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Teachers and journalists share a number of challenges, with both professions requiring the ability to communicate in a way that is impartial yet engaging. So what could we learn from the education sector?

"[Teaching and journalism] are both about taking ideas that are complex, multi-faceted and have lots of grey areas, and trying to explain that in a way that is clear to people who may not be that interested," is how broadcast and radio journalist Ryan Wilson, who has a decade of teaching experience, sums up the link between the two careers.

But in order to ensure your explanations resonate, you need to understand the people you are talking to.

"As a teacher, you will always have children who are disruptive or disinterested or rude to you, and you have to cultivate emotional intelligence to work out what's going on beneath the surface, what are their motivations," he adds. The same approach could help journalists to reach readers who are not engaged in the news.

Wilson currently works at Radio 2 on the Jeremy Vine show, which is the only news and current affairs programme on the network. This means that many listeners have tuned in to hear music rather than news, so the challenge for Wilson's team is to package the news in a way that will appeal to those who did not necessarily sign up for it.

One example he gives is turning Brexit news into a game of 'Just a Minute', where experts were asked to explain the lates updates on the Northern Ireland protocol without repeating themslves or using filler words - somewhat similar to asking an English class to rewrite a scene of a Shakespeare play in the style of an EastEnders episode.

Loukas Christodoulou, a longtime journalist at Radio Sweden, is currently training to be a teacher. He agrees that in both careers, you need to tailor the way you communicate to your audience's expectations.

"Treat people as people and not as units to be processed," he says, noting that what this looks like in practice will vary between different groups. As an example, a British teacher might shake hands with students as a greeting whereas this would be excessively formal in Sweden.

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Christodoulou says that being in a classroom and speaking to people rather than into a mic has sharpened his understanding of the importance of trust for journalism. While a lot of discussion about building trust in journalism has focused on how to rebuild trust in specific brands or in the industry as a whole, he thinks that more individual journalists need to ask themselves: 'What have I done to build relationships with my audience?'.

In other words, reporters cannot simply hope that interviewees and readers will trust them because they write for well-respected, trustworthy publications, and instead need to engage directly with their audiences.

"Don't be that teacher who comes in and reads from a book or looks at a screen, and don't be that journalist who produces content 'at' people. Show people you care, be interested, notice them. You are supposed to be one of the people in the crowd, not someone 'up there' talking down at people," says Christodoulou.

"Reporters and journalists have to find ways to connect and embed themselves in their audiences. We have to relearn humility and relearn how to be part of the people."

This means showing people that you are on their side, even though you are still an authority.

As a journalist, it might mean using TikTok to share your reporting if that is where your audience is; it could mean responding to critical reader comments and feedback; or it might be a question of being transparent about how stories were reported and verified.

Teachers have an advantage in that they can see the impact of their lessons immediately, and alter their methods if they see students losing interest. Journalists, however, need to make an extra effort to incorporate audience data and feedback into their work.

Christodoulou and Wilson also name another benefit of the education sector: it has brought them into direct contact with people from different backgrounds, giving them the chance to get to know these people. This is something that any journalist can benefit from doing, whether it is through newsroom-wide initiatives inviting readers in, or simply getting involved in new volunteering, sports or other groups outside work.

READ ALSO: Your news organisation should know the people it is serving — its future depends on it

Have you brought experiences and tools from a previous or part-time job into your journalism practice? Email us if you would like to contribute to an article.

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