My interest in becoming a journalist began when I started writing for college publications and discovered the power of writing and having my voice heard on issues that matter to me. I am a wheelchair user, and a lot of my writing focuses on disability issues. I’ve found that stigma about disability continues to exist because there is very little representation of disabled people in the media.
Up until this point in my career, I’ve written mostly features or opinion pieces about disability, in hopes of educating readers. I’ve been wanting to broaden my horizons and gain more experience with news reporting, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I heard about the Future News Worldwide conference and knew it would be the perfect opportunity to gain experience and learn some new journalistic skills. I was surprised and delighted to be one of the 100 young journalists chosen to attend this year’s conference.
As a disabled journalist, I am an advocate for diversity in journalism and the media. I was glad to be able to ask Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, president, International of the New York Times Company, about his thoughts on how the future of the media will look during the opening session of the conference. Dubar-Johnson responded positively to my question and said that he hopes to see increased diversity in newsrooms. I hope that this is a common thought amongst those in this business.
After the opening session, the delegates were split up to attend different workshops. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Climate, COVID-19, and the rise of disinformation: how journalism can best serve a world in crisis’, and the workshops focused on the different elements of this. I was excited to learn more about the climate crisis and the climate movement from Andrew McCormick, deputy director of Covering Climate Now. McComick believes that, at some point in the future, we will all become climate journalists, and so educating ourselves about the climate crisis is vital.
After the climate workshop, Marianna Spring, a Specialist Disinformation and Media Reporter with BBC News, delivered a fascinating workshop on disinformation and the role it plays in today’s world. This is an area of journalism I hadn’t considered before, but I now realise the importance of. Spring also shared her experiences of being threatened and harassed online. Sadly, this is the reality of being a (female) journalist on the internet. I think a thick skin is required to be a journalist - particularly in this area.
All speakers and workshops at the conference were brilliant but my favourite was definitely the immersive, live crisis simulation by First Draft. The simulation placed the delegates at the center of a breaking news story and challenged us to make fast decisions to deliver the story to readers of our paper. A workshop like this was exactly what I needed to learn more about on-the-ground news reporting.
Despite being online, the other delegates have all made a great effort to develop and sustain relationships by connecting on social media and even setting up a group zoom call. Networking is an important part of being a journalist, and the networking opportunities were one of the highlights of the Future News Worldwide experience for me.
Although I would have preferred to attend the conference in person, I was honoured to be included in this year’s online conference. I am grateful to the team behind the Future News Worldwide for putting on such a brilliant day. I’d encourage any aspiring journalists to apply to attend the conference next year.