Briefing Notes: Meet the Editors

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Briefing Notes: Global Health (BBC News and The Telegraph)

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Briefing Notes: Sophie Berman, GB News

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Briefing Notes: David Pilling, Africa Editor, FT

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Briefing Notes: BBC Today

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Watch in full: Reuters

 

Briefing Notes: Reuters

Speaker

Mark Bendeich, Global Managing Editor, Politics, Economics and World News

Mark.bendeich@thomsonreuters.com

Key contacts

Regional editors

Europe – Rachel Armstrong Rachel.Armstrong@thomsonreuters.com
Middle East & North Africa – Samia Nakhoul samia.nakhoul@thomsonreuters.com
Sub-Saharan Africa – Alex Zavis Alexandra.Zavis@thomsonreuters.com
East Asia – Kim So Young soyoung.kim@thomsonreuters.com
South Asia – Sanjeev Miglani sanjeev.miglani@thomsonreuters.com
USA/Canada – Kieran Murray kieran.murray@thomsonreuters.com
LatAm – Christian Plumb Christian.Plumb@thomsonreuters.com

Others

Global video editor tom.platt@thomsonreuters.com

Data editor janet.roberts@thomsonreuters.com

Investigations editor mike.williams@thomsonreuters.com

Climate change editor katy.daigle@thomsonreuters.com

There are also editors covering transport, energy, markets, greenwashing

Overview

Mark gave us an overview of Reuters. There are three separate arms to the business although much overlap between them:

  • Breaking news
  • Financial news
  • TV/video

Although the organisation is best known for its breaking news, the financial news part of the business generates half the income. It is the biggest news organisation in the world with a staff of 2,200 reporters and many stringers. In some countries there will be a well staffed bureau; in others just a stringer.

They cannot cover every event in the world so they have some priority areas:

  • Climate change
  • US democracy
  • US-China relations
  • Russia/Ukraine

Breaking news

Their aim is to be first with the news so speed is very important – and accuracy. They will never sacrifice accuracy for speed. They pride themselves on their reputation for being fast and trustworthy.

Mark is one of the two people running the newsgathering operation. He talks regularly to the regional editors – they should be the first port of call for us when pitching story ideas or responding to events.

Alternatively, if you know a reporter, pitch to him/her. There is no central news desk or forward planning desk. Everything is managed from the regional hubs. They have two major strategic centres in Bangalore and Gdansk where they are following a range of sources – social media, company statements etc to spot breaking stories ahead of anyone else.

They supply breaking news to all their clients – agency media, broadcasters, newspapers, online organisations. Clients can see what Reuters are filing on a story in real time. Because of their commitment to impartiality they do not run opinion pieces nor do they allow their journalists to voice opinions on social media.

Financial news

This is not just business or stock market news – it’s any news that may be relevant to the finance sector. If there is a bomb in Istanbul they want to know about it because it affects the prices of stocks and shares in that country. As soon as they get information from Reuters, they start trading on that, so 100% reliability is essential.

Video/TV

This side of the business is growing. At the moment, it is mainly raw footage of news events. But they will do cut stories too. Mark encouraged us to share exclusive video with Reuters, especially if we are somewhere that there are no journalists on the ground. There is major demand for video content from their clients.

Website

The Reuters.com site is growing and their goal is to build this up as a major news source. It will be behind a paywall so this will give them another revenue stream.

Investigative journalism

This is an important part of the business. They want to break stories that will have a major impact.

Pitching

Mark suggests pitching to the regional or subject editors. If you are planning to comment on an event coming up then let them know in advance and they can send a video team to record your contribution.

Mark values his relationship with NGOs and sees them as a valuable source of information, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

If you are responding to an event – for example a cut to aid budgets – then they want to know the real world consequences rather than just a piece of rhetoric.

They are not keen on running stories on international days – these have now become devalued. If you pitch to an editor and don’t get a response or want advice then email Mark direct.

MG, 16.11.22

Briefing Notes: The Economist

Speaker

Jonathan Rosenthal, Africa editor

jonathanrosenthal@economist.com

Other contacts

natashaloder@economist.com Health policy editor

slaveachankova@economist.com Health care correspondent

olivermorton@economist.com Lead on COP27

catherinebrahic@economisr.com Environment editor

tomgardner@economist.com Horn of Africa correspondent

johnmcdermott@economist.com Chief Africa correspondent

mirandamitra@economist.com Editor, By Invitation (Opeds)

Jonathan explained how The Economist has evolved from a magazine to an online news outlet – each edition of the weekly magazine should encapsulate key events and trends of the week and provide analysis. Most stories will be posted online a few days before they appear in the printed edition – the online piece will usually be slightly longer than the printed one.

The magazine is in a transition phase as it grows its online content and audience. 50% of subscriptions are online only and this is likely to grow in the future. They sell 150-200K copies of the magazine in the UK. They have around 1.2 – 1.5m subscribers. Half are in the US.

When Jonathan is commissioning he is doing so for an international audience. UK-focussed stories will go in the UK section, not in the Africa section. For example, a story about UK aid cuts will belong in the UK section, although if NGOs can document the real impact of these cuts in Africa then he may be interested.

