – intended or not. In the week that Parliament was voting on the withdrawal agreement and Tory MPs were being ousted, the broadcaster ran a BuzzFeed-style video about Boris Johnson’s new rescue puppy. The question of access to information inevitably brings up the ugly incident at No. 10 in February, during which Kuenssberg was one of a group of journalists to stage a walkout after Lee Cain tried to split up the invited journalists from the uninvited ones – like a middle school dance, only more immature. On the subject, Kuenssberg stonewalls: “I think it’s better if I don’t comment, I’m afraid.” But not before she lets out a laugh (or is it a scoff?). Kuenssberg’s refusal to answer personal questions (“never, ever”) is common knowledge enough that one does not bother attempting to breach the blockade. But as someone who so often finds herself the target of venom and vitriol, the question is begging to be asked: has she ever felt the need to be liked? “No, no, no, no,” Kuenssberg repeats, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. “No,” Kuenssberg reaffirms. “I mean it’s nice to be liked, but in a professional scenario I’ve always felt that I want people to think I’m straightforward. If they think I’m a nice person then that’s fine, but being straightforward is most important to me.” The bell has sounded on the Brexit boxing bout but the gloves are far from hung up, and the string of comments which follow Kuenssberg’s every digital move, prove that her time as politics’ mouthpiece is not over – whether she (or they) like it or not.
SBERG and shames her way through the pivotal events of the noughties that shook the British people’s confidence in their politicians. Would Brexit have turned out the way it did without this loss in trust? She neatly sidesteps the question. “I think certainly the crash played into the context of the referendum,” she says. “But there was already a very considerable chunk of gently Eurosceptic feeling in the UK; the EU was really struggling with the migrant crisis and the Eurozone crisis. So when you presented the choice to people there was a kind of long-term tilt toward that narrow result.” According to Kuenssberg, Dominic Cummings was the trump card. “People don’t say this enough but it’s true; in any kind of thing that’s going to be narrowly fought, it matters how good the campaigns are. Vote Leave was simply a much better campaign.” Even in spite of the bus debacle? “Yes,” she says with an air of finality. “They were a more committed group of people. It was a better campaign. “Cameron didn’t think he would lose. I remember having a conversation with a senior member of cabinet maybe a year before and they said they thought there was a one in five chance of losing. They didn’t approach the referendum like they were going to have to fight,” she says.
Based on a true story Journalists portrayed in Spotlight, Shattered Glass and Official Secrets share their experiences of watching themselves on the big screen
Written by Lauren Morris
rom Citizen Kane to 2018’s A Private War, the lives of journalists have inspired filmmakers for decades. Rogue reporters uncovering national scandals in political thrillers (All the President’s Men) are a surefire hit with the Academy, while romcoms set in TV newsrooms (Broadcast News) have charmed audiences and catapulted its actors to stardom. Some of the best films about journalism are based on true events, with actors’ portrayals of real reporters often acquiring critical acclaim. Meryl Streep received Oscar nominations for her portrayal of publisher Katharine Graham in The Post and an Anna Wintourinspired editor in The Devil Wears Prada. Your average audience member may leave the cinema feeling moved, inspired or simply desperate for the toilet, but what about the journalists who have just relived the most triumphant or traumatic moment of their careers? “The day I was visiting set, they were shooting a scene where all my former staff members sit and talk about how much they hate me. They did five takes of that. It was terrible,” recalls Chuck Lane, a former editor of US magazine The New Republic whose career inspired the 2003 drama Shattered Glass. “Watching them shoot those scenes was like an out-of-body experience.” Lane, who now writes for The Washington Post, was portrayed by Golden Globe-nominated actor Peter Sarsgaard in the film which details the downfall of journalist Stephen Glass after he fabricated stories for The New Republic. Lane fired Glass, played by Hayden Christensen, after discovering that the sources Glass used in his articles never existed. “I think Peter deserves an Oscar for making me seem like a sympathetic character – he really did make me seem a lot better than I am,” Lane admits. Seeing himself depicted so accurately on screen was surreal for Lane; director Billy Ray invested considerable time recording a full account of what happened, writing
verbatim quotes into the script and recreating The New Republic’s office, right down to the type of chair and desk Lane worked at. “I had a picture of my wife on my desk in my real office, which Billy Ray visited. For the film, they took a picture of the actress playing my wife in the movie and displayed it in the same frame and everything – they were very thorough,” says Lane. Walter V Robinson, who was portrayed by Michael Keaton in the 2015 Oscar-winning film Spotlight, had a similar experience. Robinson led The Boston Globe’s investigative ‘Spotlight’ team during its 2001 coverage of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. “Pretty much everyone who knows me thinks Keaton nailed me, so to speak – he got my accent, my mannerisms, even the way I walk. I’m a victim of identity theft,” Robinson jokes. Biographical films can attract criticism for heavily deploying dramatic licence and inventing fabricated scenes, however Walter thinks Spotlight’s screenwriters – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – still managed to tell an accurate story. “It was a dramatisation so of course there are some scenes that did not occur. But the film is as authentic as Hollywood can get in showing what really happened,” Robinson says. “Our comfort level was high because McCarthy and Singer were intent on getting the story right. Their research took many weeks, and their reporting would be the envy of any good investigative reporter.” In fact, according to the film’s costume director, Wendy Chuck, the cast’s bland wardrobe was bleached and stone-washed to achieve a worn-out look as the real journalists would sometimes wear the same shirt two days running. She told The Guardian that she’d then leave the shirts “unfolded on the back of a chair so they don’t look crispy new”. Some are not so rigorous in their approach – British journalist Yvonne Ridley is less complimentary about her portrayal in the 2019 drama Official Secrets. Hattie
“He got my accent, my mannerisms, even the way I walk. I’m a victim of identity theft”
Image: Chuck Lane
Image: PA Images
Through the (shattered) looking glass: Peter Sarsgaard (L) portrayed Chuck Lane
In contrast, Ridley says that Morahan didn’t get in touch Morahan plays Ridley, a freelance journalist who received a leaked memo downloaded by GCHQ whistleblower with her at all before filming Official Secrets, while Lane’s Katharine Gun in 2003. communication with Peter Sarsgaard consisted solely of a “It’s really weird seeing yourself portrayed on the silver 10-minute phone conversation and a few follow up calls. “I screen, and I was bemused to see her wearing a hijab as I visited the set for a day and made a couple of suggestions hadn’t converted to Islam at that point,” Ridley says. She adds which they ignored, because they know what they’re doing,” he jokes. that the film makes a number of errors; her meeting Watching yourself on screen is undoubtedly with Observer journalist Martin Bright wasn’t held a strange experience, but for Ridley, watching in an underground car park, and Gun’s GCHQ co-worker, from whom Ridley received Official Secrets last year dug up feelings leaked information, was “airbrushed” from of outrage and disappointment. “Had the movie. “I was portrayed, I felt, as a very our story got out when it was supposed paranoid character.” However, she does to in January 2003, I think it would have concede that Morahan nailed her County generated enough global pressure to stop Durham accent. the war in Iraq – after all, America was ordering the UK to spy on all members of Despite being the life force of the media Journalists’ favourite the UN Security Council, which was illegal.” industry, journalists aren’t always depicted fourth estate flicks For Lane, however, reliving one of the fairly by its creative cousins film and biggest moments in his career proved to television. “Great movies about journalism Robinson: Spotlight, Citizen be a valuable learning experience of how fall into two categories – the successful Kane, All the President’s Men, crusade, such as All The President’s Men Absence of Malice and The Paper others perceived him. “Because the movie was a fair and objective portrayal of The and Spotlight, or the corrupt journalist that goes astray, like in 1987 film Street Smart,” New Republic and Chuck Lane, warts and Lane: Spotlight, Street Smart, says Lane. Why does this stereotype all, to have that mirror held up to you is a Under Fire continue to rear its ugly head? According humbling experience,” he says. “I was really to Lane, it’s because “99 per cent of what forced to think hard about my professional Ridley: All the President’s Men journalists do just wouldn’t be interesting conduct, good and bad, and I think I really in a movie”. profited from that. “Too often, filmmakers portray journalists as predatory “A lot of it was kind of painful, sitting there and watching creatures who’d sell out their mothers for a story,” Robinson people who are playing my former colleagues talking adds. “Look at the film Richard Jewell, which portrayed a about what an asshole I am, but I think it made me really very good reporter as trading sexual favours for a story. self-aware and objective about myself.” That was a disgrace.” Earlier this year critics and journalists condemned the biographical drama, which depicts the aftermath of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park Bombing in Atlanta. The film implies that Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Kathy Scruggs, who died in 2001 and is played by Olivia Wilde, had sex with an FBI officer for a story: a scene which Scruggs’ former colleagues branded as “entirely false and malicious”. The film flopped at the box office, with many blaming the controversy as a key factor. If Scruggs’ treatment in Richard Jewell teaches actors anything, it’s to consult your character’s real-life counterpart whenever possible – an opportunity many thespians do take. “Actors seldom get to play real people so pretty much all of them spent a lot of time with us,” says Robinson. “Keaton and I had several meetings and long dinners before filming began.” The Oscar-winning actor reviewed hours of video and audio clips featuring Robinson to prepare for the role and master his Boston accent. “He studied me closely, my mannerisms, how I use my hands when I talk. He even lowered his voice in the Seeing double: Walter V Robinson (R) with Michael Keaton (L), who played filming because my voice is deeper.” him in Spotlight
Image: Walter V Robinson
Image: Yvonne Ridley
Image: PA Images
Official Secrets: Yvonne Ridley (R) was portrayed by Hattie Morahan (L) in the GCHQ flick
The and the
From social media to podcast interviews, this decadeâ€™s royals are trying to take their image into their hands. But how successful are they? Written by Katie Jenkins
with Charles disintegrated behind palace doors, on the streets below, industrial strikes and soaring unemployment rates reflected a readership - and media - growing ever more resentful of the grandeur of royal society. “Public opinion of the royals has certainly gone through its ups and downs over the course of the Queen’s reign. But it’s a transition that’s paralleled the changing attitudes of society,” observes Witchell. “It was really in the 1980s when that changing attitude to deference translated into more aggressive coverage of the royals. After Diana’s death and the Leveson Inquiry, if anything, it has slightly settled down.” However, Rosie Nixon, Editor-in-Chief of Hello!, is less convinced. During her 12 years at the magazine, the hostility she has noted - particularly towards female royals - remains prominent. Speaking of the coverage of Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge, Nixon says: “I think it’s very easy to pit two women against each other because they’re a similar age and they’re both women. But it’s not great journalism. Why are we not comparing Kate to other men in the royal family? I don’t think it’s valid to always view her actions as a fight against Meghan’s in some way.” Data analysis would seemingly support Nixon’s opinion. A study by The Guardian in January found that Meghan received twice as much negative press as Kate. Of the 843 UK print articles surveyed about Meghan, 43 per cent were negative including criticisms of her “boastful” and “self-obsessed” behaviour. By contrast, 45 per cent of the 144 headlines about Kate were positive including one Vanity Fair article in December that praised her “relatable but flawless” persona. Online, Nixon says the negativity is even more acute. At the beginning of last year, Hello! launched its ‘Hello to Kindness’ campaign in response to the social media abuse targeted at both female royals. “The amount of abusive, sexist, racist comments we were seeing was shocking. Members of our social team were having to spend a disproportionate amount of time blocking users, deleting comments and stopping threads,” explains Nixon. “We felt we had to take a stand. That kind of behaviour isn’t welcome in our world.” For magazines like Hello! then, that symbiotic relationship between royals and media has - if anything flourished. Through campaigns such as ‘Hello to Kindness’, the royals have become not simply another patch to be scrutinised, but human individuals to be championed when appropriate. Although Hello!’s campaign may have stemmed from the dark underbelly of online media, for the younger royals, it is that very tool that is aiding their accessibility. The launch of Harry and Meghan’s Instagram account @ SussexRoyal last April has proven a far cry from the cold press releases of the family’s official Twitter account, acting as an exclusive source in itself. Meanwhile, Kate’s “most candid interview yet” was not with an established journalist, but rather with ‘mumfluencer’, Giovanna Fletcher. We may be seeing a move away from the ‘royal rota’ - the established royal press pack - but that is not to say we’re seeing a move away from the media entirely. Meanwhile, as that focus shifts, so too has the royals’ traditional impassive motto of “never complain, never explain”. The question is why? “The royal family is an institution which has a >>
“Celebrity or royal: those two circles have now become Harry and Meghan’s identity crisis”
ay 19, 2018, and change was afoot in the monarchy. The American actress and the playboy prince: it was a fairytale fit for the tabloids, and the press certainly weren’t disappointed. The New York Times hailed the dawn of a “new era” while The Telegraph celebrated this “latest, sunlit chapter” in “our national story”. As David Beckham rubbed shoulders with Prince Charles, and George Clooney seated himself mere rows from Queen Elizabeth, the metaphor was clear. The union between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle promised a Hollywood-worthy facelift to an institution steeped in tradition. And the media, it seemed, were delighted. Less than two years on, however, and the attitude has dimmed distinctly. Amid gossip columns and tabloid headlines, the realm of royal reporting has become fraught with tension and resentment. In what ITV labelled “an unprecedented attack” last October, Prince Harry condemned the “false and malicious propaganda” published in tabloid newspapers. Three months later, the couple restricted media access to official engagements, citing “frequent misreporting” and “false impressions” among the reasons why. Now embroiled in a legal battle with the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a letter Meghan sent to her father, the couple’s formerly golden relationship with journalists has been tarnished. So what does this mean for the future of royal reporting? Should the fall-out - as Piers Morgan argued - be dismissed as two “spoilt brats” simply trying to evade their “taxpayer-funded royal duties”? Or does this point to a more deep-rooted issue in royal coverage? Nicholas Witchell, who was made BBC royal correspondent in 1998, is no stranger to criticism from the royals. In 2005, he was famously dubbed “awful” by the Prince of Wales after asking about Prince William’s feelings towards Charles’ second marriage. Yet, as Witchell highlights, recent media attitudes are hardly exceptional. “There is always a tendency to feel that everything has shifted significantly in recent times,” he says. “But we must always remember that there were examples of aggressive royal reporting back in the 1950s. It’s not a new phenomenon.” The royal family and its hangers-on certainly bore the brunt of some of the twentieth century’s most salacious coverage. Wallis Simpson’s vilification in the 1930s was welldocumented and even became physical when Daily Express reporters threw bricks through her windows. Twenty years later, the focus on Princess Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend was less violent, but still persistent. More than 70,000 readers of the Mirror had their say in whether the couple should marry, the answer to which - a ten-line tall YES - was splashed across the front page. Fast forward to 1981 and the “People’s Princess” Diana Spencer became the new royal target for media scrutiny. As her marriage
symbiotic relationship with the media. If it wants to maintain its popularity, it has to maintain its visibility,” says Stephen Bates, former royal correspondent for The Guardian. “Nowadays, the royals are more responsive and more proactive — as they have to be. Those in receipt of public money have to show themselves to be engaged.” However, Camilla Tominey, Associate Editor at The Telegraph is more cynical: “As with most celebrities, what we are seeing is the royals trying to take control of their own media narratives — but with mixed results. What we have seen recently is the royals ignoring good advice from their press officers. Since the royals do not always live in the real world, it is arguably a good idea to listen to those who do.” Celebrity or royal: those two circles that seemed so promisingly intertwined at Meghan and Harry’s wedding have now proven their identity crisis. The American actress, once praised as a breath of fresh air, is now, arguably, a media punching bag whose modernity seems misaligned with her station. Yet, behind Tominey’s critique clearly lingers a far darker issue than Instagram accounts and tabloid gossip. Ultimately, disparagement of press officers and ignorance of the media poses an existential threat — one notoriously highlighted by Prince Andrew’s “car crash” interview with Emily Maitlis in November. In a scathing op-ed for CNN,
Kate Maltby wrote: “[The royals] are, if Andrew is anything to go by, entitled man-children, incapable of understanding consequences.” In the royal family, it takes only one PR disaster to corrode the entire institution. Indeed, for the foreseeable future, the controversies look to be far from over. As the Jeffrey Epstein investigation lurches on and the Mail on Sunday prepares for proceedings, the royals will be bracing themselves for another year in the limelight. But where will the line be drawn? Between institutions as powerful as the media and the monarchy, skirmishes are — and always have been — inevitable. However, in a changing digital landscape, it is impossible to gauge the future terrain. Whether it is the media trapped by traditional prejudice, or the monarchy by expectations of deference, the royal rota as much as the royals must adapt in order to thrive. Ultimately, however, it is not the media that will dictate the future of the royals, but the royals themselves. As Bates argues: “The thing that damages the royal family is a sense of entitlement. You see that in Prince Harry. You see that particularly in Prince Andrew. It’s the idea that they shouldn’t be criticised, that people should just accept them on their own terms, and accept that they’re deserving of public money, whatever they do. If it continues in those terms, that is what’s going to kill the monarchy.”
“It is not the media that will dictate the future of the monarchy, but the royals themselves”
Image: The Guardian
The best places in the world to be a journalist
Written by Patrick O’Donnell
he measure of a successful journalist is not found just in the quality of their work, but in whether they can sustain career longevity and pay the bills on time. In recent years, pivoting to PR and marketing roles has become a common trajectory for many a journo. Late nights, multiple deadlines and lowering salaries are turning people away from the profession; and the latter factor does not look set to change any time soon. According to the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), the average income for a newspaper journalist in the United Kingdom is approximately £27,500 a year. Average salaries rise up to £34,000 for journalists based in London, revealing the gulf between professionals based in and outside the capital.
- Average Journalist Salary: 837,000 kr/year (£69,700/
year) - Average Cost of Coffee: 27.50 kr (£2.29) - Everyone’s salary is made public in Norway, and the country’s journalists have something to brag about. Salaries for Norwegian journalists double that of British journalists.
While the salaries of UK journalists may be stuck on pause, their peers around the globe are faring much better. Yuk Lan Wong, Policy and Projects Officer for the European Federation of Journalists says: ‘‘Normally the situation of journalists’ pay conditions is much better in the Nordic countries, places like Denmark and Norway, because of the presence of collective bargaining. ‘‘The current financial situation for journalists in the Balkans and Turkey is considered the worst also due to the political situation. However, it is quite difficult to generalise as you have to compare to the living standards also.’’ Taking the cost of living for each country into account, here is the definitive breakdown of the best places in the world to be a journalist.
-Average Salary: €70,200/ year (£59,000/year) - Average Cost of Coffee: €7 (£5.89) - There appears to be a Nordic trend. Ranking second on the index, Finnish journalists have one of the highest salaries in the world. However, this is mitigated by a higher cost of living in the country.
- Average Journalist
Salary: £27,500/year - Average Cost of Coffee: £2.45 - According to a survey by the NCTJ,, British journalist salaries have remained the same over most of the past decade. This puts it in a worse position than many other European countries.
2) Denmark -Average Salary: 657,800 kr/year (£79,700/year) - Average Cost of Coffee: €3 (£2.50) - Danish journalists boast impressive wages for their work.
- Average Journalist Salary: 110,110 franc/year (£94,330/year)
4)Belgium - Average Journalist Salary: €74,200/year (£67,390/year) - Average Cost of Coffee: €2.50 (£2.10) - The Economic Research Institute (ERI) estimates Belgian journalist salaries will rise to €84,000 by 2025.
- Average Cost of Coffee: 4.20 swiss franc
(£3.60) *cost of living indicator - As the most expensive nation in Europe, Swiss journalists need the salary to match. With its four national languages, Switzerland has one of the most diverse and developed media sectors in the world.
Inside Latvia’s indie scene Image: Kaspars Upmanis
n her way back to the UK from Latvia, and looking for something to pass the time, photographer Anna Rosova decided to pick up a fashion magazine. “It’s completely obnoxious for women to drink beer,” an interview inside read. The interviewee – a woman who owned a leading fashion brand – would go on to claim that she never wanted to earn more than her husband. “There’s still a very stereotypical idea of how women should behave,” Rosova says. “In London, for example, I can’t imagine someone saying that and people being okay with it.” Now living in London, Latvia-born Rosova launched Jezga in 2017: an independent magazine designed to provide a platform for Latvian and now other Eastern European creatives. The aim? To break free from “enduring stereotypes born from the shadow” of Latvia’s Soviet years. “There, time moves differently,” Rosova says. She has always recognised how culture in her home country seems to progress a lot slower. “The way information spread was very different. That’s all down to the media and the stories it covers – a lot of older people don’t know English at all so
Since the fall of the Wall, indie mags have come into their own in the former Soviet bloc
Written by James Hacker they have to rely on Russian or Latvian media. “That’s changing now. Younger people are discovering the wider world, and they want somebody to represent those interests; to see their perspective.” Jezga is one of many disruptive or unusual magazines to emerge from Latvia and other Baltic states. These include Benji Knewman (the awkward and uncomfortable observations of its eponymous, fictional 43-year-old editor), and Lithuania’s Contra Journal, which explores displacement, resistance, and European migration through photography. But their existence is the result of a precedent set 30 years earlier – before even the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Source (or Avots in its native language) was a subversive monthly, published in Latvia from 1987 to 1992. The illustrated magazine was distributed not only with the approval of the Soviet Union, but also its blessing. For one thing, the editor-in-chief was appointed by the Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Latvia – a board including members of the KGB. At this point, Latvia had been under Soviet control for more than 40 years. By the late 1980s, it seemed as though
Soviet occupation had always been the case – many would not have known any different. The idea that the USSR would collapse soon after the turn of the decade, and Latvia would once again become its own state, was unthinkable. The likelihood of a publication such as The Source coming into existence was slim: for five brief years, at the end of communist Russia’s reign, the Latvian magazine was renowned for its subversion of Soviet ideology. It accomplished this beneath the USSR’s very nose, but not without its fair share of close shaves. In its third year, for example, it had apparently crossed the line in publishing an article about Latvia’s National Security Committee. The contents of the article are now lost, but whatever was said was enough for the KGB to call on editor-in-chief, Aivars Kļavis, to meet the high-party official responsible for overseeing creative intelligence. The chairman of the committee, Staņislavs Zukulis, was seemingly attempting to entrap him – to get Kļavis to say something which would prove he was unfit for office, or worse, politically untrustworthy. Kļavis endured the provocation, and the article was never recalled. Even its Russianlanguage sister publication, Rodnik (led by its own editorial team), dared to print an image of Lenin caught in a mouse trap as its third cover image. In an interview given in 2017 to LV portāls (a contemporary Latvian news site), Kļavis said that he felt “the main value of The Source was not the individual articles, but the magazine as a whole, which offered the people of Soviet Latvia a completely different view and philosophy”. Kļavis and The Source set a precedent for future generations of Eastern European publications, now thriving in post-Soviet culture. After the USSR’s collapse Latvia rapidly westernised itself, joining the EU and NATO in 2004, and entering the eurozone a decade later. Despite Kļavis and his team’s success in challenging Soviet norms and creating a platform for original literary texts, Latvia remained culturally weak, having stagnated for decades under a repressive regime. Twenty-five years later, Jezga’s editorial output is the direct opposite. A poem by Eliza Legzdina published in the most recent issue, sees the speaker claim her “juicy booty” is a genetic reaction to intergenerational hunger – her grandmother grew up in a gulag. Independence was secured nearly 30 years ago, but Latvia’s cultural image is still haunted by the remnant of Soviet rule. While in 1986, Soviet influence was deeprooted in Latvian culture, for today’s youth the opposite may seem to be the case. Whether or not the country (indeed, all of Eastern Europe) still feels Soviet influence, Western Europe’s pigeonholing is a frustrating barrier to younger Eastern Europeans. “There are preconceptions, like we all speak Russian,” Petrică Mogoș laughs. Or indeed that “everything is still post-Soviet”. Before they founded the independent magazine KAJET Journal in Bucharest, Romania, Mogoș and his colleague Laura Naum regularly experienced these typecastings while studying abroad. “We started out trying to change the representation of Eastern Europe in English-speaking countries,” says Mogoș.
But very quickly, it became clear to the two that achieving that goal was not a matter of simply presenting Englishspeaking readers with Eastern European journalism. To deconstruct the western view of Eastern Europe as a single entity, there had to be a platform dedicated to these independent cultures. Mogoș and Naum recognised the need for “some kind of mechanism to empower Eastern European creators. The magazine changed into a platform for Eastern European ideas.” In many ways, KAJET Journal mirrors The Source, although not necessarily by intention. A recent issue also saw Lenin grace the cover – a dicey swipe towards the continent’s communist history. Rather than catching his face in a mousetrap, the front page sees a bust of the political theorist giving a peace sign (see below). The caption below simply reads “ON UTOPIAS”. Print media has >>
“Her ‘juicy booty’ is a genetic reaction to intergenerational hunger”
Image: KAJET Journal
historically been a platform for dissidence: a fact which KAJET Journal’s editors are keenly aware of. Much of the western world has moved beyond the Cold War. In looking at countries such as Latvia or Romania, the tendency is to characterise them as playing catch-up, years behind larger, global cultural hubs like the UK. The desire of magazines like KAJET Journal and Jezga (and even The Source in its time) is to counter that narrative – even to create a new literary canon, an ambition best suited to print. “It’s the tangible element,” Rosova says. “When trying to build a cultural identity, there is value in the sense that readers can look back at this thing in 10 years’ time. These were the issues that concerned us then.” Jezga is designed to resemble a book: smaller dimensions, rigid spine, thick pages. “It offers a kind of legitimacy.”
But that legitimacy comes at a very literal cost. “It’s hard. It’s a love project, it’s not for profit,” says Rosova. The first printed issue came to life following a £2,000 crowdfunding initiative. “You do it because you want to contribute something great, or because it might mean something to someone. There’s no money in it – if anything we’ve lost it.” In his interview with LV portāls, Kļavis was asked for his opinion on the current resurgence in magazines with a similar publishing ethos to The Source. He stressed his personal belief that such comparisons should not be made – even if the creators cite his magazine as inspiration. These projects have a value of their own. In trying to create a new media suited to their own generation, why should these writers look back on his magazine? “Now is a completely different time,” Kļavis says, “another situation, another experience [with] other readers.” Perhaps these magazines are tackling the lingering attitudes of Soviet-era repression. Or maybe they are trying to prove that every generation has its own set of prejudices to overcome.
Images: KAJET Journal
PressPad: opening doors for the next generation
Written by Patrick O’Donnell
spiring journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to get their foot in the door. For many, issues relating to geography, race and class are societal barricades to jobs in the media. In 2018, the Sutton Trust estimated that it costs a young person participating in a London-based unpaid internship over £1,000 a month in living expenses. Opportunities for young journalists are too scarce and the cost is too high. Olivia Crellin, a reporter and producer for the BBC’s World Service, is working to change this. Along with fellow journalist Laura Garcia, the duo founded PressPad: as described by Crellin, ‘‘Airbnb with a professional mentoring component.’’ PressPad’s mentor-host programme matches young journos with senior counterparts who can house them through the duration of their work placement. London accommodation costs are reduced to £150 a week for interns who use PressPad, with the service also offering a bursary fund for those who are eligible. The social enterprise’s efforts at combating journalism’s socioeconomic bias have attracted support. Most people in media have first-hand experience of the industry’s cruel hurdles, and some have decided to open up their homes to those seeking a place to stay – and some insider advice.
I first heard about PressPad on Twitter. Olivia was tweeting about it around the time I was looking for accommodation in London. It sounded like a great idea. I needed a place to stay for a two-week unpaid work experience with The Sunday Times – working with the home news desk on an investigation into veteran suicides. My host Catherine was lovely and very welcoming; there was no awkwardness at all while living with her. She has two gorgeous ragdoll kittens, so I felt very lucky to share the house with them for two weeks. I learned a lot about what she does day-to-day, and enjoyed talking with her in the evenings about her job. We are still in touch and meet up for coffee occasionally. Both PressPad and Catherine gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a journalist in a national newsroom. I’ve just finished an NCTJ diploma course with News Associates, and started working at The Sun as a trainee journalist in February. I wouldn’t be here were it not for PressPad giving me that financial and moral support along the way. We need more diverse voices in the British media. Getting into journalism can be intimidating and at times it seems impossible if you don’t live in London. PressPad is letting people know that it’s not who you know or where your parents live that matters in this industry, it’s how good you are and how determined you are to succeed.
When I first heard about PressPad, I signed up immediately. My parents ran a bed and breakfast which prepared me for living with strangers. In recent years, I’ve always used my spare room as another way of supplementing my freelance income through Airbnb hosting. PressPad works to your schedule. Through their rota – which I’ve only been on for the last few months – you can input your availability for hosting. For various reasons I’ve accommodated just the one girl, who was absolutely lovely. She came to stay with me for two weeks, between her second and third year at university, while she completed a Guardian work placement. She managed to get a couple of bylines under her belt and was paid for some of her writing. We obviously both worked during the day, but we caught up at night and I was able to offer advice – we stay connected through LinkedIn. With my 20 years of reporting and producing experience, I recognise the difficulty of pursuing a career in this field. PressPad is not only about giving people a roof over their heads; it is about having the ability to share your ideas and media experience with the person you are hosting. I’ve always felt that if we had journalists who were representative of different parts of society, we would be telling different stories and the media would reflect society more accurately.
Julia Atherley: PressPad Guest Image: Julia Atherley, PressPad
Image: Jude Habib
Jude Habib: PressPad Host
How will newspaper cartoons thrive in the digital age?
Image: Russel Herneman/The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times art director Russel Herneman and cartoonist Jonathan Pugh discuss whether time is ticking for hand-drawn news Written by Charlotte Rickards
Images: Johnathan Pugh/The Daily Mail
Q: How fundamental is the art of putting pen to paper for news stories? JP: I think it’s such a natural and instinctive thing to be doing; humans have always drawn. It makes you look at the world with different eyes and be more observant.
RH: Oh completely different. When I came to The Sunday Times, the pages were drawn on large sheets that replicated the size of a broadsheet page, and then with a pencil you would say: “OK, how about a picture over here?” Galleys of text were printed, compulsively cut up, glued on and quite literally pasted. It was incredibly reckless and not very flexible. There were two computers there which had this mysterious thing on them called the internet. Nobody thought it would catch on. I would say that I am old-fashioned, but I do use my Apple Pencil more than my actual pen now.
Q: As more people are consuming news with their smartphones, do you feel that the rectangle restricts or improves your designs? RH: The complication for us is that the mediums are so different. So designing for nearly a square metre of newsprint is very different to designing for a fivecentimetre square of a phone screen. One of the things that works very well are the pocket cartoons, which are about the jokes, like Nick Newman’s, and their size fits the screen of a smartphone.
RH: There’s a danger when you go straight into designing on a glass screen, that you can get lost in the tech. It’s much easier to go from traditional hand-drawn techniques to digital than the other way around. With just the pen and the paper, you’re having to think of an idea and so it purifies what you do.
JP: For me I quite like being pushed into a little corner; I do work in quite small areas, and I like that. I think a lot of illustrators like it as it means you can only put in certain things and forces you to be more absolute.
Q: What are the tools you used at the beginning of your career and what tools do you use today?
RH: I do a lot of hand-drawn pieces in advance knowing full well it will be useful. We’ve got the Olympics coming up, so I’ll prepare for that. And recently I drew a Boris Johnson portrait which was in the back of my drawer for a few months, but eventually we found the story that fitted. There are certain things that can only be done hand-drawn; if you want a hand-drawn effect, just do it by hand and not try and fake it. Hand-drawn design at The Sunday Times works in hybrid with other digital >>
JP: It’s still pen and paper for me. But when I first started out, to get your content anywhere you’d have to deliver it by hand, or stick it in the courier for post. It made sharing your ideas really difficult. For that, the digital age has been fantastic. I do a cartoon on a page, scan it, and send it as a JPEG. Everytime I do it, it feels miraculous.
Q: How does hand drawing work day-to-day?
rawing news by hand has always been a human instinct. For the indigenous societies of the Australian desert 800 years ago, news stories would begin by depicting figures on the rich red sand. Once the story is finished, the sand is wiped clean, ready for another tale to be told. Today the transitory medium of paper is thrown away, just as the sand is wiped clean, ready for tomorrow’s story. Recently, however, the digital age may bring the art of drawing news by hand to a halt. As we increasingly consume media in a glowing rectangular pane of glass, does this spell doom for the humble pen? To answer the big questions, award-winning cartoonists Russel Herneman, art director of The Sunday Times, and Jonathan Pugh, cartoonist for The Daily Mail, look at the art of hand-drawn editorial design.
“Sometimes I base my characters off someone I may know – best not tell them”
art workers to increase speed and output. For instance, a cartoonist might draw something by hand, but for convenience sake, will put the bubble caption on using Photoshop afterwards. Image: Johnathan Pugh/The Daily Mail
Q: What does the future hold for editorial hand-drawn design? RH: Print sales are generally declining. Young people don’t pick up the paper anymore, but they do read news online a lot. Our digital subscriptions go up, and our print sales go down, so eventually one will replace the other. We will be doing a lot more of what digital does, so that’s animation and interactivity. I think the challenge is to make digital content that really shows off the resources that we have. You know, anyone can buy a blog package and it sort of looks ok, so it’s about standing out from the competition. JP: I feel it will become digital. I think people get used to the medium that you read or work with. I have an iPad now, and I had to learn a skill which initially seemed completely counterintuitive; it didn’t seem right drawing on a glass screen and adding colours with your fingertips. Now I like it. So digital, that’s my hunch.
Image: Johnathan Pugh/The Daily Mail
JP: I work from home and every day, after listening to the news, I’ll send eight ideas to my editor. He’ll take three, which are then due at 8.30 p.m. that evening. When I started out, I used to overthink it and fuss about with TippEx; now I’m much more relaxed and immediate. I don’t go in pencil underneath anymore and tend to choose quite inexpensive paper, so I don’t stiffen up. British humour has changed since I’ve started so it’s always about coming up with fresh ideas.
Flexibility is always important with the journalists; Harold Evans has a very good quote: “A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline.”
Q: What inspires your work?
JP: My feeling is that, I feel sometimes battered and bruised by the daily news most of the time, and I think a lot of readers possibly feel the same, so that’s where a lot of the inspiration comes from. Sometimes I base my characters off someone I may know – best not tell them.
RH: The art world is a fantastic source of inspiration – particularly as it’s without copyright. Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa has done a good service, so anything that’s a disaster, in politics or economics, that will work. Edvard Munch’s The Scream – many times. Movie posters like Saul Bass’ design for Vertigo and the Russian Constructivists.
Q: What makes a good broadsheet artist? JP: For a pocket cartoonist the joke is paramount. So, a weak joke and a bad drawing, that really does fall flat on its face.
RH: The key skill is understanding how journalism works and how to boil 2,000 words down to one idea. You don’t want the designs to be a tasteful doormat, you want to get the message across.
