Daily Mirror editor and Women in Journalism chair Alison Phillips was joined by three rising stars from news and advertising to discuss innovation, inclusion and why journalism matters to brands
Speaking with Phillips on the panel were Daily Mail City reporter John Abiona, The Sun’s news reporter Julia Atherley, and Spark Foundry group account director Emily Craig. The audience was also invited to participate by taking part in interactive votes on the discussion’s key talking points.
The power of telling stories
What drives someone to become a journalist? Atherley and Abiona both described their passion for communicating people’s stories, many with no voice of their own.
“I’m always fascinated about telling the stories that are out there and I love to connect with people as well”, Abiona explained. “In this room, imagine all the potential stories we all have.”
A burning curiosity also added to his passion for journalism. He added: “I think it’s one of those traits. You just have to always think about what’s the question people aren’t asking? What are the stories that aren’t being told?”
Journalists are also increasingly taking advantage of publishers’ technological innovations that add further depth to their reporting. Although Atherley is a ‘print journalist’, the paper form makes up only part of her process.
She used the example of her recent reporting on Ukrainian refugees in Hungary to explain what modern journalism involves. “Part of that…was conducting video interviews”, she said, explaining how she communicated through Google Translate to speak to those she met.
“Then post production, posting on Twitter, you’re putting all that there because as a journalist you want as many people to see what you’ve done.”
Reflecting and reporting on a diverse nation
The panel and the audience were unanimous: diversity in the media is vital and more needs to be done to make journalism and advertising truly inclusive.
Despite progress being made on widening senior female representation in newsrooms and programmes dedicated to increasing ethnic minority inclusion in journalism, Atherley and Abiona both described times when they had faced discrimination in their careers because of their race or gender. For both, a diverse newsroom is essential to ensure journalism accurately reflects the country it reports on.
Abiona explained how diversity is not just about diversity of identity, but also the diversity of content that different backgrounds bring to a news organisation: “Thinking about what are the types of stories that people are producing, I think the best way to do this is getting people from all variety of backgrounds.”
“You need a broad range of opinions”, Atherley agreed.
Craig also spoke about the need for diversity in the wider media industry, with bringing about inclusive cultural change within organisations just as important as ensuring they have a diverse workforce. She said: “It’s all very well and good just talking about numbers and saying we’re going to hire X percent of this…but what are we actually doing with it to change the culture?”
Describing initiatives inside Spark Foundry to foster a more inclusive working culture, she stressed the importance of diversity for good business results. “If you’ve got diversity of people, diversity of thinking is only a good thing for your brands.”
She added: “65% of consumers actually want their brands to reflect diversity and inclusion. So from an advertising point of view, it’s just so important.”
In a social media ecosystem where speed often trumps truth, Abiona stressed the importance of trusted, considered journalism to ensure the facts are still heard: “There’s such a rush to be first… it’s good to be first, but it’s better to be right.”
Atherley agreed, adding that persistent misinformation online makes journalism more important than ever. “You see through fake news and conspiracy theories why you still need trusted news brands. You still need [stories that are] reliable, edited, things have been thought through.”
Craig talked about journalism as a vital part of the “fabric of our society” and emphasised how news brands matter to advertisers in both its reach and its capacity for speaking to readers. She said: “We are obviously going after engagement, reach and numbers because we want our brands to be placed in there.
“But if done really well, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be about selling a product. It can be about changing perceptions…it can help shape voices, can influence… so as an advertiser, that’s incredibly important to us.”