“Students cannot speak over the phone” – BJTC Conference

The Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) held a conference yesterday after major concerns that current journalism students can “no longer use a phone” at London Southbank University.

Of the 54 courses which collaborate with the BJTC, the Chief Executive of the BJTC, Jon Godel, claimed that many of them approached him about their concerns.

“I visit all our courses, all our 54 credited courses that we credit, and most, of course, leaders and lecturers were saying “look, its a real problem at the moment to get people to speak on the phone.’”

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The conference was recorded and transmitted live.

In a major shift from traditional methods such as cold-calling and “foot-in-the-door” approach, many journalism students are relying on interactive methods to contact interviewees such as email and social media, avoiding first-person contact. 

This has raised concerns in the industry, with fears that accurate stories may not be told without face to face contact between journalists and contacts, with fear this may lead to an increase in unreliable stories or even fake news.

Georgina Prodromou from Bauer Media Radio even went to demonstrate the simplicity of journalism, pulling a tripod, portable charger, lighting equipment and microphone from her handbag to illustrate the simple tools a journalist needs to be ready for a story at any time.

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Some of the members in attendance at the conference. In the background, the panel members can be seen.

“Sometimes things will happen and you won’t have your camera on you. Phones are great, I wouldn’t say you needed a really nice camera to do your job.”

Prodromou drew from her own experience, recalling the London Bridge attacks of May 2017. Prodromou arrived on the scene to speak with witnesses minutes after the attack with merely her phone and expertise. She reiterated the importance to have confidence as a journalist and the need to approach strangers to find key stories.

Panel members also discussed various exercises which young journalists overlook or seem to daunted from participating such as neighbourhood journalism and simply talking to strangers. 

Other activities discussed to prompt young journalists were visits to unfamiliar cities to discover stories, networking with local businesses and holding meetings at civic facilities such as libraries and community halls, all described as “dying art” by some attendees. 

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Jon Godel speaking to a panel member. Press Gazette interviewed Godel about the subject, which he described as the “gradual erosion of real-life social skills”.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was another topic discussed at the conference, in addition to talks of fewer journalists using phones. 

Staff from the BBC and GrayMeta were in attendance to discuss how AI could be used further by journalists as a time-saving device to allow journalists to dedicate resources to more stories. 

The next BJTC conference shall be held at City University on 3rd July 2019. 

– Zubair Karmalkar

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