Jonathan Pugh’s favourite pen, the uni PIN size 0.3
All images: Russel Herneman/The Sunday Times Text: Charlotte Rickards
Inside Russelâ€™s sketchbook
Image: The Guardian
Reporting London’s terror nightmare
When the public flees, journalists risk everything to get their story. Two reporters relive the chaos of the London Bridge terror attack
ver 48 million trains pass through London Bridge station each year. Every day, more than 100,000 passengers jostle along a network of platforms to board cramped carriages. But on 29 November 2019, the usual throng of commuters is absent. Discarded McDonald’s containers lie strewn across the platform benches. Copies of Metro ripple in the wind. The station is deserted. Just minutes from London Bridge, a man wearing a dummy suicide vest has been shot dead by police after stabbing two Cambridge graduates to death. Footage of civilians tackling the assailant with makeshift weapons pinballs across social media. With a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk taken from Fishmonger’s Hall, the attacker is grappled to the ground. It is a surreal and startling spectacle: the chase, the cloud of spume, the terrorist pinned to the pavement, the setting winter sun silhouetting Southwark Cathedral in the distance. “He’s got a bomb, mind your backs,” officers wielding submachine guns bellow. Pedestrians on the bridge start to run to safety. But how do you handle the situation as a reporter on the ground? Jessie Mathewson, a BBC Local Democracy Reporter for City Hall, had only been in her job for six months when the attack by terrorist Usman Khan occurred. Labour had just announced their regional manifesto, so she was sat in a café next to City Hall trying to get a quote from MP Shaun Bailey. Suddenly, Bailey’s press officer called her and said there would be no quote today.“We’ve just seen that there’s something happening on the bridge. It looks like it could be a terrorist attack.” “I remember thinking ‘this is happening and I’m right here’,” says Mathewson, “I’m a news reporter. This is what I’m trained for. The normal instinct would be to get on the bus and go straight home. But I went towards the danger. I just threw my stuff in my bag and ran out of the door.” The story had not broken yet, so Mathewson did not know why there had been gunshots reported on social media or if the police were there yet. She phoned her editors to alert them she was going to the scene: “I could see a helicopter in the sky. I was scared. I felt a huge pressure as a reporter. My newsroom didn’t want me in danger but I knew my responsibility above everything was
Written by Lydia Spencer-Elliott to get as much information as possible. I didn’t know how to factor in what was safe. They said just go to the bridge and see what you can get.” As she ran towards the bridge, Mathewson realised her personal phone was dead and her work phone had restricted access. It was not authorised to download a recording app to log quotes from witnesses. “I started to feel really stressed and I knew that would affect my shorthand that I was going to have to rely on completely. I didn’t even have a pen. It was a nightmare situation.” She rushed to a nearby shopping arcade for something to write with. But being in a tourist area of central London, the stalls only had novelty pens with figurines of Big Ben and the Queen perched on the top. “I couldn’t buy one, it would have been so inappropriate, but I needed to move fast. In the end, I found a gold Harry Potter pen and thought that would have to do.” As Mathewson paid, civilians were fleeing in every direction. The shopkeeper was panicking and asked what was happening. “I told her I thought it was a terrorist attack. I must have looked completely wiped out because she gave me a hug and told me to keep myself safe. It was then I got scared. I thought, `I’ve got to keep running towards danger when everyone else is running away.’” “I don’t have the experience for that situation,” says Mathewson. “My training at City taught me to keep myself safe. We never discussed a scenario like this one. Being a war reporter wasn’t my aspiration and I hadn’t considered that London could suddenly become a conflict zone.” When she arrived, the bridge was blocked by emergency services. To build a story, she would have to rely on police statements, MET alerts, reportage, and witness accounts. “You’ve got to realise the limitation of what you can do,” says Mathewson, “I’m a new reporter. Writing a decent news story is less automatic when you’re completely inexperienced in that scenario. The adrenaline carries you through. You just think, I have a job to do: establish the facts, write it quickly, write it clearly, write it accurately.” After interviewing the police to clarify which locations were restricted and what was known of the incident so far, Mathewson worked her way around the cordoned-off area, speaking to people at the scene. It was chaos. “No one knew what was happening,” says Mathewson. She remembers a woman telling her: “We heard someone’s been shot. We
don’t know what’s going on. It’s scary after what happened here before.” Speculation around the gunshots was rife. As the retweets accumulated, so did the rumours. In times of uncertainty, on-the-ground reporters discovering the facts of an incident become even more crucial to the panicked public. “You have families grieving and communities scared,” says Mathewson, “you have to be mindful of your power. What you write is part of a much bigger picture.” It was only when Mathewson got home that the police released an official statement. “That’s when my emotions hit me. A lot of the coverage I found distressing to read from a personal angle,” she says. “Anyone who was on the bridge was a target. You’re not just observing something violent, you are potentially at risk. I didn’t need to be there. I could have gone home but I felt if all journalists did that, the story would never be told.” Thomas Mackintosh, an experienced BBC online crime and terror reporter, was more prepared for the attack than Mathewson. Having covered knife crime across the capital and in the US, he’s no stranger to conflict. “Our team had a Twitter alert set up, which notified us there had been several gunshots on London Bridge,” he explains. “We knew everyone was going to look to our website to find out what was happening. So, the priority was writing a ‘what do we know so far’ piece online.” But how do you write what you know so far when what you know is essentially nothing? You get someone to the scene. Due to online whispers of another attack, Mackintosh headed to Borough Market rather than Fishmonger’s Hall. “There were all these police yelling to get away from the danger,” he recalls, “but as journalists we’re going to get as close as we can. You get into a scrum with all the other media. If they see you talking to one person then they swarm there too.” With facts still wildly unclear, Mackintosh’s job was to get a colour piece. “It’s all about the reactions of people at the scene and what they are saying,” says Mackintosh, “I set myself a target to get quotes from a minimum of three people. You need names, ages and pictures.
“I met a bus driver by the cordoned-off area of the highstreet. He had been driving towards London Bridge when the police told him ‘turn off your engine, get out and run’.” This was the quote that led Mackintosh’s story. “It was a busy time on a Friday afternoon, so I started speaking to traders,” explains Mackintosh, “they were trained in evacuation after the 2017 terror attack at the market. They were told to open the door, get everybody in the shops, safety first. After that, I had my colour piece.” So, what is the secret to getting witnesses to talk in a time of such panic? “People often say, ‘I didn’t do anything’,” says Mackintosh, “but if you get people to focus on exactly what they did then their actions showcase how different groups react to attacks. For Londoners, it was instinctive to keep people safe, which is what I made my piece about.” Phrasing can be a precarious aspect of reporting on conflict. Mathewson was concerned about the attacker sharing Mayor Sadiq Khan’s surname as racist comments are often posted about him beneath Mathewson’s articles. Meanwhile, Thomas had been told to “be careful with terminology. The BBC wouldn’t refer to it as a terror attack”. Above all else, precision is vital. “When writing the attack’s breaking news push alert for the app, the worst thing I could have done would be to get a victim’s name wrong. I checked that so many times. It would have appeared on seven million phones at least. You have to be confident. You have to be calm. Speed is important but accuracy is too.” What about the impact on your own mental health? Mathewson wishes she had checked in with her newsroom every 15 minutes for support and personal headspace. Aftercare is standard procedure in news rooms for those covering traumatic events. But for Mackintosh, traumatic incidents are water off a hack’s back: “Danger just seems to follow me everywhere. You have to get used to it. I leave everything at the door. I’ve never had a concern for my own safety. I’m a nosy bastard, that’s where the motivation comes from. You will be the most interesting person at school reunions and parties. It is a fascinating vocation and you learn as you go.”
Image: PA images
Image: James Hacker
A 21 -century gentleman st
Dylan Jones has been editor of British GQ for 20 years, and a fixture on the party circuit for double that. But his magazine is much more than social etiquette and pictures of watches Written by Josiah Gogarty
t feels odd being in someone’s office without them – like finding a steaming cup of tea with no drinker in sight. Yet the occupant of this particular one, overlooking Hanover Square from one window and the Mexican embassy from the other, can be easily identified. Two small sofas face each other across a coffee table stacked with copies of GQ – the last serious force in men’s magazines, and edited for the last 20 years by the owner of the clear frame glasses lying upside down on the desk. Also on Dylan Jones’ desk is a copy of Private Eye, a bust of Elvis, and an action figure of himself. Behind it, a blown-up GQ cover of Prince Harry from 2011. The other walls are given up to bits of David Bowie-related art, including two disembodied eyes – coloured like the Aladdin Sane cover – that bore into you like The Great Gatsby’s T. J. Eckleburg. In the corner of the room is a tartan dog basket. When Jones arrives, the man himself is unsurprisingly well turned out: black leather shoes, blue Levi’s jeans, and a blue Tommy Hilfiger shirt worn beneath a blue double-breasted blazer. I had placed my coat on one of the sofas, expecting to conduct the interview there, but Jones sits down at his desk, gesturing for me to pull up a chair opposite him. His direct, considered speech brings to mind a rather natty headmaster, as does his age: he turned 60 this year, and hosted a star-studded party at The Standard hotel in London to celebrate. After nearly 40 years in one of the more showbiz corners of journalism, Jones knows and is known by anyone worth knowing. A photo he posted on Instagram earlier this year shows two handwritten dinner place cards, one for him and one for Jimmy Page. It’s captioned “date night”. When I ask Jones if he considers himself a celebrity editor, his face wrinkles in disgust. “What does that mean?” I somewhat sheepishly rephrase: is he too close to the people his magazine covers? He remains bullish. “I think it’s certainly problematic if you allow your personal relationship to disproportionately alter the integrity of an article,
whether you’re writing about politics or the entertainment industry. But I don’t think we’re a victim of that.” Jones is no longer the louche art student who would wake up as late as possible to cut out the time before happy hour. He joined i-D in 1983 and became its editor the following year; since then he’s worked at The Face, Arena, The Observer and The Sunday Times. He took the top job at British GQ in 1999 and has never left – in fact, he’s been in it the majority of the magazine’s 32-year history. That kind of tenure suggests consistent hard work – or a certain amount of organisational complacency. And while the largesse and (mis)management of Condé Nast will always be a fixture of media village gossip, Jones makes a good case for the former. “If the industry hadn’t changed in the extraordinarily disruptive way that it has done, I wouldn’t be here. I was going to leave about 10 years ago.” For while GQ’s editor has stayed in place, GQ itself has changed enormously. Like most media brands that have survived the industry’s crises – and magazines have been among the hardest hit – GQ has leaned more on “brand” than “media” as of late. It does branded and white label content, partnerships, and more events than any other media organisation; it’s launching a membership scheme dubbed the “GQ Editor’s Club” this April. The GQ Men of the Year Awards has long been a fixture in the celebrity calendar. Its editorial has diversified into social media feeds, a website, and a biannual fashion magazine, GQ Style. Is this leveraging a brand or diluting it? When it comes to the GQ reader, Jones thinks that variety is an advantage. He’s “perfectly happy” to have readers in their 60s, and says GQ has “far more female readers than we probably talk about because our core base advertising is aimed at men”. A lot of this broadness is out of necessity. “We are a very commercial animal. In terms of mass market commercial magazines there are only really two left; there’s us and Men’s Health. It’s very important for us to have a very healthy circulation, which is still over 100,000. Plus, we >>
“In terms of mass market commercial magazines, there’s only us and Men’s Health left”
Image: James Hacker
Jones’ louche, all-black office looks more like an upmarket hotel than a workspace
Image: Lachlan Bailey for GQ
Image: Mark Lebon for i-D
Cover to cover: The first magazine Jones edited was the March/April 1984 issue of i-D, with Madonna, shot by Mark Lebon, on the front. The April 2020 issue of GQ leads with an exclusive interview with Daniel Craig
need scale on our website. Our events need to be very specific. They need to have a proper DNA, but they need to make a lot of money. This is a commercial enterprise. We can’t afford to be an esoteric magazine and sell 5000 copies.” Still, GQ’s circulation has been steadily declining year on year, from just under 115,000 in 2013 to 103,000 in 2019. But those esoteric magazines, which Jones believes are “terrific publications” but “probably all bought by the same 5,000 people”, are where the future of print likely lies. It’s less about the quality of what’s between the covers and more about what kind of product it is. The litmus test is quite a subjective one: does a magazine feel like something to keep, or to read and then throw away? GQ Style is certainly the former – for starters, it’s heavy – but the magazine’s main edition is a bit trickier to categorise. The front half of it (everything except the big interviews and features) is still very busy, in the manner we now expect a website to be. GQ’s only real rival, Esquire, was relaunched last February, with the idea of print as a luxury product clearly in mind: bimonthly rather than monthly, better paper, and a cleaner design with much more white space. The magazines Jones started in in the 80s were different beasts altogether. Although some, like i-D, have survived to the present, their language was “slightly more arch” and waspish than nowadays. “I look at that stuff now and it’s got a lot of charm to it. But a lot of it wasn’t very well written, including stuff that was written by myself.” Perhaps more than any magazine could today, they defined a time and place. “It was our iteration of swinging London. We very conceitedly thought that we were the story as well as reporting the stories, because we were in central London. We thought we were the cool kids; we probably were for
a while.” The relaunch of The Face at the end of last year tapped into both that old era and the current resurgence of print. Jones liked the Instagram-based marketing campaign that preceded it, but thought the idea of relaunching it was odd. “I know the people who do it and they are talented people, but I thought those who knew and love The Face would think it was a terrible idea. And I thought that it wouldn’t mean anything to young people.” What he liked about the magazine in its heyday, and what he talks about with more verve than any other subject, was its writing. “The Face would take something that was happening in popular culture, and they’d make it interesting for people who weren’t in that world. You could read David Toop writing about Go-go [music] in The Face, and he could have been writing that for The Observer or The Sunday Times.” For all that’s said about cultivating a certain readership or tone of voice, it’s clear that Sunday supplement-style accessibility is nothing but a virtue for Jones. “The issue with a lot of magazines that are aimed at young people, particularly The Face, is that they are very exclusive. The Face wasn’t exclusive, The Face was inclusive, which is why it was successful. I look at a lot of the stuff in those magazines and the constituent parts are musicians, fashion designers, clubbers, people involved in agitprop; the same people who do the same thing in every generation. But they haven’t made it sufficiently interesting for people who are not in those worlds.” Jones tells new GQ contributors to write as if it was for The Guardian. The fact remains that few Guardian articles centre on £1,680 Louis Vuitton dumbbells. When Jones arrived at GQ it was renowned more as a “yuppie Bible” than for any great journalistic merit. This was
Image: The Guardian
GQ got into hot water last year for its “worstdressed list”, which included Jacob Rees-Mogg and Xi Jinping
GQ’s “really strong journalistic values” wobbled a little last December, when it released a list of the “worst-dressed men of 2019”. Among offenders like Jacob Rees-Mogg (“a haunted pencil”) and Dominic Cummings were the Thai king Maha Vajiralongkorn and Chinese leader Xi Jinping – the latter said to get “his totalitarian style cues from his hero, the mass murderer Chairman Mao”. Condé Nast does a lot of business in China and Thailand, and their heads of state were removed from the online article. They were then re-added a few days later, along with a noncommittal message: “We removed some of those references online when we became concerned they might be offensive outside of the UK market. On reflection, this was an error and the references have been restored. We hope readers in other countries will see the text as it was intended – to be humorous in the market it was created for.” Jones is tightlipped on the subject, citing legal reasons.
“The whole idea of prescriptive masculinity has changed”
Image: Anderson Riedel
However humorously presented, a lot of GQ has historically been about telling men what (not) to do. In an age where masculine codes are frequently prefixed by “toxic”, this is a problem. Jones says the magazine’s “whole idea of being prescriptive has changed”; he cites the upcoming issue of GQ Style, which is dedicated to queer culture and gender fluidity. He admits that they weren’t things the magazine necessarily saw coming, but thinks their entrance into the mainstream has been “a really strong and important change in the cultural landscape”. As for the magazine’s “libido” (read: the amount of clothes the women in it are wearing), that’s also changed. Jones told The Guardian in 2009 that “it’s fundamental that we have a libido and our libido is a healthy libido”; now, he talks of “dialling that down about 15 years ago”. It wasn’t out of any sudden worthiness: “I had to do it carefully because I needed to stay in business. In some respects, we’ve been slightly ahead of the argument for quite some time. And in other respects, we may have been slightly behind, but I think we’re in a very good place [now].” Changing cultural attitudes is “a bit like turning an oil tanker or cruise liner”, and GQ clearly wasn’t going to stick its head too far above the parapet. Nevertheless, he thinks part of the collapse of the lads’ mags after their 90s boom was how they “became very reductive quite quickly”: “The only real button that they had to press was sex. So they started pressing that and of course, if you keep pressing it you end up with pornography. And that coincided with the rise of the internet, where if you wanted porn, you opened up your computer, you didn’t walk into a newsagents and buy a magazine.” Jones is confident that, unlike those titles, GQ will continue to adapt to changing technologies and social mores. As for himself? “It depends how long the job stays interesting. The job and the brand change pretty much day by day. And that’s really exciting.” Jones studied photography at art school, and by his own admission wasn’t any good at it. Everything changed when he discovered writing. “We do fashion pictures, we do funny stuff, we do little things, we do photographs of watches. But we also do some amazing long-form journalism. And that’s why a lot of people are in that office,” he adds, gesturing to his staff outside. He checks his phone and, slightly surprised, declares: “You’ve had an hour – I never give people an hour.”
something he set about changing, bringing in writers like AA Gill, Tom Wolfe, and Will Self. American writer Michael Wolff’s essay on Boris Johnson (the ex-journalist prime minister is also a GQ alumnus) for the magazine’s March issue could easily find a home in The New Yorker or the London Review of Books. Jones writes a lot for the magazine himself, and has authored over a dozen books, mostly on music. He thinks that most of what he wrote in the 80s was “pretty terrible” and is only marginally less harsh on himself now: “I have become a more than adequate writer. I’m not brilliant, but I can find my way around a story.”
The highs and lows Instagram paints the life of a travel journalist to be endless press trips and freebies – but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Eleanor Howard talks to four travel writers about the reality behind the sunset snaps Rosalyn Wikeley Native content editor, Condé Nast Traveller What are some of the hardest things about being a travel journalist? Travelling takes up time, and time is money as a writer. If the company that has commissioned you does not cover your expenses, then you also have to cover these, which often means you are actually losing money. Sadly, this means the quality of travel journalists is diminishing as there are only a few who can still command competitive rates. What are your top three travel tips? Think about why you’re travelling rather than simply trying to tick a box and get that Instagram shot. Travel is a different thing to different people but, universally, it’s time out of your routine to experiment and stretch your mind. The main thing I have learned is that you can be in the most mesmerising corner of the world but, if you’re not with the right people, it can be tainted. If you can travel and see and feel where you’re going (i.e. on a train) then opt for that. Lastly, speak to the locals and learn about their customs and mores – you’ll be amazed by what you learn when you ask questions and listen. How has the travel journalism industry changed since you first started writing? PRs have more power on setting the tone, as does advertising. Also, travel is having to adjust to new sustainability standards, offsetting where they can.
Image: Henri Cooney
What do you think the future holds for travel journalism? As experience is increasingly commodified by the likes of Instagram, travel journalists need to remember the underlying reasons for travel. They must ensure that the psychological interrogation of travel persists.
Olivia Squire Print editor-in-chief, SUITCASE Where was the last place you visited for a travel piece? My last trip was to the Original FX Mayr clinic in Austria for a piece on intermittent fasting and detoxing for our health issue. I’d never been on a full-on ‘wellness’ trip and it was definitely an eye-opener.
How has the travel journalism industry changed since you first started writing? I’ve only been in the industry for two and a half years, but I think that even in that time sustainability and purpose have moved from more of a specialist topic into an absolutely non-negotiable part of what we do. We’re all navigating what it means to travel responsibly, manage our climate impact, and retain transparency and integrity. So offering empty, glossy luxury just isn’t enough anymore.
Who is your favourite travel writer? I love Olivia Laing’s books. Although they’re not strictly travel writing, they evoke such a sense of place and contextualise a destination within history, culture, and nature – To the River (which traces the path of the River Ouse in Sussex) and The Lonely City (loosely set in NYC) are favourites. Plus A.A. Gill, of course. Other than reviews, what do you think travel journalism can offer readers? I think travellers are increasingly looking for guidance on how to travel more meaningfully, sustainably, and thoughtfully, which is definitely what we try and provide.
of travel journalism Olivia Squire: I think the ones that stand out are pilgrimaging with a Yamabushi monk in the Shonai province of Japan; a foodie weekender in the Lofoten islands; and a sustainable safari in Botswana. Rosalyn Wikeley: In terms of the press trip that had the most impact on my life, it was on safari in Botswana where I ventured through the Okavango Delta on horseback with a team. It tested and reconfigured my human senses and was an all-round humbling and heart-racing experience. Gemma Bowes: When I first started writing, I went to New York and stayed in a penthouse on the top floor of an amazing new hotel where Lenny Kravitz had been sleeping the week before - in the same bed!
Gemma Bowes Freelance travel editor and writer (The Times, The Guardian) Is travel writing as glamorous as it looks on Instagram? It is when you’re on one of ‘those’ trips. They’ll whisk you around in a luxury car, give you champagne when you arrive, take you to amazing restaurants and leave gifts in your room. But that’s at the luxury high-end of the spectrum and not all travel journalists are covering those kinds of brands. You’re living that lifestyle while you’re there, but then when you get home you’re only getting paid £300 to write 1,000 words. It is a badly paid profession and I think most travel journalists struggle to make a career out of doing it full-time.
Image: Henri Cooney
How has the travel journalism industry changed since you first started writing? It’s hard now because it feels saturated. It can be difficult to find those lesser-known places or special hotels because people are Instagramming everything they find. It used to feel a bit more like we were the experts discovering things and revealing them to people but now the travellers are doing it themselves. What is the hardest thing about being a travel writer? It’s stressful being a travel freelancer especially when you have a family or other commitments. You’re away all the time, the money isn’t great, it feels very unreliable and risky. All the papers I’ve worked at are laying people off constantly and having budget cuts so there is a lot of uncertainty. What do you think the future holds for travel journalism? It feels like now we are much more focused towards practical tips and lists about holidays. That has its place but I hope there will always be more lyrical, poetic travel pieces that people want to spend time reading. In some ways, there are more opportunities now than ever before because a lot of commercial companies and websites have their own magazines and editorial content.
Joanna Booth Freelance travel writer (The Daily Telegraph, Guardian, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine) How has the conversation around sustainability affected your work? I would like my travel to be more sustainable in all the obvious ways like going to one place for longer, but so far that hasn’t been possible as my son is only three years old and I can’t leave him for longer than a week. The truth is I haven’t made huge changes, but I feel increasingly guilty about it. Flights are a huge part of the environmental problem with travel. Carbon offsetting (reducing carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere) is a bit of a fraught issue. I don’t carbon offset every single flight I go on; mainly because travel journalists aren’t particularly well-paid and I do quite a lot of flying. However, I would say there is an incredible benefit that travel can bring. It’s thinking about how you travel: do you stay in locally-owned hotels? Do you eat in family-owned restaurants? Do you choose to use carbon transport? All these things have a huge knock-on effect. You can make sure your money is going to communities rather than massive multi-national companies. What are your top three travel tips? When looking for a restaurant, always go one street back from wherever the main attraction is. If it’s by the river, the views will be amazing but the food will be a bit crap. If you go one street back it will probably be much better. Always learn ‘thank you’ in the language of the country you’re visiting. I am not fluent in anything other than English, but if you learn thank you and smile a lot that will make such a big difference. Think differently – if you want to go somewhere that’s overcrowded and on the tourist trail, go out of season. If you want a specific type of holiday rather than a specific place, go somewhere less well known. Tourism is a genuine problem on a macro level. It’s ruining certain destinations and it’s a problem for communities.
Worst Press Trips Olivia Squire: Because we pick and choose so carefully, I can’t say I’ve had a real nightmare with a trip – normally it’s things we can’t control, like the weather, natural disasters or illness, that make things stressful, as opposed to bad organisation or the destination itself. Rosalyn Wikeley: I reviewed a rental property in Rome which was on the wrong side of town and didn’t feel clean. I had taken a plus one and felt disappointed but it certainly didn’t ruin our trip. Gemma Bowes: I went on a trip once where one of the activities was a trip to a stud farm to see how horses are artificially inseminated. It’s not always glamorous.
Best Press Trips
he reality of being a crime reporter in Mexico is one lived in the grey area where the state and the underworld intersect; one where brightly coloured clothes are worn for easy identification in blurry CCTV footage, bylines are often anonymous for fear of retaliation, cars are routinely checked for makeshift bombs, and switching on your phone’s location services can be the difference between life and death. On 7 January, the bullet-riddled body of Fidel Ávila Gómez was found in a ditch near the town of San Lucas in Michoacán state. The anchor for La Ke Buena was reported missing by his family in December last year; a news station later reported that armed men had intercepted Ávila’s vehicle and forced him into a white SUV. Ávila’s death is the first reported murder of a journalist in Mexico this year. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 reporters were killed in Mexico in 2019; in 2018, 10 were; the year before that, nine. In a landscape characterised by fear and silence, the job of a journalist – especially one reporting on drug cartels, their corrupt collaborators and the ordinary citizens who become collateral in between them – bears unprecedented risk. The grisly demise of reporters in Mexico is commonplace. In 2016, eight gunmen in military fatigues dragged crime reporter Anabel Flores Salazar from her home near the city of Orizaba. Her body was found abandoned on a road the next day. In 2017, journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto was killed in Guerrero – shot 10 times while relaxing in a hammock waiting for his car to be serviced. That same year, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a recipient of the CPJ’s Freedom of Expression Award, was shot 12 times outside his newspaper’s office. In 2019, the body of the founder and editor of news website El Observatorio del Sur, Nevith Condés Jaramillo, was found on a hill in the city of Tejupilco, stabbed multiple times. Mexico is the most deadly country for journalists outside of a declared war zone – surpassed only by Syria and Afghanistan. Since 1992, 117 journalists have been killed in the country. International attention on the killing of journalists has seen the number of murdered reporters drop globally, but Mexico remains impervious to such
The human blessings. Month on month, journalists are murdered to no consequence, part of a wider violence that continues to permeate the nation. Murder aside, for some – particularly those reporting on crime and corruption – the reality of being a journalist in Mexico is one of thinly veiled threats, psychological intimidation and harassment. “I’ve been around and seen the death of colleagues for some time, so naturally I’ve thought about not publishing certain things, having a certain level of self-censorship,” said Ioan Grillo. Something of a veteran, Grillo has been reporting on Mexico’s drug war since 2001 for The New York Times, CNN, Time and others. “I was given a video of a hit filmed from the point of view of the hitman, but I chose not to share that in a documentary or news report because you can see the faces of the people.” Grillo continued: “You have to ask yourself: ‘If I publish this are people going to get arrested or killed as a result?’” Violence against journalists – and its alarming lack of consequence – has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression, producing a culture of silence. In April 2017, Norte, a newspaper in Ciudad Juárez, shut down in response to the murder of three journalists the month before: Miroslava Breach Velducea, Cecilio Pineda Birto, and Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, the latter shot to death when leaving a restaurant with his wife and son. After nearly 30 years in business, Norte ran its last front page, headlined “¡Adiós!”. The newspaper’s editor-in-chief Oscar Cantu
“Of all reported crimes in Mexico, only two per cent of cases are punished”
Image: Article 19
A tribute to murdered Mexican journalists at the Monument of Independence in Mexico City on 5 May 2012
cost of truth in Mexico
Last year, 11 journalists were killed in Mexico – but the fight for press protection is long-lived and looks increasingly futile Murguia wrote: “The guarantee for the safety for us to continue journalism does not exist.” Foreign correspondents, although less vulnerable to attacks, are not immune to the fearful hush. Carrie Kahn, a correspondent for National Public Radio based in Mexico City, explained: “I worry about the safety of my interviewees and take precaution to protect their identities or whereabouts where appropriate.” She continued: “I think sometimes our stories do not get full airing, but these are people’s lives on the line and I am happy to err on the side of caution.” Outside of the capital, the perils increase dramatically; in the northern towns where cartel holds are vice-like and prominent, even more so. “It is one thing driving into Acapulco for four or five days to write a story, but if you live there you’re bumping into these people [cartel members] all the time,” Grillo said. Safety precautions in these regional towns are more extreme than in Mexico City. Since the “narco war” began under former president Felipe Calderón in 2006, many of the smaller media houses openly told their audience that they will not publish anything associated with the war. Violence does not abide by arbitrary boundaries however, and increasingly Mexico City is proving not to be the safe haven that public officials continue to claim it is. In response to rising rates of crime and public pressure, at the start of his sexenio (six-year term) in 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto introduced the journalist protection scheme Propuesta Cívica. The programme allows
journalists to enroll for access to services including security detail, panic buttons, safehouses, camera systems, and bulletproof vehicles. The increasing number of aggression reports suggest any positive change is nominal at best. Reactive efforts like this scheme, of which there are still only a handful, will continue to be undermined as long as impunity for such crimes exist. At a Press Freedom summit in June last year, the award-winning investigative reporter Anabel Hernández held up a bulletproof vest that the government sent her and proclaimed: “This is the way to protect journalists? The only way to save the lives of journalists is to make the institutions work, to have investigations done and to have the government act like a government.” Of all reported crimes in Mexico, only two per cent of cases are punished. In the case of crimes against journalists, the percentage falls even further to 0.7 per cent. “Criminals know they can kill and get away with it,” according to Ana Ruelas, the Mexico director for Article 19, a journalist protection group. “Murders and threats continue to happen because they are successful. Every day, journalists stop what they are doing out of fear.” Mexico’s political terrain is tortuous, overlain with a blueprint of the country’s drug war and its opposing cartels. Grillo, who has spent 18 years untangling the complexities of the narco war for an international audience, writes extensively on “narcopolítica”. The term refers to the country’s uncomfortable conflation of kingpins and governments; sicarios and state actors. It is a severity >>
Written by Annabel Nugent
Image: Eneas De Troy
“Obrador does the same as Trump, even using the same language of fake news and irresponsible journalism”
of corruption where the interests of public officials and organised crime have largely become one and the same. Mexico’s government is quick to place blame squarely on the shoulders of organised crime, but it is not uncommon to find indications of public officials involved in the harassment of journalists. In 2018, Article 19 accounted for nearly 600 work-related aggressions against reporters in Mexico, most of whom focused on corruption and security. The organisation found that an President Andrés López Obrador alarming 42 per cent were committed In some ways Obrador is the most open president with the participation of public officials. The situation would be laughable if it weren’t lethal. Mexico has had. Every day at 7 a.m., Obrador holds “We’re essentially asking the perpetrators to investigate briefings – mañaneras – at the National Palace. While these themselves,” Ruelas said. “Impunity exists because most of mañaneras give the press unprecedented access, they often the aggressions come from the state itself.” In a 2010 front- turn ugly fast, with the president using the opportunity to page editorial, newspaper El Diario addressed the gangs label journalists as conservative, gossipy and fifi (elite). directly: “What are we supposed to publish or not publish, Comparisons with Trump’s inflammatory relationship so we know what to abide by? You are at this time the de with the media might be cheap, but they are glaring. facto authorities in this city.” Ten years on and the problem Reporting for NPR in Mexico, Kahn said: “Mexico’s President persists. does the same [as Trump], even using similar language, Impunity is the reality for 99 per cent of crimes against including fake news and irresponsible journalism.” journalists, and the investigations that are pursued become Being as popular as he is, Obrador’s shift in tone has hampered by corruption. An in-depth inquiry into the rippled beyond newsrooms and the National Palace. authorities’ handling of the 2017 murder of journalist Distrust towards journalists in public opinion is gaining Miroslava Breach Velducea, whose body was found with traction and a faction of the president’s support base are a note that read “for being a loud mouth”, found serious airing their grievances on YouTube. “You have these very omissions and irregularities. Corruption infiltrates every pro-Obrador YouTubers emerging, stoking the fire,” said strata of Mexico’s government: Genaro García Luna, a Grillo. high-ranking minister who supervised the creation of In February this year, victims of violence including Valdez the country’s federal police, was arrested in Texas last Cárdenas’s wife and children came together in a march for December, charged with accepting briefcases stuffed with “peace, justice and truth”. They were met with a group of cash to protect the Sinaloa cartel. Obrador supporters shouting: “Más youtuberos, menos Hope for change was invigorated when President chayoteros” (“More YouTubers, less sell-out journalists”). Andrés López Obrador was elected in 2018. The left-wing While it may be easy to dismiss this as social media fluff, candidate ran under a popular campaign of equality, too many acts of violence bear the internet’s imprint to promising political, economic and social reform for the pretend that virtual activity does not have some bearing country’s majority – not just a corrupt elite. Obrador spoke on reality. According to the CPJ, journalists from news passionately about justice, including for crimes against outlets specifically targeted by the president – notably, journalists. Over a year later, the promises remain illusive the newspaper Reforma – have reported receiving online and, more troublingly, Obrador’s discourse has changed. harassment after printing any criticism of Obrador.
Image: Article 19
“The truth is not killed with bullets”
Reforma’s editorial director Juan Pardinas has received death threats, which he believes are a direct result of Obrador’s criticism of a specific news article that was published. The factors facing journalists in Mexico are convoluted, a ball of yarn that only tangles more when you pull one thread to reveal ten other – state endorsed – threads with it. And yet this awful truth will not stop journalists from writing. Investigative reporters like Anabel Hernandez and Lydia Cacho continue to provide fearless coverage in an environment defined by fear. Any real and meaningful progress will be rendered impossible under a president who is at best mercurial, and at worst complicit. What is for sure is that this quiet muzzling of media by organised crime, and a government that codifies it, cannot be allowed to become old news. The stakes, both personal and political, are too high.
Journalists killed in Mexico in the last 3 years Cecilio Pineda Birto Miroslava Breach Velducea Maximino Rodríguez Javier Valdez Cárdenas Salvador Adame Pardo Edgar Daniel Esqueda Castro Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez Leslie Ann Pamela Montenegro del Real Leobardo Vázquez Atzin Rafael Murúa Manríquez Francisco Romero Díaz Norma Sarabia Garduza Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez Nevith Condés Jaramillo
Illustration: Charlotte Rickards
Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez
Image: Jamie Street
Written in the stars
Once upon a time, magazines were a reader’s gateway into the world of astrology and a goldmine for publishers. Now that the internet has all but removed the glossy middleman, where has the money in horoscopes gone? Written by James Hacker & Eleanor Howard
he words “follow the sound of my voice” echo down the corridor from a disembodied Shelley von Strunckel. The world-renowned astrologer has a sense for intrigue, it seems. Von Strunckel’s King’s Cross lair is just one of the properties she owns – but surrounded by floor-toceiling shelves adorned with books detailing the history of astrology to guides on how to write birth charts, it’s the natural setting for her writing. Discovered in 1991 by the late horoscopist Patric Walker (they both worked for News Corp), von Strunckel is responsible for creating The Sunday Times’ first horoscope column. She has continued to pen the page for nearly 30 years. A lot has changed since then, she recognises. When asked how, intriguingly, she states: “Landlines are a charming, antiquated thing.” In the 1990s, horoscopes were a brilliant economy. Without mobile phones, all calls through to a newsroom’s astrology line came via a home phone. Readers would dial into their hotline of choice to hear a recording of the staff astrologer reading aloud their horoscope, paying for the pleasure. Patric Walker’s voice was but one of many that a caller might hear. Towards the end of his life, he was famous for two things. To the British public, he was revered for his world-renowned horoscopes for the Evening Standard. To his close acquaintances, like von Strunckel, he was known for his diamond collection. His contemporary, Jonathan Cainer, struck a deal with the Mail wherein he exchanged his written copy for all the money made from the calls. It is reported he earned up to a million pounds each year. Shelley von Strunckel’s weekly horoscopes in The Sunday Times Style magazine still offer additional landline readings, but only for tradition’s sake. Between 2012 and 2017, the total time spent on landline calls slipped from 103 to 54 billion minutes, according to Ofcom. In the days before mobile phones and wireless internet, if a reader wanted to call in, they had to do so via the print product – that was where the number was listed, after all. When the world migrated towards smartphones, with instant internet access everywhere, the hotlines struggled to bring in as much money as they once did. “It was an incredibly successful business model,” von Strunckel recalls. “They’d make a million from the phone lines alone. BT was making a couple of bob off it too.”
Despite the hotline struggle, there is still money in horoscopes. Only now it happens away from the page. If a reader wants to contact, say, British Vogue’s horoscope writer, Alice Bell, they can do so via her website or Instagram. In January 2018, Bell was working as a fashion assistant for Vogue.com in New York. Without any prior horoscope experience, she pitched an article: ‘How to shop in 2018, according to your star sign’. Nine months later, Bell opened a waiting list for birth chart readings on Instagram, charging $30 each. Within two days the list had reached 100 people. “I made around two weeks’ salary at Vogue in two days,” she reveals. “That was the point where I thought I could actually financially support myself doing this.” She left her post in January 2019 and six months later, British Vogue commissioned Bell as their resident horoscope writer. Most of her money, is made through her own website where she offers birth chart readings ($100), private astrology sessions ($125) and FaceTime sessions ($40 for 15 minutes, $70 for 30). Condé Nast won’t see a penny of it. Horoscopes, and astrologers in turn, have largely divorced themselves from print. Bell may hold the title of British Vogue’s staff horoscope writer, but the title carries more clout than the paycheck. Bell’s original pitch for Vogue.com taps into the relatively superficial appreciation for horoscopes found on social media: “tag yourself if you’re a Virgo” or “Dating a Taurus be like” memes. Before Y2K someone might have picked up a print paper to find their horoscope, now they can tap to open Instagram and engage with the content free of charge. It is unsurprising that written horoscopes have lost their legitimacy in the face of social media because now anyone online can write them. The money, then, remains in these opportunities for avid readers to feel personally connected to their astrologer. Just as an Evening Standard reader might have called up to listen to Patric Walker in 1991, people today will FaceTime someone like Alice Bell. A meaningful conversation with another person who shares your beliefs has value. It is just that magazines are no longer the conduit for that. But what about von Strunckel? Has one of the world’s longest-serving and most well-respected astrologers noticed this change? “I do not make as much money as Patric Walker did,” von Strunckel says with resignation. “I make my money from property.”
