Four rising star reporters from our Future of News interview series spoke about the importance of real journalism over fake news and where they saw the industry heading at Mindshare’s annual event
As well as perspectives from their own careers, the panellists talked about the growing presence of technology in their reporting, news brands’ continued efforts to broaden its representation both inside and outside the newsroom, as well as publishers’ strengths in campaigning on behalf of their readers.
The importance of real journalism
With one of Huddle 2023’s main themes impressing the need for truth and reality in pushing better business growth for all, panel chair and Newsworks director of agency and client services Niki West asked the journalists about the importance of ‘real’ journalism over unregulated news and information online.
Steph Spyro, the Express’s senior political correspondent and environment editor, emphasised the role that regulation and press accountability play in ensuring readers can trust news brands’ reporting.
“Real journalism is based around restrictions and guidelines…we care about context and fairness”, she said. “We put our names to stories. There is someone you can hold to account.”
Meanwhile, features writer and reporter at the Evening Standard, Emma Loffhagen, contrasted online spaces’ tendency for creating echo chambers with real journalism’s aim of pursuing truth: “Real journalism is about the aim. It’s trying to make sense of the world around us and trying to get as close to the truth as possible.”
She added that heightened polarisation and a news cycle with global-scale events had added to readers’ greater appetite for news brands over unregulated sources.
Championing investigative news brands
West also asked the panel about journalism’s role in society more widely. For John Abiona, the Daily Mail’s City reporter, news brands’ ability to invest significant amounts of time and resource into investigations and campaigns on behalf of their readers was particularly notable.
“Good journalism takes a lot of time”, he said, pointing out the often long periods of research and persistence required to make a breakthrough in investigative reporting. However, when it succeeds, journalism can make a real impact: “Good journalism [also] … has the power to shape lives.”
Later on in the session, Julia Atherley, news reporter at The Sun, remarked on the importance of advertisers’ and agencies’ continued support of trusted journalism to allow news brands to fund vital investigative work both at home and abroad.
Upon being asked about advertising’s role in journalism, she said: “A huge part of my job is about being able to get somewhere…actually being there.
She added: “It’s a fundamental part of my job. It’s the funds that are needed to do that journalism.”
Innovation delivering more inclusive journalism
When it came to the future of news brands, technological innovation was a particular talking point of the session, with the whole panel unanimous in praising the opportunities that innovation afforded them in providing more rounded reporting.
Abiona discussed the rise of podcasts giving news consumers a more analytical and in-depth way of presenting stories that matter to them, while Spyro and Atherley praised technological advancements in journalism for broadening not only what and how they reported but also the more diverse audiences they could aim their journalism towards.
Meanwhile, Loffhagen addressed growing concerns around the impact AI could have on journalism. Initially praising its role so far, she said: “AI has been affecting journalism for a long time, [with] SEO, helping us to crunch data [for stories].”
However, she added a note of caution: “There is an ethical role for AI but humans telling human stories is still important.”
Newsrooms for all
The panel also wanted to see continued progress made towards better representation in newsrooms.
Both Loffhagen and Abiona spoke about the obstacles of money and class that could prevent talented potential journalists from taking up careers. “It’s hard to get into journalism if you come from a working class background”, Loffhagen said, while Abiona added: “Finances can be a real barrier; you don’t want to kill someone’s dream before it’s even started.”
Spyro and Atherley mentioned the responsibility publishers have to increase representation. Spyro particularly pointed out the need for greater diversity in the Westminster lobby, while Atherley talked about bringing the industry away from being one where journalists relied upon “lucky chances” to break through.
“Everyone is trying to widen the pool”, she said. “[There are] lots of different trainee schemes, outreach, going to different schools… which I think can make a world of difference.”
See all four of our panellists’ ‘Future of News’ interviews plus our entire series so far here.