On the Media events at the Frontline: The year so far

By Patrick Smith

There’s change afoot at the Frontline: I’m leaving the events team to pursue new ventures. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back at some of the events I’ve been involved with and re-live some of the best bits from the On the Media strand.

The club has invested a lot in livecasting technology and livestreams practically all its events – so there’s a rich video back catalogue to delve into (Benazir Bhutto, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya and latterly Wikileaks’ Julian Assange have all spoken at the club…)

But for now here’s the first half of 2010. Come back tomorrow for the second half of the year, so far…

January – The Appliance of Science

A really interesting and topical debate to kick off the year, with the Copenhagen Climate summit and the leaked "climategate" papers still fresh in people’s minds. (N.B This was organised before Christmas so I didn’t really have a hand in it).


February – Digital Election 2010

A timely event – though it perhaps suffered from the election fatigue everyone was feeling at the time. Panelist Krishnan Guru-Murthy from Channel 4 spoke for many in the room by declaring: "If you’ve got a social media strategy, it’s probably shit."


March – Is the age of celebrity-obsessed media coming to an end?

"No" was the firm conclusion from this panel to the evening’s title question. Comedian and scriptwriter Jane Bussman (who later returned for a fantastic one-woman show), Heat editor Sam Delaney and Camilla "Popbitch" Wright discussed the media’s obsession with all things famous, why anyone would want to be famous and how the fame eco-system works. There was some animated and somewhat eccentric chairing from Robin Morgan, who at one point decides to go to the toilet, but there you go.

April – Going solo: essential tools and skills for freelance journalists

A break with the panel format, this event focused on what journalists need to do to stay relevant and stay busy as solo freelancers. Thousands of hacks had been laid off in the previous 18 months and many were looking at ways to grab a niche and make money out of it. The event more than sold out, so there’s no doubting the need for this kind of advice. Seasoned freelancer Anne Wollenberg, Mexicoreporter.com founder Deborah Bonello and multimedia expert Adam Westbrook all had some good, practical advice to take home.

May – Orwell Prize 2010 event

In partnership with the people at the Media Standards Trust, we hosted three nominees for the 2010 Orwell Prize – Peter Hitchens, Amelia Gentleman and John Arlidge. All of them had something insightful to say about their craft – and this was the only On the Media event to be hosted by the inimitable Paddy O’Connell, presenter of Radio 4’s Broadcasting House and also the regular chair of the club’s First Wednesday discussions. Here’s the full event…

…And here’s a snippet of Hitches in full flow:

June – What now for local and regional media?

A fair criticism of this event was that "there are no answers" to the problem of what happens to local and regional broadcasting in the UK – and nearly four months on, with a new government and its muddled and unlikely local "city station" ideas, we’re still not much closer to understanding what will happen. I replaced a moderator last minute, hence my somewhat flustered approach to chairing.