The long and short of it
Amid rumours that an unnamed university in Yorkshire was contemplating scrapping its shorthand journalism course, James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post, sparked a debate on Twitter in January: is shorthand still an essential skill for reporters? ittle did James Mitchinson know that his tweet on January 17 2020, would end up garnering so much attention. Among working journalists in the UK, it set up two bitter factions: those in favour of shorthand, and those against. Pete Clifton, Editor-in-Chief at Press Association, was quick to mention on Twitter that all job applications to PA without a shorthand qualification “go straight in the bin”. On the other hand, Jacqui Merrington, Editor-in-Chief at Reach PLC, tweeted that when she interviewed trainee journalists, what made the best ones stand out was not their shorthand skills, but their understanding of what makes a great story and how to tell it. “You can teach shorthand. You can’t teach instinct,” she wrote. Which brings us to the question: is shorthand necessary in a world of mobile phones, recording devices and transcribing apps? Or has the world of fake news made it ever more essential? Mark Alford, Director of Sky Sports News, believes that shorthand is a brilliant skill that gives journalists a definite advantage over those who do not have it “in this ultracompetitive industry”. He says: “I’d advocate all prospective journalists acquiring the skill. Effective and reliable note-taking in this era of distrust and mis-information is essential.” He also takes shorthand into account when considering the overall quality of a candidate applying for a job at Sky Sports News. “It is preferable but not essential,” he adds. Marlene Lewis, who taught shorthand at Cardiff University for 25 years, unsurprisingly thinks that shorthand is vital for journalists. “You are able to write quickly, and then your transcription of your notes is quicker too. I also think it shows editors that a person is hardworking and dedicated. When they see that they have shorthand they are really impressed,” she says. Richard Ward, who teaches both undergraduates and postgraduates on the Teeline shorthand course at City, believes that technological developments don’t change anything. He argues: “Even when I was learning shorthand a long time ago, people were saying that audiotape recording was going to replace shorthand. They were saying that it was dead but it wasn’t, and it still isn’t.” Ian Johnston, a student on the MA Newspaper Journalism course at City, believes that while audio recorders are helpful in some situations, they’re not always
the best option. “I’ve found that people clam up whenever you shove a phone or recorder in their face, especially when doing vox pops. Interviewees seem more relaxed by a notebook and pen, so it can help you to get better interviews,” he says. On having shorthand as a basis for hiring, Ward argues that a lot of the editors acknowledge that it is tough, having learnt it themselves. “Someone with the sheer determination to continue and get that 100 words-perminute is someone that they’re looking for,” he says. But if there are journalists who support shorthand, there are also those who believe it is an unnecessary skill. “One of the main things no one ever mentions about journalism is that almost anyone could do it,” says Will Morgan, who studied MA News Journalism at Cardiff University in 2019. “Because of this, this journalistic profession loves to throw up arbitrary barriers to entry so that they can thin out the applicant crowd. Shorthand is one of those barriers.” Morgan is taking his National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) shorthand exam next month in order to secure a job at a news agency in southern England. They would not hire him without a shorthand certificate. “It’s annoying because I’m sure Woodward and Bernstein wouldn’t have needed to understand Teeline word groupings to break Watergate,” he adds. To the relief of aspiring journalists who did not take up shorthand, not all employers focus on that particular skill while hiring staff. Holly Baxter, editor and columnist at the Independent Opinion desk (US), says she never learnt it and after 10 years working as a journalist and editor, hasn’t needed it. “I think having it as a compulsory part of a journalism curriculum is madness. Some people who will never master shorthand will still be incredible journalists,” she says. “Also, editors who hire based on whether someone can do shorthand are just hiring on snobbery. Not everyone can afford to go to journalism graduate school – I didn’t – and they still make good editors and writers.” Not all journalists may need to use shorthand during their career, but for those who do choose to learn it, it is not a waste of time. It is a skill that can be used at any time, anywhere, and that is what makes it relevant today despite technological and digital advancements. But is it essential? We will let you decide.
“I’m sure Woodward and Bernstein wouldn’t have needed Teeline to break Watergate”
Written by Shruti Khairnar & Mared Gruffydd
The BBCâ€™s chief inquisitor talks to Pip Cook and Kelly-Anne Taylor about #MeToo, grilling May on Grenfell and that Prince Andrew interview
n a Thursday morning in mid-November, Emily Maitlis walked across the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, accompanied by the Newsnight camera crew and a huge Sweaty Betty holdall packed with an assortment of shoes and jackets appropriate for a meeting with a prince. A meeting that would shake the British monarchy to its ancient foundations. “Whenever the BBC does anything with the Palace, somebody always gets fired,” says Maitlis as we sit drinking coffee in a hotel restaurant overlooking Hyde Park, three months after her now-famous interview with Prince Andrew. “But I didn’t expect it to be him.” The interview, which Maitlis describes as the most extraordinary encounter of her professional life, might have been a long time in the making, but its repercussions were instantaneous. In the days that followed, Prince Andrew’s responses to questions over his friendship with the late convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein were analysed, debated and satirised by media outlets all over the world. On social media, they were shared and re-shared until the severity of the allegations discussed were at risk of being lost in a flurry of memes and soundbites. But the consequences for the Duke of York were significantly more serious than anticipated. Within a week, the Palace
time, so actually you’ll feel more disappointed with yourself if you don’t emerge from an interview having asked the things you went in wanting to know,” she says. “I’ve really enjoyed getting older in my job because I’m not so wedded to having to be liked. At the end of the day some people are going to like you, and some people aren’t.” This tension between a desire to ask the right questions and an awareness of the difficulties faced by all interviewers – in terms of the subject’s reaction, public reception and the constraints of broadcasting – is dissected in Maitlis’ recent autobiography, Airhead. “Interpreting moments of history whilst they are still unfolding is both deeply rewarding and endlessly challenging,” she writes. “An interview can always be better. I don’t think that feeling ever quite goes away.” However, she does confess to having become more confident in her ability to decide which interviews are worth pursuing, and which questions demand an answer. “The first time we got offered the Prince Andrew interview we said no, because they ruled things out,” she explains. In response to Newsnight’s first interview request, Buckingham Palace suggested the Prince would be happy to discuss Brexit, his projects and Britain’s place in the world, but not his friendship with Epstein. “As it turns out, we were right to say no that time. “I think now I feel braver in terms of saying ‘I don’t want
Image: Mark Harrison BBC/PA
announced that the Prince would step down from royal duties for the “foreseeable future”. At the time, the Prince seemed confident that the interview would bring an end to the matter. “We finished the interview and he was delighted,” Maitlis explains. She describes how he enthusiastically conducted a guided tour of the palace, gave the crew ample time to film their extra shots, and even spoke animatedly of what he would show them on their next visit. “It was proof it had gone well,” she says. And in some strange way, maybe it had. “I think if you took it on the whole and you said, ‘Is anyone any the wiser about what he did?’ Or whether they know that he did or didn’t, you’d say I still don’t know,” she says. “The headlines from the interview were so bizarre that they weren’t really about the one central question, and so maybe he was thinking that it went well.” The disgraced duke is just one of many controversial figures Maitlis has interviewed during her career. From Donald Trump to the Dalai Lama, she has met some of the most prominent and contentious individuals to discuss the stories that have shaped our news cycle. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that Maitlis herself has come up against a fair amount of criticism throughout her career, often for her approach – at times labelled ‘too personal’ or ‘too persistent’ – and for questions she did or didn’t ask. “You’re never going to win all of the people all of the
a half-arsed interview.’ That’s no use to anyone. I want something that feels like an honest exchange, or nothing.” Throughout her time at Newsnight, her candid questions have been dodged and evaded by countless subjects unwilling to lay themselves bare, be it professionally, personally or, most commonly, politically. Maitlis’ 2018 interview with President Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer earned her praise on both sides of the Atlantic; commentators commended the directness with which she called out his behaviour when he was in the White House. “You played with the truth. You led us down a dangerous path,” she said via video link to Washington, referring to Spicer’s role in normalising mistruths and promoting Trump’s ‘fake news’ defence. “You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.” Maitlis’ most notable interaction with Trump came six years before the 2016 election for her documentary All American Billionaire. In the years since his inauguration, she has found herself up against the stalwarts of his
“I want something that feels like an honest exchange, or nothing”
home in some way, recognising that the overlap between the professional and the personal can impinge on the work of even the most experienced journalist. But in 2018, Maitlis’ own life was thrust into the spotlight, when a man who had stalked her for nearly three decades was sentenced to 45 months in prison. A statement she had written earlier in the year was read out in court, and duly seized upon by the British press – including her own employer, the BBC. A few days after her story hit the headlines, Maitlis was Image: Stuart C. Wilson/PA
Image: The Guardian
and supplies and helping survivors find accommodation. “Sometimes you don’t quite know what you’re doing, but you feel you have to be busy and useful. You have to do something. So when I came two days later to the interview with Theresa May, I’d already been invested in the story. I couldn’t change that.” May was widely criticised following the interview, with even staunch supporters like The Daily Mail branding her a “Maybot” for her reserved responses. It contrasted with Maitlis’ evident emotion as she questioned the government’s lack of action and May’s own failure to judge the public mood. In her autobiography, Maitlis describes how the Grenfell disaster made her ask a wider question of her job: “How much of you goes in,” she writes, “and how much should be left at the door?” “It wasn’t a political interview,” Maitlis explains. “It was an interview where I had messages on my phone from people who’d been caught up in the tragedy. They always say we need more local reporting, we need to hear from people who actually know the people on the ground. Well for once, I was in the place where the people were. They were asking questions and wanted answers from those in power, and I was in this unique position of being able to go: ‘That’s what they’re asking, and here you are – you’re the Prime Minister. Answer that.’” There have been stories in the past that Maitlis has excused herself from covering when they felt too close to
“There is a vulnerability to being interviewed and I feel that incredibly every time I sit down. You’re opening yourself up”
interviewed about the ordeal on Emma Barnett’s BBC Radio 5 Live show, where she spoke candidly about the faults in the legal system and what should be done to make the process more robust. Just days later, MP Sarah Wollaston’s Stalking Protection Bill was passed by Parliament, and she paid tribute to Maitlis’ case. The presenter has written of how she was inundated with letters and emails from people who had experienced similar harassment, and had only felt brave enough to speak out after hearing her story. It is moments such as these – bringing about real change, inspiring others to find their voice, and prompting public debate – that lie at the very heart of why a journalist does what they do. But how did her experience of becoming the story herself affect how she views her role as interviewer? “There is a vulnerability to being interviewed and I feel that incredibly every time I sit down,” she says, her tone noticeably altered, taking on a quiet, deeply sincere note. “You’re opening yourself up.” Speaking of her own interview with Barnett, she says the experience allowed her to see the process from both sides. “I found it really, really hard. Really wrenching. No one wants to be the victim in the story,” she explains. “The thing it taught me was that there is a duty of care. I think I even felt that after the Prince Andrew [interview]. It’s really easy for people to make jokes about it, but actually that’s not my place.” >>
administration. The rigour with which she has conducted interviews with the likes of Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci and James Comey displays a commitment to the truth that likely stems from her own personal contrition that she didn’t call Trump out on his lies when she had the chance, before he became shielded by self-constructed presidential immunity. It’s a regret which, she confesses in Airhead, has cost her many a sleepless night. But what is arguably her best-known interview with an evasive political figure came not in the States, but much closer to home. It is inevitable that journalists will at times struggle to separate personal experiences from their professional lives, especially those whose jobs demand the level of honest discourse and frank debate as Maitlis and her colleagues’ do at Newsnight. Few collisions of the two worlds have been as absolute as when she interviewed the then prime minister, Theresa May, just two days after a fire left 72 dead and hundreds more homeless when it ripped through Grenfell tower on 14 June 2017. “I’d started off on that story not as a journalist,” Maitlis explains,“I’d started off as a resident and neighbour. My first response to Grenfell had been not to call into work – I just didn’t want to be anywhere near work, pushing a mic under people’s faces.” Instead, she spent the day volunteering in her local community, collecting donations of clothes
So much of Maitlis’ work requires her subjects to unearth the most personal aspects of themselves and their private lives to an audience of millions, in the very same manner she had to in her interview with Barnett. With experience, she admits to feeling a growing sense of personal responsibility towards the individuals who agree to speak, and whose stories and words take on a life of their own after the cameras stop rolling. “The book doesn’t shut when you switch off the programme and walk away,” she explains. “I leave the studio and think ‘Did I get that wrong? Did I misjudge that, or ask the right questions in the right tone?’” She refers to her interview with Rachel Dolezal, a white human rights activist who provoked an international backlash after claiming to identify as African American, but for whom Maitlis felt a deep duty of care after they met in 2017. “Sometimes we take issue-led things, and you forget there’s actually a person behind that,” says Maitlis. “So with Rachel Dolezal, it was a very easy sort of debate. How can a white woman
not asking you about how Facebook operates then what am I doing?” She continues: “I think those are the moments where you think it’s so imperfect what we do, and it can be the difference of a pause, or a misjudged intervention, or failing to intervene at all.” This question of the impact of media intervention, and whether it often does more harm than good, is one Maitlis has grappled with throughout her career, particularly in relation to her reporting of catastrophic events such as the Charleston Church shooting in the US in 2015. It was widely thought that the gunman had taken his inspiration from previous shooters. “I remember coming back from Charleston and just saying to my editor that I never want to cover another American shooting again,” she recalls. “Because I’ve stood on the same spot, and reported that the killer had watched the reporting of the last killing that we’d done – I don’t mean me, but I mean the media. There comes a point when you think ‘I’m not helping. Actually, I’m not helping with
ImageS: @BBCJonSopel Twitter
Deputy features editor Pip Cook and editor Kelly-Anne Taylor interview Emily Maitlis (left); Anthony Zurcher, Emily Maitlis, and Jon Sopel working on a new podcast (right)
claim to be black? Can you self-define your race? Everyone was completely shocked when the story emerged. “Then I went to meet her, and the rubber hit the road. You suddenly go, ‘Oh okay, you weren’t somebody standing on this extraordinary platform. You were an abused child who has grown into an unhappy woman, who has – I think – suicidal inclinations and mental health issues.’ That’s a whole different quality.” Maitlis also cites her interview with Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg that same year, when the social media giant was in the centre of a media storm amid accusations of Russian interference with the 2016 US election, and the proliferation of ‘fake news’ on the site. Sandberg, who had just released Option B – an account of the loss of her husband and a deeply personal description of how to recover from grief – had agreed to the interview to promote the book. Maitlis, however, felt obliged to steer the conversation towards Facebook. “She wanted to talk about grief and the death of her husband,” explains Maitlis. “And I’ve got to talk about Facebook. There’s a tug in your head which is like, as a human being, yes I want to sit here and let you talk to me about your grief, but then I’m also a journalist and you’re in charge of how Facebook operates, and if I’m
this at all.’ I’m not sure that we contribute anything to those sorts of events.” When she talks of her experiences reporting on such tragedies, her anguish for those involved and anxieties over the responsibilities of the media is palpable. But there is a definite note of pride and an enthusiasm for her work when the conversation turns to the interview she sees as a turning point in her career. In 2017, The New York Times published an article in which a number of brave women broke the silence surrounding allegations of rape and sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein. Just a few days later, Maitlis sat down with actress Emma Thompson to discuss Weinstein, Hollywood, and the culture of men in power, in an interview that is widely hailed as a pivotal moment in what became the Me Too movement. Not only did the exchange capture and disseminate the essence of what Thompson called the “gender crisis” in industries all over the world, but it marked a shift in the very way Newsnight functioned. “It was a sea-change moment because I think for ages we’ve played into this idea that nobody has got any powers of concentration anymore, that we’ve all become tweeters, and you only get one minute of somebody’s attention,” explains Maitlis. “But we suddenly went, ‘Actually, if you
“The book doesn’t shut when you switch off the programme and walk away”
Although far removed from Hollywood and the Weinstein trial, Maitlis’ own industry is facing an uncertain future. The BBC is up against drastic funding cuts under the government’s proposals to end prosecutions for non-payment of the licence fee, and potentially scrap the fee altogether. The broadcaster, which has come under unprecedented fire in the past few years over its coverage of Brexit, is facing an existential crisis. Journalists throughout the organisation are apprehensive about the coming months. “I think the truth is we have to carry on working really hard to earn people’s trust and make better programmes,” says Maitlis. “In a way, it’s a vast question and it comes down to something very simple: Am I actually putting in the leg work, the preparation, the understanding and the reading around my subjects to deliver the best programme I can? And if I’m not, then I’m guilty of not doing my job properly. And if I am, then I sort of think I’ve got to leave it to the politicians to decide what happens next.” As our time draws to a close, we ask Maitlis if she would mind if we took a couple of selfies. She obliges, joking that she usually makes a point of getting them herself, no matter how high-profile the interviewee or serious the subject. Whilst we pose for the photos, a man from a nearby table sidles over, eyeing her in the manner of a child in the playground who wants to be included in a game but is too shy to ask. Eventually he clears his throat: “Are you a reporter? You look like that lady from the news.” Maitlis, who just an hour before had praised the location as somewhere “people just leave you alone”, returns a polite smile. “I do a bit, don’t I?”
Emily Matlis and Esme Wren at the the TRIC Awards 2020 held at the Grosvenor Hotel
“We’d been negotiating for nearly a year and I‘d got to the stage where I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. But then the mood started to become more positive, because it was clear that Prince Andrew had to give his version of events. I think the reason that he agreed to it is because of the brand; if you pass the Newsnight test then you’ve done the most forensic, robust interview you possibly could. In terms of preparation, we didn’t have a huge amount of time. We knew that this was likely to be his only ever interview, so we had to be very forensic in our preparation. In some respects it felt like a police interview because we knew we had to put every allegation to him, however uncomfortable that may be. It’s not often you speak to a member of the royal family about their sexual conduct. Emily was very mindful that she was speaking to a senior member of the royal family, but I was very adamant that actually he is a person with serious allegations made against him. I knew a lot of women would be watching that interview wanting to see him held to account. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. I said to Emily, “Look, either it goes wrong for him or it goes wrong for us. We’re not going to both come out of this on top.” I just kept thinking about all those eyes that would be on us when we broadcast – we had to have everything covered. Emily was just phenomenal. We’d prepped intensively for 72 hours, so when she went in there she couldn’t have been better prepared. I’m sure it was no accident that they brought her into the heart of Buckingham Palace, in the grandeur of a state room. They were potentially trying to intimidate the presenter. But she was absolutely rock solid. We had assumed that the reason he wanted to do the interview was to say, “I feel I have empathy for those girls; I’m sorry that this has happened to them.” Not that the guilt lies at his door. The gobsmacking part of that interview for me was that he didn’t take the opportunity to show any sort of empathy for the women caught up in the Epstein story.”
“I think the power imbalances in Hollywood are replicated in every single office space, in every bit of all our industries”
Newsnight Editor Esme Wren on how to prepare for an interview with a prince
Image: Doug Peters/EMPICS
genuinely believe as a journalist that this is an enriching, thoughtful, engaging interview, why are you talking about crushing it?’” In the end, the team decided to run the interview uncut. “We actually devoted pretty much the whole programme to it,” says Maitlis. “It was an amazing, liberating feeling.” Less than a week after we met, Weinstein was found guilty of rape and sexual assault. At the time of writing, the fallen movie mogul had just been sentenced to 23 years in prison. Does Maitlis think the toxic culture of men and power is prevalent in television, too? “I think, broadly, the power imbalances in Hollywood are replicated in every single office space, in every bit of all our industries,” she says. “There are lots of examples of men who don’t even realise that they’re in danger of abusing their power over the younger women they work with, or who genuinely might not realise that women are being made to feel uncomfortable, and that these women genuinely don’t know how to say no without ruining their career prospects, or their next job, or that promotion. “I think we make a grave mistake if we think this is about Hollywood because it’s very glamorous and we’re all looking at it. I think it’s probably happening on every high street everywhere.”
What’s your go-to drink after a stressful deadline?
What’s your go-to drink after a long day?
Usually I find nothing quite as satisfying as a cold pint of lager. But if it’s really been an endless day, I tend to order a whiskey sour to congratulate myself.
A whiskey sour. It’s the perfect mix of alcoholic hit and complex flavour.
What’s your top restaurant/ bar pick for a meeting or interview?
What’s your favourite bar and/or pub in London for post-work drinks?
My favourite drinking establishments are suspiciously quiet pubs in central London that don’t play music, don’t get rammed, and usually have seats – they have to remain a secret.
I love a good hotel bar; the Connaught is as good a place as any, and I’ll take the most expensive bottle of white Burgundy that my expenses account will allow.
What’s your top restaurant/bar pick for a meeting or interview?
Do you ever drink during the week, or save it for weekends and occasions only? I used to edit the wine magazine Decanter, so there’s generally a bottle open at home. It’s definitely more than a distraction – I love wine, and the intellectual side of it in particular. But more than anything, dinner feels so spartan without a bottle on the table.
What’s your tipple?
I spend most of my time in Westminster, so interviews usually have to take place at the Blue Boar, as there aren’t really any decent cafés in the area and it feels a bit wrong to meet in a pub at 11 a.m. Someone please open a nice café near Parliament!
Some of the industry’s best and busiest journalists reveal their go-to tipples; whether it’s after a long day at work, to celebrate hitting a deadline, or splashing out on a contact. Robyn Schaffer finds out what takes their edge off What’s your go-to drink after a stressful deadline?
I like very good red wine. But I also drink vodka because it’s calorie-free.
What’s your favourite bar or pub in London for post-work drinks? What’s your go-to drink after a stressful deadline? A frozen margarita from El Pastor.
What’s your favourite bar or pub in London for post-work drinks?
I don’t really like pubs. I think the myth of the great country pub is exactly that: a myth. My favourite bar is probably the Groucho [Club].
What’s your top restaurant/bar pick for a meeting or interview?
Hoppers Bar in King’s Cross. They’ve got great cocktails and a fun atmosphere.
I’ve got half a dozen restaurants I go to in the area: the Beaumont, the Wolseley, the Caprice, a few others.
What’s your top restaurant/bar pick for a meeting or interview?
Do you drink during the week, or save it for weekends and occasions?
Arabica Bar & Kitchen in Borough Market.
It’s fine in the evenings but I find drinking at lunchtime quite challenging. It’s then impossible to work in the afternoon.
Illustrations: Charlotte Rickards
Written by Kelly-Anne Taylor
As prejudice prevails and hate crimes increase, LGBTQ+ voices must be represented in the media
never realised that I could become a journalist. When I was growing up, I used to read the newspaper. They would say people like me were poofters, a danger to children, and that we deserved to die of AIDS,” said Patrick Strudwick in his acceptance speech at the British Journalism Awards in 2018. The same month Strudwick – who claimed he was the media’s “first LGBTQ+ specialist” – accepted his Specialist Journalism prize, the BBC hired their first LGBTQ+
Illustration: Emily Birch
Taking pride in LGBTQ+ journalism
correspondent, Ben Hunte. It was a landmark moment for the community’s progression within mainstream media. Hunte said of his role: “I am able to start conversations within the LGBTQ+ community and I am also able to reach a wider audience. I’ve made short films about racism at pride festivals, body shaming in the gay community, investigations into gay men breaking the law to give blood and people contracting HIV whilst waiting for PrEP.” Over the last 20 years the landscape of LGBTQ+ rights has drastically changed. Same-sex marriage has been legalised; the gender recognition act was passed; section 28 (a law which prohibited promoting the acceptance of homosexuality) has been revoked, and equal rights were granted to same-sex couples applying for adoption. Recent research conducted by Ipsos Mori revealed that only two thirds of Generation Z identify as heterosexual, the lowest figure of any generation. Hunte incorporates the younger generation’s fluid approach to sexuality into his work, commenting: “For me, it’s about engaging younger audiences, they are so woke, they are so aware of sexuality and gender. Back in the day it made sense to have correspondents for education, transport, business. Now it does make sense to have an identity unit because it’s such a big part of younger people’s lives.” Hunte acknowledges the importance of diversity within newsrooms, commenting on its impact on creating accessible LGBTQ+ content: “In my wider team, I’m one of the youngest, so I hear older people’s perspectives on the stories I’m creating. I also give an LGBTQ+ perspective on a story and other members of my team give me a heterosexual perspective on the story. The audience is like that; it is not one homogenous group. We’re speaking to people who don’t necessarily understand LGBTQ+ issues.” Assumptions and use of language have proved to be a barrier in LGBTQ+ coverage, a matter which Ella Braidwood, freelance LGBTQ+ journalist for The Guardian, PinkNews and Time Out, comments on: “In a lot of coverage, journalists write gay or lesbian regardless of whether the people involved actually identify as that. There needs to >>
be a better, more inclusive approach to labelling sexuality. We need to ask what they identify as, not just assume.” This issue was brought to the forefront after two women were attacked on a London night bus last June. Three teenage boys verbally and physically assaulted the couple because of their sexual orientation. In the aftermath, victim Christine Hannigan wrote an op-ed for The Guardian discussing her identity as bisexual and the click-bait use of the photograph of Hannigan and her girlfriend covered in blood and crying. Hannigan commented on the wide coverage of the event, suggesting this was because the victims were white, cisgender and attractive. Amelia Abraham, a features editor at Dazed who specialises in LGBTQ+ identity politics, discussed her experience as a journalist in the aftermath of LGBTQ+ hate crimes: “I think a lot of LGBTQ+ journalists feel like when something bad happens, they’ll get lots of emails that day asking them to cover it and that can feel disheartening. It’s like you’re on the back foot waiting for something bad to happen so you can write for someone. The busiest my inbox has ever been was the day after the two women were attacked on the London bus.” In an attempt to combat LGBTQ+ pigeonholing or extensive coverage of traumatic events, Abraham suggests: “A journalist is for life, not just for Christmas. As an editor, think how you can commission LGBTQ+ people all year round and ask them to write about things other than their minority identity. It signals to people that they are more than just the sum of their parts. A friend of mine often says that they feel like they have to mine their trauma for commissions.” Similarly, Lucy Knight, who won the Hugo Young Award in 2019 for her article on being a gay Christian warned that although she felt comfortable sharing her personal experience on a wider platform, it can be exploitative. “I think a lot of young female journalists make it by doing a piece that is incredibly personal and about their own intimate experiences,” she says. “That was how I got my breakthrough — I was happy to share that story, but I think sometimes LGBTQ+ people write stories that they’re not actually comfortable sharing. If you have an older male editor commissioning this piece, is there a power imbalance? How much of it is trauma porn? How ethical is it?” Ella Braidwood experienced the mental health impact of covering LGBTQ+ issues and took a break from reporting after nine months at PinkNews. She explains: “I did a lot of coverage of hate crime, discrimination and trans rights, which was difficult to constantly cover because there’s a lot of abuse around it. They are harrowing stories.” Transgender people are the most vulnerable victims of hate crime disclosed Rebecca Stotzer, a professor at
the University of Hawaii. Her research of anti-trans hate crimes explored the disproportionate levels of violence experienced by transgender people in the aftermath of an attack and the emotional impact caused by such incidents. Similarly, in the Mayor’s Hate Crime and Intolerance Report, the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the UK increased by 160 per cent from 5,591 in 2014 to 14,491 in 2019. Hunte commented: “When you are LGBTQ+ reporting on LGBTQ+ events it all feels very personal.” Still, the greatest issue that needs to be addressed across the media is transgender representation. Amy Ashenden, senior production editor at PinkNews, suggests: “We need more transgender writers to debunk the vile transphobia we are seeing in politics and many, many media outlets.” The issues she raises seem even more prominent after Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, published the opinion piece, ‘Women must have the right to organise. We will not be silenced’, which was widely perceived as transphobic. In the aftermath a petition, signed by 338 people, including Guardian staffers, was sent to the editor protesting the newspaper’s “pattern of publishing transphobic content”. Abraham suggests the introduction of “media-wide guidelines on what is and is not acceptable coverage of transgender issues”, which charities such as All About Trans are working towards. LGBTQ+ specialists say there is a dire need for diversity in newsrooms. Through platforming the voices of marginalised people and allowing them to tell their own stories, a new narrative will escape from newsrooms. Hunte comments: “We need racial diversity when it comes to LGBTQ+ because LGBTQ+ experiences are not just white. There is such a spectrum of experience that comes with being gay. It’s not all coming out parties and glitter and unicorns.” Intersectionality amongst LGBTQ+ journalists is key to ensuring accurate reporting of different experiences, but this proves difficult when certain groups are absent from mainstream media. Hunte mentions his piece on LGBTQ+ racism where “not a single Asian person would speak to us on camera. And those that did contacted us afterwards asking to withdraw their appearances because of the pressures they face in their communities”. Looking to the future, Ashenden comments: “I think it’s great that more mainstream outlets are assigning LGBTQ+ roles. It should also be incorporated into newsroom practice more generally so that LGBTQ+ people are not just viewed as a niche specialism. We’re not quite there yet, so specialist roles are probably the first step.” The LGBTQ+ community knows how to do family,” attests Knight. “The LGBTQ+ community knows how to do acceptance.” It begs only one question: does the media?
“The number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the UK increased by 160 per cent from 5,591 in 2014 to 14,491 in 2019”
Image: Arsenal F.C.
Stuart MacFarlane, Arsenalâ€™s chief photographer, on why football photography is far more than promotional pictures and player mug shots Written by Max Copeman
Shooting from the sideline
Image: Arsenal F.C./Stuart MacFarlane
A tipple on the treatment table: Arsenal fan favourites Steve Bould (L) and Paul Merson (R) enjoy a post-match can at Highbury in the early 1990s
time span that covers 31 league seasons, 14 major trophy triumphs, and two stadiums. Contrary to what many perceive, MacFarlane’s job description goes far beyond taking new signing mug shots and kit launch images for use in matchday programmes. Instead, the photographer states that he aims to “record what goes on at the club, to capture moments in time”. As his decade-spanning work shows, the photographic and general media needs of modern football clubs are wide-ranging, and have opened up new avenues just as relevant to journalists as they are to those in PR and corporate fields. Recent years have seen the world’s top football clubs develop sizeable and fast-growing in-house media teams, with Arsenal’s department expanding immeasurably since MacFarlane arrived. In this respect, much like any other media job, MacFarlane’s way of working now is near unrecognisable compared to when he began 30 years ago. Modern touchline football photography places an emphasis on speed, with many photographers not associated with a specific club using cameras with pre-installed microchips, so that when a shot is taken, it is instantly beamed to news desks and social media account administrators. Such immediacy is a far cry from the pre-digital early 1990s, when transfer fees Image: Arsenal F.C.
ootball is a sport defined by fleeting moments in a game of frenetic speed. Since the mid-1990s, Premier League crowds have had replays on big screens, meaning that even if supporters pop out for a pint or a pee, they never miss a thing. Even referees can now enjoy the positives (and perils) of replays thanks to the introduction of video technology. Stuart MacFarlane has no such luxury. In sports reporting, images are often as essential as words, and as chief club photographer at Arsenal F.C., MacFarlane (right) sits pitch-side in order to ensnare the key moments within the frame of his camera. “Sometimes you think, ‘I might have got that’, but really you know you haven’t,” he says. Despite three decades of experience as the club’s principal lensman, even MacFarlane’s fingers aren’t always fast enough to capture every shot, stepover, or slide tackle. He admits that timing mishaps are part of the profession, but also that his lifelong Arsenal devotion can sometimes clash with this anguish at failing to snag something in his lens. “There have been moments when an Arsenal player has run through on goal and I’m thinking, ‘don’t score, don’t score’, because I know I haven’t got the picture.” Having outlasted even the legendary manager Arsène Wenger who left in 2018, MacFarlane stands alone as a rare constant in a
Image: Arsenal F.C./Stuart MacFarlane
the players themselves looking their best. Naturally, some stars make life easier than others: “Thierry [Henry] was so easy to shoot because he always looked good when playing the game, and it was the same with Dennis [Bergkamp]. But Jack Wilshere was a tough one because he runs with his tongue hanging out.” Peculiar facial expressions aside, a club photographer’s surprising considerations also include the guarding of team tactics; pictures from training sessions of certain players in specifically coloured bibs could reveal the line-up of an upcoming match. Similar secrecy applies to photoshoots with new signings: “Nowadays we’ve got massively elaborate announcement videos where we follow the signings through their medicals, in the gym, everywhere. It’s tricky because you don’t want it to get leaked onto social media.” But away from this optics-conscious outlook as an employee of the club, ultimately nothing stops MacFarlane shooting. He recalls the discomfort of his job in the darker times, such as photographing the long-term injuries sustained by Eduardo da Silva and Aaron Ramsey in 2008 and 2010, moments that remain sorely etched on the memories of English football fans. “When they had their legs broken, I caught the moments of impact. It was horrible. But I needed to get it so the medical staff could use it for reference.” >> Image: Arsenal F.C./Stuart MacFarlane
were below £10m and Paul Gascoigne was making more headlines for what he did on the pitch rather than off it. For MacFarlane, photographing matches at that time brought many challenges. Rolls of film would need to be run up to a processing machine during half-time, so that he could work on them as soon as the final whistle was blown at Arsenal’s now-demolished old ground, Highbury. Back then, his photographs were used by both Arsenal and national newspapers reporting on matches. “To get to our office at half-time, you’d have to run up the tunnel behind the last player and pass the away dressing room. The door would be open because it was always so hot in there, and if they were losing, you might have seen Alex Ferguson screaming at Eric Cantona.” The climax of this runaround would be a 4.00 a.m. trip along Fleet Street to hand deliver an envelope of developed photos to national newspaper picture desks in time for the next morning’s paper. Years later, in 2006, Arsenal moved to Emirates Stadium, which, in spite of the state-of-the-art design, MacFarlane describes as “the hardest ground in the country to work at” due to the shape and shadows of its roof. “When I first saw the plans for it, I said to [fellow club photographer] David Price, ‘we’re f****d’. The minute you’ve set your exposure to be in the sunshine, you’re in the shade.” While this may be a problem for all photographers, MacFarlane’s in-house role requires him to think differently to other press pass holders. From an Arsenal angle, the pictures for publishing are not just the best shot, but those which feature Player pile-up: The Arsenal team react to a recent late goal with a celebratory human heap
Image: Arsenal F.C./Stuart MacFarlane
“Thierry Henry was so easy to shoot because he always looked good playing the game. But Jack Wilshere was a tough one because he runs with his tongue hanging out”
Image: Arsenal F.C.
MacFarlane self-effacingly puts many of his iconic images down to good fortune, such as the dramatic shot of Gabriel Martinelli eluding Chelsea’s acrobatic N’Golo Kanté (below), explaining that “the shutter opens and closes in five hundredths of a second, so a lot of the best pictures are lucky pictures”. He continues to say that when cutting his teeth in his twenties, his boss told him that learning the craft was at least a 10year process. More than 20 years on, it’s fair to say MacFarlane is now well-qualified in his field, and he stresses that football photography is key in recording the history of world-famous clubs. “We’ve got photographs from the 1950s of players having a cigarette and a beer in the bath after a game (left). We want to get historical pictures,” he says. Such an emphasis on archiving shows MacFarlane to be one of Arsenal’s chief chroniclers, demonstrating that football photography is far more than glorified publicity material and social media-friendly snapshots. Instead, it comes across as a form of visual, sport-specific reportage, responsible for documenting and encapsulating the goals, icons, and institutions so many hold dear.
