Friday, 9 March 2012

Leeds Trinity Journalism Week - Conclusion

Well, #ltjw wrapped up last Thursday, and immediately after I fell foul of some horrible stomach complimant that briefly resembled appendicitis enough to alarm my GP. I hope no-one else leaving the week-long conference suffered as much as I did over that following weekend and into the next week. Typically of course, I promptly caught a cold directly after so this is the first chance I've had to drag myself back to the work left undone since then!

Firstly, you can follow this link to read my liveblog from a talk given by Richard Peppiatt, former Daily Star reporter and tabloid factotum. A recording of his lecture can be found on youtube and you'll be able to navigate to entire talks given by other speakers from the @JournoWeekLIVE account.

So the accounts of what took place are widespread and easily accessed. What were the impressions we took away from this remarkable lineup of journalistic commentators and contributors?
In short, nothing is more valuable in the current media climate than experience. Many of us had just returned from a six-week foray into the professional world as placement students - I've referred to some of the work I did at regional paper the Yorkshire Evening Post. The repeated message from our speakers was to go further, and grab every chance to create content that will give you skills and experience.

Social media was of course touted as the platform of choice, especially in an entertaining and eye-opening lecture on mobile device-enabled journalism by Chris Payne, better known as @documentally on twitter. The future of more traditional media was reassured by BBCbigwig Mark Easton, who sees established broadcast journalists as gatekeepers of hard facts in a world of information overload, but even he said "if you aren't blogging and tweeting, what are you doing?"

We touched many times on the implications of the Leveson Inquiry, including a very frank talk from former News of the World journalist and current freelancer Chris Tate. He took the surprising position of defending the fallen paper, currently at the heart of the some of the worst excesses in tabloid reporting and unethical collaboration with the authorities. From his point of view, the NoTW had a mission to hold the powerful to account in a country with a notoriously weak system of checks and balances. Whether or not it achieved that goal will be decided by the Inquiry.

I put some of Chris' opinions to notable tabloid apostate Richard Peppiatt in his discussion with us towards the end of the week, as linked above. In a balanced response, Richard acknowledged the work the NoTW achieved working with individuals who had suffered and used media exposure to benefit their campaigns - but cautioned us against forgetting the many more who wanted no contact from the vulture-like circling of 'hacks', citing examples such as Chris Jefferies, pilloried by the media after briefly being suspected in the Jo Yeates murder.

As well as where journalism can end up, we discussed in great detail where it can start, and concluded that it can start anywhere, at any time! For Dave Simpson, long-standing Guardian music critic, he freely admits he fell into it and had no prior training. Many of the questions from students were - how important is this degree I'm spending time and money on, then?

The final Q&A, with recent graduates from the university's Centre for Journalism, addressed that question in a panel setting. The alumni explained that a qualification proves your grasp of the theory, and may attract an employer's attention, but if it can't be backed up with hard, proven experience in the real media world, it simply cannot stand on it on.

Any spare time needs to be given over to interning, volunteering, blogging and tweeting to make a name for yourself. There may be less jobs out there for prospective new journalists, our guests told us, but the editors and directors, producers - and consumers - are just as desperate to hire the new talent as ever.

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