Unforgettable, life-changing and career-defining, are just some of the few words delegates used to describe the 2018 Future News Worldwide conference. For the three delegates from Ghana, this was an incredibly eye-opening experience and marked a golden moment in their journalistic careers. Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu called it the ‘’opportune chance’’ to meet new people and learn from journalists with diverse backgrounds.
The two-day- conference was held at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 5 and 6 July 2018 and included lectures and workshops from experts in the field of journalism from Kenya, the United States and of course the United Kingdom.By 4th July 2018, the delegates had arrived for a cocktail reception at the foyer of the Scottish Parliament. It was the official gathering to welcome the 100 delegates, some of whom had travelled for three and half days from as far as Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The welcome reception was addressed by Jackie Killeen, acting director of British Council UK Region, Mark Wood, chairperson of Future News Worldwide Advisory Board and Ben Macpherson, Scotland’s Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development.In total, 100 student journalists from 50 countries from 6 continents were in attendance and Ghana was represented by three young journalists – Nimat Emefa Tijani, William Boateng and Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu. Ahead of the trip to Edinburgh, the conference was not the only thing on the minds of these three Ghanaians but a hard-earned opportunity to explore British culture.
“It was our first time travelling abroad and so we were eagerly anticipating the experience of air travel, going to an entirely new culture and meeting people from across the globe”, says Nimat Tijani.
Among the speakers was Mary Hockaday, Controller of BBC World Service English who touched on how refreshing it was to see young people aspire to pursue responsible journalism in spite of the dangers. She noted that there are increasing attacks on the work of journalists and the freedom of practitioners is being threatened daily, citing the recent shooting of journalists in the US newsroom as an example.Melissa Bell, publisher and co-founder of Vox Media talked about the importance of explaining major news events in simple terms to audiences and Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of Newsquest Scotland, took participants through a series of real-life ethical dilemmas editors and journalists have faced in their line of work. The other speakers were Lucy Freeman, CEO of Media Legal Defence Initiative who introduced delegates to her organization’s work on defending the rights of journalists around the world while David Pratt with profound experience in covering the Middle East, gave nuggets of advice to aspiring foreign correspondents.Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s former China editor whose public fight for equal pay at the broadcasting giant was a source of inspiration for delegates did not mince words by renewing calls for equal pay for both sexes performing the same job roles.Catherine Gicheru, a veteran Kenyan journalist who was first female editor of the Nation Media Group and currently the country lead for Code for Kenya also highlighted the importance of journalists going beyond documenting news events and shared her experience in using data journalism and civic technology tools to tell her society’s most important stories.
Delegates also participated in an array of workshops. Matt Cooke of Google News Lab took delegates through how to use tools developed by Google to improve their reporting. Also, a team from the Facebook Journalism Project led delegates through its work and how the social media giant is taking steps to ensure that its platform is not used to spread false information. Mobile journalism trainer Yusuf Omar showed how smartphones can be used as a powerful tool in telling compelling stories. And finally, there was an interactive and practical session held by Professor Stephen Jukes (Bournemouth University) and Gillian Moreton (a psychological therapist) that introduced the delegates to acceptable ways of conducting themselves when interviewing victims of trauma.While the conference was action-paced, delegates were still able to explore the beauty, the sights and sounds of Edinburgh.
“I was awe-stricken by the architecture of the city, the exhausting and taxing hike up Arthur’s Seat, Scotland’s beautiful National Museum and of course Edinburgh Castle overlooking the old town,” William acknowledged.
“The three delegates from Ghana would like to express their profound indebtedness to staff of British Council Ghana, Scotland as well as staff of the Scottish Parliament for their hospitality throughout the conference. Collectively, you have created lasting memories in our hearts,” said Nimat.