Image: Arsenal F.C./Stuart MacFarlane
Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli (R) breaks away from Chelsea’s lunging N’Golo Kanté (L) en route to scoring in January’s fixture at Stamford Bridge
Image: Naveen Annam
Boris and the Lobby
After years of Brexit chaos, Boris Johnson has secured the biggest Tory majority since Margaret Thatcher. So why are his spin doctors still playing dirty with the press? Johnson’s triumphant election victory last December ended over three years of political turmoil, which began with the result of the EU referendum in June 2016. For Parker, who joined the Lobby during “the dying days of Thatcher” in 1990, it was “the most intense period of political activity” in his whole career. During the election, Johnson and his chief advisor Dominic Cummings shied away from potentially unsympathetic media attention. They banned Mirror journalists from the Conservative campaign buses, and Johnson refused most interview requests, most notably from broadcaster Andrew Neil, in favour of flattering setpieces produced in-house by the party. The Tories have continued this approach in government, and a ban on ministers appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme was only lifted for coronavirusrelated health announcements and Rishi Sunak’s hastily written Budget. Excluding Lobby journalists is “part of Dominic Cummings’ anti-establishment long march through the institutions”, says Rachel Sylvester, a political >>
ost people will have memories from their schooldays of standing in a group and being picked out or passed over for a sports team. On 3 February this year, Britain’s Lobby journalists were feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times, says that the group were waiting for a briefing in the foyer of Number 10 Downing Street. The government communications team, Parker recalls, “started calling a register of people who were and weren’t invited”. Parker’s name was the first to be called from the former list, and he “had to walk across and stand on my own on the other side of the lobby”. It turned out that Number 10 wanted to exclude leftleaning papers like the Daily Mirror and The Independent from these meetings. Faced with this attempt to divide and rule, the entire Lobby boycotted the briefing in a wellpublicised stand against an overmighty government. The incident was indicative of a level of political power that no prime minister had possessed for years: Boris
Written by Josiah Gogarty
“The story now is the battle within government rather than between government and MPs”
The Tories certainly didn’t have this kind of power before the election. A steady stream of defecting MPs meant the outcome of every Commons vote hung in the balance, with reporters frantically trying to keep up. But all these votes didn’t get Brexit or anything else done, and Parker says that during the period, journalists were essentially “writing a whole load of stuff about nothing happening”. Now there’s a government that can accomplish a great deal, the hunting ground for good stories has shifted from Parliament to Whitehall, where the day-to-day business of running the country and formulating policy goes on. As Blanchard says, “the story is now the battle within government rather than between the government and the MPs … now Parliament’s boring”. This kind of journalism is a bit harder: “You can’t just do this stuff off a press release; you need to know people inside the departments. When it was all being played out in the Commons chamber, it was much more like watching a football match. We could all switch on BBC Parliament and see who won.” Nevertheless, Johnson can’t take his backbenchers entirely for granted: in March, 38 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government’s bill to involve Huawei in Britain’s 5G network. Parker sees this shift towards covering policy rather
Image: The Guardian
columnist at The Times, “which also includes the attack on the BBC and the courts”. About a week before the February walkout, Downing Street had selectively invited some Lobby journalists to a meeting about Huawei. They didn’t realise what had happened until afterwards. But when the Lobby was divided in person on the second occasion, they were ready for a strong, unified response. Much of the media has been heavily criticised for its election coverage, yet Parker found that the Lobby walkout “appeared to cut through to ordinary people”, a number of whom personally praised the journalists for their actions. It’s one thing for a political party to exclude certain journalists, he says, but it’s quite another for it to happen on government premises for events paid for by the taxpayer. This kind of behaviour by governments with big majorities isn’t unprecedented. During Tony Blair’s premiership, his communications chief Alistair Campbell was known for being aggressive with the media and blacklisting journalists. Jack Blanchard, who writes Politico’s London Playbook newsletter, says “this is how governments treat the press when they’re powerful enough to do so”. Number 10 is “not trying to be consensual in anything that it does, and you see that right across the policy spectrum. Why would it be any different in the way that it deals with the media?” But according to Parker, “fragility on the part of a government which has a healthy Commons majority and has just won a big election victory” is actually quite unusual: parties are usually “magnanimous in victory” and “store political capital for when times get bad”. Both journalists agree that leaving news stories unanswered on broadcast is short-sighted. “Sooner or later this government’s going to need some friends in the media again,” says Blanchard. “They’ll never be more powerful than they are right now.”
As Prime Minister, Johnson has repeatedly tried to sideline the press – despite being a journalist himself
than intrigue as “a healthier phase for the country and for journalism”. Rather than just “writing about crises all the time”, journalists are moving their focus to “serious things that are impacting people’s lives, like HS2 or whether we should have super-fast internet provided by a Chinese company”. With a government this powerful and Labour still in disarray, the media has a “vital role to play” in holding Johnson to account. He thinks that even right-leaning papers are “rising to the challenge in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect” – he cites The Daily Mail recently publishing columns defending the BBC rather than attacking it. Part of this shift is due to how emphatic the election result was: “If a Tory government is under threat of losing power, you will find The Sun, the Mail and the Telegraph rallying to its defence. Now because people have it in their heads that the Labour Party’s lying in a ditch somewhere … there’s probably more of a tendency for newspapers of the right to actually be more outspoken.” Even aside from the politics itself, Brexit press coverage was divisive: some people got sick of the very word, while others obsessively followed its every twist and turn, learning much more about obscure Parliamentary rules than they probably ever expected or wanted to. If you were in the latter group, chances are you were glued to The Guardian’s ‘Politics Live’ blog, which provides rolling updates on every day (and night) in Westminster. It’s run by political correspondent Andrew Sparrow, who says that during the biggest Brexit votes last year it was getting up to 8 million hits a day. Part of that success was about the kind of news it was covering. “The blog is a particularly good way of doing news when stuff is changing minute by minute,” says Sparrow. “You can keep track of it in a live blog in a way that you can’t if you’re updating a story on a website. The Parliamentary side of [Brexit] was really well suited to the blog that I do.” This year, ‘Politics Live’ has only been averaging about 300,000 hits a day. It’s hard to say whether that fall is due to people disengaging from politics, or because political stories have themselves become less dramatic and more focused on policy than personality. Blanchard’s own newsletter hasn’t had any drop off since the election – unsurprising given it’s mainly aimed at political professionals. He says that given the intensity of the last few years, it’s “perfectly healthy” for people to not focus on politics as much as they were. Nevertheless, “there’s plenty there to hold attention and there’s plenty there of importance” – it just takes a different, arguably more challenging kind of journalism to report it.
Pimping out your heartache In journalism, personal trauma sells – and in a cash-strapped industry that prioritises clicks over well-being, writers are cannibalising themselves for a pay check Written by Annabel Nugent
Illustration: Charlotte Rickards
he personal essay is to journalism what the superhero movie is to film. A bonafide blockbuster, a surefire way to rack up views and whip up controversy in a tired month. Writers are more than willing to oblige, frantically mining their personal lives for stories: under the bed for childhood traumas, inside the pantry for an obscure eating disorder, on top of their bedside table for dysfunctional marital dynamics. We’re good at it too, thanks to a lifetime spent on the internet. The emergence of private blogs and social platforms like Livejournal, Blogspot and Facebook circa 2008 provided their own kind of journalism grad scheme. They trained people to write about their personal lives with intimacy, and an audience in mind – before SEO was even a thing. These platforms codified the egotistical selfimportance that everyone felt and will always feel: “Yes”, you think, “I knew it, people do care about my daily diet and my feelings of inadequacy!” In 2008, The Times Magazine ran a cover story by Emily Gould titled “Exposure” in which she writes about what it’s like to detail the intimacies of her life, online; the mould for commodified experience articles was set, and aspiring writers rushed to fill it with their own digital tales of self-disclosure. Quickly though it became apparent that what you ate for breakfast wasn’t likely to garner much attention. However, your sexual relationship with the biological father you reconnected with aged 19 – that’s internet virality signed, sealed and delivered. >>
Journalists,women in particular, became accustomed to cannibalising themselves to survive in an industry which rewarded shame and humiliation with columns and pay check. So read the headlines of the deluge of personal essays that poured forth: Jezebel published “On Falling In and Out of Love with My Dad” and “Ten Days in the Life of a Tampon” (a piece filed to a subsection of the website tellingly titled “Gross Things That Happen To Your Body”); “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing” appeared on xoJane; Liz Jones’ diary about obsessive cleaning, dieting and her cheating husband was a popular fixture for Daily Mail; and on and on and on. Developments in traffic analytics made it easier than ever to track the seemingly bottomless appetite for these ultra-confessional pieces of writing, which often centred on body image, identity and sexuality. Time and time again, the algorithm spat out the same formula: the weirder, more salacious and more shameless the article, the better. It’s basic internet science. Websites’ recommendation algorithms steer users toward increasingly provocative content, resulting in a feedback loop that means more time spent on the site and more advertising revenue for the publication. While internet-native writers were coming of age, publications were experiencing budget cuts, and what’s cheaper than commissioning experienced reporters? First-person copy from freelance writers hoping to break into a highly saturated, competitive industry. Sophie Wilkinson, a freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian and Glamour, among other publications about her sexuality and relationship, explained: “Writers – young writers especially – came to believe that their worst life experience was their best story.” The cost though comes elsewhere. In 2009, journalist
Illustration: Charlotte Rickards
“Mostly written by experienced journalists with a loyal readership, this ‘hot take’ with a personal twist is the go-to for editors under pressure”
Jill Parkin wrote in a Guardian article: “Editors no longer want my shorthand or my interviewing skills. They want my body and soul, two things I’m not used to hawking.” At the time of writing, Parkin was already an established journalist with 30 years of experience at nationals, where publications paid £100 or so for a personal essay. Many younger writers are expected to write for less, or for free; exposure and the possibility of more work was assumed to be payment enough. But that was never a guarantee. The author who wrote the viral story about her sexual relationship with her father submitted another unrelated pitch to Jezebel that never even received a response. “I know a lot of young writers, women especially, who fall into the trap of writing about their very most personal traumas very early in their careers and get paid £50 for it to be put on a website where it dies after a day,” Imogen West-Knights, a freelance journalist for The Guardian and The New Statesman, said. Similarly, Wilkinson added: “Being able to bring something new and exclusive is always important, especially when you’re starting out. The newest thing is sometimes the thing you’ve been keeping secret for a long time, something you want to be keeping secret.” The pressure to write, though, is not always external. Ella Dove, commissioning editor across Red, Prima and Good Housekeeping, became an amputee after a sudden
accident in 2016 and published a fiction book three years later based on her experience. She said: “I made sure to hold off until I was ready, but at the same time it was all this internal pressure coming from the expectation that I’m a writer and so therefore I should write.” The first-person economy is undoubtedly a women’s landscape. In part because many of the budget-slashed publications looking for quick freelancer copy are women’s interest sites. But also because there is a different expectation of women journalists. “We’re always encouraged to have a personal association with the story. We’re expected to have this certain level of empathy – and it’s not the same for men,” according to Wilkinson. This is not to say men do not write personal essays, but they continue to be few and far between, compared to the sheer volume of women offering up grim dispatches of motherhood guilt, body image and horrific experiences. Too much of anything is good for nothing though, and after almost a decade, the age of digital, emotional strip-teases was put to bed. Arguably it all came to a head with xoJane’s publishing of “My Gynaecologist Found a Ball of Cat Hair in My Vagina”. First-person verticals and publications were shut down; Buzzfeed Ideas closed shop at the end of 2015, with Gawker and xoJane following suit in 2016. Salon’s personal essay editor role no longer exists, and indie sites known for first-person writing like The Hairpin and Rookie have gone under or had to change editorial direction. Personal writing slowed to a stop and The Daily Telegraph stopped putting out requests for readers with “a personal story about the break-up or survival of marriage”. For all intents and purposes, the bubble popped and it was back to regularly scheduled programming. In May 2017, Jia Tolentino penned an obituary for the “personal essay boom” in The New Yorker. There, she cites the cause of death as the 2016 American Presidential election: “The political landscape has been so phantasmagoric that even the most sensationally interesting personal essays have lost some currency when not tied head-on to the news.” But in Tolentino’s very dismissal of the genre’s relevance, she alludes to its survival: the op-ed. Iterations of personal essays as we once knew them (shock-horror shame by faceless one-time authors) have faded from mainstream media, but the op-ed is confessional journalism’s older, more mature sibling. Mostly written by experienced journalists with a loyal readership, this ‘hot take’ with a personal twist is the go-to for editors under pressure to have their reporting of the day’s news stand out from a torrent of identical pieces from identical publications. “Unless you’ve got the quickest take or a certain expertise, then you have to talk about you,” according to Wilkinson, whose recent pitch for a piece about the Harvey Weinstein trial lead, in turn, to her editor asking whether she had her own #MeToo story. “Even if I do, I shouldn’t have to give that in order for my voice to be heard. “There’s this real necessity for women to put our CV forward and say: ‘Yes, I’ve lived this so I’m qualified to talk about this trending topic.’” The news-hook of this most recent form of confessional journalism means 24-hour writing windows and extemporaneous writing of what are
often painful moments. And again, it is women who are taking the brunt of this. Wilkinson continued: “Editors will ask for more of ‘me’ in a piece. Men don’t have to prove that they have a personal connection; it’s assumed that, professionally, they’ll be able to deliver a story without having to confess anything.” If past incarnations of personal essays were shockbased, these new types are not only issue-driven but also personality-based. It’s not unusual for journalists to have thousands of Twitter followers, and the cult of celebrity that has amassed around certain writers has meant those willing to share insights of their personal life are met with identification and connection – and more book deals than one thought possible. It’s why two years after Tolentino pronounced the death of the personal essay in The New Yorker, she debuted her best-selling collection of personal essays Trick Mirror, to stunning reception from peers and readers who hailed her “the voice of a generation”. Readers may no longer be interested in reading about a random person’s life, but if it is Tolentino’s experience with ecstasy and religion, then we’re all ears. The same can be said for the likes of Dolly Alderton, Bryony Gordon and Naomi Fry, et al (note: all women). This new wave of personal essays resurfacing sees self-exposure serve a purpose beyond click-bait. Most importantly – when they are good – they dance the line between self-aggrandizing and speaking universally. In 2019, West-Knights published a personal essay about the death of her friend. On choosing to write about the loss, she said: “Obviously everyone experiences grief at some stage and so much writing has been done about it, so I think really the only way to tackle something so universal is to make it as personal as you can possibly be within that genre.” West-Knights continued: “You have to have a reason for doing it. If it doesn’t reflect in a useful way for other people on why there’s these feelings in the world, then you might as well be writing a diary for your own consumption.” For the writers themselves, it is a case of drawing lines in the sand and fixing boundaries. “I’ve realised that I’m willing to speak about my own sexuality and my own relationship. I work really hard to ensure that only stuff I’m comfortable with is published,” Wilkinson said. Dove, on choosing to write about her traumatic experience as a fictional book, explained: “I fictionalised it because I wanted to distance it from my own life; I wanted to explore it without it being too painful.” Personal essays have evolved into a different sort of literary beast. More thoughtful, less knee-jerk; more selfaware, less narcissistic. They can give space to stories like Dove’s and West-Knight’s to breathe. At their best, they are agents of liberation for their writers and a means of connection for their readers, and never before has there been such a mainstream demand for marginalised, new voices to come into the fray. But when there is neither adequate compensation nor support for the fall out, it is a system which perpetuates long-standing problems of privilege in journalism – and the result is an act of cannibalism that is as uncomfortable to commission and to read, as it is to write.
“Being able to bring something exclusive is important. The newest thing is sometimes the thing you’ve been keeping secret for a long time”
Technology and the newsroom: a look into the future
From robotic newsreaders to voice-operated computers and special smartphones, what will the newsroom look like in 2050?
odern technology has supported the media in building a new path for the deliverance of content. Ubiquitous social platforms and storytelling techniques such as audio and video have made information more accessible, engaging, and interactive for audiences. The last decade has been defined by social media’s technological disruption, which has both undermined and supported publishers as the gatekeepers of information. Fake news, fuelled by the immediacy of social media, shattered the mirage of trust between audience and news outlets. But it has also aided journalists in producing, editing, and sharing content. A few years ago, game-changers such as AI-powered automation started shaping the way newsrooms operate – and will continue to do so in ways many of us can scarcely imagine. Virtual assistants have become popular and humanoid robots have replaced news presenters in China and Russia, but we are just getting a taste of how technological trends will revolutionise the newsroom ecosystem. Accelerating media trends will place artificial intelligence at the newsroom’s core by 2050. Imagine cyborgs and AI software that will cultivate algorithmic journalism. Automated computer programs will be responsible for producing a streamlined flow of news pieces, according to Victoria Redshaw, a futurist who works for Scarlet Opus, a company which identifies emerging consumer trends. “Robots will be positively assisting journalists in their work in order to keep up with the increasingly fast-paced lives of citizens,” she says. “Working around the clock, robot reporters will have agenda-free, unbiased algorithms capable of researching, tracking, and updating stories.” In other words, writing formulaic stories is not going to be on the reporter’s checklist in 2050. While automated systems will allow journalists to focus on producing indepth features and extensive reporting, these systems have their limitations. Kathryn Bishop, editor at The Future Laboratory, a strategic foresight consultancy, believes that human emotional intelligence is still going to be imperative. “AI will be very useful in producing editorial, but I think it will
Written by Catalina Ioana Oblu ultimately need that human layer at the very top,” she says. “You still need the emotional editing side of news when it comes down to disaster, for example.” Podcasts are now booming too, especially since smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and wireless headphones like Apple’s AirPods have emerged. However, a multilayered approach to journalism, combining text with audio and visuals, is more likely to rule mass media. A digital format stimulating senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell – will immerse the consumer in an augmented reality. Naturally, innovative accessories and devices will emerge to assist journalists in testing such multidimensional experiences. “There will be accessories that will allow us to view and experience journalism and news in different ways, a kind of new take on Google Glass. You’re not going to sit down to read things or turn on the TV in 2050,” Bishop says. A new generation of journalists will be born, and they will not rely on traditional text and images. Tech-savvy and skilled multimedia storytellers, they will benefit from devices specialised in creating those immersive experiences. This type of tool will provide audiences with the opportunity to explore a more informed approach to consuming media. They will benefit from innovative technologies which will immerse readers in experiences around natural disasters, political debates, and street protests – all through virtual and augmented reality devices. Bishop believes that 30 years from now, journalists will own smartphones or tablets purposely created for their professional needs. Even though a plethora of these gadgets already exist, they will evolve into more technologically-advanced devices that will make gathering information and producing content easier and quicker. Whatever physical form they take, they will be all about portability and multifunctionality, to make journalistic storytelling quick and engaging. “Based on things like our handheld devices, our smartphones and tablets, I think it’s going to be about being able to go out and get the news that you need, get that insight, get that quote and record that moment,” she says. According to Mario Coletti, managing director of Nextatlas, a platform specialising in analysing emerging trends, the average 2050 media consumer will be spoon-fed
with a constant flow of news. “At the moment, consumers are actively seeking news by checking their Twitter feeds or buying newspapers. This is going to evolve because people will almost be on autopilot mode when consuming media using just one app,” he says. From an editorial perspective, without voice-operated systems, journalists will not be able to fully satisfy their audience’s consistent demand for commodity news. The production processes – from gathering information to writing the piece – will be performed in-house, rather than on the road. Another tech-driven device flooding the 2050 newsroom is going to be the multidimensional and voice-operated virtual screen. Featuring multiple user interfaces, menus and windows, this type of desktop will be an assisting processor helping journalists analyse and combine information from distinct sources and devices. “Virtual screens are going to be a way to broadcast gathered data rather than to produce editorial. They will collect and examine information derived from multiple kinds of supply points,” Coletti says. In these bustling and cybernetic newsrooms, voiceoperated systems will further act as assistive tools, helping journalists produce editorial content quickly. Rather than
using a multitude of apps, the futuristic newsroom will benefit from a fully responsive online system which will give journalists access to a wide range of functionalities, from proofreading to video editing. This online assistant will probably be voice-operated – journalists will just need to say the functionality they need, and the online system will immediately open access to it, be it a video game or a news source. More practical and functional than downloading dozens of apps for recording interviews, proofreading and verifying information, the system will act like a multi-skilled personal assistant and translator. “It will be easier to transfer, communicate, and share information across multiple languages. It will be used to develop content and to mesh, combine, and collect information from different sources in order to create the editorial product,” Coletti says. There is no crystal ball to accurately tell us what we can expect from the 2050 newsroom. Considering the speed of technological development – best reflected in the fact that the internet did not exist four decades ago – it is difficult to pinpoint the tidal shifts that will rule future newsrooms. For now, it seems that dynamic technologies, such as multidimensional experiences and automated systems, will make the landscape of journalism more engaging. But, until 2050, we can only predict.
“A multilayered approach to journalism, combining text with audio and visuals, is more likely to rule the media”
Marie Le Conte Parliament’s gossip girl on the secrets of reporting from the Westminster bubble Written by Lydia Spencer-Elliott
says Le Conte. But not everyone can employ that tactic and still feel safe. “There are very talented journalists who just don’t really go out in Westminster as a result. They don’t want to be there after dark; they don’t want to have drinks one on one with men. You can’t blame them, but it does make the job a lot harder. “Weirdly, I’ve found newsrooms to be more maledominated than politics. Both are pretty incestuous and without management training, both journalism and politics can wind up being quite dysfunctional.” To her surprise, Le Conte once discovered she was having an affair with an MP: “I thought it was hysterical, but also slightly disturbing. What kind of annoyed me was I hadn’t done anything dumb, but everyone seemed to think I had. Part of me thought, Jesus fucking Christ, I should have fucked an MP. If you’re going to get a bad reputation for doing something, then you might as well have been doing it.” She wrinkles her forehead after this final statement as the words linger in a pregnant pause between us. She concedes and shrugs defiantly. Judging by the rolling political sex scandals journalists uncover, her rash philosophy aligns with those in the Westminster bubble. Yet, with such high stakes, it is >>
ouse of Commons hearsay is more influential than any press statement or policy paper. This is the revelation that Marie Le Conte proved in September with her debut novel Haven’t You Heard? Gossip, Power and How Politics Really Works. “People think Westminster is like House of Cards but it’s actually more like Mean Girls,” an anonymous MP told Marie. “People come in expecting to be Francis Urquhart but they’re just Regina George. There’s a lot of Regina Georges in Parliament.” If the MPs are Regina, then Le Conte is Gretchen Wieners — her swept quiff is full of secrets. Where she works is one such secret. Since going freelance, the café we meet in has become her office and she prefers to keep the location classified. Of French-Moroccan heritage, Marie moved to London in 2009 to study journalism at the University of Westminster. After a stint as an Evening Standard diarist, she became a Buzzfeed political correspondent but resigned in 2017: “I like writing features about politics and that’s not really a job that exists, so I went freelance. I had to realise that I just do not have a brain for news. I drove my editor mad because a big story would come out and I’d go: ‘Oh! I’ve known about that for weeks.’ He’d be sat at his desk crushing his can of coke into his hand.” Today, she is busily working on a profile of Home Secretary, Priti Patel, for Vice. But her subject’s solitariness means none of her sources are working out. “She doesn’t seem to have any friends,” frets Le Conte as she taps her pointily manicured nails against the table. True to her days as a diary reporter, Le Conte recruited her sources at Westminster parties and pubs. “I have no shame about it,” she says cheerfully, “I used to drink the cheapest lager but last month I discovered tequila and tonic. It’s amazing.” Drinking will inevitably encourage loose lips, but Le Conte warns against immediately turning conversation into interrogation when in a social scenario. “Just have a fucking chat like a normal person,” she advises. “Lots of it is like speed dating. You have to find similarities to establish that relationship.” Unfortunately for female reporters this is more literal than metaphorical. “Especially when I was starting out, a fair few politicians thought going for one drink to talk about work was a date” she says. “We would chat and then I’d get a message afterwards saying ‘I had such a lovely time, see you again very soon I hope xxx’. “I just ignore it. That’s how I solve most of my problems,”
hard to understand why those in power would take the risk. “The motivation does fascinate me. Could they not keep it in their fucking pants?” she asks. “If you’re someone in the public eye it is going to come out, but maybe that’s part of the thrill.” For lesser mistakes, Le Conte believes we must allow politicians some leeway. “Voters say they don’t want MPs who are all the same but the second a politician does something that’s human and flawed they go ‘and now we must burn them at the stake!’ You complain they’re not human enough but if they make a human mistake you hate them for it.” But reporter bias, she admits, informs the extent to which an honourable gentleman must seek redemption for their sins: “It’s easy to think I’ve got my personal policies and I’m going to put them in a box and cover this fairly, but personal like or dislike of politicians is more of an issue than if the person is left wing or right wing. When Tess Jowell was linked to her husband’s scandal, we probably should have called on her to resign from cabinet, but we quite liked her, so we didn’t. We covered the story, but we didn’t go that extra step.” Even more concerningly, you cannot choose who you are naturally fond of: “I used to be mates with Jacob Rees Mogg,” Le Conte confesses, “he is a delightful man, really interesting and always so polite.” Labour’s Jess Phillips was chastised for similar comments, after calling the contentious MP a “real gent” on Twitter. Le Conte is no stranger to a Twitter lynching. In May 2019, she was the protagonist of a drama she calls “binracoon gate”. After watching the Netflix documentary
Knock Down the House and admiring Democractic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s gold hoops, red lip and flawlessly tailored suits she was surprised by the representative’s boyfriend: “I thought he was the scruffiest man alive. I tweeted ‘Apologies for the blatantly mean tweet but THIS is what AOC’s boyfriend looks like? Incredible scenes, truly representing all the ambitious and stunning millennial women shackled to boyfriends who look like bin raccoons out there.’ I thought it was funny.” Yahoo News covered it; Russia Today covered it; the Washington Examiner covered it. After the tweet was discovered by Democrats on the other side of the Atlantic, her account exploded and received hundreds of mentions a minute. “It was completely overwhelming. A friend said ‘you do realise the next thing to happen is AOC herself will reply’. So, I deleted it but then wrote, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you people, I called him a bin racoon, he’s dating AOC I’m pretty sure he’ll recover’.” Her conviction does not mean the experience was taken lightly. Whether it is herself or politicians who are in the firing line, Le Conte sees this reputation-ruining cancel culture as duplicitous: “It allows people to be mean whilst pretending to themselves that they’re not. The Twitter left say ‘we’re holding you to account because you’re a journalist’ but then why drag up pictures of me overweight with shit hair? This is bullying what you are doing but you’ve put a veneer of politics over the top of it.” Yet, Twitter, for its sins, is not all bad. Her reply to Tim Shipman’s online plea for Brexit-themed cocktail names (Schnapps election, Cosmopolitan elite) earned her an invite to his book launch. The pair get along as, like Le Conte,
“Couldn’t they keep it in their f**king pants?”
the sighs of relief from political reporters. Finally, after four years of relentless mayhem, there is an opportunity to breathe and do something else. “I can work on the projects I’ve been waiting to work on,” says Le Conte. This gift of time may or may not be conducive to productivity for her. Her book was researched and written in only five months. “I physically didn’t have time to overthink,” she says. After all, overthinking could be a political journalist’s undoing: “The goal is to get stories but still be trusted. To use sources but not burn contacts too quickly. To get the stories out but not just the ones that are briefed to you. In political journalism it’s hard not to see yourself as just being used as a pawn. It’s a whole bunch of fine lines and grey areas. I found it really hard, so I left because I’m a coward.” From observation, it is not cowardice but conscience that prevents Le Conte from playing the game. Her intense geniality and charming awkwardness are no doubt disarming to politicians, aides and spads all aiming to keep their mouths shut to no avail. But with great scoops come great responsibility: “I’ve had people trust me entirely and tell me stories where I think ‘oh my god, why would you tell me that? I’m a journalist and that’s a huge fucking frontpage story. It put me in an impossible position. Betraying sources sounds like it would be a straightforward thing, but there is more nuance in it than that.” The saying goes ‘no smoke without fire’ but before Le Conte fans any flames she is committed to searching for surreptitious firelighters amongst the heat. As she has discovered, the power of politics lies in MPs’ murmurs and while hearsay may be flammable, there’s no denying that, as a nation, we love it.
Image: The Guardian
“he actually quite likes the mischievous side of politics”. In contrast to the virtuous stiff upper lip of political reporting, gossip and scandal stories are innately fascinating and fun. Despite the entertainment and pleasure of gossip, in the age of fake news it is more important than ever to establish fact from fiction, but the speed of Whatsapp is only making this harder. The app has become an integral tool in British politics; throughout the tumultuous three years following the EU referendum, politicians used group chats to message press, arrange rebellions and get MPs on side before significant votes. Whereas before a journalist could verify rumours by surveying the lobby and asking people “have you heard this too?”, in the instant messaging age, purveyors of gossip can corroborate online. What appears to be a multisource story is actually “just one message on Whatsapp in the space of two or three minutes”, says Le Conte. Although validating the veracity of Westminster whispers is only getting harder, as long as the government exists so will the outrageous behaviour waiting to be uncovered. The question is, are readers still interested? The last four years have been a furore: two general elections, a leadership race, numerous scandals, resignations and cabinet reshuffles. Now, our secure conservative majority government feels calmer and, frankly, quite boring. The era of every glossy mag hankering for topical political coverage could well be over. “I’ve had a number of chats with very nice editors from traditionally non-political publications who didn’t want politics over the last few weeks,” says Le Conte. “Readers have just stopped clicking on political features.” Not that she is worried. Listen closely and you can hear
You’ve got mail!
Email newsletters are on the rise, and both media outlets and freelancers are cashing in
nna Codrea-Rado’s newsletter began as do many journalists’ nightmares: thanks to cuts and redundancy. The year 2017 saw the closure of music site THUMP and, as a result, the loss of her staff job as its news editor. Newly freelance in an oversaturated media market, the switch, she says, “was a shock to the system”. “I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out,” Codrea-Rado remembers. “I decided that if I set myself these assignments of writing a newsletter every week, it would give me an anchor. By having my newsletter, my project, my thing, it gave me my own space.” What started as a passion project has bloomed into The Professional Freelancer: a £9-per-month newsletter that has helped earn Codrea-Rado over 9,000 Twitter followers and a platform to discuss freelancers’ rights. In the past year, she
Written by Katie Jenkins and Nora Popova
Illust ratio n
has spoken on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, founded the freelance community FJ&Co, and co-created the podcast Is This Working?, with writer and fellow newsletter-er Tiffany Philippou. Newsletters, for Codrea-Rado and Philippou, have offered a lucrative professional opportunity, and she is not the only one to notice the advantages. From freelance journalists to international media outlets, it seems the email newsletter has taken over our content consumption. A study by Adestra, an email marketing service provider, found that 73 per cent of millennials prefer to communicate with brands by email over any other medium. A similar study from 2018 found that email subscribers are three times more likely to share content via social media. Newsletters are fast becoming an essential marketing strategy, and media outlets are taking note. One such outlet is political magazine, Politico. Its newsletter Playbook, launched by the US edition in 2007, now boasts over 200,000 subscribers and the accolade of being the “#1 political newsletter by political professionals”. Spin-offs have included the Brussels Playbook in 2015 with over 80,000 subscribers, and the London Playbook two years later with over 40,000. As Jack Blanchard, London Playbook’s editor recounts, what began as a morning email by US Politico journalist, Mike Allen, has now morphed into a key component of their brand. “Allen’s briefings became a long and useful email that his boss would rely on to start his day,” Blanchard explains. “He started copying in more and more people who worked in politics and they turned it into a product basically.” As the briefing chain grew and companies began to offer sponsorship, “they realised they had hit on something”. Many other outlets have similarly reaped the benefits. From The Times, whose newsletter, The Best of Times, boasts a reach of over two million, to The New Yorker, which offers 17 different newsletters, email newsletters have become as integral to some brands as the publication itself. Women’s magazines are another sector thriving thanks to Bake r
How to start your own newsletter We asked three newsletter writers for their tips on how to launch and maintain your own Fill an unmet need in the market “If you’re not a known entity in the writing world, you’re unlikely to get people to sign up based purely on your name. Give the people something they want and grow your personal brand that way.” Sonia Weiser Be consistent “The absolutely guaranteed way to succeed at something is to be persistent. So, with a newsletter that means sending it every week. If not every week, choose a time – every two weeks, every month – and keep doing that persistently.” Anna Codrea-Rado Work out a digital strategy “I value organic growth, but I definitely had a strategy. I learned about mail trends, staying out of people’s spam, working out the best time to send out the newsletter. I made sure I knew what I was doing so I could best promote it.” Rachael Revesz Consider monetising it… “There are lots of different ways to monetise a newsletter – sponsorship, donations, paid-for content. I settled on a paid-for, subscriptionbased model because the whole point of my newsletter was how to make freelancing financially sustainable. That model felt like it could work with that, but there are other options out there.” Anna Codrea-Rado …but make sure to build your base first “Readers are unlikely to pay for a product before testing it out. Everyone I know who has been successful on the money side has launched their newsletter for free and built a community first.” Rachael Revesz If all else fails, be flexible “Recommendations and organic growth are essential forms of promotion, and they can’t be monitored by any plan. My audience are active on social media so word of mouth has powered most of my newsletter’s growth. Sometimes, sitting back is the best step you can take.” Sonia Weiser
the strategy. Refinery 29 has over 2.4 million subscribers across its 12 different newsletters, while Stylist’s two main newsletters, Stylist Loves and Stylist Daily, enjoy 90,000 subscriptions combined. Moya Crockett, deputy editor of Stylist Loves, explains that while Stylist Daily is used mainly to drive traffic, Stylist Loves is a recommendations platform that offers a more intimate experience. “We basically want you to feel like you are getting an email from your coolest friend being like: ‘Omg we should go to this exhibition this weekend’.” Yet, that conversational tone possesses a more commercial purpose. Much of the Stylist Loves content is exclusive to the newsletter, creating a further incentive to subscribe. As Crockett summarises, the newsletter has its own “editorial proposition”, made all the more attractive by that personalised approach. For the outlets above then, newsletters have served as a key tool for brand expansion and audience growth. However, what about individual journalists such as Codrea-Rado? Newsletters may be a powerful commercial enterprise, but for many journalists they’re also a form of taking back control. Rachael Revesz launched her eponymous newsletter last January after going freelance. At the time, she was still finding her feet and trying to raise her profile. The newsletter, she says, was a necessary relief. “We all know what social media’s like. It’s all about numbers; it’s all about followers; it’s all about likes and retweets, and that can get really toxic. But the newsletter’s just a great way for me to write how I want to about what I feel and what I think.” Described as a “creative brain dump” about “feminism, freelancing and finance”, Revesz’s newsletter is likely to remain free for the foreseeable future. However, it has led to over 2,000 Twitter followers and her own millennial finance podcast, An Honest Account, which is sponsored by OpenMoney. Sonia Weiser has a similar story to tell. Working as a freelance journalist in New York, she says the “stress” of freelancing was palpable. “I frequently felt that I wasn’t accomplishing anything I could be proud of, or writing about anything that would amount to even a blip on the radar,” she says. Her experience encouraged her to start a newsletter, Opportunities of the Week, in June 2018. Offering a recommended subscription rate of £3 per month, Weiser’s newsletter – like Codrea-Rado’s – offers tips and opportunities for fellow freelancers and journalists. It seems somewhat ironic that such a powerful tool of brand promotion is, for many individual journalists, a response against that: an attempt to encourage and bolster fellow freelancers. Yet, as Weiser remarks, that seems to be inevitable in the current climate. “Obviously, it would be nice if the burden of finding work didn’t fall on the people in need of it, but that’s how the job market is set up,” she says. “I don’t know if newsletters are the optimal solution, but they seem to be working well enough for now.” Clearly then – for brands as much as individuals – newsletters look set to remain a firm fixture in the media landscape. No longer the stale realm of business updates or corporate brags, they are, in many instances, a lucrative and imaginative opportunity, and even a potential source of optimism. “I’m a firm believer that there’s space for everyone,” says Codrea-Rado. “There are lots of newsletters out there about all sorts of topics so there are lots of opportunities. I do believe it’s a really good time to be in the writing and/or content business – whether as a freelancer or a staffer. So, it does feel like everyone’s in it together. It does leave me feeling quite hopeful.”
