by Shauna Bannon Ward
Being isolated at home during lockdown is difficult for many people, myself being one of them. As a journalist, you need to be independent, resilient and innovative. However, you also get to work collaboratively with other journalists or within a team. The pandemic has challenged this and made being a journalist harder work than it already is.
This is why it was incredible to be the Irish delegate for the British Council's first Future News Worldwide Virtual Conference. Created alongside media organisations, it allowed young journalists from across the globe to gain valuable skills tailored to their needs.
Want to learn how to stay safe when reporting on long-term trauma? Wish to explore the digital tools available through the Google News Initiative or expand your critical thinking and fact-checking skills? These were a few of the topics covered by experts in workshops.
At this point in my career, just after finishing my undergraduate degree, I wanted to learn how to use my expertise in law to gain more experience in journalism. I chose to learn about freelance journalism. Laurie Goering, the Head of the Climate Change Programme at Thomson Reuters, spoke about marketing yourself, gave tips on pitching articles to editors and how to make the connections to get your foot in the door. As a recent graduate, my experience was limited to student-run publications and venturing outside of this is incredibly intimidating. This workshop inspired me to be more proactive by asserting my skillset.
The second workshop I chose was led by Aaqil Ahmed, a media consultant who worked for BBC and Channel 4. We were advised up on upskilling for employment and working towards career goals by developing the necessary skills to get you there. Using examples from his 25-year career, Ahmed showed us how to set realistic goals and target jobs to advance ourselves. Want to lead a team of over two-hundred employees as a media executive? What is the largest team you've managed? You need to work your way to roles that show your abilities as an organised and efficient leader.
What the Virtual Conference amplified was that when opportunities are not available, such as in a pandemic, you need to adapt and create your own. When the lockdown forced the British Council to cancel their physical event, they adapted to create a fantastic Virtual Conference for over 100 delegates. Without this, we never would have heard from influential journalists like Maria Ressa, who is fighting government censorship and a cyberlibel conviction in the Philippines.
To finish the conference, the delegates were invited to network with each other through speed-round video chats. Innovative and exciting, this encouraged everyone to engage with each other. Right now, the delegates are working together to produce a project aimed at being inclusive and uplifting, which just shows that no matter your experience or timezone working together can create amazing things. The hard work of the team behind Future News Worldwide definitely paid off.