2020 has been one hell of a year, with no shortage of massive news stories: the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Australian bushfires, the US presidential election...the list goes on. We have seen some outstanding coverage on these big topics.
The year has also been tough for the media industry, with redundancies and furloughed staff, disrupted newsrooms and working from home. Journalism.co.uk went through the same challenges as many others but we continue to monitor what is happening in our industry while working from our bedrooms and lounges.
As 2020 draws to a close, we look back on some of our - and your - favourite news stories of this year. If you read, watch or listen one thing, make it this.
Marcela Kunova, editor:
The publishing industry is often criticised for its lack of diverse voices. Although many events have now started to feature more women, few are paying the same level of attention to non-white speakers.
We have been guilty of this ourselves at Newsrewired, our twice-yearly digital innovation conference. Although we had a 50:50 gender representation policy in place for years, which means that we want at least half of our speakers to be women and avoid 'manels', we have not been equally intentional about the proportion of non-white experts. That has changed this year.
To help other event organisers connect with and get to know diverse media experts, we compiled this list of non-white speakers and linked to their social media profiles. One to bookmark.
As with so many other issues, the covid-19 crisis has shone a light on a trend that has been growing in recent years: news avoidance. And one of the main reasons for this is the predominance of negative news.
The ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ approach to news has always meant negative stories have dominated the news agenda but the coronavirus has taken this negative news bombardment to a whole new level.
Solutions or constructive journalism is a strong way of engaging and empowering audiences, areas where regular news frequently fails, and which often end with people avoiding news because 'there’s nothing I can do about it.' Giselle Green, a former BBC News journalist, now working as a communications consultant, wrote a powerful article about how solutions journalism can help your newsroom publish engaging news.
Whether you work on a community radio station or your hyperlocal newspaper, local reporters often feel pressed for time and short on boots on the ground.
One of the greatest advantages of smartphones is that they allow journalists to report from a crowd because they are lightweight and discreet. They are also much cheaper than full broadcasting equipment which is another massive plus for cash-strapped local newsroom. In this article, we rounded up best tips from mobile videographer and former Journalism.co.uk deputy editor Caroline Scott.
Jacob Granger, senior reporter:
As the host of our podcast, I have had the great pleasure of interviewing a wide variety of guests this year in a range of different working environments. What has been fascinating is that calling guests from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens has been an advantage rather than a hindrance.
Conversations this year have felt more empathetic, with a mutual understanding of the challenges we are all facing. It is hard to single out one podcast for the topic alone but one I am most proud of is a down-to-earth chat with Mariel Richards, then-head of partnerships of independent online and print magazine gal-dem.
Like many publishers throughout the initial phases of covid-19, gal-dem was hit hard by collapsing partnership deals and disappearing ad revenue, totalling a £60k gap in income. Richards explains the compounding effect this had on slashing commissioning budgets at a crucial time. Of course, the other huge story of 2020 (and one of utmost importance to its readers) was the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police.
Upon launching a well-timed membership programme, this gave the publication essential funds to commission this content. This was one of the more intimate conversations I have had this year and a personal favourite.
This year we saw the conversation around online abuse of journalists accelerating. In the UK, local journalists are becoming vocal about their experiences, with women journalists and those 'face-of-the-news' reporters being widely targeted by online trolls.
Exactly what to do about it remains a thorny issue. Whose problem is it to solve? When and how do you confront the trolls? At the International Press Institute's World Congress, this was discussed in great detail. While platforms (that facilitate the trolling) are working on solutions, they are not going stop it on their own. Instead, we need a strong internal procedure to support targetted staff and help them not to exacerbate the situation.
The US presidential election last month was a big deal for the world. Normally, you would have reporters in the thick of the action. But that is tricky and risky during a global pandemic.
Yes, news organisations can rely on news agencies to get soundbites from the candidates. But that would mean missing out on important stories from the ground. We spoke to Nico Piro, a special correspondent for Italian broadcaster RAI, who was out in the US reporting from Trump rallies and results day as a mobile journalist.
He details all the health precautions he had to take before going in and reveals how being a mobile journalist can help tackle the new and old difficulties of elections coverage. In the theme of 2020, we caught up with Nico from the comfort of his home. You can check it out in the video below.
Stories from our work experience students
Not to toot our own trumpet too loud but Journalism.co.uk has this year maintained our commitment to journalism students, providing virtual work experience throughout the lockdowns. True, that has been wrought with technical challenges, but we have also seen a wave of talent coming up with compelling stories.
Young people aged between 18 and 34 years-old spent just over a minute a day reading news during the 2019 UK election period, a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) has found. In comparison, the over-35s dedicated more than three minutes a day to news across TV, radio and print.
So what can media organisations do to rekindle young audiences' relationship with news? The answer could lie in rethinking the news agenda that many young people find repetitive, coming up with new formats and changing the overly "negative" tone of voice. Melissa Spence, a student at Bournemouth University, explored the topic.
Curfews, Zoom lectures and self-isolating in halls is not what students had in mind when they enrolled on their university courses. Emily Redman, a student at the University of Gloucestershire, turned to her cohort for advice on adjusting to their social distance-friendly courses.
We love this one idea that lecturers are likely finding the process difficult too. There is nothing stopping students from sending back some feedback to lecturers on what helped and what did not. There is a great video to boot too, which you can check out below.
You will remember that during the first lockdown, sports events (like many other events) ground to a halt. With that, spectators and revenue streams were gone and strict testing protocols were imposed. This was the case in sport from a national to a local level.
But in true spirit of 2020, out of the crisis came an opportunity to reinvent. Bournemouth University journalism student James Gray spoke to local newspaper The Dorset Echo about post-lockdown changes to coverage (like 30-page covid-19 dossiers) and how this experience actually brought about a different meaning to local sports reporting. The Echo as a result engaged in deeper coverage of covid-19's impact on local sport, such as football, rugby and cricket matches.
What did we miss out? We would love to hear what stories you loved, and what stories you would like to hear more about. Get in touch with us on Twitter @journalismnews
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