Image: The Guardian
Reporting the Paralympics Sixty years after the first Games, the media is finally starting to catch up with the athletes
very four years, the Paralympic Games celebrates some of the world’s most successful athletes. But while the competitors have been raising the bar of parasport for decades, media attention has been slow to catch up. Although the British team won 122 medals at the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, it was a lonely assignment for the few journalists sent to cover it. Gareth A Davies recalls reporting it for The Daily Telegraph: “I remember being pretty much the only national newspaper correspondent from the UK. I was at this event, with about 2,500 athletes, and straight away I realised there were probably 2,500 amazing stories there. I thought it was the most fascinating journalism and these people really fucking deserve the voice.” Four years later when the Games were in Sydney, the Telegraph was still one of the only national newspapers there. Russell Cheyne, then working as a photographer for the paper, recalls a mass exodus of media after the Olympics. “There were about 40 UK photographers at the Sydney Olympic Games and then only two of us covering the Paralympics.” In contrast to the Olympics, the profile of the event and competitors was so low that Cheyne
Written by Esther Marshall remembers “being able to just go up and talk to the athletes” and socialise with their families. A societal awkwardness and discomfort around the subject of disability at the time was partly to blame for the lack of media presence. For Cheyne, there was little technical difference in photographing the two events, but the reception to his pictures was very different. “I took a picture in Sydney of a Paralympic swimmer. It was at the moment they’d left their legs at the side of the pool and jumped in for the race. Nowadays nobody would worry about that whatsoever, but at the time there wasn’t really an appetite to publish the pictures. The Telegraph was really one of the only papers doing it.” As the Telegraph increased coverage at Sydney, it moved to stop describing the Games as “disability sport”. Davies says: “I insisted after Sydney we change it to Paralympic sport. When we’re writing about Paralympian athletes, we’re celebrating athletes – people who are at the forefront of their own physicality.” But it wasn’t until the London Paralympics in 2012 that the shape of reporting really changed. Davies says: “London was just extraordinary; we were doing a supplement in the
Telegraph every day with a team of 16 writing about the Games.” Cheyne, then assisting with Reuters coverage, immediately saw a change in atmosphere: “Obviously it was a home games, but there were other photographers asking me for advice on photos for the first time.” London was the first Paralympic Games to be broadcast to the nation by Channel 4. Previously, the BBC had broadcast a daily hour-long highlight programme with live coverage only available at weekends. In comparison, Channel 4 ran a powerful advertising campaign, credited with raising interest and the profile of athletes across the country, and made the Games its main focus for 2012. A record 2.7 million tickets were sold. Channel 4 also ran a scheme to hire disabled presenters; half of the 2012 broadcast team were disabled, including presenters and members of the production team. Arthur Vaughan Williams, an exRoyal Marine and wheelchair racer, trained through the scheme and first presented at London 2012. He says: “I think the way that we reported the Paralympics in 2012 was a bit of a watershed moment for the way people perceived disabilities across the country.” His own background in wheelchair racing gave him the ability to “break down the jargon, the technicalities, and the techniques they use on the track into layman’s terms”. When it came to language, the Channel 4 team focused on breaking the taboo of talking about disability. “We don’t self-edit anything because we wanted to talk about the things the audience was thinking,” says Vaughan Williams. “So, if a swimmer’s legs fall off into the swimming pool, you talk about it, you don’t feel awkward about it; we just confront it head-on. If we as broadcasters feel comfortable and confident, then the audience will feel relaxed.” As the Paralympics gains prominence, debate has grown on whether coverage should address wider issues faced by people with disabilities as well as the sport. Vaughan Williams says he “saw huge changes in people’s attitudes to me as a disabled person after London”. While he thinks the majority of programming needs to focus primarily on the sport, he believes there is room for spin-offs focusing on disability. “Sport can definitely be a vehicle to get onto the larger issues and I think there’s definitely a lot more scope for that.” Rachel Morris, a three-time Paralympic medallist in cycling and rowing, wants to see the media tackle broader issues. She thinks a lot more could be done to keep up momentum following on from the Games. “In future, I
want to be able to draw attention to things that actually have such a big impact on my day-to-day life. One of the common phrases I heard post London was ‘everything must be so much easier for you now’, but a lot hasn’t changed. “Channel 4 kept their coverage going, but Rio as a Paralympic venue in terms of accessibility was rubbish. I think a lot of the coverage of disability is still very cottonwool and doesn’t always reflect reality.” But while there is still room for growth, the UK is a global leader in Paralympic reporting. This summer’s Games will be held in Tokyo and, providing coronavirus doesn’t lead to postponement or cancellation, Channel 4 will hope to build on its Rio viewing record of 27.2 million people – almost half the UK viewing population. Across the Atlantic, interest in the Paralympic Games is minimal. NBC, the official US broadcaster, showed just 77 hours of footage during Rio 2016, a tenth of Channel 4’s coverage. Ben Shpigel, sports reporter for The New York Times, is usually one of the only US print reporters at the Paralympics. “It’s me and NBC and that’s about it. There might be a few stragglers from the Olympic Games working on a freelance basis, but no one from any other major publications. I think some people don’t view it on the same plane as the Olympics, and it has to scrap for attention with the end of the baseball season and college football that dominate the sports media landscape here. I feel very fortunate to work for a paper that feels our readership will benefit from the coverage.” The lack of a media scrum means “there is a kind of freedom to go ahead and pursue stories that you find interesting”, Shpigel says. “I’m used to controlled access covering sporting events, but at the Paralympics it’s nice to speak to athletes who are glad to see you and eager to talk about things that are more personal or issueoriented.” Shpigel has seen an increase in coverage each time he reports at the Games, but thinks people in the US don’t know enough about the Paralympics. “I don’t think exposure is anywhere near as good as it should be or could be.” As Tokyo reports record ticket sales, it is hoped interest in the Paralympic Games and its athletes is growing. Global media outlets need to reflect that trend and continue to push for change in the way society perceives disability. But one thing is certain: the Telegraph’s Davies, who is eagerly preparing to cover his seventh Paralympic Games, will no longer be the only reporter highlighting the athletes’ achievements.
“A lot of disability coverage is very cotton-wool and doesn’t reflect reality”
Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Images
The experts’ experts
What the best critics in the business have to say about their craft (and each other) ood criticism is an art. Readers want recommendations, but beyond that a review has to entertain. The vast majority of people who cast an eye over their favourite restaurant reviewer’s weekly offering won’t ever visit the establishment in question. And I can’t be the only one who finds themselves reading film reviews after I’ve left the cinema, not to tell me what next to watch, but to help me work out how I felt about what I’d just seen. With this in mind, we asked critics at the top of their game which reviewers they read and why, and what makes a good review. From receiving online abuse, to fending off champagne bribes from chefs, here’s what they revealed.
Image: Instagram/ williamsitwell
Written by Tilda Coleman
William Sitwell, restaurant critic at The Telegraph
To be honest, I don’t spend my life reading reviews, because I like to go into a new place with a completely free mind, unobscured by other people’s opinions. If I see The Sunday Times, I really relish Giles Coren because he’s a great writer, and I like seeing what Tom Parker Bowles is thinking. I’ll occasionally glance online and check what Jay Rayner’s banging on about, and I suppose I’m occasionally aware of what Fay Maschler is saying. But I’m not a feverish hoover-upper of what other people write. My audience is the Telegraph reader, so they are who I need to worry about. I don’t go to restaurant launches; I don’t get PRs to book my table; I pay my own way and I always book under a pseudonym. When a chef knows you are there it can be excruciatingly awkward. The other day a chef realised that things had gone wrong and dragged me to the kitchen, where he opened a £450 bottle of champagne. I feel like a twat complaining about that, but you are literally being bribed! My brief is to entertain. That’s the one word I got from the Telegraph. Describing a dish is difficult, and writing about flavour and texture is also hard. After I’ve visited a restaurant, I ruminate on it a bit. During the meal I take pictures on my phone for reference. Just like all writing that’s good, you need to have a dash of colour, a bit of energy, and a good narrative with a beginning, middle and end. You’ve got to create lively copy that’s not over the top and feels natural, not forced. Every piece has to be fresh.
Ed Potton, film, music and TV critic at The Times
Clarisse Loughrey, chief film critic at The Independent Once I’ve written a review, I’ll go back and see what other contemporary film critics have said about it, because it helps to place you in the industry and understand how your viewpoint matches with other people’s, as well as how the wider landscape works. I always gravitate towards Justin Chang who writes for the LA Times. Honestly, anyone who writes for the LA Times is brilliant. It might be because I’m American, but I do end up reading a lot of American critics. I usually watch films I’m reviewing at media screenings, so I tend to see them with a bunch of fellow critics. We often get a chance to talk afterwards, and when I’m really uncertain about my opinion it can be helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of. To be honest though, I don’t actively seek out someone to talk about the movie with. It’s good to sit with it on your own, and if you feel confused, to try and work through that by yourself. Middle of the road reviews are by far the hardest to write. It’s easy when you have a strong reaction. But sometimes I’ll have no emotional reaction to a movie, and it’s really hard to put that feeling of nothing into words.
Image: Levon Blissn
The current crop of critics in Britain are all very good writers. I try not to read them as it can influence what you think. I have to read Grace Dent because I need to know where she’s been, since we divide restaurants up between ourselves. I don’t want to because she’s very good indeed. I used to read the late Jonathan Gold – he had a way of using the restaurant review as a means of social anthropology. What I’d say to myself starting out is the thing I realised a few years in, that, as with any other journalism, you need to work out what the story is.
Before I see a film, beyond looking it up on IMDb to see who’s in it and who directed and wrote it, I try and read the minimum. In the same way, when I’m coming out of the film I try not to talk to other critics because otherwise a horrible consensus develops and you end up all saying broadly the same thing. Kevin Maher, my fellow film critic at The Times, is brilliant. Even though we often disagree, I admire the fact that he’s very trenchant and resistant to being swayed by what other people think. There have been quite a few films that he’s had very diametrically opposed views to the majority about, like Dunkirk. The best film critic in the world in my view is Andrew Lane, who writes for The New Yorker. He’s so elegant and funny, he’s raised film reviews to an art form really. Reviewing live music shows is slightly different because you need to have at least a passing familiarity with whoever you’re reviewing. Generally I make sure I’m familiar with the artist I’m reviewing or make sure to listen to them on Spotify if I’m not. However, on occasion I’ve had to review bands or singers I’m not knowledgeable about because someone’s dropped out at the last minute, and sometimes that can turn out great. It’s good to be pushed out of your comfort zone. With music shows I’m generally allowed a plus one, and who I take completely depends on the band in question. I try and pair the partner to whatever I’m seeing, so often I’ll bring someone who knows the artist better than I do, and I’ll kind of canvas them afterwards. Sometimes it’s good to invite someone who’s not a journalist so they can come to it from a slightly different perspective. On occasion they’ve given me some ammunition, but you don’t want to go too far into talking to someone else because then you run the risk of being swayed by them a little bit. I’m not so worried about that with non-critics though. The hardest thing about reviewing live shows is dissociating from the fans. Generally you’re sharing the room with several thousand fierce fans who’ve spent lots of money on the show, so they are all having an amazing time and I might be the only person who’s not. A couple of years ago I gave an ELO show at Wembley two stars, not because I have anything against the band, but this particular show wasn’t adding anything to the music. I think I described Jeff Lynne’s delivery as being a bit like that of a man who’d just successfully descaled his kettle. I got a lot of abuse from ELO fans online after that, and I still get the odd tweet about it actually. Rave reviews or hatchet jobs are the most fun to write, but it’s the mediocre ones that are hardest. When I first started, I would often try to write something that fitted a nice, balanced formula, but now I’m not worried about little jarring details that might be contradictory, because that’s where the truth lies, I think.
Jay Rayner, restaurant critic at The Observer
Image: Kimberly Farmer/Unsplashed
What’s on a book reviewer’s bookshelf?
From Auden to Allende, three book reviewers share the literary gems that have shaped their careers Written by Katie Jenkins
James Marriott, Deputy Literary Editor at The Times
Sian Cain, The Guardian Books Editor
The first fictional character I fell in love with was… The Classics students in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. There wasn’t one specific character I fell in love with, but I loved the book. Any pretentious teenager would want to be friends with them. Obviously they were very mysterious and very clever.
The most influential writer on me growing up was… Tamora Pierce, an American Young Adult novelist who wrote fantasy fiction. All her books were centred around female characters in a world where being female wasn’t necessarily seen as being useful or capable. These women would subvert the expectations of people around them. They were the first books that taught me about gender and equality. Reading these books when I was about ten or 11-years-old was crucial in instilling some sense of confidence in me.
The defining book of the 21st century so far is… Sally Rooney’s Normal People. The way the characters think and talk struck many – and me – as being uniquely millennial in a way that nobody had managed to portray before. It’s a very brilliant, clever book, but it doesn’t take that long to read. It can be read, if you like, by normal people. Given there’s now more choice in terms of media, I don’t think books are as important in the 21st century as they were in the past. It’s hard to say a book can define a generation in the way that they once would have done, but Normal People is probably the closest you can come to a book that does that. My favourite trashy read to unwind is… I don’t really read trashy books. What always calms me down is reading poetry. I like to read W. H. Auden. All his poetry is so good. It’s nice to remember the things that are good in the world.
A book that every woman should read is… The First Stone by Helen Garner. It’s a book that has really haunted me since. Garner is an Australian journalist who’s written a lot of long-form, narrative non-fiction. She wrote The First Stone in 1995 about the case of a university lecturer who was accused of sexual harassment by two female students. It’s a very controversial book, because Garner does default to sympathising with the man, but it’s also very complicated. She dissects whether her own thinking has been warped by decades of living under the patriarchy. Is she discounting the allegations of these young women because she herself has put up with worse and therefore feels resentful? It’s a very thoughtful dissection of gender and power. The most underrated book is… Another Country by James Baldwin. He’s famous and iconic in a lot of ways, but I haven’t met enough people who have read Another Country. I feel it’s his most accomplished novel, which seems strange to say when his whole career was so incredible. Another Country was published in 1962, but it tackles issues like interracial politics and bisexuality in a complex way. Even some novelists now are failing to do that.
Mariella Frostrup, Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Open Book The book currently on my bedside table is… Apeirogon by Colum McCann. I love his novels and the latest is a fascinating collection of ‘cantatas’ as he describes them: fragmentary observations and facts coupled with passages of prose. They describe the relationship between two grieving fathers across the Israeli/Palestinian divide who have both lost beloved teenage daughters to the conflict. It’s a beautiful, moving, and big-hearted book. The book that had the greatest impact on me from the last year is… American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It’s a taut, fast-paced, unputdownable story about a mother and son escaping a Mexican drug cartel. Ironically, for a book that made a huge impression with its vivid description of the migrant experience as they struggle to reach the US border, it was caught up in a huge controversy about appropriation because the author isn’t Mexican. Personally, I think it’s the end of fiction when writers are no longer allowed to imagine experiences outside of their own.
My dream literary dinner date would be… Isabel Allende for her compassion, humour and long, adventure-filled life. If Gertrude Bell could pop in too, it would be fascinating to hear her talk about Arabia as she was as great a fan and as much an advocate for that region as the better known Lawrence!
Image: Peter Payne
David Harrison W
hen 39 people were found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex last October, police initially believed they were Chinese citizens. As investigations into the identities of the victims continued, families in Vietnam began to come forward to express fears that their loved ones were among the dead. Two weeks later, it was confirmed that all 39 were Vietnamese. One person who wasn’t surprised was David Harrison, an investigative journalist for Al Jazeera, who had exposed Nghe An province – where many of the dead were from – as a hub for human trafficking three years earlier. His documentary Britain’s Modern Slave Trade revealed the regular and perilous smuggling of people from Vietnam to the UK, where traffickers promise jobs and a new life in exchange for vast sums of money. “Some of them do actually make it, but a lot don’t,” says Harrison. “They’re the ones we’re concerned with – the people who are exploited.” Looking back on Harrison’s career, this concern for victims of exploitation is a running theme. His 2006 investigation for The Sunday Telegraph into sex trafficking in Eastern Europe earned him a Paul Foot award and praise from the United Nations and Amnesty International, and his work since has covered everything from the buying and selling of children in West Africa, to rape in refugee camps in Afghanistan. His roles have ranged from investigative journalist to foreign correspondent for countless publications, including The Observer and The Sunday Times, and he has reported from over 90 countries. Yet as the landscape of journalism changes, the future of investigative reporting seems uncertain. Investigations that take weeks, sometimes months or years, can be swallowed up by a 24-hour news cycle that pumps out sensationalist clickbait and barely corroborated stories. But in this new media landscape where ‘fake news’ throws objectivity into question, the work of investigative journalists is needed
more than ever. Today, those working in the field have to truly believe in the importance of what they do, rather than churn out headlines to momentarily catch the attention of readers. “A lot of the impact of what we do we’re not aware of,” explains Harrison, “but it comes down to the question of what an investigation is for. It’s to expose wrongdoing and to help people who are victims – those who are suffering and who don’t have a voice. But especially to expose the people who are exploiting others.” During his investigation into people smuggling in Vietnam, Harrison and his team looked into three different types of slavery prevalent in Britain: sexual slavery, labour and drugs. Vietnamese journalists went undercover in high street nail bars, where women are paid little or no money and often forced into prostitution, and cannabis farms where trafficked people are imprisoned in dire conditions. Dozens of victims were released after the documentary aired in 2016, and many who ran businesses that exploited trafficked people were arrested and charged. The Al Jazeera team were concerned for the welfare of one Vietnamese ‘farmer’ they met. “We didn’t want him to be attacked and potentially killed by his bosses,” says Harrison, “so the only way we could get him out was to alert the police.” After the documentary was broadcast, the house was raided and the man arrested but the charges have subsequently been dropped. “They accepted he was a victim and gave him help,” explains Harrison. “The police are now actually accepting that a lot of these people are victims and not criminals, which is a major leap from when I first did the investigation into trafficking for The Sunday Telegraph. It’s a sea change.” His investigation for the Telegraph undoubtedly played a part in this change. Over the course of a few weeks Harrison went undercover with gangs in Eastern Europe who sold women as sex slaves, shuttling them >>
The award-winning reporter discusses the enduring importance of investigative journalism Written by Pip Cook
Photo byAl Jazeera Image:
across borders as far as Britain, where they were abused and forced to work in brothels. “It was early days – people didn’t really talk about sex trafficking,” Harrison elaborates, “police were just grappling with it, the politicians were just grappling with it. It took the authorities a long time to really realise the scale of the problem.” Not only did Harrison’s revelations increase awareness of an issue few knew existed, but they triggered the first nationwide crackdown on sex trafficking in the UK, during which hundreds of enslaved women were freed and many more suspected traffickers arrested and charged. In the wake of the investigation, Amnesty called on the government to sign the European Convention on Sex Trafficking; a move they made the following year. “I think that was one of the things that triggered a whole series of moves by the government which culminated in the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. That gave more powers to the police, and more protection to the victims,” says Harrison. “I can’t claim credit for all of that, but what you can say is you helped push this along.” Helping ‘push things along’ is the desired result for so many journalists, who seek to reveal the truth – be it some atrocity that is happening behind closed doors or corruption in the inner workings of government – and present this to the public and authorities. But the lack of action that so often follows can be exasperating. When Harrison heard news of the lorry deaths in October last year, he admits to feeling frustrated that more action hadn’t been taken after Al Jazeera’s investigation: “We identified this problem, we identified the region – this hotbed of human trafficking – and yet here we are, three years on, and 39 people are found in a refrigerated lorry. It makes me angry. It makes me exasperated. 39 people died because nothing’s being done to stop this.” Yet the sheer scale of such problems makes tackling them almost inconceivable, despite the work of journalists like Harrison. Another of his investigations for the Telegraph took him to West Africa, where he exposed the buying and selling of children by criminal gangs who then trafficked them to the UK. Harrison went undercover in a village in Nigeria, where he posed as a wealthy businessman looking to buy a child. “We found a couple who were prepared to sell us their
Harrison in Chennai, India, investigating match fixing in cricket
two children, and it was just heartbreaking,” says Harrison. “The father said they were desperate, and he wanted the money to launch a business and provide for his wife so they could have a life. I remember asking him how much, and that was when he gave me the price: £5,000 for both. “It was this electric moment where I realised he was actually giving me a price to buy his children. I asked if I could meet them, and they were the most adorable little boys – a five-year-old and a three-year-old – and they’d dressed them in their best clothes. It was so poignant. And so sad.” Despite the outcry from child protection organisations and government ministers in both the UK and Lagos after Harrison published his investigation, the trafficking of children and women from West Africa to the UK continues to thrive. It’s a trade he’s followed closely over the years: “It’s frustrating in a sense because you feel, as a journalist, you expose individuals, you try to get people convicted. But when you look at the scale of it, you just think: ‘Why is this still going on?’” It would be easy to lose faith in work that so often gets overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem faced. Aside from his investigations, years spent as a foreign correspondent covering war and atrocities all over the world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, have taught Harrison the importance of maintaining a personal distance. “When you meet people who are absolutely broken, you feel this mixture of sympathy, and anger towards those who have done this to them, and a sense of almost hopelessness at the scale of it,” he says. “But you have to be like a doctor in some ways. You can’t get too emotionally involved because you wouldn’t be able to do your job properly. You need to maintain a professional distance while at the same time being empathetic in order to make them feel at ease enough to share their stories.” Despite the myriad pressures of his line of work, Harrison, who also runs training courses for aspiring journalists in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America, has retained his belief in the enduring value of the profession: “There are moments, and every journalist has this, where you think ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this?’ There’s sometimes a feeling of: ‘Is what we do worth it?’ But I think the answer is ultimately yes. There are times when you might think not, but overall, overwhelmingly, I think it really is worth it. If you’re spreading the message, revealing the horrors of war, or what criminals are doing to undermine our society and our world, then that’s got to be a good thing.”
“You have to be like a doctor in some ways”
Image: Al Jazeera
Harrison confronting a carwash owner who abused and underpaid his workers
Image: The Guardian
Written by Tilda Coleman
Reporters reveal the realities of living on the front line of the climate crisis 93
Image: The Guardian
The changing face of climate journalism
Image: Nick Mott
t was only after the tiny fishing boat had left the coast of Greenland that Amy Martin realised the captain’s English consisted of only a few basic words. Over the next 15 hours at sea, Martin communicated with her sole companion through smiles and hand gestures. The journalist was gathering material for season two of her environmental podcast, Threshold, which focuses on the experiences of some of the four million people who live in the Arctic. She started the podcast alone, with no institutional backing or money, and while this made funding a challenge, it’s also made for a wonderfully free, meandering reporting journey. Martin’s podcast is just one example of a new style of journalism that is being produced in attempts to highlight the enormity of the climate crisis. Ultimately, the crisis will affect all aspects of our lives, and Martin says that “the more we can start to think about environmental issues as integrated into all other issues, the better off we’ll be as reporters and the better off the public is. “We can’t keep thinking about it as this separate section of the newspaper that we can decide whether or not we want to read.” Threshold is just one, relatively small podcast, but across the media, organisations operating at every scale are waking up to the need to expand their climate coverage. Over 400 news outlets with a combined audience of almost two billion have partnered with ‘Covering Climate Now’, an initiative which works with newsrooms to help them produce quality climate coverage. Among other things, the scheme shares content that partner publications can republish for free, and organises conferences at which journalists can question climate experts. Deputy director Andrew McCormick says: “This overwhelming response confirmed our suspicion that many in the media had a strong desire to focus on the climate story, but either felt alone in doing so, didn’t know where to start, or lacked the resources to do the story justice.” McCormick would like to see more stories that focus on the experiences of people of colour and indigenous communities, both of which feel the impacts of climate change disproportionately. Finding members of communities most affected by climate change is not always straightforward. Martin laughs when asked whether she was able to contact most of her interview subjects via email. Episode One of Threshold concentrates on Shishmaref, Alaska, an Iñupiat village of 600 people that is rapidly being swallowed by the sea. In the episode, Martin talks to Dean Kuzuguk, who she describes as “kind of a de facto historian of Shishmaref”. His whole house was full of photographs, articles and video tapes taken with his handheld camcorder, all detailing the history
Mothers of Invention presenters Mary Robinson (L) and Maeve Higgins
of his home. Martin was wandering the island talking to someone else when Kuzuguk spotted her microphone and gave her a wave. She ended up spending the best part of a day talking to him, and when they parted ways found out that he didn’t have email. “It’s just not the world he’s operating in,” she says. When seeking out subjects to interview, Martin’s podcast presupposes that the people best placed to talk about the climate emergency are those experiencing its effects. Another podcast, Mothers of Invention, has the same guiding ethos, and highlights the work women around the world are doing in response to the crisis. Producer Thimali Kodikara ensures that the show includes the voices of women in the global south who are feeling the brunt of climate change. Organisations that fund the podcast, such
“We can’t keep thinking of this as a seperate section of the newspaper” as the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, have on-the-ground teams that have helped connect Kodikara with small groups who are doing interesting work. The podcast is hosted by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, and writer and comedian Maeve Higgins. Their chemistry makes the podcast an amusing listen, even as it tackles serious topics. Kodikara unpicks why their relationship translates so well, explaining that while Robinson has extensive knowledge, her delivery
Image: The Guardian
Image: The Guardian
Banners protesting BP’s oil extraction from the tar sands in Canada
Alleen Brown, an environmental reporter for The Intercept, a news organisation that describes itself as “holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism” also stresses the importance of not making presumptions about marginalised people’s worries. She says: “I try not to be too dismissive of concerns that sound dramatic when they are voiced by communities that are not often listened to. Just because something doesn’t have a tonne of research and data behind it doesn’t mean it’s not happening or it’s not serious.” As an example, she cites fears from resistors to the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock who believed there was an infiltrator from the police or a private security company in their midst. She says people felt “a little crazy” in their suspicions, but her digging did reveal that an infiltrator from a private security company named TigerSwan was acting as a protestor. Brown was proud that she “was able to demystify this bogeyman that was haunting all these people”. Any journalist covering the climate crisis must give voice to those most affected. Martin considers that people might stereotype inhabitants of the Arctic as backwards, when in fact “everyone I spoke to knows so much more about what’s going on in the rest of the planet than the rest of the planet knows about them”. Martin speculates that most people think of the Arctic as remote and far away, but: “In some ways we’re out of touch with the big picture. They are like, ‘Hello! Climate change is not theoretical, we are living with it. It would be great if you could do something.”
Amy Martin travelled to Greeland to record material for Threshold
Image: Amy Martin
can be dry. Meanwhile, Higgins provides a foil to this seriousness, cracking jokes and feigning ignorance to communicate complex points. “Using humour is a way to bring people to the topic,” Kodikara says. The lighthearted chat with which the hosts often open the podcast serves as a gateway to more emotionally intense moments. In one episode, for example, guest Eriel Tchekwie Deranger movingly describes growing up on the Athabaska tar sands in Canada. Tchekwie Deranger is a member of The Athabasca Chipweyan First Nation, a band government representing the Chipewyan aboriginal people who live in Arctic and subArctic areas. As a child, she spent periods living in a tent on the land with her parents, “hauling water, collecting or hunting or trapping our food”. Editing the audio, Kodikara worked sounds of birds and bees into the background, and these contribute to the gentle lull of Tchekwie Deranger’s poetic descriptions. She then recounts returning to the landscape after a decade of absence. In the time she has been away, the oil sands have expanded, and she describes her desolation at seeing “nothing but grey sand, all fenced in because it’s so toxic” where there was once green forest. For the background of this section of Tchekwei Deranger’s speech, Kodikara found archive audio of the sounds of machinery and cranes digging the tar sands. For Amy Martin, the creator of Threshold, editing was also a crucial part of the process, in large part because she would often spend hours interviewing people. For example, talking with 70-year-old Shishmaref inhabitant Nora Kuzuguk took up two afternoons. Even though this made for “hellish edits”, Martin has no regrets. “Being free to decide how much time to spend with people was fantastic,” she says. Martin’s guiding ethos was to let her subjects lead. “It’s really easy for the journalist to come into the situation and feel like we already know the story,” she says. “Sitting here in the lower latitudes, it’s easy to think that the top thing on everyone’s minds in the Arctic is climate change. Actually, the larger story of colonization is just as much on people’s minds, and a lot of people saw climate change as sort of a subset of the different impacts of colonization.”
We take you behind the velvet ropes of the PPA Awards – journalism’s premier event
espite what The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City have taught us, journalism isn’t a glamorous career path. Often it involves eating peanut butter straight from the jar, sitting at your keyboard in pyjamas, and toiling over a few hundred words of copy before a deadline. But there is a balmy night in June when every Andrea Sachs becomes a Miranda Priestly. This summer, the 40th Professional Publishers Association (PPA) awards will take place on London’s chichi Park Lane and this ruby anniversary is set to be the most prestigious and star-studded event in the industry’s social calendar.
Written by Lydia Spencer-Elliott A single seat on a table at the non-profit event costs a staggering £876. If you weren’t one of the lucky 800 publishing glitterati to make the guestlist last year, then you’re probably wondering what goes on behind the golden doors. If you promise not to tell anyone, we’ll sneak you inside... At 6 p.m., guests arrive at the Grosvenor House Hotel. The ballroom of the Mayfair hotspot, overlooking Hyde Park, played host to this year’s star-studded BAFTA afterparty. But who’s interested in Margot Robbie, Andrew Scott, Saoirse Ronan, or Hugh Grant? The PPA awards have seen Vogue editor Edward Enninful, The Times columnist Sophie
The best of the rest PRINT NEWS: THE HUGH CUDLIPP AWARD
BROADCAST: THE BJTC AWARDS
When is it? March.
When is it? November.
Who goes? A mixture of 200 students and media industry figures like Daily Mirror editor Alison Phillips. Previous lectures have been given by George Osborne, Robert Peston and James Naughtie.
Who goes? 100 guests from the TV, radio and podcast industry. It’s a treasure trove for networking; previously, winners have had queues of industry figures waiting to speak to them.
What is the dress code? Smart-casual. Office attire is allowed.
What is the dress code? Smart-casual.
How much does it cost to attend? Free, but places fill up fast. What do guests eat? The party snack trinity: olives, crisps and wine.
How much does it cost to attend? Free, but invitation only. What do guests eat? Canapés; think balsamic onion tarts and mini hamburgers.
McCabe says. After all, the guests have partying to do. This is where things will start to get loose. Far from possessing a competitive energy, the ceremony is lavish and celebratory. Expect nominees to send bottles of congratulatory champagne to winners’ tables and toast to their competitors’ success before taking to the dancefloor. The soundtrack to the evening is substantially edgier than its Mayfair setting. DJs like Charli Vos, who are usually spotted on the decks at East London boltholes like Queen of Hoxton, cross the city to provide a mix of hip-hop, house and disco that keep guests dancing until carriages at 1 a.m. But with the ding of an Uber arrival notification, it’s back to your pyjamas. Louboutins can be slid off and slippers pulled lovingly back on. So, as 60 judges gather to deliberate over which glossies will come out on top this year, your only job is to decide what to wear. Best to make it chic; the glitz of the evening is the only thing more certain than the offensiveness of Piers Morgan’s Twitter account.
Beresiner, GQ writer Jonathan Heaf and Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr grace its unconventionally blue carpet. The booze starts flowing from the moment guests are through the door and, after vogueing for the photographers in their black-tie regalia, attendees adjourn to their tables below the ballroom’s six gargantuan chandeliers. The host for the evening is always similarly sparkly. Fearne Cotton, Claudia Winkleman, Edith Bowman, Sean Lock, Katherine Ryan and Alex Brooker have compèred the ceremony over the years. After an indulgent three-course dinner, including such delicacies as roasted butternut squash, confit lamb and caramelised honey meringue, the awards are the focus of the evening. The 2020 ceremony will be the premiere of podcasting, sustainability and diversity awards. The categories of achievement are ever-evolving in order to reflect the progress of the industry. But often, with topicality comes controversy. When Piers Morgan learned plus-size model Tess Holliday had fronted Cosmopolitan‘s October 2018 issue he took to Instagram to vent: “As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo. Apparently, we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity’. What a load of old baloney.” The abuse and body-shaming transferred to Twitter, where Morgan hounded Holliday for months, calling her “sad” and suggesting she “needs better friends”. PPA then nominated Tess’ issue of Cosmopolitan for Cover of the Year. As might be expected, Morgan was less than ecstatic. “She’s 110lbs heavier than me,” he scoffed on Good Morning Britain. “That is a body-positive image to be celebrated and winning awards?” In a landslide public vote, Cosmopolitan won Cover of the Year 2019. When Holliday took to the stage, she told the crowd: “I never imagined, as a fat, awkward teenager living in a trailer in rural Mississippi and flipping through the pages of Cosmopolitan, that a body like mine would be on the cover. I say be brave, don’t do what you think is safe, do what you feel is right.” To be afforded a speech at the PPA awards is a special liberty. Unlike rambling acceptances at the Oscars, winners are usually not permitted to thank anyone for their success. “It would go on all night,” PPA events manager Steph
Image: The Guardian
Reporting Northern Ireland
Northern Irish voices are fighting to be heard. Here are the journalists speaking out
Written by Zoya Raza-Sheikh
orthern Ireland sits just north-west of mainland UK, yet the cultural gap between the two could not be wider. Stories from the country rarely make mainstream headlines, unless they are about terrorism, paramilitary activity, or political division. Challenging this is a vibrant media scene fighting to reassert its identity and build a more inclusive industry. Siobhán Fenton, a freelance journalist living in Belfast, agrees there has been a failure to bridge the division. For Fenton, a key moment that represented the nation’s disparity was the 2017 General Election. “When the results were announced, and it was clear that the DUP were going to endorse the Conservatives, we were looking at the number of search queries for ‘who are the DUP?’ and ‘what are the DUP?’ – they completely soared.“ Anna Cafolla, the digital editor for Dazed and Confused, is from Belfast, but currently lives in London. Cafolla has also witnessed this portrayal of NI in the UK media. “There was a lot of media asking who the DUP are. How long has it been since the Good Friday agreement? How long have people been suffering under this? The people of Northern Ireland have truly suffered over the years, and people still don’t know who the DUP is.” This frustration with the UK media is one that seems to be reaching boiling point. Róisín Lanigan, a junior editor for i-D magazine, is from West Belfast and she is now living in London. Lanigan grew up in a working-class environment, well-aware of how austerity was built into the society around her. She believes that there is space for journalism to begin unpacking the conversation around British colonialism and its effects on Northern Ireland. “The only way of addressing the huge gap and the reality of how our society is portrayed in mainstream British media is by platforming people from our communities,” she explains. “Journalism has modernised and became more democratised. Social media has allowed people from traditionally marginalised communities to be able to tell their own stories. That should apply to NI too.” The gulf between both nations highlights how nuanced the issue of Northern Irish representation is. If the media industry continues to exist as a London-centric entity, this will only perpetuate a vicious cycle where media ignorance fuels a poor state of political education and awareness – which unacceptably overwrites key UK identities such as those in NI. In effect, media neglect can often result in those aligning with the the region’s identity to feel left behind.
