Rubbing Shoulders with London’s Newsmakers

By Ng Jing Zhi

Data projects journalist Caelainn Barr shared how news organisations can engage readers online through interactive elements in articles. | Photo by Lai Si Min

Media students delve into the world of journalism on a study trip to the British capital

The School of Film & Media Studies’ (FMS) first-ever UK overseas programme saw 19 students and three lecturers exploring London from Sep 16 to 27.

For 12 days, the team was immersed in the heart of England with cultural and industry visits to places such as Stratford-upon-Avon, The Guardian and the International Business Times.

At The Guardian’s headquarters, Head of Education Margaret Holborn brought the team through the humble beginnings of the 195-year-old newspaper that has become one of the world’s leading news agencies.

The newspaper launched its website in 1999 and attracted more than 42.6 million readers in 2014, making it the fifth most popular newspaper website in the UK.

“People want news fast and at their fingertips,” says Ms Holborn.

Despite churning out 200,000 copies of the newspaper every day – and an additional 100,000 copies on Saturdays – it is no secret that the print industry is seeing a gradual decline in the demand for hardcopy newspaper, with many readers opting to access news via smartphones and tablets.

“The responsive design of the website is catered for multiple devices – the desktop display of the website can be toggled to fit tablet and smartphone screens,” says Ms Holborn.

With a digital platform, newsmakers are also able to present content in more attractive and bite-sized portions.

“It’s an interactive way of telling stories – if we have a set of statistics to show, we can use graphs and charts that readers can click on and move around instead of just presenting numbers on a page,” says data projects journalist Caelainn Barr.

Editor-in-chief of the International Business Times UK John Crowley agrees, and says that the use of infographics will allow a story to be more “multi-dimensional”.

But simply getting news out is not all there is to reporting – timeliness and accuracy play a vital role in ensuring the credibility of news agencies.

“It’s a challenge to put out news that is both timely and accurate, but accuracy always comes first,” says Ms Barr.

“Because our reporters have an intimate knowledge of social media sites, this gives us an edge over other news outlets. Our reporter saw tweets about the shootings in Colorado as it was happening, and we were one of the first news outlets to get coverage on it,” says Mr Crowley, referring to the July 2012 shooting where James Holmes opened fire in a movie theatre during the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

The FMS team also visited the National Film and Television School, BBC, Salmon Youth Centre and City, University of London.

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