JournoFest 2021 was packed full of extraordinary insights, intriguing stories from across the globe, and expert career advice from our star guest speakers. 

On Saturday March 6, 2021 we hosted our fifth ever free journalism conference, JournoFest, for trainees and special guests.

It was a roaring success with more than 180 people attending to see 11 fantastic speakers from across the journalism industry.

The panellists shared so many amazing tips, we thought we’d boil them down into our top ten takeaways.

  1. The pandemic has emphasised the importance of resilience

Keynote speaker Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar shared fascinating and unique perspectives on the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it has shifted economic and political cycles and changed how newsrooms are being run.

She said journalists at the start of their careers have had to adapt and be resilient to the changing circumstances of the past year: two key skills for journalists going forward.

  1. General news experience is a great starting point for getting into political journalism

Crerar insisted you need to persevere if you want to make it as a journalist, she said: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

She said there are many routes into political journalism, but a lot of employers like people to have general news experience first, as it means they understand the basics of reporting, interviewing, and good ethical and legal practice.

  1. The pandemic has created more demand for positive stories

Press Gazette news editor Charlotte Tobitt, ITV political correspondent Daniel Hewitt, The Associated Press video journalist Renata Brito and The Athletic staff editor Richard Amofa discussed the realities of being a journalist in the pandemic.

The panellists gave varied insights into how the pandemic has affected their organisations – changing the types of stories produced, the pace of technological change and public trust in journalism. Brito said the pandemic has created high demand for positive stories and journalists need to provide people with reasons to hope and look forward to the future.

  1. Explore different ways of telling stories

All the panellists emphasised the need for gaining experience, particularly in local news, as it gives you the skills you need to tell diverse stories for different platforms.

Amofa said there has been a boom in podcasts and video storytelling, showing the potential for multimedia platforms in the era of social media.

Tobitt recommended getting an NCTJ qualification and learning shorthand – a skill she still uses in her everyday job. Click here to read about what the NCTJ is and why it is important.

  1. The industry is changing, but the responsibility of journalists remains the same

The Scottish Sun editor Alan Muir spoke about Scottish politics and the future of print journalism, as well as giving great career advice to our aspiring journalists.

When asked about changes in the industry and the increasing role of citizen journalists, Muir said citizen journalism definitely has a place – but it is still up to journalists to maintain the responsibility of fact-checking and assessing whether sources are biased.

  1. Editors are starting to recognise the benefits of audio storytelling

Times journalist and ‘Stories of our times’ podcast host Manveen Rana spoke about the joys of podcasting, the process behind carrying out investigations and her own personal experience of reporting from dangerous locations across the world.

Rana described why she loves working with audio, saying it is much more intimate and listeners are more likely to follow the detail than if they skim-read an article. Rana advised our audience to take advantage of all mediums available and said she has noticed editors are now thinking about how each story presented in the newsroom might work in audio.

  1. When starting an investigation, curiosity and contacts are essential

Rana has extensive experience in investigative journalism and she said the key to starting out is to be curious. When you see something you have questions about, start digging, get in touch with lots of different people and build up a network of contacts. This will serve you well when investigating a topic further in the future.

  1. Smaller publications play an important role in filling the gaps 

Investigative journalist Katharine Quarmby, Byline Times editor Hardeep Matharu and First Draft News training manager Laura Garcia explored why truth matters and the importance of investigative journalism.

Matharu explained the role of smaller investigative publications is to investigate and analyse the structures behind political stories and report on them. This then encourages the mainstream media to take those stories to a larger audience.

Garcia echoed this and said it is important for organisations to fill these gaps and lead changes in our relationship with online information.

  1. Build up trust with your audience and the people you interview

Quarmby said as a journalist, you build up trust over the years and it can be destroyed very easily. She adapts her way of working to reach audiences where they are and interviews people how they’d like to be interviewed, saying this ensures she is reporting ethically and respectfully.

  1. Adapt your content to suit your audience

The Times chief political correspondent and former Washington correspondent Henry Zeffman spoke about everything from Trump to fake news.

When talking through his experiences as Washington correspondent, he cited the absolute importance of working at pace and quickly adapting to whatever circumstances he found himself in.

He described the key differences between reporting for British and American audiences. Zeffman said it is important for reporters to consider what their specific audience is likely to know and not know, and adapt how they explain the news accordingly.

To read and watch the many highlights from our previous JournoFests, click here.