“Northern Ireland has been a footnote in the sociopolitical landscape, in identity issues, and in class structure. There are so many sociological levels that are disadvantageous,” Cafolla explains. “People didn’t know that these really urgent issues are right on their doorstep.” “There’s a lack of education around NI and how it fits into the UK. I think that there’s a lack of understanding about how NI’s political systems work and there’s a lack of interest because there’s no education,” Lanigan agrees. The growing issue of the UK media revisiting landmark historical cases such as The Troubles is a factor which contributes to the misunderstanding of NI. While these news stories rightfully draw attention to past atrocities and centuries of conflict, they simultaneously fail to address the complex co-existing issues which have enabled years of prominent violence and political upheaval to surface. As a pattern emerges of how misunderstood journalism continues to permeate the media, the rise of “helicopter journalism” is further straining the delicate relationship between NI and UK reporters. Lanigan has a simpler definition for helicopter journalism: “It’s poverty porn.” In essence, helicopter journalism is covering a story with little interest in the topic or eagerness to follow up. “There’s no real professional interest in that subject. You’re only going to cover it when people are going to click on your piece.” Interestingly, the chosen term “helicopter” stems from journalists, mostly, from mainland UK being flown into Ireland to cover stories. According to Lanigan, the key is media equality: “It’s a double-edged sword. When the gay marriage and abortion laws changed, mainstream media covered in a way that’s like: ‘these poor little people are so lucky this has now finally happened’. It glosses over the fact that many things have changed in Northern Ireland. The only way of addressing the huge gap in the reality of Northern Irish society and how it’s portrayed in mainstream British media is by platforming people from within those communities. It’s not from flying people in to walk along the border or to write about it as a think piece.” “So many issues that happen in NI are related to either the conflict or they’re intersectional issues. They don’t exist on their own: they exist within the boundaries of sexuality, gender, and class. I think there’s just a lot of nuance to write about. There’s a big backlash because a lot of English journalists are the ones writing about this and they often don’t have any inside knowledge of the issues that they’re
Image: The Guardian
writing about. UK Journalists only really want to write about NI when something bad happens.” Cafolla agrees that there is little nuance in journalism which centres around Northern Irish identity. “It can be very difficult for someone to come in and deduce it in a 600 or 800-word article. They need to be doing diligent reporting that isn’t sensational or ‘clicky’, otherwise it’s just surface level,” she outlines. “It can feel very two-dimensional, and we’re talking about centuries of oppression.” In an era of misrepresentation and misunderstanding, Cafolla ties the need for change to the late journalist Lyra McKee. “Lyra was able to capture the really dark aspects of Northern Ireland’s troubles in a way that very few people have been able to. She did it with real empathy; it’s compelling, and her reporting was so astute.” McKee was an example of how journalism must change. Her groundbreaking “ceasefire baby” theory acknolwedges the intergenerational trauma inherited by the younger generations who, despite not living through the Troubles, experience its devestating impact on mental health to this day. McKee’s journalism also brought to light the intersectional identities, like her own LGBTQ+ community, which had long been ignored. Nuanced and thorough reporting is something that Northern Irish journalists are fighting for. The argument of ignorance, lack of education and helicopter reporting all come full circle when you examine the crisis unfolding in NI. So, what more should be covered by UK journalists? Susan McKay, an author and journalist who specialises in The Troubles, finds the thread which ties these issues together undeniable: “Lots of journalists want to know what was going on and they hadn’t been following things like the effects of austerity, the higher-than-ordinary rates of suicide or lack of educational attainments concerns.” Cafolla, an advocate on highlighting the ongoing issues in Northern Ireland, calls the lack of attention “general ignorance”. Once more, the view of Northern Ireland is being concealed. “NI is dying for funding. The NHS is completely stretched to the absolute. The waiting lists in NI are the worst in the UK,” she explains. “In Britain, NI is treated as this awkward little backwater.” The suicide crisis in the country is one that is in dire need of attention. In 2018, the suicide rate was 18.6 deaths per 100,000, according to statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. In the same year, the number of registered deaths from suicide was 307, which is the highest it has been since records began. Statistics show
men are also three times more likely to die by suicide. “We have suicide issues that should be a point of national and international emergency,” Cafolla stresses. “Northern Ireland has some of the highest statistics for UK suicides, particularly in some of the most deprived parts. The media should be elevating these voices and there needs to be more media understanding of it.” Fenton, who lives in Belfast, agrees that intersectional voices and crises need greater coverage. “The legacy of the conflict and how post-traumatic stress disorder continues to affect people is a very real and very serious issue affecting so many people day today – it’s concretely tied to the conflict. “We have the highest rates of poverty in the UK. This and the highest rates of suicide and self-harm, particularly within LGBTQ+ communities and communities for the violence and struggles during the conflict.” When media neglect is widespread, journalists in Northern Ireland are adamant that inclusivity and institutional coverage will drive change. Cafolla is openly in favour of greater media criticism on Northern Irish politics: “I’d like to see a real media perspective on the work that’s being done, particularly on things like domestic violence legislation, mental health policy, and the abortion law reform. We don’t want to slip back into past ways of being a stagnant society,” she says. Following the haze of Brexit, Fenton is concerned that once major political momentum shifts, even less coverage will be afforded to Northern Ireland: “We will probably see the media coverage of Northern Ireland looked at less and less again. It is likely to get worse in the next few years because Northern Ireland won’t be in the news to the same extent as it was throughout Brexit.” McKay believes there is a way to combat the lack of interest and engagement with Northern Ireland. “Treating Northern Ireland like a normal country would, paradoxically, help,” she explains. “There are interesting people in Northern Ireland; brilliant poets and musicians and fashion designers and cooks. There’s lots of people who are very variant from Northern Ireland and yes, their stories can be told by looking at the social issues, but again that’s a long slow build to get people to realise we need all kinds of social change that should have happened in the years after the Good Friday agreement.” Lanigan thinks it’s possible to capture the attention of journalists and readers through education. “Kids in the UK aren’t taught about British colonialism in school. I think if that existed from a younger age, there would be a lot more nuance and a lot more understanding.”
Image: The Guardian
“UK journalists only really want to write about Northern Ireland when something bad happens”
Journos and other animals
Where would members of the media be without their furry sidekicks? Written by Esther Marshall
Image: Kevin Maher
Kevin Maher, chief film critic of The Times, and Elsa My dog is Elsa, a four-year-old Leonberger, and she is utterly inscribed within my writing routine. So much, in fact, that if she’s not smothering my feet under my desk or walking beside me across the fields on feature breathers, I feel the words coming unstuck. She is the proverbial tonic. I work in London and go to screenings there, and do interviews in Soho, and have even written an article or two in that quiet cafe with Wi-Fi problems at the top of Wardour Street. But Elsa is intrinsic to the schedule, and her presence moulds my day. I give her a huge legstretcher at the crack of dawn before I disappear. I then sometimes return for a lunchtime treat but quickly I’m gone again – but also back again later, keen as custard for an evening stroll. But it’s the writing that really matters. She gets it. She sits there, head down, lying sprawled, sometimes whimpering as she dreams, other times awake and attentive. But I feel the connection and she keeps the flow going. Sometimes she’ll sit up and just nudge me and look. And I’ll look back. And in that look, that face to face, eyes to eyes, there’s a quiet spark of contact and, in my mind at least, she’s saying, “Keep going! Only another 400 words to go! It’s all sharp, quality prose, and I’m loving what you did with the opening para.” Of course, she’s probably just hoping for a dental chew, or the second half of the dried chicken strip on my desk. But it’s in the imagination that sanity lies.
Image: Justin Webb
Justin Webb, presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and Toffee We’ve had Toffee, our Labradoodle, for five years now. He was very sick for a year because he ate a sock and had to have a series of operations that cost the insurance company over £4,000. But we loved him so much we decided to have it done, and what’s amazing is since then he’s had this fantastic life and is extremely healthy. At the time of his operation, we had a series of discussions on the Today show about the ethics of veterinary interventions. Toffee became quite famous for a bit as there was a feature about him in the Daily Mail and people still come up to him in the park. He definitely gets recognised and thoroughly enjoys the attention. I work very strange hours on the Today show and the great thing about that is it’s quite compatible with having a dog. Most days I’m home by 10.00 a.m. It’s great for exercise, fun and affection but it’s especially nice if I’ve had a really difficult day where everyone’s shouting at each other on the programme and there’s thousands of emails saying: “I didn’t think that guest should have been on”. After all the everyday harassment that modern journalism engenders, it’s really nice to have a dog who doesn’t know or care about any of that stuff.
Image: Liz Dodd
Chirps the cat never learned to meow or do much of anything. She snuck into our houseshare as a stray kitten seven years ago – evicted, we think, from a local litter – and never left. Raised by humans, she believes she is one, and gets around the obvious discrepancy in height by travelling on our shoulders like a parrot. She is neurotic, tries to join in on human conversations, cannot use a cat flap and only drinks from pint glasses – basically a carbon copy of her humans. She likes to get in the way of my work, literally, by sitting on my laptop keyboard. But there’s also no better stressbuster on deadline day than playing her favourite game, ‘chase the wiggly worm on a string’.
Porridge is our pseudo-landlord as he’s owned by Clare who runs the building. He patrols the office and regularly knocks on people’s doors asking to be let in. He’s always bustling around checking everyone is fine and still within the terms of their lease. Porridge is particularly active at lunch, and takes a very keen interest in the activities of all staff during that period of time. He sometimes surprises you when you’re writing or meeting with clients. If you have a bare ankle, you’ll suddenly feel a tongue lap over it like a damp piece of ham. He is affectionate and likes to sit on laps. Porridge is good for morale and we’re all very happy when he comes by on one of his patrols.
Image: Oli Stratford
Liz Dodd, home editor at The Tablet and freelance for National Geographic, and Chirps
Oli Stratford, editor-in-chief of Disegno and Porridge, Disegno’s canine landlord
Diversifying the industry Looking at newsrooms through the lens of BAME and working-class journalists – what is being done to diversify the industry?
Written by Mared Gruffydd Illustration: Peter Carrick
The British journalism industry is predominantly male and middle class, and figures from a City University study show that it is 94 per cent white
ver recent years, representation within the media has mattered more than ever. The EU referendum result and the Grenfell Tower disaster highlighted the deep-rooted disconnect between media coverage and lived reality. Most mainstream media was blind to the struggles of Grenfell’s residents and failed to reflect the xenophobia that drove the Brexit campaign. “Why didn’t any of us see the Grenfell action blog? Why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we have contact?” asked Channel 4 News host Jon Snow in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster. He knew the answer to his questions: the journalism industry is predominantly white, middle class and privileged. Snow acknowledges that he himself is a poster boy for this exact trope: “We can accuse the political classes for their failures, and we do. But we are guilty of them ourselves.” A 2019 report by the Sutton Trust revealed that 43 per cent of the country’s editors and broadcasters were privately educated and 36 per cent studied at Oxbridge. As it stands, only 6 per cent of the British population attend private schools and only 1 per cent study at Oxford or Cambridge. According to a 2016 report by City, University of London, the British journalism industry is 94 per cent white: a shocking statistic considering that most newsrooms are in London, where people of black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds make up 40 per cent of the capital’s total population.
An increasingly popular route into journalism is via a master’s course, but with courses costing an average of £8,000 to £10,500 a year for British students, this system is likely to be a key reason why few BAME, working class, and intersectional journalists break into the industry. Poverty UK statistics from 2010 demonstrate that there is a correlation between race and class; people from ethnic minority backgrounds are twice as likely to come from lowincome households than their white counterparts. However, there are a growing number of diversity schemes in the UK attempting to improve the industry’s demographic by giving people from underprivileged backgrounds financial aid, or access to opportunities that they are less likely to encounter. But how successful are these schemes in truly diversifying the industry? Last year, City introduced its Widening Media Diversity Scholarship, which covers tuition fees for a journalism master’s degree. It seeks to actively engage individuals from British Muslim communities, or those who are interested in the under-represenation of Muslim people in the media. Scholarships were awarded to two students this year. The students were given the opportunity to complete a six-month paid internship at The Daily Mirror or a threemonth placement at The Sun. A third scholarship is given to post-grad Muslim students with an internship with the Evening Standard, and from next year the university will be providing up to five paid scholarships for Muslim students. In December 2019, a Freedom of Information request revealed that the average total of BAME students on
given journalism as a possible career goal at school. Arts Emergency is another organisation aiming to tackle the issue of under-representation in journalism. Its staff supports young people from state school sixth forms, further education colleges and social housing who are interested in pursuing careers within creative industries, including the media. Carys Nelkon, Head of Programmes at Arts Emergency, says: “What we want to see is young people in schools in the most deprived areas of the UK being told how to get into journalism and being given more guidance. “Pupils from middle-class families are more likely to have connections and to have more confidence, so when one of our mentors matches up with one of our young people, they give them the right advice but also push them to believe in themselves and their abilities,” she adds. Another young reporter who has benefited from various diversity schemes is Jem Bartholomew, who grew up in Exeter in council housing in a single-parent household. The 24-year-old is currently studying journalism at Columbia University, which he was able to attend thanks to the Fulbright Alumni Scholarship. The scholarship gives UK citizens the opportunity to study any course at any university in the US for free. A University of Oxford graduate, Bartholomew applied for the scholarship hoping a master’s degree would improve his prospects. “Not being from London, I spent weeks sleeping on sofas, doing internships when I could, and then going back to Exeter and working in bars,” he says. “I also sent 65 job applications to various news organisations and was rejected each time.” Through the diversifying scheme Creative Access, he was offered an eighteen-month job contract at the FT, working as a reporter. Creative Access is an organisation that pairs journalists from underprivileged backgrounds with newsrooms that are committed to promoting diversity. Seven months into his contract at the FT, he was awarded the Fulbright Alumni Scholarship, and although it meant having to quit his job, he didn’t want to miss out on a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. Bartholomew believes that the need for diverse voices in British newsrooms is urgent: “Not diversifying means missing the next Windrush scandal and the signs of another Grenfell Tower disaster. It means not being able to report on how Brexit is changing communities and continuing to focus, instead, on the narrow horse race of Westminster lobby politics. And I think that will be catastrophic for newspapers in this country.”
The Marjorie Deane scholarship
Written by Annabel Nugent
The Marjorie Deane foundation was set up in 1998 by the eponymous financial reporter. The former Economist journalist paved the way for women in the field, and her legacy is a foundation that ensures this space for underrepresented voices continues to grow. Together with the foundation, City, University of London offers scholarships for at least two students a year to study financial journalism at the university, covering fees and some living expenses. Jane Martinson, Head of the MA Financial Journalism course at City, says: “There isn’t really a similar course in the UK. Other universities offer courses in finance, whereas the City course teaches all the basics of journalism - from news writing to use of platforms from TV to online, with a focus on business and finance.” LaToya Harding, now a Business Reporter for The Daily Telegraph, was one recipient of the scholarship. “The bursary helped me to focus solely on my course without having to seek work outside of university to help pay for rent.” The course includes the opportunity for students to spend two weeks abroad in China and New York. As Martinson says: “In a world which is increasingly global, getting the chance to go and understand these two dominant economies is invaluable.” Through an extensive alumni network, the course opens up connections to the world’s biggest media outlets; over 90 per cent of students go straight into work after graduating. For more information on the Marjorie Deane scholarship and how to apply, contact email@example.com.
both City’s MA Magazine Journalism and MA Broadcast Journalism courses has remained stagnant over the last five years. On average, 1 in 10 students on the MA Magazine course were from BAME backgrounds, while only 12 per cent of people on the MA Broadcast course were BAME. Nicole Garcia Merida, 21, is from Guatemala and studied Magazine Journalism at City from 2018 to 2019. She was one of three people of colour on the course. She says: “It bothered me that there weren’t many of us. There was a lack of points of view.” Tobi Thomas, from north London, is an Interactive Journalism student at City and a recipient of the Guardian Scott Trust Bursary. The bursary financially assists three young people studying journalism from BAME and workingclass backgrounds each year. “I don’t think that the industry is diverse enough at all. The fact that it’s expensive to get into and that it’s all about who you know is off-putting for a lot of people from low income backgrounds. I wouldn’t have been able to study at City without the Guardian’s bursary,” she says. Although the Scott Trust Bursary was beneficial to Thomas, the fact remains that it is only awarded to three journalism master’s students across three institutions. A lack of wide-ranging scholarship and bursary funds is a huge barrier for those coming from working-class backgrounds, struggling to fund their course or paying living costs in cities like London. Media organisations are slowly taking notice of this and are trying to ensure that opportunities are available to everyone. The Spectator has introduced a paid no-CV internship scheme in 2016. Meanwhile, the Financial Times (FT) offers up to three months paid internships, as well as sixmonth fellowships for BAME journalists. In 2015, Channel 4 launched several initiatives to try to improve its socioeconomic diversity within the organisation, and since then, it has launched a paid apprenticeship scheme, set up bases in Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol, and prevented employees from bringing in family members for work experience. Setting up newsrooms in other areas of the UK is a step in the right direction. The internet has contributed to a decline in local media, meaning that many journalistic opportunities tend to be in one place, usually large cities like Manchester or London. But these cities are experiencing a housing crisis, making it difficult for people from underprivileged backgrounds to live there. The decline in local media also means that children and young people growing up in rural areas of the UK are not
Infodemic: the quarantine of news Attempts to curb the spread of fake news have come a long way in the last four years, but can these measures hold their own under the threat of what the WHO has dubbed the “infodemic”?
Written and illustrated by James Hacker
ournalists might be trying to become COVID-19 carriers in order to pass the virus on to Donald Trump and bring a swift end to his administration. Or, at least, you might hear whispers of this sort in the White House’s hallways. If reports are to be believed, we can assume the President of the United States is terrified of coronavirus, as the number of cases on American soil has increased a thousandfold in three months (at the time of writing). More worrying than anecdotal reports like the above is the traction Trump’s narrative – that Democrats were initially exaggerating the severity of coronavirus in pursuit of their own political agenda – has gained with the States’ right-wing outlets and his dedicated followers. Trump is a stranger to neither conspiracy, nor social
media: two concepts which unfortunately come handin-hand. It is this notoriety which led the World Health Organization (WHO) to dub the situation an “infodemic.” Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post that the WHO would receive free advertising on the platform and, in addition to flagging fake news stories, they would remove “false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations”. Facebook has been flagging news stories that fact checkers have declared false since 2016. But their efforts may have been in vain. A study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and published in Management Science in March, found that this measure can make readers more willing to believe and share different false stories. Named the “implied-truth effect”, the study demonstrates not simply the virality of news, but lack of control journalists have in reporting the truth. Once a story reaches the news feed, it is competing against countless other headlines – now it seems even the basic precautions may not be enough. “There’s no way the fact-checkers can keep up with the stream of misinformation, so even if the warnings do really reduce belief in the tagged stories, you still have a problem, because of the implied truth effect,” says David Rand, co-author of the study. Rand clarifies the study’s implications for policy makers at companies like Facebook. “Either make fact-checking more exhaustive through crowdsourcing – like having laypeople rate headlines, and rely on the wisdom of crowds,” he says. “Or use professional fact-checker ratings for something other than warning flags,” like downranking (making content less visible) or outright removing posts. But the hypothetical implementation of new policies is a slow process, and does not help curb the panic unleashed by the coronavirus crisis. The reality of the situation is simple, and Rand frames it as such: “If some coronavirus information is
“If you do not know who to trust, trust everyone or no one” In many ways, to readers, local outlets have become just another part of Facebook. When opening a link in the app, users will be taken to a pop-up window; when they’ve finished reading, the window will close. They never have to leave the app – their news consumption will have happened within the confines of Facebook. With that line blurred, it does not matter if a story has been written by an NCTJ trained journalist or by some friend of a friend: content is content. If you do not know who to trust, trust everyone or no one. During the December general election, long time Yorkshire Post reader, Margaret, penned a letter to the editor disclosing her decision to cancel her subscription.
The paper, she believed, had published fake news. The story in question involved a child – Jack WillimentBarr, with suspected pneumonia – photographed sleeping on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary. There were not enough beds. The story was verified and undoubtedly true, but a copy-paste Facebook post claimed otherwise. Jack’s mother staged the photo, it said, and she was actually a Labour activist seeking to undermine the Conservatives in the days before the election. (The woman who posted the claim later told The Guardian she was hacked.) The similarity to the President’s coronavirus narrative is striking. During a health scare infodemic, it seems the natural response is to start playing a blame game. Margaret was one of many readers who seemed to have lost their trust in The Yorkshire Post. In his open letter to her, editor-in-chief James Mitchinson stated: “It is irresponsible – and reckless – to take one person’s word and take it as fact, we immediately checked the veracity of the assertion with the hospital. That’s not a boast, by the way, just bog-standard journalism”. Mitchinson closes his letter encouraging Margaret to see for herself, and to contact the hospital directly for confirmation. He ends with the sombre warning: “Whatever you do, do not believe a stranger on social media who disappears into the night.” There is legitimate reason to doubt journalists – no one has a complete defence against fake news, party lines, or Downing Street sources. There are clear examples where journalists are falling into these traps. Without the esteemed clout of a national brand, community reporters may well be among the most likely to lose readers’ faith. The local journalist has become barely indistinguishable from a stranger in the night.
marked as false, it may make people think everything unflagged is more true.” COVID-19, and the infodemic it has created, mark the boiling point of a conflict which has been simmering for well over a decade. Health and wellbeing are topics which naturally become entangled with deception and misinformation. The human interest is surface level: your life is on the line. The truth is confusing: the average reader can barely remember secondary school biology, let alone navigate a science paper. The classic example is, of course, the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine: an illsubstantiated claim, made in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 (since retracted by its publisher), linking the jab to autism. Clearly, misinformation surrounding health is a reality born long before the time of Facebook and social media. This issue faced today is the ease and speed with which that information spreads. In April 2019, it was revealed in a WIRED long-read that Facebook’s internal engineers defined “news” as stories involving three key topics, two of which would create fertile grounds for spreading health panics: politics, crime and tragedy. “News organisations were not ready for the change,” says Charlie Beckett, journalism professor at London School of Economics (LSE). Beckett leads the Journalism and AI project – part of the Google News Initiative designed to support journalism in the digital age. Beckett continues: “We have to remember that Facebook is quite a new entity. It had no track record, and it had no legal obligations. News organisations were out of their depth: they didn’t understand how Facebook worked.” Underlining the coronavirus infodemic – and indeed, all fake news – is the struggle to maintain a trusting relationship between reader and writer.
Written by Rob Hakimian
& Zoya Raza-Sheikh
any of the greatest magazines to grace our shelves stem from a passion project fuelled by an unwavering creative vision. Whether these enterprises started in a dark, dingy apartment and were only tended to on the occasional weekend, or were meticulously nurtured until they saw the light of day, each creator had the determination to share their unique projects with an audience. In this era where algorithms dictate what to read, listen to and like, it’s common to feel like your individuality is just an anonymous speck in the eye of an information storm. The dream of making a living through your own personal obsession can seem remote — but these passion projects prove there is hope. While they all debuted with a sense of self-belief and a clear selling point, their paths to eminence diverge widely. They demonstrate that there is no one clear route to success — it takes a cocktail of commitment, vision and luck.
OH-SO – Rob Hewitt OH-SO began as Rob Hewitt’s wholesome mission to show his daughter that skateboarding isn’t exclusively for men, but soon became a magazine at the forefront of a female-driven skate scene. “In late 2018, my daughter, who was seven at the time, was messing with an old skateboard in the house. I took her to a local skateboard shop and was taken aback because everything was so male-orientated.” Hewitt, who is a designer by profession, decided to do something about it: “It spurred the idea that this could be a journey to making a magazine that’s devoted to women in skateboarding,” he says.
By January 2019, the off-the-cuff idea came to fruition with the publication of the first issue of OH-SO, a quarterly magazine that sells at £14. Hewitt did his best to keep the core purpose of the magazine as authentic as possible. “It was all done at home. The great thing was that my daughter, Amelia, was actually involved. She was looking and commenting on photos as we had it spread all over the floor. I wanted to get a true emotional response from her, because it stems from her,” he explains. The magazine didn’t go without resistance. “The biggest backlash was because I am a guy making a magazine for a female audience,” he admits. “It forced me to really put myself in the background. My name is not on the publication anywhere and the whole project is devoted to my daughter’s experience.” OH-SO is driven, designed, and produced by Hewitt, with the help of freelance photographers. The designer likens his publication to the old school skateboarding ethos: “The skate mentality is like the DIY mentality; you don’t really know what’s gonna come of it,” he says. “You’re at the skatepark, you’re practicing, then you
Image: Kamri Noel McKnight
“I wanted a true emotional response from my daughter because it stems from her”
become obsessed with it and you’re constantly refining. “The great thing is that design and journalism are very much the same thing. You’re a single engine and you’re working on a craft you’re so passionate about and then you strike something other people can see and learn from. This started from a place of pure journalistic integrity and wanting to help and not take away from others.” For those who want to launch their own magazine, Hewitt goes by a set of advisory rules: “Make sure you flesh out your mission statement and, if you can, find someone who’s like-minded who can visually interpret what you’re talking about. It’s important to collaborate with people who understand what you want to do and what your message is.”
SUITCASE – Serena Guen
“The first magazine we designed on PowerPoint instead of InDesign, because we just didn’t have the experience!” Guen admits. A few learning curves and a loan later, the magazine was launched from her apartment. By industry standards, SUITCASE is still in its toddler years, so the teething problems are still fresh for Guen: “At the beginning, it was a lot of hard work. We were all doing it for free and everyone was mucking in.” As a young female CEO, Guen had to battle pervading stereotypes in the industry to get funding: “It is often more difficult for women to raise money. Most of the investors I spoke to were male and, even though our audience is quite mixed, a lot of people associate a magazine-type product with females. I think it was difficult for them to get past that.” The beginning wasn’t all bad. Guen recalls when SUITCASE’s editorial team travelled through South America for the 2014 World Cup issue. A stand-out moment was when they visited Rio de Janeiro’s Maracaña stadium: “We had it to ourselves and did a photoshoot there. It was so fun, at that point, I was like ‘I’ve made it!’” Guen offers advice: “Often, management is maledominated and they suggest slightly inappropriate meetings. I was naive at first, thinking a drinks meeting would be okay. I’ve learned to stick to coffee and lunch!” >> Image: Grant Thomas
It’s not every day you come across a CEO whose success story lies in their years at university. What began as a make-shift Word document travel guide quickly developed into an awardwinning international multimedia platform. Now, SUITCASE is a leading quarterly travel magazine, selling at £9 per issue with a circulation over 70,000. For Serena Guen, inspiration came from trips between Paris and New York. While studying at NYU, Guen was captivated by the spirit and the experiential feel of travelling and vividly recalls relying on websites to put together her days of travelling. “We were relying on something like TripAdvisor to tell us what to do,” she admits. “I thought it was ridiculous that there wasn’t a platform for that kind of travel, which is more experiential, getting under the surface of a destination,” she explains. “So, in my third year of university, I set about creating the concept for SUITCASE.” A few months after the idea was born, the first issue of SUITCASE was published in May 2012. Today, it’s common to find a copy on a coffee table or lining the shelves of chic magazine stands, but this humble publication began a long way from glamourous retail shelves.
Image: Sim Greenaway
After completing a degree in politics at Bristol in 2009, Michael Cox was an office temp but longed to write about football. Having written match reports for his university football team, Cox set up a blog called Zonal Marking. It married two of his most refined traits — excessively watching football and critical analysis. Cox would watch a handful of the week’s biggest matches, and on his site break them down to a granular level of tactical analysis. Modern football coverage is fuelled by data and tactical insight, but Cox preceded it. “There weren’t websites dedicated to tactical analysis, but it was what I wanted to read. Other sports had that kind of coverage but football didn’t, so I decided to fill the gap.” Things picked up quickly from there. “The first few months after I started had some really interesting tactical games,” Cox remembers. Specifically, when Inter Milan went to Barcelona in April 2010: “[José] Mourinho didn’t want his team to have the ball and he put 10 men in front of the goal. That was such an unusual and extreme
tactical battle,” Cox recalls. “I remember doing that article on the night, then woke up to 300 comments, which felt crazy. That was the first time it felt like it was something that people would actively seek out after a big game.” At its peak Zonal Marking had 50,000 daily visitors, but rather than build a team or monetise it, Cox used the platform to get freelance football writing jobs. With persistence, he became a regular reporter for ESPN and a weekly tactical columnist in The Guardian’s Monday paper. Alongside his career, Cox kept Zonal Marking up and running. “The website was an extra at that point. I did it because I enjoyed it and it was a good way to research for my paid work. If you force yourself to watch six or seven games, and write a tactical analysis of all of them, that essentially stands you in really good stead for the other jobs.” Cox continued to work this way for almost a decade, until last year when he was approached by The Athletic to write exclusively for them. Zonal Marking is now dormant, but Cox has risen to a published author of two books about football’s evolution and a fulltime writer discussing tactics throughout the week on the most well-regarded level.
Zonal Marking – Michael Cox
The Quietus – John Doran
Image: Krent Able
The Quietus’ founder John Doran spent his teens and twenties working in factories while struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. It was writing about music that guided him out – but not immediately. In his early thirties Doran, now 48, took an NCTJ course at Harlow College, then went into news reporting before landing a job at short-lived music mag Bang in 2003. John was surrounded by inspiring colleagues, with whom he developed the concept of the “new canon of music”. They wanted to highlight the importance of the likes of The Fall, Kraftwerk, and Aphex Twin, and champion the new artists following in their wake. Bang was killed after 10 issues, so creating an outlet for this concept remained a pipe dream. But opportunity knocked in 2008 when Doran and colleague Luke Turner won a funding pitch from BSkyB for a music site. The beta-version of The Quietus was launched in autumn 2008, with the backing of this multi-million pound organisation – only for the financial crash to hit a month later. All monetary promises were revoked; Doran and Turner were left adrift with barely a computer (they were allowed to take some as they left). Still believing in their vision, they waded on, practically penniless. A friend offered them a corner in the Truman Brewery office on London’s Brick Lane, where they committed everything to making The Quietus a success. Following a grave warning from the doctor, Doran quit drinking and The Quietus became his new addiction: “A few weeks beforehand I assumed I was going to die, but then all the time I used to spend at the pub or round some dealer’s house I’d spend coming up with ideas and persuading people to help us out. I’d get so into it I’d sleep under my desk.”
It worked: people started reading, and The Quietus was seeing a gradual increase in hits week on week. “We weren’t writing about the hippest music, but we were writing about things that never got treated seriously, like industrial music or extreme metal. We had a reputation for being pompous, but I think that was more the fact that we took music really seriously.” The success of The Quietus saw it move to an office in Stoke Newington, where it continued to grow in notoriety. With this platform, Doran and Turner’s profiles rose; both became regular music columnists on The Guardian, contributors to the likes of VICE and The Wire, and were even invited to judge the BRITs and the Mercury Prize (they declined). In recent years, Doran has adapted The Quietus’ “New Weird Britain” column for a BBC Radio 4 series, both he and Turner have published memoirs, and are working on new books. Today, The Quietus resides in an office in a flat above The Lexington in Angel and continues to push the creative vision it always promised. It remains a steadfastly admired publication, with 400,000 unique visitors and 2m page views monthly, making its money from a mix of banner ads, donations, fundraising, festival partnerships and brand collaborations. Even with all of his other projects, Doran’s commitment to the site remains absolute. He hopes for a bright future with a much-needed redesign, although its existence is always precarious. “I try not to worry about the future, but it’s hard not to,” he admits. “We’ve genuinely nearly shut four times.”
“We had a reputation for being pompous but I think it was more the fact that we took music really seriously”
Where are they now?
From news presenters to podcasters, political correspondents to private investigators, City’s reach is far and wide. We’ve profiled 60 alumni across media and beyond to see what they’re up to now
David Holmes Diploma 1980 Retired Journalism Lecturer at University of Sheffield By Mared Gruffydd
Linda Sills International 1987 Series Producer at BBC By Rob Hakimian
Who is your favourite journalist and why? I like and respect all journalists who do their jobs well, i.e. reporters who show open-minded curiosity about interesting and important things, who ask the right questions, and who communicate interesting things in a stimulating and engaging way. What is the highlight of your career so far? Spending fifteen years teaching wonderfully talented postgraduate journalism students at the University of Sheffield, and gaining such satisfaction from seeing them go on to shape the future of multimedia reporting. I was thrilled to receive the NCTJ Chairman’s Award for an outstanding contribution to journalism training when I finally decided to hang up my shorthand notebook. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with such passionate and talented people. What is the best advice you received when you were starting out? On the last day of our postgraduate course, our inspiring lecturer Henry Clothier wished us luck, told us to have confidence in our training and our talents, and reminded us that we would only be as good as our last story. He urged us to set the benchmark that our stories would always be honest and accurate, and made us promise that we would always make that crucial last phone call even when deadlines were breathing down our necks.
Dermot Murnaghan Newspaper 1984 Sky News presenter By Robyn Schaffer
What’s been the most embarrassing moment of your career? I remember being on breakfast television with Natasha Kaplinksy and interviewing a man about artificial insemination. He turned out to be George Bush’s speechwriter who was actually there to talk about the American elections. He tried to answer the questions before he eventually told us who he was. It was a mess up by the producers. We’d been given the wrong brief and they’d brought the wrong person in. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I covered the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped in Hiroshima. I interviewed one of the survivors, an elderly woman, for a report. I think she was the last person alive who had been as close to the epicentre as possible. As a hardened hack, when people talk to me about world peace I often just go: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” But listening to her talk about it completely changed my way of thinking about it. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? A former permanent secretary came in once to give a talk and said to us: “Journalists never pick politicians up on the promises they make.” So now I always remember what politicians say and make sure to follow them up on it. For example, there was one home secretary who set up an illegal immigrant hotline. He did a live interview with me and came back a year later. So I asked: “How many illegal immigrants have been deported because of your hotline?” And he said: “What hotline?!”
Have you ever received any funny feedback from an editor? I interviewed Mike Tyson live on Sky News. I asked him a question he didn’t like and afterwards I said to my editor that at one point I thought he was going to punch me, and the editor said: “Pity he didn’t. It would make great television.”
What is the most interesting thing about your job? The people you meet people from all walks of life - people who made a difference in the world and their generosity in sharing their experiences. Some of them have gone through terrible, painful situations and for them to open up is a big deal. That always really moves me because you can’t possibly understand the depths of pain that some of these people have gone through. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done? The Dalai Lama. He was just full of great energy, he’s definitely one of those people who has this true sense of inner peace - and he’s got the loveliest giggle. He was a lot of fun and just an extraordinarily insightful man. He’s definitely operating on a higher plane than we are. What is the highlight of your career so far? Working at the BBC has been such a privilege because you can have more than one career here, and I’ve had four. Certainly one of the highlights was this Amazon trip because I’d never been to South America. It was such a privilege being able to spend three days in an indigenous village, meeting the other side: a ranching family or just a working farming family and getting their side of the story. They were very open and lovely to work with; really giving and wanted their story told. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? Now there aren’t enough hours in the day to provide content. The BBC is one big, huge hungry machine. The media has become insatiable in terms of the 24-hour news cycle, and the different platforms that you have to provide content for. It’s exciting but exhausting. But when you look at the reach of your journalism, it’s amazing where you can see your content go. Who would you most like to interview? Aung San Suu Kyi to ask her “What the f**k?!” and also whether she’ll ever hand back that Nobel Peace Prize (and all the money that went with it) of which she is flagrantly unworthy.
Richard Johnson Periodical 1987 Founder of the British Street Food Awards By Josiah Gogarty
Who is your favourite journalist and why? A. A. Gill. I love food journalism, food writing and words that democratise the whole process of high-end eating.
Dixi Stewart Broadcast 1991 Executive Lead/Chief of Staff to the Managing Director BBC By Catalina Oblu
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I did the first TV series with Heston Blumenthal. I think it was the first time we dragged him away from the Fat Duck. The joy of Heston is that he’s just Heston. You don’t try and mould him or shape him; you just let him be him. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? It doesn’t seem to have the status that it did; it doesn’t seem to be as important as it was. I was under contract at The Sunday Times Magazine, and I certainly wrote 4,500, 5,000-word reads. I remember being paid for research days at Rolling Stone and having the luxury of following lines of inquiry and thinking, that might make an interesting paragraph, I’m going to spend the day speaking to somebody about that. And your employers thinking, we trust his instincts, we’re going to pay him for that. What exists now is much more cutthroat and competitive. Perversely, I think the progress of technology has made journalism so much more joyful. I love the freedom my phone gives me and the liberation the internet has provided. My business could not exist without social media.
James Westhead Broadcast 1990 Head of Engagement at Big Society Capital By Robyn Schaffer What’s been the most embarrassing moment of your career? We were broadcasting from a hospital ward and I was speaking to the camera. A nurse then crawled on her hands and feet in front of me, thinking she couldn’t be seen but it was a wide shot. It ended up on one of those bloopers’ reels. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I interviewed Muhammad Ali at the opening of his museum. He had this extraordinary presence even though he could hardly speak. At the end I said to him: “Is there anything you want to add?” Even though he was very fragile and could barely walk, he silently looked straight into the camera and put his fists right up into the lens. He still had this incredible performance instinct. What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Living in the US as the BBC’s Washington correspondent. I hung out at the White House, interviewed celebrities, covered mass shootings. America is full of the most extraordinary stories and anyone will talk to you. What advice would you give to journalists just starting out? Don’t take no for an answer. No is always just an interim to yes.
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? While I was at City, I did a short placement with TV-am back in the day. It was at the time when Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, but he wasn’t yet president of South Africa. I remember going into the early morning news meeting as they were running through the prospects for the day. One of the things on the prospects was that Mandela was in London and nobody wanted to interview him. So I said, “I’ll go and interview him”. It was the most extraordinary experience. I remember walking into the back of the room, there was Mandela on stage and just feeling this extraordinary charisma. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? One of my tutors at City said to me: “Never lose your sense of privilege”. I’ve often thought about that and passed that advice onto other people. It is an enormous privilege to be able to be a journalist and I think we should never lose sight of that. What is your standout piece of journalism of the decade? A series called “The Ideas That Make Us” for BBC Radio 4 which was looking at ancient ideas that continue to affect us today. We did a programme about peace of death. There was a hospice doctor that I interviewed for the programme who told me one of her patients would be able to speak to me. We recorded this extraordinary interview with this man, about how he felt – knowing he had only days to live. I received a letter from a listener who said that her husband had an awful form of cancer and he was dying. She said that she really wanted him to find some peace, some closure before he died – but he couldn’t find it since he was so angry at the disease. She listened to my program with him, and they were able to have a conversation about peaceful death. It enabled him to find some peace before he died. It was one of those moments where you just think it is extraordinary what we do in broadcast journalism.
