The final panel of this year’s JournoFest discussed the ever-evolving question ‘What is the next big thing in journalism?’. Naturally, there was an undeniable focus on AI and how it will transform the journalism industry.

Our third JournoFest panel consisted of Andrew Colley (Newsquest Oxfordshire regional editor), Madhumita Murgia (Financial Times artificial intelligence editor) and Will Payne (The Sun director of digital and head of The US Sun).

Here, Mollie Bourke shares what she learnt.

Payne explained that technology, specifically Chat GPT and AI, will be perceived as a challenge to the journalism industry in terms of the kind of work it can replicate.

He said: “I personally believe that AI and Chat GPT are going to transform the world. The technology is frighteningly good.”

Payne doesn’t believe original storytelling will become obsolete because of AI.

He said: “I don’t envisage a world within the media where that will be replaced by AI so I think that if we were to lean into it and utilise it as a research tool it can be an opportunity to free up more time to break stories and that is something that will set us apart as an the industry.”

Similarly, Murgia spoke about the importance of AI in today’s industry and how it can be utilised.

She said: “I think what’s going to be really interesting is the trust between a newspaper or a news publication and the reader.

“As people realise that news can be generated by technology really easily within minutes but that the limitations of such technologies are that they are not factual and that is a well known feature of things like Chat GPT.”

Although AI might change the face of journalism as we know it, Murgia said it might not necessarily be a bad thing.

She said: “The human alternative is what people will turn to for trust so I think for journalists and those learning to be journalists it’s an opportunity for us to reintroduce what it means to do good journalism – what it means to report facts and what it means to be trusted so I think it’s a good thing.”

For Colley, he believes newsletters are the key to building a trustworthy and loyal relationship with the readers.

He said: “We speak directly to the readership and collect more data for what that person is engaging with and what they’re not engaging with and I think that’s going to be transformative for us going forward. “Tapping into an engaged, loyal audience is the key for us.”

From left to right: News Associates deputy managing editor, and JournoFest host, Graham Dudman, Will Payne, Madhumita Murgia and Andrew Colley

From left to right: News Associates deputy managing editor, and JournoFest host, Graham Dudman, Will Payne, Madhumita Murgia and Andrew Colley

Murgia agreed that newsletters are a great way to promote stories that may get lost on the homepage. 

When asked what the future looks like for The Sun, Payne said his ambition was to hire more staff in the US.

The Sun went to the US in 2019 and has grown from two employees to 140 in just under three years. 

He said: “Although American journalism is very different and their style is so different, it is the key to expanding.”

Murgia explained how the Financial Times has always been a global paper but like Payne, she placed emphasis on the importance of the US market. 

She said: “It’s based in London but has a global perspective and we’re putting a lot of effort and attention into our US market. 

“We’re one of the few publications that still have people in China and our focus is to be a global voice.” 

Two News Associates graduates, Olivia Christie and Ed Halford, joined the Oxford Mail shortly after graduating from our fast-track course in January.

When hiring journalists, Colley said he looks for journalists who are open to all forms of news. 

He said: “We’re looking for passion and enthusiasm, I don’t think anything has changed over the time I’ve been in the media, and people who are keen to get to a story.

“We are looking for new ideas on how to do news, traditionally we are a written form daily newspapers but we are moving into podcasts, videos and facebook lives.

“Everyday is different and we need people who are happy to take on all areas of news.”

Murgia highlighted the importance of young people joining the Financial Times. 

She said: “Our readership are younger than some of the people who work here now and the new journalists that come in see things from a different perspective.

TikTok has become a big geopolitical story this month but its about an app that no one above the age of 30 is using, if you didn’t have people using the app then you may lose the story.

“We are looking for young people with fresh perspectives, people who can travel to our different bureaus and people who are not afraid to try things.

“We also want to diversify – more women, more people from socioeconomic and diverse backgrounds.”

Payne concluded our final JournoFest panel by encouraging our trainee journalists to ensure they have enthusiasm and willingness to learn and take on new challenges.

You can read all the highlights and top tips from JournoFest 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 here.