Wednesday 22 March 2017

Do you have a passion for journalism?

Are you curious, driven, critical and analytical?

Do you have what it takes to lead your industry?

Future News Worldwide is a partnership programme between the British Council and some of the world’s leading media organisations.We work with press and media across the globe to identify the most talented, motivated and passionate young media makers, and offer them a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to improve their skills and make global connections.

Our annual conference brings together 100 student journalists from across the world for 2 days of intensive learning and training on all aspects of journalism. With exclusive access to some of world’s leading editors, broadcasters and reporters it's a unique opportunity to network and gain insight into the changing ways news is delivered.


As I nervously stood in the reception of Brae House, completely unaware of the impact the next few days would have on me, my first thought became a trembling worry, how could I possibly remember all of these names.

Moments prior to this, I scurried to the nearest souvenir shop to source a notepad. I foolishly left mine by my bed and was forced to grab the first one I saw. It was a suitably naff blue and white hardback decorated with the Scottish flag. Considering we were being hosted inside Scottish Parliament, I knew this would be a good talking point during the awkward first introductions to come.

The delegates began to flood to reception, from Bahrain to Botswana, Australia and Afghanistan but my first friend became Peter Lynch. An aspiring sports journalist who shared my anticipation for the days ahead. Seconds later, we realised he lives just a short train journey away. Based in Derry, he’s not far from my hometown in Dublin.

I complimented his Northern Irish accent and he mocked my leprechaun look. This sparked a formidable bond which would melt me into a crumbling mess, as we said our final goodbyes four days later.

We set off to Parliament, like some international parade; 100 student journalists, 44 nationalities, all with a shared passion to tell the worlds stories. We were greeted by staff of the British Council and some of the other guests and speakers, who all spoke kindly of our bright futures, and explained that our distinct individuality led to our selection of the 2,000 plus applications.

Suddenly, as we gazed around at each other’s glistening faces, the air filled with gratitude as a sense of communal appreciation consumed the room. I think then, we all realised, something spectacular was about to take place.

Later that evening, we headed back to our accommodation as we spent some time getting to know each other. We played pool, well I tentatively observed, in fear I’d snap the cue before I’d even bent to take a shot. But beneath all the laughter and jokes, there was an odd feeling that the few short hours we’d known each other felt like several years.

Controller of the BBC World Service, Mary Hockaday, was the first speaker – she told us that the 'new, true and important' is what she considers news, and that 'accuracy, impartiality, and other voices' is the bible of the BBC.

She was my highlight of the event, I got shivers at every example of reportage she showed us. Neal Razzell’s air strike frequency piece really was a game-changer, while my emotions were hit by Lucy Manning's report, which helped a widower receive a passport so he could bury his wife abroad – she had died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Hockaday’s approach to solution based journalism was uplifting and reminded me why I’ve chosen to follow the trade. She reiterated that, in fact, good quality journalism often can have an impact. She set the standard high for the other speakers who were kind enough to share their journeys with us.

Among the other highlights, include Christina Lamb recalling the moment she questioned her career as she wiped burnt human flesh off the side of her face, David Pratt weighing up the balance between professionalism and emotive connection, and Google’s Matt Cooke outlining handy tips for using the search engine.

Each day we dined like kings, I got a bad rep for stealing all the pineapple skewers, and was often spotted snatching the shortbread biscuits that melted like lava in your mouth (it was worth the slaggings). 

Our dinner in The Hub wasn’t short of a scene from Harry Potter. A bagpipe player greeted us, kitted out in a kilt, and guided us along a stained-glass arch which resembled the inner walls of a kaleidoscope, and stretched for at least half a kilometre. It led to the most magnificent staircase which brought us to the dining room which sat snug inside a church.

To share a table with some of the biggest names in journalism, and hear Allesandra Galloni speak, all while enjoying an eloquent meal inside such a historic, untouched setting was just such a treat. The synchronisation of the waiters as they placed each plate on the table at once is something I’ll never forget. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever feel this privileged again’ was rightly so my line of the night.

In one of our panel discussions we spoke of the challenges young journalists face, and some of my fellow delegates' experiences left me overwhelmed. Some, specifically those based in the Middle East, spoke of gender inequality and being shunned because they were women. They were forced to do administrative tasks or only tackle lifestyle or fashion posts as they ‘weren’t capable’ of understanding politics.

Others, many living in Africa, had articles spiked because it didn’t match their governments' agenda. I – had very little to say. It was sobering to hear of others having such dramatically different experiences just because of their location. I actually felt a little uncomfortable because it dawned on me that my challenges aren’t really challenges. I often complain about how difficult it is to get a foot in the door. Now, I don’t think I really have a reason to moan anymore.

I felt inspired and invigorated by the gusto and resilience of their passion, who, in reality, remain completely unfazed to issues which wouldn’t be tolerated in Ireland. Their passion was infectious which made it such a privilege to share the same space with them.

So, it’s with great gratitude that I would like to thank you all, for sharing your stories, and boosting me up with extra drive to continue following my journalism dream. If I’m lucky, someday, I’ll get to meet you all again, and if I’m really lucky, it may just be when we’re out in the field following the same story.

The conference wrapped with some final words from former Reuters editor and chief executive of ITN, Mark Wood, who now chairs the Future News Worldwide Advisory Board. He spoke optimistically of our futures, and exclaimed having met all of us, he was reassured the future of journalism was in good hands. There was a moment of pause, before we rose from our seats, as we applauded and accepted the great responsibility which had just been passed onto us as a team. 

Then with great reluctance, and a staggered pace, we all eased towards the door, knowing that once we had left the conference room, our once in a life-time experience would have come to an end.