What is your fondest memory of City? The people: it was a very exciting crowd. It was clear that being at City was a great privilege that would open doors. To be able to pick up the phone – the payphone in those days – to people who wouldn’t know who you were, but when you said you were at City it made life so much easier. It was a real period of change – we were the first year where word processors arrived. It was also a time of trepidation and realising that lots of people were going to be made unemployed. The industry was dying right in front of our eyes, and there were massive industrial disputes about the introduction of new technology. It was a frightening time but exciting.
James Kanter International 1993 Editor of the EU Scream podcast
Katja Pantzar International 1994 Writer, editor, and broadcast journalist based in Helsinki
By Esther Marshall
By Maud Rowell
What’s your fondest memory of City? Linda Christmas was running the department when I was there and one day, she literally collared me in the hallway and asked me why I was always wearing shorts and a t-shirt. So, I showed her the roller-skates in my bag which I used for my commute. Within a day she got me my first national newspaper article for The Independent about urban warrior skate culture. I wrote a piece about learning how to weave through busy traffic on Oxford Street and getting towed on the back of a Routemaster bus down Fleet Street. Herbie Knott [fashion photographer] took some pretty cool black and white shots of me hanging off the back of a bus.
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? One of my gigs used to be doing the TV news in English here in Finland. When I was very green, I started the newscast and pressed the teleprompter pedal - it started whirring backwards at really high speed. You’re never supposed to show any emotion on television.You’re supposed to just pick up your papers in case the technology fails and continue with the news. I tried to do that as best I could, as my co-anchor crawled under the desk and tried to fix the pedal. I was absolutely mortified.
What’s been the most embarrassing moment of your career? When I was working in Cambodia, I suddenly realised Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the prime minister of Cambodia at the time, was about to take off in a helicopter outside my B&B. All I had on was my swimsuit and I just grabbed my pyjama top and ran out. I was there sort of half-naked trying to get a quote from him as he got into his helicopter. What’s been the highlight of your career? While working at The New York Times, I was able to reveal that a Maltese European Commissioner called John Dalli was taking secret flights on a private jet to the Bahamas, while working for the EU. He appeared to be involved in a pyramid scheme and the people who were hurt by the scheme were very elderly people in the United States. It was just a remarkable story about how Dalli was very closely associated with this whole other world of corruption while in office. That story was really satisfying because nobody else was pursuing it. What’s the most interesting thing about your job? I founded EU Scream because we’re living in exceptional times of disinformation, bigotry and ultra-conservatism and I wanted to be a part of defending democracy. I really enjoy seeking out and amplifying the voices of people you might not normally hear from. Those are often people who’ve been directly affected by extremist and far right policies or people who know how to help them.
What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Colin Bickler was one of my lecturers at City and he was great at sensitising us to issues surrounding neocolonialism and Western journalism. Neocolonialism is sometimes called out rightly, but it can be used opportunistically as a cover for authoritarianism. Those lessons were really helpful when I ended up running an English and Khmer language newspaper in Phnom Penh with a large Cambodian staff. As a result of Colin’s lectures, I was able to push back diplomatically when Cambodian authorities tried to use ideas like Asian values as a pretext for undermining the freedom of the press.
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I’m a huge fan of fiction, and I got to interview Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri [author of The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies]. She was incredibly inspiring because she was so human. She was so humble and regular and wise, and I found that very inspiring What is the highlight of your career so far? The skills that I learned from journalism that I was able to parlay into my newest book The Finnish Way, which came out in 2018, which is about sisu, Finnish fortitude. My agent has sold it to 22 different territories, so I get messages from people around the world daily who have read the book and found some inspiration. I remember when I was at City, standing in Soho, thinking: “When I grow up, I want to write a book that helps people and makes a difference.” I feel in some ways I’ve achieved that with this book.
Andrew Webb-Vidal International 1995 Private investigator, former FT correspondent, in Latin America By James Hacker What was your most memorable achievement as a foreign correspondent, and why? Covering the coup that toppled President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela – and his unexpected return to power two days later. It was 48 hours of mayhem and serious political violence, but I had gleaned inside information two days before the coup. I was able to prepare my communications, logistics and even escape routes if things got hairy. Sneaking into the Presidential palace through a secret tunnel, before Chávez was restored to power, was then my journalistic coup. I also have some fond but unnerving memories of embedding with Colombian soldiers, paramilitaries, guerrillas and a host of unsavoury characters during my time reporting on the armed conflict there. How has journalism changed since you left City? There’s been a lot of talk recently of ‘fake news’, but in reality it’s always existed. One of the fundamental roles of the journalist is to discern what is true and what is not; that’s not changed. Has your training and experience as a journalist helped you as a private investigator? Very much so. Door-stepping, knowing how to obtain documents from public archives, being able to read financial documents, and even rummaging in dustbins, have all been useful skills. Above all, cultivating human sources.
by Katie Jenkins
What’s the most interesting thing about your job? With all the passion and all the excitement in football, we can actually bring attention to social issues. That’s what we try to do, highlighting challenges such as homophobia and discrimination. We have a vision in the Danish Football Union called ‘Part of something bigger’. It recognises that football isn’t just on the pitch, it’s also part of society. It has to make changes within society. That coverage is what I like about my job. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? This summer, Copenhagen is hosting some Euro 2020 matches, which is a big project for us and for me professionally. Then we’ll see what happens. If I have to move on, I’ll probably move on into another organisational job – maybe another communications role. Why did you decide to go into communications after graduating rather than traditional journalism? I had about 15 years in different newspapers. Then I wanted to try different challenges. I was head of communications at Danish State Railways [the national railway association] and now I’m at the Danish Football Union. I’d been focused on having an impact in whatever I did, first in management, and then in leadership and strategy. Who is your favourite journalist and why? Per Høyer Hansen, a Danish journalist, who covered football in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Under him, the coverage of football became like a history lesson. So, when he covered South American football, he wrote about the history of the region. That’s what I really like about sport and his writing. Sport is a mirror of the society we live in. If we face corruption challenges in sports, that’s also a sign of corruption challenges in society. If I had to highlight a journalist who’s relevant to my current job, it would have to be him.
Rebecca Abecassis International 1997 European News Programme Editor, RTP Portugal
By Kelly-Anne Taylor
What was the most embarrassing moment of your career? Having a blank in the middle of an interview. I couldn’t remember the words in English. The words came out wrong and I was talking to a Prime Minister. They corrected me on what I’d said, which was a really awful feeling. Thank goodness it wasn’t live. I speak French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, a little Swedish and English. When you have so many languages in your head, sometimes you stumble over your words, or your thoughts get mixed up. That was really embarrassing. What is the most memorable interview you have ever done and why? With the French politician Jaques Delors, who was the head of European Commission and who, I believe, was one of the greatest Europeans of the 20th century. He was incredible because he really believed in what he was saying and it was clear he really wanted to add something to the world and to be constructive on a political level. He was supposed to be president, but he refused to enter into a campaign. He’s still alive, but he doesn’t give any interviews anymore. What has been the highlight of your career? I recently went to Jokkmokk, a really small town above the arctic circle in Sweden. They host a 500-year-old fair where they recreate Sami traditions. I asked what the local authorities missed the most in this really small village, which empties as soon as these festivals are over. They said they “missed people, immigrants, refugees - this is what we need, we have jobs for everybody here, please come”. I thought it was an interesting message to hear, especially these days as you hear the opposite coming out of most countries at the moment. It was interesting to hear that this country was eager to welcome foreigners and people from other cultural backgrounds.
Emma Elms Periodical 1997 Freelance journalist, Marieclaire.co.uk, Femail, and Woman & Home
By Annabel Nugent
What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career? When I first started out as a journalist in the 1990s, I did shifts on a pop magazine. I wasn’t massively into pop music so when I was sent to interview the band Steps, I needed to swot up on their names. To avoid any embarrassing gaffes, I brought a list with a description of each of the band members. Unfortunately, Claire from Steps found the list during our photoshoot and began roaring with laughter, “She doesn’t know who we are!” I nearly died. Luckily, they were all good-humoured about it. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? Britney Spears in Denver nearly 20 years ago. She was completely in love with Justin Timberlake back then, and was incredibly charming and sweet. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? “Always under-promise and over deliver”. I specialise in hard-to-find case studies so I’m careful not to guarantee something unless I’m 100 per cent confident that I can pull it off. The second is: “Bring me solutions, not problems”, which is one that has put me in good stead throughout my career. As someone who has adopted a multi-hyphen career, do you think this is the way journalism is moving forward? My number one love is glossy women’s magazines, but the reality is they’re folding. I worked on Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan in my twenties, but now since there are fewer women’s magazines I’ve branched out to newspapers, websites, as well as doing copywriting for brands and ghostblogging. I’ve recently dipped my toe into video-making and social media management.
Jakob Høyer International 1996 Head of Comms, Danish Football Union
Jennifer Hanawald International 1998 Integrative health, wellness and lifestyle coach By Tilda Coleman Who are your favourite journalists and why? I love Stephen Colbert, who is actually a late night TV person. His coverage of the American elections was so full of humour and insight. Whenever National Public Radio’s Lulu Garcia Navarro – who was my fellow student at City – writes about anything I make sure to seek it out. I also love reading Lori Gottlieb’s therapist column in The Atlantic. She wrote a book called Maybe You Should Talk to Someone about her experiences as a therapist, which I would recommend. How do you use your journalistic training in your current job? I’m an integrative health wellness and lifestyle coach. As a journalist, profiling people was one of my favourite things to do. I found that I would spend so long getting into the world of my subject that I wasn’t being effective with my time. So I definitely use the curiosity about people’s stories that working in journalism developed in my current job. Journalism and life coaching both require really good listening skills. What is your fondest memory of City? My classmates. We were such a diverse bunch. I remember people from the Congo, Thailand, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil and Greece. Thank goodness for social media because it means now I have a global network. I’m connected to a reporter from Malaysia, for example – how cool is that?
James Ashton Newspaper 1998 Business writer and speaker By Max Copeman What is the most difficult profile you’ve ever had to write? Jeff Immelt. He was the CEO of the huge US industrial company, General Electric. They were a big Olympic sponsor, so I met him the morning after the London 2012 opening ceremony. I only had about 20 minutes with him, which wasn’t nearly enough. That’s when you have to throw in sights and sounds and the kitchen sink to make the piece work. If it was like squeezing an orange, I was really scraping the rind off, it was all in there. Somehow I got 3,000 words out of it. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? The news cycle has sped up, meaning the idea of stories having a ‘day two’ or ‘day three’ is less common. At the moment, the news cycle is so fast that there is a temptation to not bother with following stories up in this way, but actually, there is still huge value in that. What is your fondest memory of City? There was a programme offering scholarships to Iowa, I think it was some sort of exchange. I worked at the The Daily Iowan for a month, which isn’t even in the state capital of Des Moines, it’s in Iowa City. It’s a very big university town, so the newspaper is effectively run by the students. It was totally eye-opening, seeing how they treated journalism, finding out the views of people in the Midwest of America and what they thought of the UK. Also, I was the only Brit, so I had to write a big piece on Brit pop as that was around at that time, and they also sent me to review the local Shakespeare play that was on, obviously.
Esme Wren Broadcast 1999 Editor of BBC Newsnight By Emma Deeley
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I spoke to a woman who was the head of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). She told me her inspiration for doing all this incredibly difficult work delivering medical care in war zones was her son, who died of cancer. To keep going, she would think about how brave her son was until the last minute. She would think if he could do what he did I can do this, I can be brave like him. That was really moving.
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? When I was on a foreign trip with David Cameron at Sky, we went to visit the refugee camps on the border of Syria. Straight off of the back of it, we had an interview with Queen Rania, who’s probably the world’s most glamorous woman you’ll ever meet. However, on flying back from the refugee camp we got hit by a massive sandstorm. I looked like somebody who had been out sleeping in the rough. I was covered in sand and my shoes were filthy, my hair was like a nest and I had to go in and meet probably the most beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent woman in the world and produce an interview with her.
What’s the worst piece of advice you received when you were starting out? When I was an undergrad, a journalist came in to talk about his career. I remember the speaker telling us to go and do something else before going into journalism to have something to write about. That was the worst advice ever, because whilst of course it’s brilliant to come to the industry from elsewhere, there’s also nothing wrong with pursuing journalism straight away. By the time I found my way to City I was almost 30, and I feel I would have flourished earlier if I hadn’t been a little put off by that advice.
Have you ever received any funny or rude feedback from viewers or an editor? We do have a lot of viewers that write to me every single day and a lot of them are very astute in terms of their analysis of the programme. But back in the day when I first came to Newsnight, I would get lots of emails about, “Does Evan Davis know his trousers are too tight?”
Who is your favourite journalist and why? My favourite has always been Charles Wheeler, but he passed away. He used to be a foreign correspondent for the BBC and had the most fantastic ability to script pitches in any zone he was sent to. A beautiful writer and a beautiful empathetic tone. He never was the story himself. He knew how to allow people to tell their own stories.
Dominic Fifield Newspaper 1999 Senior Writer at The Athletic, covering Crystal Palace By Rob Hakimian What’s the most memorable interview you’ve ever done? An interview I did with Steven Caulker in 2017. He wasn’t being played at QPR and his career appeared to be going nowhere. He came to me and wanted to talk about depression, gambling and alcohol addiction and where he was in his life. I felt honoured that he had that level of trust in me, and we worked on that for a long time to get it right. He’s a good guy and he was brave to talk about everything he did. I think when it came out, it did a lot of good. I think it opened people’s eyes.
and poor place north of Paris where terrorists had set off suicide vests outside the Stade de France. I spoke to a victim whose wife had been left in a wheelchair by the attack and he had been badly injured. When the piece came out he emailed saying: “God these English don’t mess around. Thank you for telling our story.” I just thought, ‘wow’. If that doesn’t make you feel it was worth telling, then nothing does. For him to say that meant a lot.
What was the most embarrassing moment of your career? I’ve had a lot of embarrassing moments, not least playing football for the press team against Everton coaching staff when David Moyes was in charge. I remember playing centre half and being turned on the halfway line by [former Everton winger] Alan Irvine. God knows how old he actually was but I remember he had grey hair. I’ve never felt more helpless chasing someone back. They won 6-2.
What’s your stand-out article of the decade? What Daniel Taylor did exposing paedophilia at clubs like Crewe Alexandra was incredible journalism. Danny’s like a dog with a bone, he just wouldn’t let it go, he kept going deeper and deeper into it and the football authorities and police stood up and took notice in the end. That’s proper raw journalism doing good.
What’s the most memorable comment you’ve received on your work? In the build-up to Euro 2016 in France, The Guardian sent me to Paris to write a long read. It was a few months after the November 2015 terrorist attacks, and I did a piece about Saint-Denis, a very diverse
Jim Reed Broadcast 2002 Reporter on the Victoria Derbyshire Show
Claire Winter Broadcast 2000 Freelance Journalist and Founder of Making Words Come Alive
By Lauren Morris
What is the most interesting thing about your job? Variety. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I’ve kind of pivoted what I do. I teach other people how to create content and their own copy, and pitch to the press. So I’m straddling PR and journalism. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done? I got to interview Adrian Moorhouse and Sir Steve Redgrave, who are both local to where I am and are inspirational Olympic heroes. I also interviewed Basil Brush – he stayed in character the whole time.
What is the most interesting thing about your job? It’s a variety. Today we were looking up the price of hand sanitizer on various websites to see if they’re profiting off of the coronavirus and next week, I’m interviewing an elderly couple about their experience of the ambulance service. Every day is completely different. What is your fondest memory of City? We were sent out to do TV vox pops and we somehow managed to interview Victoria Beckham. This was at the height of her fame in 2001. She was opening something for Great Ormond Street at the time, and we happened to see a crowd forming so we went over and fought our way to the front of it. David Beckham was there as well.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Owning and editing my own magazine for eight years. It was called Families Magazine. I still write content for all 41 regional magazines. I’ve interviewed everyone, from Olympians to chefs.
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? I did a two-way interview on the Victoria Derbyshire show and received a deluge of complaints about my shirt. I don’t do much live TV on the show so I foolishly came in wearing a scruffy old T-shirt. I ran to Next and picked up a cheap shirt. I didn’t realise you could see on camera from the back that it had just been taken out of the package.
How has the journalism landscape changed since you left City? Massively. For me, we’re all broadcasters. Everyone can broadcast from a phone. How can you as a journalist distinguish your voice and make your story stand out, when everyone is tweeting and filming events that are happening nationally and globally?
What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? You’ve just got to say yes to everything and accept that you can’t pick or choose. You’ve got to take those crappy hours and overnight shifts. Don’t turn anything down.
By Patrick O’Donnell Who is your favourite journalist and why? Caitlin Moran. She’s not really a journalist, she’s more of columnist, but I love her. She’s a gobby feminist on Twitter.
What is the highlight of your career? The Champions League final in Istanbul with Liverpool in 2005. I got to write about Steven Gerrard on the greatest night of his career; his inspiring the second half comeback and ultimately lifting the trophy. That was an absolute privilege. There aren’t many games that sort of catch your breath or get the adrenaline pumping in that way.
Anthony Mills International 2002 Writer, France 24
Lucrezia Millarini Broadcast 2004 ITV News Presenter
By Patrick O’Donnell
By Lydia Spencer-Elliott
What items do you always have on you as a journalist? A contact book. Good shoes. Something to read. An emergency plan. It isn’t really an item, but you need an emergency plan. Some kind of basic medical kit. It becomes much more important when you are off in the field, but I would say as a journalist, you always need the basics with you. A hellish headache can interfere with your ability to deliver on time.
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? Luckily there haven’t been too many. But there was one red carpet moment when I described my husband of eight years as ‘my boyfriend’. I was responding to a question from Dolph Lundgren. It was me who was supposed to be asking the questions! What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? Aside from all the celebrities and politicians, I have met some remarkable people who don’t spend their lives in the spotlight. Yet, they choose to open up about issues that are incredibly moving and are often difficult to talk about: a dad who had a terminal illness who had written letters to give to his children on their birthdays in the years after his death; parents who have lost children to knife crime; the firefighters first on the scene at Grenfell.
Who is your favourite journalist and why? Jim Clancy, now retired, but long-time CNN journalist and anchor. He had an uncompromising approach to quality journalism mixed with a deep respect towards his fellow journalists and a wonderful sense of humour.
What is the weirdest thing about live telly? As it is live, there are pretty strict timings that we must adhere to in order not to ‘fall off air’. We have a director’s assistant who is always counting timings in your ear. Then the director is giving you or reporters on location instructions. The programme editor may also be steering you throughout a show, if there are script changes or breaking news. There is a lot of ‘chatter’ that you have to listen to very carefully, but also be able to filter out while you’re doing your bit.
What is the highlight of your career so far? Without doubt it was the breakthrough with CNN, when I was in Beirut in 2006. At the time Beirut’s CNN team was not in the country. There was nothing really happening. Suddenly, I heard celebratory gunfire and it turned out that Hezbollah had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Within the space of an hour, I had gone from sitting around to doing live after live after live coverage for CNN, essentially covering the war with some of the biggest names in journalism.
What is the most interesting thing about your job? I get to meet the most interesting people and celebrities. I have to get my head around lots of complex issues in often short amounts of time. Because of that, I never get bored and the only clock-watching I do is to make sure I don’t run out of time!
How has the landscape of journalism changed since your time at City? I’m not among the people who think that journalism is dead. People who see themselves as journalists and operate by journalistic principles are journalists. What we are seeing is a reduced number of traditional outlets that still have the means, funds, and resources to cover the big stories. Especially on the international stage. There was a time in Beirut, when papers like the Chicago Tribune had correspondents out there. What we are seeing increasingly is these publications vanishing from the international scene and the media becoming increasingly reliant on freelance journalists. Ironically, it’s almost easier to freelance now. But of course, as a freelance journalist you don’t have the safety net that you have very often if you’re a staff member.
Fiona Cowood Periodical 2004 Freelance Journalist By Ramsha Vistro
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? When I was working for Cosmopolitan, I was invited to a briefing by MI5 as they were trying to recruit more women intelligence officers. We had to provide lots of personal information in order to attend. When I turned up at City Hall, I was told that there was no briefing. I mistook this as part of the ‘theatre’ of the event and started tapping my nose and insisting that I was there for ‘the secret briefing’. I’d just turned up at the wrong place. Who is your favourite journalist and why? I love Marina Hyde. She can skewer and satirise everyone and everything. As the world has felt increasingly unstable, her take is always a must-read. And very, very funny. What is the highlight of your career so far? I was very proud to devise and work on a campaign about Honour-Based Violence for Cosmopolitan. We got the issue raised in parliament and projected a huge image on to the side of the Royal London Opera House to create a talking point. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Listen to the answer. Always be nice to whoever’s on work experience because they’ll be your boss one day. Get specifics – generalities don’t work. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? When I started it was someone on work experience who updated the website, and social media hadn’t been invented. Now, they’re the top dogs.
Ellen E Jones Magazine 2006 Film/TV writer and columnist
Paul Brand Broadcast 2008 Political Correspondent at ITN News
What five items must you always have with you as a journalist? Something good and interesting to read. I think it’s good to read not just narrowly in your specialism, but make sure you’re staying in touch with other stuff so it can work its way into your writing.
By Esther Marshall
What’s been the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? One of my first jobs after City was working at Esquire. I was obsessed with this TV series called The Wire. I got the opportunity to interview Dominic West, and it stuck with me because he’s totally different from his character. He’s this Etonian posh boy, but on screen he’s this tough Baltimore cop, so that was quite fun. He’s also got this very mischievous sense of humour and was very open about making scurrilous gossip. A lot of the best stuff I didn’t print. That was the moment I knew I’d never make it as a proper tabloid journalist. I’m too humane. What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Probably something really ordinary, like getting to go to the cinema at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning; the thrill of that never really faded. I’ve also got to travel a lot. I went to Louisiana to watch a vampire film get made. I got to go to New Orleans and I moved to Los Angeles for a little while for work. Having the experience of rebuilding all my connections from scratch gave me a sense of pride and self-belief. Who is your favorite journalist and why? I’m a bit of a fangirl for David Carr. He wrote this great book called The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life. His Own. He was someone who had lived a life, as well as being a journalist, and I think that’s important.
Louis Wise Magazine 2007 Freelance Arts and Culture Writer
What’s your professional highlight of the last decade? When we filmed exclusively behind the scenes with the Conservative Chief Whip Julian Smith. It was in the run up to the first vote on Brexit and we saw him trying to persuade MPs to vote for the Brexit deal. It was a very rare opportunity. Covering the most explosive time in British politics in living memory meant we were witnessing history on pretty much a daily basis. What’s the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? I would say interviewing Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the 2019 election campaign. I asked him to look me in the eye and tell me that he had never lied in his political career and then listening to his answer and watching his expression as he replied. Getting to meet the personalities behind the politics, talk to the politicians who make huge decisions on behalf of the country, and seeing what makes them tick is one of the most interesting things.
What is the most interesting part of your job as a freelancer? Going freelance really opened up a lot of opportunities. It can be scary not knowing what’s around the corner but I’ve tried so many different things. I’ve written for so many more publications. I had a fantastic job at The Sunday Times for nine years but I was literally and mentally at the same desk. It was really fun to produce a really respected and well-read magazine every week but it became quite frazzling.
Do you think the media failed us in the coverage of Brexit? I think Brexit is one of the most challenging topics that any political journalist has had to cover. I don’t think the media failed in providing the analysis the public needed but it was certainly a very stretching time as a political journalist. When the country is already deeply divided, it’s not surprising that there’s criticism from those that would have liked our coverage to be skewed in one direction or another. But given that the criticism often came from both sides, I don’t really see a trend towards one particular bias or another.
What is your fondest memory of City? I made some really amazing friends at City, I know that’s a trite thing to say. I always think of going to that pub opposite – I think it’s changed names a hundred times. Whenever I get wasabi peas from the pub I think of that pub because for a year my dinner was wasabi peas and three bottles of Pinot.
What’s been the most embarrassing moment of your career? Probably getting attacked by a wasp live on lunchtime news. It didn’t sting me, but it did sort of settle in my hair.
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done? I’ve ended up singing with a few interviewees. Helena Bonham Carter played music on her phone and we sang a duet of “Tale As Old As Time” from Beauty and the Beast. When I interviewed Salma Hayek, she had to pick up her daughter from school so we walked and talked. I asked whether her daughter sang and she was so enthused that she stopped and played me a video of her daughter singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” for two minutes.
What are the worst moments as a broadcaster? When the line doesn’t work. You’ve worked all day and you’re desperate to tell that story and then 30 seconds before air the line goes down and you can’t do your job.
By Eleanor Howard Who is your favourite journalist and why? A. A. Gill, whom I worked with at The Sunday Times. Controversial as he could be, he was also a very sweet man, a great colleague and really inspiring as a writer.
By Sana Haq
Francois Aulner International 2009 Newsreader at RTL Luxembourg By Ramsha Vistro
Who is your favourite journalist and why? Those who inspire me most are Bob Woodward for his investigative role in the Watergate revelations. But in a completely different register, John Pilger for his great investigative work on cheap labour in Indonesia, Louis Theroux for his awesome gonzo-style documentaries in Philadelphia and Johannesburg. Also, I really like Jeremy Paxman for his incisive interviews and follow-ups. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? I arrived at the public radio station at 6 a.m. when I was supposed to be there at 4.30 a.m. at the latest. I was too late to read the 6 a.m. news. I did manage to read the news at 6.30 a.m., but that didn’t save me from a fussy argument with my editor. What is the highlight of your career so far? I guess my moment of glory was in 2012 when I asked Vladimir Putin what Russia will do to respect human rights. But my most efficient piece of journalism was definitely when I asked UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon – in 2012 also – whether 250 observers would be enough to monitor the ceasefire in Syria, given the size of the country. He reluctantly replied “no”. It made headlines worldwide that day. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? Unfortunately, the workload has surged. That is just one of the consequences of the explosion of social media. Another challenge is dealing with ever-growing distrust in our work. The landscape has changed so much and so fast I cannot say yet whether it did for the best or the worst.
Pankti Mehta International 2010 Assistant Editor at Forbes India
By Shruti Khairnar
Which of your stories are you especially proud of? For me, a lot of the inspiring stories come from rural India – these are stories that haven’t been told yet. Sometimes it is the smaller stories that have more impact. I did this story on music therapy and someone wrote to me saying that they have been battling Parkinson’s for years and how the article inspired them to take up music therapy. She was doing much better. What is the most interesting part of your job? Every day is different. I am continuously saturated with work. I could be talking to a village woman who started a business one day, to the head of an international government, a lawyer or a successful entrepreneur the next. What is your fondest memory from City? That makes me think back 10 years! For me, the copy clinics were my favourite part of the week. We had a fun professor and it became like a small, supportive community. We learnt from each other and helped each other find our own voice.
What is the best piece of advice you have received? To not let your work consume you, because it can be a job where you can be working round the clock and it still won’t be enough. There will always be something happening and you’d want to get to it. So just take your weekends, take your time off, and casually switch off when you can. What advice would you give to young journalists? See everything in a global context because it’s becoming increasingly important.
Oliver Laughland Investigative 2009 Southern Bureau Chief at The Guardian US By Maud Rowell What is your fondest memory of City? I really enjoyed my course – we had two great, powerful female journalists who led it, Rosie Waterhouse and Melanie McFadyean. Also David Leigh, who went on to become a colleague of mine. We set up a zine, a satirical look at life at City. We did a piece on media law, on how important it is but also how dull it can be. We used to photograph people falling asleep in the lectures. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? One of my first jobs after City was at a newspaper in Tanzania. It billed itself as Tanzania’s best English-language weekly. I didn’t do enough research, got out there, and found out it was Tanzania’s only Englishlanguage newspaper. A lot of their reporters didn’t speak English fluently, and were translating reports into English from Swahili, and then sending them to me. I ended up sticking it out for a few months. It was one of the first things I was asked about in my Guardian interview, as I think it showed to people how much I wanted to be a journalist. So it might have been slightly mortifying at the time, but it worked out in my favour. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? I recently interviewed Stacey Abrams, who was the Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in 2018, trying to become the country’s first African-American female governor (she didn’t win, but there were all these allegations of voter suppression). I got to spend a whole day with her. You meet lots of different people from all walks of life doing this job, and meeting politicians that you feel have courage, conviction and sincerity when they talk to you is a very rare thing. Where do you think you’ll be in five years? I honestly don’t know. That’s one of the great things about working at The Guardian. It’s a truly international organisation, and I’ve been very lucky to work and live in different countries and regions. As long as I’m given licence to do stuff I find interesting and creative, I’ll be happy!
Tiffany Stecker Science 2010 Government and Law Correspondent at Bloomberg
Ilka Kopplin Erasmus 2011 Pharma Reporter at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
By Katie Jenkins
By Tilda Coleman
What is the highlight of your career so far? The opportunity to travel to different communities and tell their stories. I’ve been to Ethiopia. I’ve gone into communities that were affected by pesticide exposure. I’ve gone to cover interesting projects such as a reforestation project in Arizona and, more recently, an initiative to manage water in the midwest. Those opportunities are not ones I take for granted.
What article are you most proud of writing? I did a story about a new EU regulation on the registration of medical devices. The regulation threatens the continuation of thousands of instruments used on a daily basis in every ER and doctors’ offices all over Europe. The regulation also endangers small and mediumsized companies throughout Europe. After my story was published, the US Ambassador to Germany wrote an opinion piece about it in my paper, FAZ.
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? I’ve definitely made some silly mistakes. In one instance, I was writing a story about a judge. The news wasn’t very big, but there were two judges in the same court with the same last name and rhyming first names. I think one was called Bill and the other was called Jill, or something like that. I got confused and wrote the story about Jill, when the judge in question was Bill. We ended up retracting the story and I had to rewrite it. So the lesson is, make sure there are not two people with the same last name and rhyming first names in the same place! What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? My first editor told me that when you go out and meet with sources, you have to be charming. At the time, I bristled at that term because as a woman I thought, “you wouldn’t tell a man that they have to be charming to talk to people”. Maybe charming wasn’t the best choice of word, but I think he was correct in saying you have to be approachable.
Who is your favourite journalist and why? I always read The Economist obituaries. Most of the time they are not about anyone famous or well-known. Every media outlet runs VIP obituaries, but The Economist is the only place you could find out about a young woman who graduated from Oxford and then decided to found a touring circus. Generally, I admire journalists who break broad or complicated topics down into a single affected example, whether that’s a person, a city, a company or a product. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? When I started as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, I was usually one of the youngest journalists in the room. So I was sometimes mistaken for an intern or an undergraduate. Once, at a well- known automotive supplier’s big gala event, the person at the registration counter couldn’t find my name on the list. She asked if I was there as a hostess for one of the managers. I was so confused I forgot to ask which guest had booked an escort. My colleague quickly jumped in, saying: “No, she’s a member of the press!”
Tom Boadle Investigative 2011 Specialist Business Producer at Sky News
By Annabel Nugent
What items must you always have on hand as a journalist? These days your phone is all you really need. What is your fondest memory of your time at City? I could pick some high-minded moment, but we all remember that feeling when the TV was wheeled into the classroom at school. It’s no different when they put on All The President’s Men in your investigative journalism class.
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? Shortly after I began at Sky News I was at a house party when I took a phone call from Lord Bell, Margaret Thatcher’s long-time PR guru, who told me the former prime minister had just left hospital after surgery. I phoned the story in and minutes later the exclusive went worldwide and led the next morning’s front pages. What has been the highlight of your career so far? It was a real privilege to help produce Sky News’ US election night coverage in 2016 from our massive studio overlooking Times Square in New York where both Trump and Clinton were hoping to hold their victory rallies.
What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career? I was sent to doorstep Amber Rudd on a story that I knew little about. She came out past the cameras before I’d had a chance to come up with a question. The cameraman and I walked along with her but I couldn’t for the life of me think of anything meaningful to ask. It was so excruciating that I never fed the material back into the newsroom for fear of it being aired.
Helena Lee Magazine 2011 Features Director at Harper’s Bazaar
Andrew Bradley Political 2011 Freelance Broadcast Journalist By Clara Hernanz
By Kelly-Anne Taylor
What five items do you always have on you as a journalist? I always have a pen, a notebook, a phone with the voice memo app on it, car keys, because you never know when you might need to make a quick get away, and a good book. Books I’d recommend having on hand are Helen Lewis’ Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Flights or Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Starling Days. Who is your favourite journalist and why? Sophie Elmhirst. She is one of our contributing editors and she’s amazing. She has this quiet intelligence and wit. She is a very nuanced writer. I also love Lauren Collins from The New Yorker. What is the most interesting thing about your job? I get to chat to my favourite writers, artists, actors and people who are doing incredible things. I get to see into people’s lives, discover what they most like doing and see the spaces that they work in. What is your fondest memory of City? The house parties! They were the best. Also, the classes with Marcelle d’Argy Smith who ran the creative non-fiction class. People wrote the most incredible pieces. We had multiple assignments like “write a whole piece without using adjectives”, or “write about something your mother never told you” and people would write the most amazing, lyrical, funny pieces. What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career? My first interview with Bazaar. I was chatting to James Corden and it was not going particularly well. After five minutes my dictaphone ran out of battery. He was less than impressed. There was also the time when Idris Elba was at our Woman of the Year Awards and I told him that my favourite episode of The Wire was when his character died, which he didn’t seem overly impressed by.
Who is your favourite journalist and why? Allegra Stratton, because she’s a fantastic storyteller and she is really supportive and encouraging to her team. What is your fondest memory of City? Julian Assange gave a talk and took great offence when a woman in the audience said she worked for a Japanese media organisation. He was adamant no press were allowed, despite speaking to a packed hall of journalism students. What is the most interesting thing about your job? Seeing senior politicians’ nerves before they go on air. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? Getting lost in the basement of Media City in Salford, trying to rush the Prime Minister’s director of communications to the set during a short ad break in a leadership debate. We didn’t make it in time. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. I went to interview him for the BBC in Henley-onThames after their house had flooded. We were in knee-high floodwater.
Amie Tsang Political 2011 Business Reporter at The New York Times By Catalina Oblu What is the most interesting thing about your job? I’m reporting on things that have an effect on people’s lives in lots of different ways. Ultimately, what I am tracking is the amount of money that people have in order to find out who the winners and losers are in our economy. It’s fascinating to me because everywhere I go, I can think about the choices that were made and the influences that led to someone buying a certain thing or living their life in a certain way. What’s the best part about working at the New York Times? It’s an enormous organisation full of really smart people. It is amazing because there is always someone who knows more about a certain topic than you. We have huge resources at our fingertips. What is the highlight of your career so far? Probably some of the assignments I have done recently. One of my favourite ones was when I went to Italy to track some tomatoes coming into the UK. I was following that supply chain into Britain. I was able to see everyone who was involved along the way, the effort that goes into growing the food we eat every day.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Being painted by Eileen Cooper. She’s a neighbour. I made friends with her whilst I was on maternity leave and I would just pop over for tea. We had featured her in the magazine before – it was a phenomenal experience.
It was just a really fun trip during which I was able to witness how everyone works – from the people who work in our market to the truck drivers and farmers – and that is real life. Also, it was the first time that I got to work with a female photographer who was my age and that was a new experience for me as well. I work in an industry where I often have to work with male reporters or male photographers, so it was really great fun to have another woman my age to work with.
What was the best advice you received when you were starting out? Keep writing and find your voice.
What’s your fondest memory of City?
Probably when Laura Kuenssberg came and spoke to us when we were students. She really sold political journalism to us, she made it sound really exciting.
By Sana Haq
What’s the best thing about working at The New York Times? The editors are really good at trusting you. That’s where we get our original reporting from. They don’t tell you “This is what we want” – they tell you what subject matter they want you to work on, and then it’s up to you to find the story. What’s your fondest memory of City? It’s been a while. The teaching was really good. I really liked the course on media law. That was really interesting. What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Speaking to people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve gotten a lot of joy just from talking to people. For me, one of the best parts of my job is meeting vibrant characters. What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Be genuinely interested in the subject or in the person that you’re researching. Do the work in terms of reading up and knowing what you’re writing about.
Sophie Tighe Magazine 2012 Head of Instagram and Snapchat at LADbible By Shruti Khairnar What is the most interesting thing about your job? When I started my career, I thought I was going to be a feature writer at GQ. This is so different, but you still need the same skills that would make you successful in traditional journalism. Things I picked up at City – the who, what, where, when and why – I still find them useful. Sometimes, people who haven’t trained as journalists don’t think the way we do, and miss out on these key things and applying traditional journalistic skills to this new side of journalism. What has been your most memorable interview so far? One with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway for a movie junket. I was nervous because the previous week he had walked out of an interview with Radio Times, after he was rude to an interviewer. I felt trapped in the waiting room with other journalists – they walked out telling you things like “Oh, he wasn’t in a very good mood”, which made me more nervous. So, I went in and told him I wanted to give him a hug, because the character he played in the film reminded me of my grandad, which broke the tension immediately. The interview went really well, and by the end of it, he was shaking my hand and telling me what a good job I have done. What is your worst memory about patch? I hated patch. The worst moment was the first day. The second I got off the train, I thought, I have to walk the streets – that’s my plan. It was terrifying. Any rude feedback you have received from your readers? I wrote an article about male feminists and how great they were – way before the #MeToo movement. My Twitter blew up, which is usually a bad thing when you’re a journalist. I was on holiday, and had to pay for really bad internet to find out what was happening. A podcast had gotten hold of it and had dedicated half an hour of it to call me a “feminazi”, saying I hated men and wanted all men to be gay. I had a laugh because I thought I must be doing something right for them to not like me.
Tara Mulholland Television 2012 Social Media Journalist at CNN By Nora Popova
Who is your favourite journalist and why? My favourite journalist is probably Taylor Lorenz, The New York Times digital cultural reporter. I have been a fan of her work for a long time and I think that the digital culture-beat is a fascinating area of journalism that has really taken off in the past year. What is your fondest memory of City? Probably all of the things we did journalistically outside of the regular curriculum. I remember during one big lecture, the entire journalism cohort decided to set up a Tumblr blog of people’s sketches of horses that they drew during 30 seconds of the lesson. It was really fun to feel like you are part of a community that was being a little bit subversive and I guess in some way that has been a valuable lesson in community building. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? It was when I was working for the Olympic News Service during the London 2012 Olympics. I worked in the aquatics centre so I got to speak to a lot of the swimmers and divers, as well as other athletes as they were coming into the mix. This meant that I got the speak to Michael Phelps just after he became the most decorated swimmer and Olympian ever. He had just been given a special trophy and it was a real history-making moment. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? The thing with working in social media is that every little issue, even a typo, gets immediately reflected back on you. It is very visible so whenever I have had a keyboard slip, even if it’s not something particularly bad, it makes me cringe. What is the highlight of your career so far? Probably moving to Hong Kong. I worked for CNN in London before I moved and now I am my team’s leader in Apak. It means that I have a lot more input across departments and that I have been in charge of our social media outlets. I have also been quite influential in our digital coverage during a very busy time for Hong Kong, and for Asia in general. It has been a real privilege to be at the forefront of history during such turbulent times.
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura Financial 2012 Freelance Broadcast Journalist
Olivia Bateman Broadcast 2013 Deputy Video Editor at Mail Online By Zoya Raza-Sheikh
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at City? The contacts we were given. Getting that network and learning about the different experiences people had really stood me in good stead. Do you have an internship horror story? When I was at Channel 4 News, there was a monster story involving the French president. He gave a big statement and the foreign editor of Channel 4 News said to me: “You speak French don’t you?”. He asked me to translate and transcribe the statement. I listened to the statement, only picked up a few words and didn’t have any clue what it said. I snuck out onto the balcony, rang my dad and asked him to translate it for me! Did you always want to be a journalist? When I finished my undergraduate, I got accepted to City and I got accepted to do a PGCE to become a primary school teacher, so it was a big decision. I wasn’t really too sure which one to go for to be perfectly honest. My thought process was get a City MA under your belt and if you get offered a job then go, go, go. Then, in a couple year’s time, if you decide you still want to do teaching you can do that — it’s harder to do the other way around.
Do you have an embarrassing career moment to share? I came into work one day at the Mail. I was very new. I was on the 5 a.m. shift and may have had one too many glasses of wine the night before. My boss said to me that Bob Geldof was being interviewed on ITV and they were giving us an exclusive. I didn’t listen to the clip in full and just went and put the video in our system. The interviewer had asked Bob Geldof if he blamed himself in any way for [his daughter] Peaches Geldof’s suicide. He turned and said: “No, I blame the media and publications like The Daily Mail.” The main story running on our homepage was Bob Geldof saying that our publication had contributed to his daughter’s suicide. I was lucky I kept my job! People make mistakes, but that was just me being lazy and not doing my job. That’s how you learn.
Rae Boocock Newspaper 2013 Freelance journalist and copywriter By Rachel V Wall What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time, but the people who work hardest tend to be in the right place more often. What is the most interesting thing about being a journalist? The people I’ve met. I met the world’s biggest Elvis memorabilia collector. He picked me up and I remember discreetly texting my flatmate: “I’m in a car with a man in Watford and I’m not sure where we’re going!” What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? When I was working with an agency, we did a lot of hotel brochures including one for Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir. He was such a character. I thought I’d have a quick chat with him for some quotes — I was with him for eight hours. I ate with him and then went back to Le Manoir and did a cooking class. What items must you always have with you/on hand as a journalist? 1) Phone: whether I’m listening to podcasts, watching a story break on Twitter, jotting down ideas or talking to colleagues over Slack. 2) A book: readers make better writers. 3) A good network: whether these are contacts you can use to help you with some work, friends to bounce ideas off, or someone to be your cheerleader.
Trisha Andres Political 2013 Freelance travel journalist By Maud Rowell
What do you never leave the house without? I always bring a small notebook and a pen, but recently I’ve discovered this really clever digital note-taking device called reMarkable, and basically I never have to buy another notebook again! What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Have a mentor during different stages of your career: someone you respect, admire and trust, and who also believes in you and in your work. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? We now have multiple platforms that extend beyond online and print. There are lots of different ways of telling a story. The other interesting aspect is that there has been a trend towards more specialist areas. Having special knowledge of a subject gives you a competitive advantage. What is your fondest memory of City? I loved the guest speakers. One of them was the parliamentary sketch writer for The Times, Ann Treneman. It was really fascinating to hear from a female journalist at the top of her game. Tell us about the transition into novel writing. A few months ago, I went freelance to make time and space for something I’ve always wanted to do: write novels. I’ve always had this idea for a novel set in the 1980s in the Philippines, which is where I was born. It’s a coming-of-age novel about a 12-year-old girl adopted at birth by the British ambassador.
Lou Del Bello Science 2013 Freelance climate journalist
Shivali Best Science 2014 Deputy Science and Tech Editor at Mirror Online
By Bahar Yilmaz
By Amelia Richards
Who is your favourite journalist and why? Christina Lamb. She’s written a few books on the refugee crisis. She takes time to get to know the person and follows their journey. She’s really good at balancing the important issues and the personal story, which is really rare. Lamb is really able to bring the stories to life.
How has journalism changed since you left City? The technology journalism sector has seen an increase in female reporters since I left City, which is fantastic. I used to play a tricky game of ‘spot the female’ at most tech events, but thankfully that’s a much easier game these days.
What is the highlight of your career so far? The time I spent working at Bloomberg. I was covering the topics that I’m really interested in. It was a very challenging job and within the organisation it’s quite prestigious. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? There is a greater exploration of what digital platforms can offer. It is very interesting to see that there is constant change year in and year out.
Anna Cafolla Magazine 2015 Editor of Dazed Digital By Pip Cook What was the worst moment you ever had on patch? I don’t know if this is too inappropiate but... People kept defecating in the Sainsbury’s car park in Camden, and there was a neighbourhood watch group who were vigilantes for these phantom shitters. I met up with one of them and honestly it was so awkward. They were so passionate about it as well. That was a fun one to present to Barbara [Rowlands, former MA Magazine course leader]. What is your fondest memory of City? I loved it when we created our own magazines. We went to Bauer Media and in small teams we all had to come up with a concept that we got to pitch to actual editors. We went with a kind of alternative Women’s Health. It was out of my comfort zone because at the time I wanted to be a music journalist. It was nice to do something different, be under pressure, and come up with a magazine that I totally believed in.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? I got to go behind the scenes at Huawei’s HQ in China. Their campus is based on European towns and was absolutely nothing like I expected. It felt like I was walking around Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride. What’s the best advice you received when starting out? Get out there and meet as many people as possible. There’s nothing quite like making connections face-to-face. Have you received any interesting feedback from readers? With my surname, I often get funny comments about being the ‘best’ (or worst) journalist. In a previous job I received a lot of racist and sexist comments which weren’t so funny. You quickly get a thick skin and learn to ignore them. Where do you think you’ll be in five years time? The journalism industry changes quickly, so it’s tricky to predict. I just hope a robot hasn’t taken my job.
What’s the best thing about your job? I think the breadth and scope of what we cover. Working somewhere like Dazed I get to profile people like Hayley Williams – a childhood musical hero of mine. Then I also report on things like pro-choice protestors outside of clinics in the UK and do very clear-cut reporting. No two days are the same. What article of your own are you most proud of? I write a lot of freelance pieces about Northern Ireland, the abortion rights movement, and the Northern Irish political landscape. I’ve had the opportunity to write for The Guardian comment section, to voice issues that feel very sidelined even though they’re so urgent. As a Northern Irish woman, having a voice on that is really important. I wrote for The Guardian about the Bloody Sunday victims and the different protections that the Tory government are going to bring in for veterans who absolutely should be facing up to war crimes against people in Northern Ireland. When you were starting out, what was the best piece of advice you received? Be open to writing outside of your comfort zone, grabbing stories and absolutely going for it. Also, with interview subjects it’s important to remember everyone is very human and complicated, so no matter how good a writer you are you’re never going to drill into someone’s full story.
What is the most interesting thing about your job? The most interesting part of my job is that I get to travel alone. I am quite lucky at the moment that I’m at a stage in my career where magazines will pay for travel expenses. Surprisingly most big titles don’t cover travels. People really want that byline and they sometimes accept to work at a loss. I strongly discourage that. Part of being a successful freelancer is being able to run a profitable business.
Samuel Dean Newspaper 2015 Football Reporter at The Daily Telegraph
Francesca Della Penna International 2016 Social Media Editor at The Telegraph
By Emma Deeley
By Lauren Morris
What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? Doing a last-minute royal job at Buckingham Palace, which basically involved following the Queen around a room and speaking to the people who had spoken to her. All good fun, apart from the fact I had worn a crinkly old anorak rather than a suit jacket to work that day. I had to borrow a jacket that was about three sizes too big and the wrong colour. Of all the places to look like an extra from Oliver Twist, the Queen’s house is one of the worst.
Who is your favourite journalist? Domenico Iannacone, who is an Italian journalist, who presents a television show in Italy called The Ten Commandments. He speaks about Italian society in a raw, honest way and carries out investigations about the main issues in Italian society. It’s really authentic journalism - I met him during my studies in Italy, he’s a great person.
What is the most interesting thing about your job? The travel. Plenty of people travel for work, but not many get to see places like Östersund or Borisov or Devrek. They are not always easy, and they are almost never glamorous, but the memories of staying in a farmhouse in central Sweden for work, in the middle of winter, are never going to fade. It certainly beats doing a nine-to-five in an office. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? I once read somewhere that if you’re 10 minutes early, then you’re 15 minutes late. I always try to stick to that - you never know what you might see or hear if you get there early.
What was your most embarrassing moment at City? When I presented the final project for my investigative journalism module. I had to reveal in front of the class that my project was about chemical sex – sex under the influence of drugs – and I became famous for that. At the beginning it was a bit embarrassing but everyone liked the project. What is the most memorable interview you’ve done? I interviewed New York-based artist Bradley Theodore. He is well known for his graffiti portrait of Karl Lagerfeld as a skeleton. I went to the opening of his first Mayfair exhibition of paintings on canvas. The best thing about him was that at one point, he stopped and asked to pause the interview in order to chat with me off the record. He wanted to make me understand his painting rather than the people watching. It was great because when we picked up the interview from where we left it, I could actually develop more questions from that.
David Knowles Interactive 2016 Social Media Content Production Specialist at the World Economic Forum
By Rob Collins
What is the most interesting thing about your job? Definitely the variety of people we get to interview and work with. One minute we’re talking to an Ethiopian entrepreneur who’s built a giant waste-to-energy factory to deal with Addis Ababa’s waste problem. The next, a scientist who’s pioneering genetic enhancement in agriculture, the next, the PM of the Netherlands on cycling. The fact we can talk to some of the most interesting people in their fields and put their stories out there is such a privilege.
What is the highlight of your career so far? A while ago we did a story about a Guetamalan project to clean up their rivers using fancy waste-catching nets. It went viral in South America. A few months later, we found out that a number of Central and South American countries had rung up the Guatemalan Environment Ministry to ask to join the project. The entire thing had ended up spreading across the region and was improving international relations and the environment. All from one video.
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I interviewed an amazing man called Carlos Pereira, who created an app to talk to his daughter who has cerebral palsy. They had never managed to communicate before, so he quit his job and built an app so she could express herself. He told me the first thing she said to him was she liked his spaghetti. It was memorable because the normal questions , like ‘‘what was the first thing you said to your daughter?’’, provoked such a moving response.
What tone do you try to strike with your social media content? We want it all to have the feeling of a friend telling you something interesting while you’re trying to get on a bus. Gently tugging your arm and saying: “But have you heard what this woman has done? It’s amazing!” To tell stories that capture your attention even if you’re in the middle of doing something else.
What is the best piece of advice you received starting out? Definitely to trust yourself and your judgement, especially in terms of working in social media. It’s so important to recognise what works on a particular platform.
How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? The Facebook boom is over and the digital playing field is now a lot more even between different platforms and apps. This is exciting for publishers who can experiment and learn how to adapt story-telling from one medium to another.
By Robyn Schaffer What is the most interesting thing about your job? The people we get to talk to. Being a business journalist, you really get an insight into the world that’s totally different from the day-today consumer. It’s also been really interesting seeing how trends have developed, especially in areas such as tech, sustainability and AI. With sustainability, we used to maybe have a feature in the magazine once every few weeks and now it’s everywhere. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? Probably Tommy Hilfiger at London Fashion Week. It was very last minute and when I got told, I had no notebook, pen, or Dictaphone on me. I had to go into Liberty because it was the only place in between the show I’d been at, and where the interview was taking place, that sold stationery. But he was very nice, very media-trained. It was quite surreal. What are the best and worst things about working in fashion journalism? The best bit is the creativity of it, and the creativity of the people you speak to. Also the innovations and technical sides of things that people don’t necessarily think about. The worst is that it’s very full-on. It comes across as very glamorous but I realised that so far this year I’ve been abroad for the same amount of time as I’ve been at home. It’s amazing getting to travel but it’s a lot of sitting in the corner at trade shows desperately trying to file copy. And with fashion weeks, you can be working 20-hour days for four weeks in a row. What was the worst moment you ever had on patch? I once got an angry phone call from the manager of a nursery because I reported on their food hygiene rating and he thought I was trying to shut them down. There were also times when it was an hour until the deadline, it was raining, and you were trying to speak to a market stall vendor and you still had nothing. How has the landscape of journalism changed since you left City? I graduated just before everything with Brexit and Trump kicked off. The general public are now much more engaged with the news. Such dramatic things have happened that people are starting to pay attention because they’ve realised these things are actually affecting them directly.
Patrick Clarke Magazine 2016 Staff Writer at The Quietus
By Rob Hakimian
What is the most memorable interview you’ve done? Green Day. The day before the interview, Donald Trump got elected, so everything was out the window. On the way to meet them I was told not to ask any questions about Trump, but they’re supposed to be a political band. It turned out they were happy to talk about it, but the management was looking through the door making the ‘cut it’ sign and fixing me with angry glares. I got a really good interview, but I was supposed to have 45 minutes and after 20 they were like: “Time’s up, get out.” What is the highlight of your career? I wrote something on Middle Eastern heavy metal musicians. I interviewed a band in Saudi Arabia who had to stay anonymous because the government wanted to behead them for Satanism. My email was sent to someone in UAE, who printed it and smuggled it over the border with some guitar strings. For that piece I also interviewed a band in Israel who were playing so loudly in their basement that they didn’t notice a car bomb go off outside their window. What’s the funniest comment you’ve received on your work? I got told that I was making the world a worse place for myself and everyone around me for slagging off Mumford & Sons when they were hanging out with Jordan Peterson. What was the worst moment you had on patch? One time a pub was giving out free burgers and I wrote a story about that, interviewing random people on how their burger was. Not my finest hour.
Daisy Dunne Science 2016 Science writer at Carbon Brief By Zoya Raza-Sheikh
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Reporting from 85 degrees north in the Arctic. I spent a month sleeping on a Russian icebreaker, which was taking part in the largest Arctic research expedition ever attempted. I got the chance to see polar bears in the wild, walk across floating sea ice and watch scientists carry out their research into how the Arctic is changing. This is something that I never imagined I would do at the start of my career as a journalist. What is the best career advice you have received? I think it’s useful for graduates to know that there isn’t one way to be a successful journalist. When I left City, I had this idea that in order to be a success you had to work as a correspondent for one of the national papers. My first job was at a national and I really didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like working for a publication whose political leaning was so different from my own and I didn’t like not being able to put the adequate time and resources into stories. I now work at a much smaller publication, Carbon Brief, but I am much happier. At Carbon Brief, I have had the chance to report from the frontlines of climate change around the world and I’m given the time and resources to ensure my reporting is highly accurate, balanced and researched. I would urge graduates not to be closed off to working for smaller or more specialist publications – working for them can be very rewarding. What is your fondest memory of City? Not to be too sentimental, but my fondest memory of City is meeting my partner. I met him on the first day of City and we’ve now been together for more than three years. We live with each other in North London and share an adopted cat.
Harriet Brown Magazine 2016 Features Writer at Drapers
Harriet Pavey Interactive 2017 Digital Information Officer at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office By Kelly-Anne Taylor Who is your favourite journalist and why? Faye White - she currently works for Channel 4. She’s done a huge amount of work over the last few years as an anti-sexual assault campaigner. She’s told her own personal story, very bravely, in different features that she has written. She’s a really exceptional person, she is always looking out for other people and she writes very eloquently. What was the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? It was from my sister, who is not a journalist, but is a bit older and a bit wiser than me. She said: “You don’t always have to be progressing. It’s okay to stay in one place for a while. Learn what you need to learn and get comfortable doing it. It may feel like everyone else around you is getting promoted all the time or getting new jobs and moving into really exciting opportunities, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking at one thing for a while if it makes you happy.” What was the worst moment you had on patch? My patch was Bunhill. We were doing vox pops on New Year’s resolutions. One woman was particularly rude and told us to “fuck off” and that was quite hard to take at the time. I’d been marching around for hours trying to find somebody to speak to me. That was disheartening, but it was a really good experience. It’s a good lesson, it teaches you how to present yourself in a way that people will warm too.
Ryan Watts Interactive 2017 The Times and Sunday Times Interactive Journalist By Kate O’Gorman
Who is your favourite journalist and why? John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times – he does a lot of data journalism and always adds fantastic visualisations. What is your fondest memory of City? The Hackney Post was my favourite. We spent a couple of weeks reporting on the Hackney Borough and it was nice to have a go at creating a local newspaper. It was really fun. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? I interviewed Michael Gove in Aylesbury. I thought the local radio station would turn up, but I was the only reporter in a room with his advisors. I tried to ask him a bit about Brexit. We discussed how it would affect agriculture and he told me that since the Brexit vote, farm incomes have increased after a period when they were going down and that Brexit would result in “new markets for UK farmers potentially to exploit”. He also said that DEFRA were committed to ensuring that the money farmers received from the government would stay the same up to 2022, and that environmental standards wouldn’t be sacrificed. It was a memorable interview and I was very lucky.
What is the highlight of your career so far? I helped with the Clean Air Campaign at The Times. We collected data from every primary and secondary school in London and worked out the average air pollution score. We eventually produced a league table of the best schools to go to if you were worried about air quality and I was proud to see it made the front page.
Tara Joshi Newspaper 2017 Freelancer and Music Editor at gal-dem By Sana Haq
What is your fondest memory of City? I think being the editor of The Hackney Post for the final few weeks. Now in my work I’m very focused on a specific area of journalism. But, that gave me an insight into looking after a broad spectrum of topics. I was able to build relationships with all the different people on our team. We put together something we were all quite proud of. It was a nice team building exercise; I think I learned a lot doing that. What’s been the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? I interviewed an artist called Gaika in 2018. I was working for a music tech company for two years and I was freelancing in my evenings and on the side. I got asked if I wanted to interview Gaika for Clash. It was during the time that I was starting to feel really, really jaded with everything surrounding not only media as an industry but also music as well. Gaika is one of my favorite artists and it was such a nourishing conversation. It was nice meeting someone who understood what I was feeling and just having a very deep, honest conversation and coming away from that feeling like, “OK, actually I am good at my job.” What’s been the highlight of your career so far? I think first of all, just because of the name, it has to be a DM from the European Culture editor at The New York Times – that was a big highlight (I actually cried). And getting an email from gal-dem. It was literally the week that I found out I was getting made redundant from my day job. The timing of it felt so fortuitous. I got to go to India and cover the underground rave scene in India for The Guardian. That was cool. I think travelling and covering scenes abroad has been a real highlight and a real privilege to be able to do. What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? There’s no one type of way to be a journalist. Some of my peers at City got a bit overwhelmed by this concept of being the extrovert, always switched on, a go-get-it journalist, because that’s not what I’m like at all. What’s one skill that you think every music journalist should have? Being able to listen critically, which is something I’m definitely still learning to do properly. I think that’s the difference between being a fan and being a journalist. When it comes to writing interviews and profiles, it’s really useful if you’re a big fan and you have a wealth of knowledge. But equally, you’re not writing PR.
Nasim Asl Television 2017 Researcher at BBC Question Time
By Annabel Nugent
Lydia Hawken Magazine 2018 Digital Writer for Fabulous Online By Mared Gruffydd
Who is your favourite journalist and why? I’ve been lucky enough to work with and meet some incredible journalists in various capacities. Andrew Marr, Laura Kuenssburg, Quentin Somerville, Mark Daly, Fergal Keane all spring to mind. What is your fondest memory of City? The adrenaline of our TV news days. There was such a feeling of teamwork and solidarity. When I look back on those days I can still remember how stressed we all were, but even more than that, I can remember how proud we were of what we accomplished each week. What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career? Someone once mistook me for Afua Hirsch. Embarrassingly my list of accomplishments is extremely short compared to hers! As someone who has adopted a multi-hyphen career, do you think this is the way journalism is moving forward? It’s definitely my way forward! I love being able to do different things and experience different types of journalism. I think being able to be versatile and to adapt to any sort of newsroom or news programme is vital for people just getting into the journalism world.
Bethan Ackerley International 2018 Trainee Sub Editor at New Scientist By Nora Popova
What is the best advice you were given when you were starting out? This is going to sound dumb, but read. Read the kind of magazines or publications that you want to work on because otherwise you really don’t get a proper sense of the stuff they’re looking for. Who is your favourite journalist and why? I’m a huge fan of Emily Nussbaum, who writes for The New Yorker. But if we are talking more newsy people, it is a guy called Adam Vaughan. He is at the place I work in currently and he is very cool and does some very good environmental coverage. What is your standout article of the decade? I have enjoyed a lot of Ronan Farrow’s coverage of #MeToo. What is the most memorable interview that you have ever done and why? While I was at City, I got to interview a Beatles historian and he was amazing and really interesting. It was also one of the worst interviews I have ever done, because I didn’t record it properly and it was for the radio module, and so I was freaking out about it massively, but it turned out that the interviewee had also recorded it so I ended up getting him to give me the audio. It was a rollercoaster of emotions!
What has been the highlight of your career so far? I got the first exclusive interview with Mrs Hinch (an Instagram influencer who shows her followers how she cleans and decorates her home). When I saw her Instagram I knew that our readers would love her house – that grey, velvet look. We just contacted her and she agreed. She now has 3m followers, but I interviewed her when she had 300,000 followers. What’s the funniest comment you’ve received from readers? I wrote an article about six months ago about something someone had said at a press conference - they’d said that unmarried women are happier and live longer. It did quite well, then someone tweeted me saying: “This is damaging and intoxicating to young women.” Another one was: “Lydia Hawken paid £10,000 to be a journalist and she writes about cleaning”, because we do a lot of cleaning stories. I thought that was quite funny. What is your fondest memory of City? Roy Greenslade was a great professor. I remember during our second week, this man burst into our lecture theatre pretending he was a prince. It was quite scary because it was just after the London Bridge attack so everyone was on high alert anyway, and this man who nobody knew just burst into the lecture theatre from the back and was running down the stairs saying: ”I’m a prince, you must shake my hand”, and Roy being Roy said: “I shake the hand of no prince.” I think it was just a PhD student taking the piss and making a statement that fees were too high – that only a prince could afford them. What has been one of your most popular articles? There was one about a woman who took her two small sons to the toilet with her at Target and she got her period and her boys went: “Mum you’re bleeding we need to call 999.” I got in touch with the mum to ask if I could use her pictures but she said absolutely not. So then I did it with stock photos and it got about a million hits. Funny and embarrassing stories like that do really well. What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out? My editor told me to make my intros really snappy, especially for digital pieces, because people are not going to stay on your story for very long. I have to check myself a lot if I start to write my intros in a really flowery way.
What items must you always have with you as a journalist? Easily my phone. It has everything I need – voice recorder, camera, editing apps, calendar, emails, the notes app. I know I’m spoiled to be a journalist in an age where everything is at my fingertips but it’s just incredible to be able to record, edit and publish things no matter where I am in the world.
Bertram Hill Broadcast 2019 Open Source Investigator at BBC Africa Eye By James Hacker
What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done and why? I interviewed a man who was driven from his country by a regime hunting him to kill him and his family, for criticising its leader. He had the option to be bought off and remain silent, but he chooses to spend his life on the run, illuminating what parts of his government are trying to hide. Who is your favourite journalist and why? I don’t have a single favourite but among them is Mark Curtis, for his exposure of horrendous working conditions in southern US abattoirs and the inhumane killing of animals therein. It triggered me to look into the treatment of workers and animals in UK abattoirs and factored heavily in my switch to vegetarianism. What is your standout work achievement of the decade? In Sudan’s Livestream Massacre we were able to use a combination of open source intelligence (OSINT) with sources on the ground to analyse the events of June 3 2019 attack that took place in the capital, Khartoum. From this analysis we were able to show exactly where, when and how the attack unfolded and, crucially, the brutality of those who perpetrated it.
Do you have a highlight of your career so far? Working in BBC Africa Eye’s team. It’s a group of people who toil night and day to uncover powerful individuals abusing vulnerable and innocent others to hold them to account. As an OSINT trainer, I travel to countries, sometimes with hostile political climates, to train local journalists on the ground how to use OSINT to expose wrongdoing in their journalism. In the past six months I have given training in Myanmar, Malawi, Zambia, Moldova and the US among others. Few things are more important and motivating than seeing brilliant, like-minded individuals from the other side of the world work with you to pick up a new skill they can use to report the truth. My role focuses on uncovering instances of wrongdoing.
Zoe Tidman, International 2019 Freelance News Reporter at The Independent By Eleanor Howard
Who is your favourite journalist and why? I really like Sarah Manavis from The New Statesman. She always does really wacky, out-of-the-box stories that you don’t really see elsewhere. I also work with May Bulman who’s the Social Affairs Correspondent at The Independent. She reports on people who have issues with the Home Office. She’ll report about someone’s immigration status and then the Home Office will reverse the decision. She’s cool because her journalism has a really tangible effect on people’s lives. What is the most memorable interview you’ve done and why? I interviewed a volunteer firefighter during the Australian wildfires. I learnt so much about how different their fire system is and how so many people were prepared for their lives to be upturned. They had a box of sentimental stuff ready to go in case their house burnt down. That was crazy because it was so far away, talking to someone about the challenges they were facing. We obviously see a lot on the news, but to actually talk to someone going through that was really moving. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Don’t be afraid of being persistent. Obviously don’t harass people but it’s not a bad thing to send a lot of emails and chase people up. I feel like it’s wired in us to sometimes err on the side of caution and refrain from sending a follow up email. It doesn’t work like that. Persistence is a good thing. Also, your sources and your relationship with them is really important. Don’t use them and dispose of them. Keep in touch, make sure they’re okay after the piece comes out, follow up. You might find some good information – if not, you’ve got a good relationship with them.
Abigail Buchanan Newspaper 2019 Fashion Assistant at Women’s Health By Lydia Spencer-Elliott
Who is your favourite journalist and why? I love Jia Tolentino because of the way that she writes about seemingly insignificant elements of our culture. Decca Aitkenhead for her interviews and Bryony Gordon because she was the first journalist whose work I read regularly. What is the most embarrassing moment of your career? I once locked myself in the post room whilst interning at a high fashion glossy. When I hailed someone down to let me back in it was the Editor-in-Chief, who I didn’t even recognise. What is the most memorable interview you’ve ever done, and why? For one of my City projects, I interviewed the former editor of The Lady magazine Sam Taylor at her offices in Covent Garden. The Lady had been in those offices for like 200 years and it was just the maddest place I’ve ever been. She was a hilarious interviewee because it was such a weird mix of antiquity and eccentricism. She was so enthusiastic about her magazine. What’s your favourite gym class or fitness trend? I would absolutely say body positivity and training in the gym for how it makes you feel, not how it makes you look. It’s really nice to be able to go into spaces that were formally intimidating and see all kinds of people there who are working out for different reasons, rather than trying to get a flat stomach. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? To say things in as few words as possible. Don’t try and sound smart. Cut it back.
By Rachel V Wall What is your fondest memory of City? Signing off XCity and having our editor Kieran give a lovely emotional speech to us all. We had prosecco and were cheers-ing, it was just really nice. Afterwards we went to the pub across the road and everyone was so sentimental – everyone gave a speech! Have you received any rude or funny feedback from editors or readers? When I was freelancing for Stylist, I wrote an article about this manspreading chair that someone had just invented. My editor messaged me with a suggested headline: “The manspreading chair that misogynists hate” and some man found my personal email – it was on my portfolio because obviously I was looking for work. He wrote something like: “This article is rubbish stop putting your opinions all over people, how dare you.” Also, it got posted on this weird sexist forum and everyone was like: “Well we must all be misogynists here clearly because I think it’s a stupid idea.” I made a folder on my email called “Hate” but I haven’t got any since so I had to delete it. People sometimes share their opinions on Twitter (both positive and negative) but it’s the nature of working for a magazine which says the things that need to be said. What has been your favourite interview and why? I got to interview Jonathan Van Ness from the Netflix series, Queer Eye. He is one of my favourite people and I got to meet him in person in a hotel for Stylist. It was when his biography had just come out, so the interview was in the format of “Life lessons for my younger self”, but we specifically spent at least five minutes talking about our cats. He became teary-eyed because his cat had just died. He said to me: “I had one cat but that died so I got two and the only thing better than two cats is three, and the only thing better than three cats is four.” What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Don’t sell your personal story too early. When you’re interning or doing work experience, don’t sell your story for the sake of a byline. Don’t sell your heartache when you can get paid for it later on. Who is your favourite journalist and why? Amelia Tait is my favourite journalist. She is a freelance digital culture writer, she does so much for loads of publications. She does deep-dives into really interesting subjects – she did one into the lives of child ASMR stars and where the line should be drawn between the two, and recently a deep dive into the history of crisps and why there are so many flavours. She does so much that is ahead of the curve.
Kieran Devlin Magazine 2019 Staff writer for The Athletic, covering Celtic and Scotland By Rob Hakimian Who is your favourite journalist and why? Gary Younge, the ex-Guardian journalist. The humanity of his writing as well as his brilliant prose, his insight, his work ethic and just his compassion. I think he’s a phenomenal journalist. What is the most memorable interview you’ve done? James Graham from The Twilight Sad was a special interview. I think it was one of the first after Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit had died, and he was open about he and Scott’s parallel struggles with mental health. It was really nice to have that honesty, and quite moving. What is the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? There’s this myth in journalism that you have to be cut throat. Somebody told me you don’t have to do that, you can just be very kind and help each other. I’d say being kind and honest has been beneficial to my career. Just be very sincere, and let your character and work do the talking. What is your standout article of the decade? Sam Knight’s piece about Grenfell for The New Yorker. That was just so powerful, it was was astonishing. I’ve read it four or five times, and every time I do it just feels so moving as an indictment of how callous political structures are. What is the most interesting thing about your job? Travelling to different countries to watch football and getting to experience different cultures.
Daphne Bugler Newspaper 2019 Social Media Assistant at British GQ
By Katie Jenkins
What is the most interesting thing about your job? I love working across social channels for some of the events GQ hosts such as Men of the Year. It’s very stressful but I enjoy the pressure and intensity of it. You meet so many interesting people at these events from Richard Madden to Stormzy. Who is your favourite journalist and why? Jim Pickard from the Financial Times. He was the first journalist who ever gave me an internship, and his ability to always find new angles and interesting content was so inspiring to me. His kindness matched his journalistic ability and I’m very lucky to have worked with him. What is your standout article of the decade? The first article that broke the Weinstein scandal would have to be up there for me. It was a groundbreaking exposition that really reflected the power and need for good journalism. What is your fondest memory of City? Editing the Hackney Post in press week for our newspaper course stands out to me. It was intense but really brought everyone on our course together.
Lauren Geall Magazine 2019 Junior Digital Writer at Stylist
Reasons not to date a journalist Journalists are intelligent, hardworking and interesting people – but dating one can sometimes feel like a tough task... Written by Kate O’Gorman Image: The Guardian
A journalist will keep their partner informed on the latest in political debates and celebrities’ love lives, but they’ll work extremely long hours and spend all their time researching articles. Not to mention they’ll remember every little thing that was said, especially in the heat of an argument. So if you are questioning why your love life is non-existent or why you keep getting dumped, the fact that you’re a journalist might just be the clincher. Here are five reasons why dating a journalist is a bad idea.
Deadlines will always come first
A journalist’s main priority is meeting a deadline, including those last-minute breaking news stories. Do you have a fancy dinner reservation that you planned weeks in advance? If there’s an article that needs completing, then prepare for date night to be cancelled. Instead, expect a journalist to apologise with a rant about how much pressure they are under. “Journalists are always on deadlines. Deadlines for interviews, articles, research – and sometimes they are so stressed about these deadlines that you feel stressed as well,” says 24-year-old advertising manager Claudiu Ionescu, who has been dating a freelance journalist for the last year. “It’s like you have your own deadlines too.”
You may become their next story
“Because he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, I decided to steal it from him. I resolved to steal his sperm from him in the middle of the night,” wrote Liz Jones for the Mail on Sunday. Normally, divulging the intimate details of a relationship is an obvious no-go – except when it comes to journalism. Although a journalist might ask for your permission before naming and shaming you, there’s a danger you might have to relive that embarrassing sex story over and over again, all for the sake of a byline.
They’re always digging for information
Journalists spend their days trying to find a scoop for a story, so their basic instincts are to talk to people and ask as many questions as they can to find the best angle. Sometimes, this can rub a person up the wrong way – especially when you’re trying to get to know each other. Medicine student Jack Galsworthy says that when he was dating a journalist, he couldn’t “have a normal conversation without it being turned into a full-blown interview analysing my childhood”.
Be prepared to hear about their job 24/7
They will correct your grammar all the time
They remember everything you ever say
Some journalists become obsessed in their particular field so be prepared to hear about it a lot. They will eat, breathe, and sleep the area they work in and it can start to feel like it’s all you hear about. Sports journalist Ryan Corry says: “We tend to work evenings and weekends a lot, and just watch nothing but sports and talk about nothing but sports.”
By trade, a journalist will be very precise about grammar and spelling, and they won’t be afraid to call you out on yours. Being constantly corrected by the person you are dating can become very annoying - and most journalists won’t even realise they are doing it.
Have you ever been in an argument with someone who remembers that one comment you made three years previously? Well, journalists are very observant and can recall everything you have ever said and are sure to remind you of it. Erica Kilmartin says when she was dating a freelance sports journalist: “Anything I said was always brought back up and they would remember the date when I said it too.”
Meet the City journalism network. 60 alumni tell their stories: pages 109-129
Created by Magazine MA journalists at City, University of London
XCity media magazine, for alumni of City University journalism department, by magazine MA students 2020
Published on Apr 3, 2020
XCity media magazine, for alumni of City University journalism department, by magazine MA students 2020