The Future of Journalism: Will we be better informed? Part One
By Isabel Gonzalez-Prendergast
On Wednesday 22 October, the autumn issue of Index on Censorship magazine launched at the Frontline Club. The magazine’s editor, Rachael Jolley, introduced the issue and handed over to author and columnist, David Aaronovitch, who chaired the accompanying debate on the future of journalism.
Aaronovitch initiated the discussion by asking each panellist to speak individually on the future of journalism before inviting the audience to partake.
Aaronovitch described the title of the debate, Will The Future of Journalism Mean We Are Better Informed?, as “gorgeously optimistic”.
Richard Sambrook, professor and director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University and former Director of BBC World Service, suggested that we will be better informed “if we want to be”. The panel and the audience returned repeated to this theme that we now have access to more information than ever before, but also have to be more discerning about the source of that news.
In our technology-led society, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate journalists from citizen reporters. And Raymond Joseph, former editor of the South African Sunday Times, who joined the panel via Skype from South Africa, said that we must ask numerous questions before trusting a source: “How do you know? Who do you know? What do you know?”
“Today you need to be platform agnostic,” Joseph continued. “You need to separate news from the noise.”
While everyone agreed that Twitter was a powerful journalistic tool that journalists couldn’t afford not to use, Sambrook also took to task how we define journalism. He debated whether “any expression in the public space is journalism”, and concluded that “just because you heard something doesn’t make it journalism . . . it is raw information”. It is what you do with it that matters.
Rachel Briggs, Director of Hostage UK, said that the public is also beginning to lose trust in the media and this is somewhat due to people being “fed up with the way . . . the media is so mediated”.
Media sources are also unwilling to invest in hiring local reporters in other countries. “Foreign reporting still relies unfortunately on the . . . model of the white saviour, often male,” said Amie Ferris-Rotman, former correspondent for Reuters in Afghanistan and Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. But she also revealed the startling statistic that the “British media has 40% less international coverage than it did 30 years ago.”
Aaronovitch said that “[news] organisations become almost completely disconnected from abroad” as they do not know or understand information to the same extent as local journalists.
A panel of young and future journalists joined the experts with fresh ideas. Priyanka Mogul, Journalism and Human Rights student at Kingston University, said that with the huge amount of information available, at least it is “becoming impossible to be someone who doesn’t know what is going on”.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, commented on the youth panel:
— Jodie Ginsberg (@jodieginsberg) October 22, 2014
You can watch the event and listen again here: