Guest panelists at an NUJ seminar on 21 May at Bournemouth University were Martin Dowse, reporter for Meridian Television, Youssef Taha, reporter for the BBC World Service, Adam Christie, joint-president of the NUJ and Jason Webster, journalist, broadcaster and author, well known for his crime novels and travel writing.
Addressing an audience of NUJ members and students, they talked about the changing face of journalism. Martin said when he first became a reporter he would have been sent out to cover a story with a crew of three or four people including a cameraman, lighting and a sound editor. These days, with much more advanced technology, he said, “I do it all myself.” His advice to the upcoming generation of reporters was “don’t work for nothing.”
Youssef explained with great enthusiasm that in his current role, he provides Twitter feeds for the BBC World Service overnight. He said the busy department runs 24/7 and is constantly dealing with breaking news. “I have to reduce the news to 100 characters and there must be a link and a picture or a video. It has to be absolutely correct, so everything has to be verified.” As well as writing Twitter newsfeeds, Youssef also monitors the site and has to weed out nasty or obscene comments. “These days you have to be an all rounder. You have to do it all on your own. It’s challenging, exciting and very rewarding,” he said, adding that anything you can learn can come in handy, such as languages, and that accuracy was key.
Jason felt it was important every now and then to cut off from the ‘group’ mind that social media lures you into and to ‘think’ on occasion. “Find your own voice,” he said, and of social media he said, “use it, but don’t be used by it.”
The changing role of the NUJ was covered by Adam Christie, co-president of the NUJ who stood in at late notice for Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ general secretary who was unable to attend.
Based in Leeds, Adam said that in general all departments dealing with printed news had shrunk over the years, but that there was still a demand for printed material. He added that online publications had not been able to fulfil the needs of local businesses who wanted to target their local audiences and this created a demand for local publications. His advice for those embarking on a career in journalism was: “Be scrupulous, imaginative and good.”