Their articles are often short and concise – maybe 500-600 words. Jonathan commissions and edits the Africa section. The magazine is divided up into geographical sections. Africa/Middle East has 4-5 pages and Jonathan will usually have half of those pages. This equates to 2-3 stories a week. The challenge for him is to narrow down and pick those 2 or 3. He slightly over commissions.

He is interested in stories that have a narrow focus but shed light on a broader issue. They should be telling us something new or a new angle on a familiar story.

In the current edition of the magazine, there are two stories from Africa – one on kidnappings, extortion and crime in South Africa, the other on teenage pregnancies and high school fees in Zimbabwe.

Jonathan has two staff reporters – one in Johannesburg; the other in Dacca. He has four stringers on retainers – in Nairobi, Kampala and Nigeria. Tom Gardner was in Addis but has now been expelled.

Pitching

Pitches can go direct to Jonathan or to a correspondent. You can copy him in as he likes to keep across things. They should be short and concise and grab his attention. If it is an embargoed report he needs at least 7-10 days advance notice so that, if he’s interested, he can get one of his team to look at it. He’s not worried about whether he is offered an exclusive or not.

He has a longstanding interest in the war in Tigray and is on the lookout for new angles. Similarly, with the Horn of Africa hunger crisis which he covered extensively in June/July.

Girls’ education is another topic of interest where he is always looking for a new angle.

He’s keen too on positive stories that show African agency – he doesn’t want all his coverage to be negative.

He’s working on two bigger pieces on Africa – one on food security and productivity; the other on poor governance in fragile states.

Jonathan also encouraged us to pitch ideas for the oped section called By Invitation. He is keen to get more African content but the bar is set high – the writer needs to be well known with something interesting to say! Pitches can go to Jonathan or the oped editor Miranda Mitra. They should be around 1,000 words.

MG, 25.10.22

Watch in full: The Economist

 

Briefing Notes: Unreported World

Speaker

Andy Lee, series producer andy.lee@itn.co.uk

Unreported World is Channel 4’s prime time international current affairs series, broadcast at 7.30pm on a Friday night. There are two runs of six half hour films a year, one in the spring and the other in the autumn. A couple of years ago ITN/Channel 4 News took over the strand from the indie producer, Quicksilver.

Andy explained that in each run of six he tries to cover a range of stories from different parts of the world, so there will typically be at least one story from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US.

These are narrative films with a central character. When pitching to him you should (ideally) identify the central character and which sequences could be filmed with them. The filming commitment is quite substantial as each film is shot over a 10-14 day period. A UK based presenter and shooting producer/director shoot the film in a single trip. But before filming takes place Andy will have worked with a local fixer/charity to set up the shoot and recce the main character.

He’s keen to find characters whose stories open up a bigger issues. He spoke about previous films that he had made for UW including a film on fast fashion in Ghana. The central character in that film was a local trader who was selling the used clothes that were coming to Ghana from the UK and other western countries. She was struggling because the quality of clothes being sent was so poor. Another film followed a detective in the US searching for missing indigenous women in North Dakota.

His aim is to feature stories and issues that have not been reported or are under-reported. He is not looking for new angles on running stories – so no pitches on Ukraine or Afghanistan. Occasionally, as with fast fashion, he will do an issue that has been reported but only if he feels he has a genuinely fresh angle.

The films are broadcast live on Channel 4 and then played in full on UW’s YouTube channel. Cut down versions of each film run on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. These shorter versions reach a different, younger audience who would not normally watch Channel 4 on a Friday night. Andy is happy that more people will get to hear about the issue even if they don’t watch the whole film. It’s part of Channel 4’s public service remit.

Andy was asked about pitching. He said IBT members should make contact even if they only had the germ of an idea as it might lead to a film at some point in the future. He’s keen to build relationships. But if you are pitching the key is the character and what they can film with that person. The contributor is the driving force of the film. They will want to film three sequences with that person so think about what they could film and what the narrative journey might be – is there any jeopardy? What will keep viewers watching? The next series starts in October. So if you are pitching ideas now Andy will want to film either in November/December of January/February.

The next series includes the following films:

  • People trafficking of very young girls for sex in the US
  • Sumo wrestling in Japan, revealing its dark side
  • Teenage pregnancy in Guatemala, where the rate has skyrocketed during the pandemic
  • Rising use of a drug derived from toads, used to treat depression in Mexico
  • Daily life in Gaza, with some cause for optimism
  • The hunger crisis in East Africa – the fight for arable land in Kenya

The Kenya film is presented by Seyi Rhodes and will be broadcast at the end of November as the last in the run.

 

MG, 27.9.22

Watch in full: Unreported World

 

Watch in full: Decolonisation Workshop with Peace Direct

 

You can access Dylan’s presentation here.

Event Notes: Decolonisation Workshop with Peace Direct

Chair

Maryam Mohsin, Bond

Speakers

Dylan Mathews, Peace Direct

Rachel Erskine, Amref Health Africa

Natalie Fyle, Oxfam

Dylan

The goal of Peace Direct as an organisation since its founding 20 years ago has been to amplify the voice of local peacebuilders and shift power and resources towards locally-led efforts. But even for them implementing the decolonisation agenda has been challenging and very much of a learning journey. Culture change takes time.

Dylan spoke about his Time to Decolonise Aid report which Peace Direct published 15 months ago. He emphasised a number of key points:

  • The present system is dysfunctional and in need of radical reform.
  • The key is a change in mindset to an understanding that local actors can be trusted rather than the traditional ‘INGOs know best’ attitude.
  • Resistance to this mindset is the result of structural racism.

‘Decolonisation’ is a useful term for framing the conversation. There needs to be a deconstruction of neo colonial approaches and letting go of the instinctively-held opinion that western thought is superior.

Aid workers believe that they operate neutrally but when Peace Direct consulted its partners the consensus view was that they operate within a system that is the result of colonial attitudes – even INGO staff in country find themselves mimicking these attitudes. INGOs believe that they are there to fill a skill/resource gap. This deficit thinking approach needs to change as it means that local knowledge is consistently undervalued.

Language is key – it diminishes the agency of local populations. Terms like ‘capacity building’ and ‘beneficiaries’ and even ‘aid’ reinforce colonial attitudes and constant use of this language undermines local actors. Language should be inclusive and engaging and emphasise local agency.

INGOs want to expand and their strategies are predicated on growth which inevitably reduces the flow of resources to civil society. Partnerships are transational rather than genuine.

Comms. Fundraising messaging is deeply problematic. Comms need to be radically overhauled to emphasise local agency. But comms change cannot happen in isolation – you need buy in from SLT. It’s useful to have specific targets.

External audit. Peace Direct commissioned an external audit of their comms and the findings were revealing. They thought they were doing well but discover some problems – consent for use of images was not always properly given, content was usually collected by UK field staff or UK-based freelancers. They realised that they needed to invest in the ability of partners to collect content.

Talking to journalists – another challenging area. The way language is used is hardwired into us so it will take time for journalists to change and we need to work with them and give them time. We should also give them feedback after they publish so that we can share any critique with them and they can learn for the future. We need to nurture supportive journalists as ‘change makers’ within their organisations.

Steps forward – Dylan recommended some concrete steps for NGOs to take.

  • Acknowledge structural racism
  • Encourage conversations about power
  • Be open to critique
  • Change language
  • Recruit differently
  • Invest in indigenous knowledge and skills
  • End ‘white gaze’ fundraising
  • Adopt a transition mindset
  • Avoid localisation spin
  • As an individual, think about your own power and spin
  • Be open to new ways of thinking

You can access Dylan’s presentation here.

Oxfam

Nadiya spoke to us about Oxfam GB’s experience. She emphasised that the UK public are ready to start hearing new stories and different perspectives in communications about Africa. Nadiya will also be writing a blog for us so look out for that.

 

Amref Health Africa UK

Rachel said that the change had started with comms as they felt they had a responsibility, as an African NGO, to tell more nuanced stories and go beyond the single story of Africa. They realised that they could not just change their comms in isolation – the whole organisation needed to change. They needed to show more unfiltered stories and give Africans more say in how their stories are told, and their images are used. This meant letting go of what the people in London think the story is and valuing local knowledge and talent. It takes time!

 

Discussion

There was a wide-ranging discussion. Dylan said that often organisations wanted to change but felt paralysed. The important thing was to start the process of change and you will learn along the way. Mistakes will be made. New approaches can be tried and tested. Share with your colleagues – don’t silo the process of change. Produce practical guides to help colleagues to change. One of the challenges is enabling local organisations to become more adept at content gathering.

 

MG, 7.9.22

Briefing Notes: The Telegraph

Speaker 

Sarah Newey, Acting Deputy Editor, Global Health and Security team

Sarah.Newey@telegraph.co.uk 

Other contacts

Harriet.Barber@telegraph.co.uk Global Health and Security – video/social media

Anne.Gulland@telegraph.co.uk Global Health and Security – leaving soon

Paul.Nuki@telegraph.co.uk Global Health and Security – editor

Ben.Farmer@telegraph.co.uk Pakistan/Afghanistan correspondent – moving to South Africa

Joe.Wallen@telegraph.co.uk India and will cover Pakistan/Afghanistan when Ben moves

Will.Brown@telegraph.co.uk Kenya based

Nicola.Smith@telegraph.co.uk Asia correspondent based in Taipei

Kerry.McQueeney@telegraph.co.uk Global Health and Security – social media, newsletter and opinion pieces.

globalhealth@telegraph.co.uk General email for the team

Overview

Sarah explained the role of the Global Health and Security team. It was set up in 2018 with funding from the Gates Foundation which has no editorial control. Four key areas of reporting were identified:

  • Women and girls
  • Science and disease
  • Terror and security
  • Climate and people

When pitching to them or thinking of stories for them, Sarah says it’s useful to think about these headings. Most stories will fit into one or more of these. She has a particular interest in neglected tropical diseases, women’s health and the impacts of climate change. 

Gates are funding the Global Health and Security section because it reaches a different audience from Guardian Development which they also fund. The Telegraph is a Conservative newspaper and most of its readers have a Conservative view of the world. Sarah says that this doesn’t really affect her team’s editorial decisions. They tend to makes sure that a story has a strong news line if it is dealing with a controversial political issue such as cuts to UK aid. 

They work closely with the Foreign Desk and have editorial control of their own content. They are not influenced by whether or not stories run in the newspaper. Some of their most popular stories were online only – such as a report by Ben on rickshaw drivers in Pakistan and one on a new school in Uganda designed by the same architect who did the Shard. 

Sarah joined the Telegraph in 2018 and the team comprises three reporters based in London (Paul, Harriet, Anne and Sarah) and four reporters based abroad (Ben, Joe, Will and Nicola). Kerry McQueeney in London manages the newsletter, social media and the opinion pieces. They can call on other Telegraph correspondents in other parts of the world and are also keen to use freelancers to broaden the range of perspectives. They do not do much coverage of Latin America, although during Covid they did report extensively from Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.

Pitching

Ideas can be pitched to Sarah, Anne, Paul or Harriet or to all four. They discuss all the ideas they receive and try to reply to all emails. If Sarah doesn’t reply to your email send her a reminder a couple of days later. Pitches should be brief and say clearly what the crux of the story is, the top line and why the story is important, new or topical. Most of their stories have a news angle but occasionally they will do a feature with no news peg. A UK connection helps but is not essential. They commission a wide range of content some of which is off the news agenda and some of which gives a health/security angle to a running story such as Ukraine or Covid. 

Audiences

Global Health and Security has several different audiences who come to its content in different way – via the newspaper, website, social media and the newsletter. Most of its stories make it into the newspaper although space has been tight during the Ukraine war, as there are only three pages of foreign news (50-65% at the moment but was 80% before the Ukraine war). The main Telegraph website is accessible to subscribers only but the Global Health and Security content is free to access so it has a slightly different, more international audience. On the Global Health and Security site, its audience is 70% in the UK, 20% in the US and 10% elsewhere. Sarah will try and find out more about this audience. The newsletter goes out twice a week to 60,000 subscribers. And many people come to its content via search – 50% of the online audience comes in this way. Ben’s rickshaw piece had 35,000 page views and the Uganda hospital story had 29,000. They want to do more video content which can run on YouTube, be embedded into an article or run as short clips on social media.

Trips

Sarah and her London-based colleagues will do foreign trips when appropriate. Sarah is just back from Somaliland. 

Opinion pieces

They don’t run many but Sarah is open to pitches. Try to avoid jargon, keep the piece to a maximum of 800 words and remember that you are speaking to a general not a specialist audience.

Picture galleries

They have stopped doing these for the moment as they effort was not worth it as they did not do well.

 

MG, 21.6.22

Briefing Notes: Channel 4 News

Speaker: Esme Wren, Editor, Channel 4 News

Key contacts

Federico.Escher@itn.co.uk Head of Foreign News

Rob.Hodge@itn.co.uk Deputy Head of Foreign News

Ed.Fraser@itn.co.uk Managing editor, in charge of Unreported World

Andy.Lee@itn.co.uk Series producer, Unreported World

Louise.Turner@itn.co.uk Indie fund and women’s rights

Oliver.King@itn.co.uk Head of Output/guest editor

Mike.DeriSmith@itn.co.uk Head of Digital

 

Reporters/presenters

Kiran.Moodley@itn.co.uk Fourcast/podcast host

Alex.Thomson@itn.co.uk Chief correspondent/climate change coverage

Krishnan.Guru-Murthy@itn.co.uk Presenter and host/reporter Unreported World

Matt.Frei@itn.co.uk Presenter and Europe editor

Lindsey.Hilsum@itn.co.uk International editor

Guillermo.Galdos@itn.co.uk Freelance/Latin America correspondent based in Latin America

Jamal.Osman@itn.co.uk Freelance/Africa correspondent based in the UK

Jonathan.Miller@itn.co.uk Freelance/Asia correspondent based in Bangkok

Paraic.OBrien@itn.co.uk Reporter

Fatima.Maji@itn.co.uk Reporter and presenter

Ayshah.Tull@itn.co.uk Reporter and presenter

Symeon.Brown@itn.co.uk Reporter

 

Esme joined Channel 4 News in January after a three year stint as Editor of Newsnight and before that she had senior roles at Sky News. The programme’s international coverage was one of the attractions for her. At Newsnight, she relied on BBC correspondents. At Channel 4, she has her own dedicated team of reporters.

She faced an early challenge – covering the war in Ukraine. That has taken up a lot of the budget for foreign news and not left much for other stories. However, she emphasised how importance foreign coverage was and encouraged us to work with her and her colleagues on getting stories on air.

She advised us to pitch to the Foreign Desk (for example regarding the upcoming CHOGM in Rwanda) and to specialists on specific topics (Alex Thomson on climate change and Louise Turner on women’s rights). There is a climate change strand called Emergency on Planet Earth. There’s also a divided America strand. We can also try to build relationships with individual reporters who can pitch stories to her. She wants to broaden the range of guest and advised us to pitch names of experts to Ollie King. She may appoint a guest editor in the future. Guests do not need access to a studio – they can be interviewed via Zoom.

Esme was asked about the famine in east Africa and said that this was very much on her horizon. Jamal would be the person to contact. He is a freelance but works mainly with C4News. Likewise, with Guillermo in Latin America and Jonathan in Asia.

Esme spoke about audiences. Around 1m people are currently watching the 7pm news live or on catch up. These are mainly in their 30s and 40s but there has been a growth in numbers of younger viewers (16-25) during the Ukraine crisis. Their reach is much bigger on digital especially amongst young audiences.

Channel 4 News is not yet digital first but that is the direction of travel. The digital team is repurposing content from the main news bulletins and also creating new content. They are on Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat. The Facebook Uncovered strand will be back soon.

Unreported News is now made by the Channel 4 News Team (it was previously made by Quickslilver). This means that Channel 4 reporters will often present the show – for example Fatima was in Pakistan looking at women’s rights and Guillermo was looking at drug gangs in El Salvador. Unreported World is a good strand to target when pitching ideas as it reports on stories that do not normally make the main news bulletins. Pitches can go to Andy Lee.

Esme said that the USP of Channel 4 News was the depth of its coverage and this was where she wanted to focus her energy. Viewers wanted a better understanding of stories in the news, more context, more data – and IBT members could help with this.

 

MG, 26.5.22

Watch in full: Channel 4 News

 

Watch in full: Charity campaigning: where next?

 

Briefing Notes: BBC Africa

Speaker

Nick Ericcson, Head of Planning, BBC Africa nick.ericcson@bbc.co.uk

BBC World Service has changed a lot in recent years – now it is ‘digital first’ so online comes first. Usually, an online piece will run with either a TV piece or a radio one. They are now doing more on social media – Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Still working out how to get the best out of Tik Tok.

Digital helps them to achieve the goal of reaching a younger, more female audience. In the past, the BBCWS appealed to older men who had an interest in global politics. Now it is aiming to reach a different demographic with some success. 39% of their audience is now female and a similar percentage are aged 18-25. Still a long way to go but heading in the right direction.

There’s a big emphasis on the language services as a way of reaching new audiences who may be less urban and less educated.

BBC Africa still has the goal of telling African stories in a different way – the main way they achieve this is by having African reporter. So you will now see an African reporter on the Ten O’Clock News, Newsnight and Today. This would not have been the case a decade ago. Having this profile on linear output is still important but digital is now more important.

A digital first approach brings them closer to their audience – they use audience data much more extensively to find out what their audience is interested in, so journalism is much less top down. There is a shift in power, Nick says, so the audience has more control.

They are also using digital to try new ways of storytelling. Africa Eye with its open access investigations is a good example of this, sharing content with the audience as the investigation moves forward. Content is repackaged and repurposed for different audiences so a 30 minute Africa Eye documentary will be shown on YouTube and then a shorter version on TV news, radio and online – and a Twitter thread.

Nick’s team is in charge of planning and they will keep in touch with the genre teams who are the main content commissioners. They will cream off the best stories and share these more widely. English language versions will be produced and then shared with the different language services.

Their main programmes are Focus on Africa Radio and TV, Swahili TV, and then Somali, Hausa and Afrique.

There has been a big effort in BBC News to modernise the commissioning process so that several reporters are not sent to cover the same story for different programmes. These changes are taking place in domestic news, not in the World Service, as they were already doing that. It’s true that the range of stories covered has fallen as a result of these changes but it does mean that when a story runs it is likely to be shown in more places and reach a bigger audience.

BBCWS has set itself the target of reaching 500m people by the end of 2022. It is currently hitting 488m. Their biggest audiences are in India, US, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.

 

Pitching

Nick advises to pitch to him and he will respond and/or pass on to the relevant team. Please send proposals well in advance and if you are suggesting studio guest they are more likely to say yes to women as they are aiming for a 50-50 gender split of experts. Let him know if you have B roll. They are keen to collaborate on any report where you are gathering new evidence – they did this successfully with Human Rights Watch.

 

MG 22.3.22

Watch in full: briefing with BBC Africa

 

Briefing Notes: Reporting international development – where next?

Speakers

Sarah Johnson Guardian Development reporter sarah.johnson@theguardian.com

Yasir Khan Editor in Chief Thomson Reuters Foundation yasir.khan@thomsonreuters.com

Will Worley Devex UK correspondent william.worley@devex.com

 

Thomson Reuters

Yasir took over as Editor in Chief last year, before that he was with Euronews. He charted the change in journalism during Covid from being entirely office and telephone based to returning to travelling. Things were almost back to normal. Journalists were coming in to the office for 2 days a week. He said there was now an appetite for non Covid stories, as Covid fatigue had set in.

Since his arrival much has changed at TRF. Its close relationship with Reuters meant that its stories always went out on the wires and this was their main focus. Now they are digital first, focusing on web as this is where they think the growth will be. Their stories still go out via Reuters so you will see them in newspapers around the world. Yasir has moved TRF away from following the daily news agenda and for the most part it will steer clear of this.

There are 3 main areas of focus: climate change, inclusive economies and technology and society. He is publishing a lot less and going for depth instead. New insights into key policy debates. New evidence. Stories that haven’t been touched on by other media. There are no hard and fast lines between these topics. Their audience is ‘purpose-driven professionals.’ They have lots of places where they can catch up the news – TRF are giving them depth and fresh insights. Their audience research indicates that this is what their audience wants. They are also keep on establishing a thought leadership role for themselves.

However, they did find that they gained an audience for stories on Afghanistan that no one else was covering – such as what was happening to beauty salons.

 

Guardian Development

Sarah joined the GD team last year and her brief covers human rights and global development. She has a particular interest in health and writing about non-communicable diseases. Travel is not yet back to normal. Sarah did make on trip since joining, to Kenya, where she worked with the Global Fund on a series of stories on TB, malaria and HIV.

The GD team consists of 3 full time reporters and one part timer with Tracy McVeigh as editor. The brief has changed under Tracy’s editorship – they are no longer mainly aiming at the GD community; instead they want to run stories that work for a mainstream audience. This means more human interest and human angles, more for example on the impacts of climate change on communities.

They are covering mainly low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She’d like to do more on Latin America and more stories focused on one community but which are emblematic of bigger problems. Their agenda includes health, livelihoods, gender, equality, food security, migration and the climate crisis. They want to run stories that no other national newspaper is doing. Some popular stories on the site have been about the impact of Covid on tourism, an interactive story on Israeli bombing of Gaza, her own story on the little-known disease noma.

 

Devex

Will has spent most of the last two years reporting on the merger of the FCO and DFID and the subsequent cuts to aid. He has sometimes found it hard to get NGOs to go on the record if it involves criticising the government as they are worried about jeopardising future funding. Devex is much smaller that GD or TRF and they have a narrow focus. Their audience is people working in international development, for UN agencies, for charities, in government or think tanks. Global health is a big part of their agenda so they devoted a lot of resources to covering the impact of Covid in developing countries.

 

Decolonising language

A question was asked about whether these media outlets were talking about decolonising language in the same way as the development sector is. All the speakers said that they thought carefully about the language they used – for example the term refugee or migrant and that there was nothing new to this. It was clear that they had not taken on board some of the more recent debates about language which Bond is leading on. There may be an opportunity for a fruitful dialogue between the media and development sectors – it would be good to know what IBT members think about this.

 

MG, 22.2.22

Watch in full: Reporting international development – where next?

 

Watch in full: COP26 – where next for the media?

 

You can access Gaby’s presentation on BBC’s post COP26 audience research here. Please not this presentation is for IBT members only and not for mass distribution.

Briefing Notes: COP26 – where next for the media?

Speakers

Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering, Sky News sarah.whitehead@sky.uk

Angela Dewan, international climate editor, CNN angela.dewan@warnermedia.com

Matt McGrath, environment correspondent, BBC News matt.mcgrath@bbc.co.uk

Jack Lundie, director of campaigns and engagement, WWF jlundie@wwf.org.uk

Gaby Hornsby, TV lead sustainability, BBC gaby.hornsby@bbc.co.uk

COP26

In the first part of this session we reviewed the media coverage of COP26.

Sky News – Sarah said that Sky had understood that this was a real moment and they had launched their climate change daily news programme in April with a weekly podcast and a beefed-up team of reporters and producers. They wanted to report on daily changes and developments on the issue, bring a climate change angle to mainstream stories and search out some solutions. During COP they launched a dedicated Climate Live channel. And there were reports from around the world including Mark Austin in Brazil and Alex Crawford in Madagascar. There was also a commitment to following the impact on the ground in Bangladesh.

CNN – Angela said that CNN also recognised that climate change had ceased to be a niche issue and had gone mainstream. They too expanded their team of reporters and writers. She found that the CNN audience was less interested in the machinations of COP and more interested in how climate change was impacting on communities around the world. The audience was also keen to see CNN holding companies and governments to account.

BBC – Matt said it was hard to get across to audiences the importance of COP. One of their successes was explainers on key issues which proved very popular with audiences. Ros Atkins specialised in these and has spoken of what he calls ‘assertive impartiality.’ Matt, like Angela, felt that audiences were interested in accountability.

WWF – Jack reflected on media coverage from the point of view of WWF, saying that the media played a key role in ensuring that climate promises made in the run up to COP were kept. He praised the media’s commitment to covering climate change which made it easier for WWF and other campaigners to get their message across. However, the question remained as to the wider impact of media coverage. WWF is working on the assumption that politicians and governments are more likely to keep their promises on tackling climate change if the media is holding them to account.

The audience

Gaby shared the BBC’s audience research which tracked UK attitudes to climate change at three points in the year – July, October and late November. She will speak to colleagues about whether she is able to share her slides with attendees. But, if you wish to see the slides, just watch the recording of the event. Gaby is the fifth speaker.

Six out of 10 people said that climate change was important or very important to them and this was true across all ages, gender and demographics. In July audiences cared about COP but had very little understanding of the summit – by the time it took place they had a much clearer understanding of its importance and the topics that were covered, especially deforestation, fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

Audiences demonstrated a high level of understanding on some headline issues – renewable energy, deforestation and climate change. There was good understanding of carbon footprint. But there was much less understanding when it came to more technical aspects such as sustainable infrastructure. COP produced higher levels of understanding – for example those who said they understood net zero went up from 49 to 60%.

Once COP had finished there was some drop in public understanding of climate change – from 82 to 75%, perhaps because audience had come to realise how complicated it was. There was no sign of environmental fatigue after COP with 59% of respondents saying they wanted to hear more, compared with 50% in July.

Audiences were asked which aspects interested them the most. They said they wanted to know what they could personally do to make a difference; they wanted to hear more positive stories; and they wanted to see governments held to account.

Overall, audiences felt that they had a broad understanding of climate change but lacked knowledge about the detail. They felt that the media was not doing a good job of holding governments, companies and policy makers to account.

Gaby also shared with us the IPSOS MORI poll in which members of the public identified the issues that were of most concern to them. In November, after COP climate change/the environment/pollution was the top issue on 40%. By December this had fallen by an astonishing 27 percentage points to 13%, its lowest point.

Gaby said that there were two key groups that had a lower understanding – young people and CDEs. This presented an opportunity for the media, although it might be hard to bring specialist content to these audiences.

Climate change pledge

Gaby also told us about the pledge by the Sky, the BBC and other public service broadcasters to beef up their coverage of climate change across a range of genres. In all areas of commissioning, commissioners would have a conversation with producers about how climate change could be included in editorial content. Gaby said there was a need to upskill the creative community so that they had a better understanding of climate change and related issues. The broadcaster group is working together to see how they can best track the changes in content and any increase in audience understanding and engagement.

Where next for the media?

All the broadcasters spoke about their plans for coverage now and in the run up to COP27.

Sky – Sarah wanted more stories about the impact of climate change and how to ensure accountability on a regular basis. Timeliness was key and pitching to the right person. Email her and she will put you in touch with the right person.

CNN – Angela was planning to do less but hoping that this would have more impact. She was open to all good stories with a fresh angle and also keen to do more on accountability. Email her your pitches.

BBC – Matt said the BBC would continue as before and there would be more explainers, more embedding of climate change across the full range of news stories and more investigations and attempts to hold those to the promises made at COP. He advised planning a long time ahead when approaching the BBC. Bring him case studies rather than issues. Bring him stories that illustrate the impact of climate change and look for ways of helping the audience to connect emotionally.

 

MG, 25.1.21

Watch in full: podcast peer learning session with Dear Lifesaver

 

Briefing Notes: podcast masterclass with British Red Cross

Speakers: Jude, Annie and Zaina

Jude explained that the podcast was the result of an existing relationship between the British Red Cross and the We are VOICES network, an independent organisation. The podcast was timed to coincide the BRC ‘every refugee matters’ campaign and to support advocacy around the new Borders Bill.

Jude pitched the idea to her colleagues. She had produced media content with the VOICES network but this was different, as refugees and asylum seekers would be the editorial leads. She got the go ahead with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery and put together the team of around a dozen refugees who were working as ambassadors for the VOICES network. A freelance audio producer, Bridey, was hired.

They began by running a series of workshops for the refugees, training them in podcast production. They listen to a lot of other podcasts, searched out resources, practised with audio diaries etc and then started to talk about the content. It was agreed that each episode would be themed and constructed around a key moment – the heart of the story. There would be no overarching narrative.

Annie explained that the refugees themselves decided the issues that they wanted to talk about. They had several goals for the podcast. They wanted to change perceptions of asylum seekers – they came to the UK out of necessity, not choice. The theme for the series was ‘joy and happiness.’ They wanted the podcasts to feel celebratory.

Zaina explained how they looked for small details to tell stories – she wants a tennis partner but it’s hard because she keeps being forced to move.

The themes they explored included loneliness, journeys, family life, accommodation, everyday life, borders and mental health.

The producers wanted to create a team spirit where there was mutual trust and everyone felt able to share their stories.

The podcasts were aimed at an audience that wanted to know more about the plight of refugees and what their daily lives were like. Their research indicated that many people were supportive but did not have much idea of the actual experience of refugees arriving in the UK. The series has been successful with more than 4,000 downloads and many listeners have signed the BRC ‘every refuges matters’ pledge. The link to the pledge campaign has been important as it gave the podcast team access to comms support and the ability to share clips from the podcasts across social media. The podcasts were not a separate activity but integrated with a wider campaign.

There were some challenges in getting internal sign off for each episode but overall it was much easier than Jude expected. She had to avoid being party political or naming individual politicians as the BRC has to remain politically neutral but they were allowed to broadcast the views and experience of the refugees themselves, however critical of the system they were.

The three speakers shared some of the key lessons that they had learnt in making the podcasts.

Annie said that she had learnt the importance of listening skills, resilience, trust in the team and the process, to be open minded, mindful of yourself and others.

Zaina said that for here the key was collaboration at every stage and to hold onto her passion. Passion was important than having the right skillset.

Jude said that the key lessons for her were bringing a co-production ethos into every element of the production, creating openness, building trust, be ready to change your plans and to go off piste. Working with other BRC teams was a particular challenge as they did not share the co-production ethos.

 

Dear Lifesaver podcast

The masterclass was followed by a networking session. We invited the presenters of Islamic Relief’s new podcast, Dear Lifesaver, to share their experience. Sara and Nabilah explained how the podcast came about, and spoke about the format and target audience. The initial aim was to engage their Muslim supporters with key development issues. They wanted to take the audience on a journey of learning and to go on that journey themselves. The aim was to choose a simple format which was comfortable and accessible, with Sara and Nabilah interview one guest in each episode and then reflecting on some of the key themes that arose from the interview. They may experiment with other formats in later episodes.

 

 

MG

8.12.21

 

Watch in full: podcast masterclass with British Red Cross

 

Briefing Notes: crisis comms

PLEASE NOTE: This is an off the record briefing – do not quote its contents to third parties

 

Speakers

John Orme, senior counsel, Porter Novelli john.orme@porternovelli.com

Sean Ryan, Director of Media and Corporate Comms, Save the Children s.ryan@savethechildren.org.uk

 

John’s advice

All crises are complex and difficult and they come when you least expect them, but John emphasised the importance of preparation, having systems in place, so that they could be dealt with quickly and effectively. A crisis is a badly managed issue – if it’s well managed it does not become a crisis. John said it was essential to anticipate what might happen and to ensure that you can respond speedily. He has a ‘one hour ready’ rule. You should be ready to respond within one hour of an issue arising. This may mean that you have to respond without having the full facts and without having sign off from everyone.

 

You can anticipate a variety of crises that may occur and prepare for them. These could involve safeguarding, behaviour of senior staff, concerns of people who have left the organisation or internal whistleblowers. You need to do a risk assessment but also look at your own vulnerabilities as an organisation. What are the roadblocks to an effective response? Is power devolved? Do you have a transparent culture? Do you respond well to criticism?

 

Stick to your values and respond according to them even if others are advising you to do differently. Be as open as possible, putting as much information out as possible, anticipate what is likely to happen next and prepare your response, be proactive rather than reactive. Try and encourage authentic voices to speak up on your behalf.

 

Sean’s experience

Sean spoke about three occasions when he had been in the media spotlight.

 

When he was Foreign Editor at the Sunday Times one of his reporters, Marie Colvin, was killed in Syria. Soon after he was informed, Al Jazeera told him they were running the story, so he had to inform the family, colleagues, manage the media response and think ahead to tackle logistical issues such as bring Marie’s body home and rescuing her injured colleague. He had no plan in place and was overwhelmed. He said that he learnt several lessons – above all, be prepared, have a system in place for dealing with a crisis, protect people who are dealing with the crisis as the pressure is intense, don’t neglect internal comms, it’s important to keep your colleagues fully informed. Sean also briefed a journalist when Vanity Fair started to investigate and he made the mistake of trusted the journalist who then used his words against him. It took them several weeks to gain control and feel that they were no longer on the defensive.

 

The next crisis that Sean had to manage was when ISIS bombed the Save the Children compound in Afghanistan. This time they got ahead of the story, briefing the BBC on the facts as far as they knew them. But then the Wall Street Journal wanted to publish a story in which ISIS accused Save the Children of evangelising in Afghanistan. Sean managed to persuade the Foreign Editor not to run the story as it would put all Save’s in country staff at risk.

 

The third crisis was when two senior managers at Save were accused of sexual misconduct. When the story broke, the two had already left the organisation but Save was accused of failing to hold them to account for their misbehaviour. The Chair of the Trustees set up a small group to handle the crisis which included Sean and an outside lawyer, but not the CEO who had to recuse himself as he had been a Trustee at the time of the allegations. The lawyer persuaded the group to take an aggressive stance against journalists and threaten legal action. This was a huge mistake and damaged Save’s relationship with journalists and proved counter-productive. Sean was told not to speak to journalists which also proved to be a big mistake. The lesson Sean learnt was that NGOs should engage with their critics and provide as much information as possible. Be very careful about how you come across in these situations. Stay true to your values.

 

MG, 16.11.21

 

 

 

Watch in full: crisis comms briefing

PLEASE NOTE: This is an off the record briefing – do not quote its contents to third parties.

 

Briefing Notes: Richard Greene from CNN

Key contacts

Guest booking cnniplanningteam@turner.com

Freedom Project lead leif.coorlim@cnn.com

Health cnnhealth2@turner.com

Senior news editor Lindsay.isaac@turner.com

International climate editor angela.dewan@cnn.com

 

Speaker

Richard Greene, Head of Content, CNN London Richard.greene@warnermedia.com

 

Overview

CNN International is a division of CNN. It has a similar relationship as BBC News with BBC World News. CNNI broadcasts globally outside the US to several hundred million homes although there are no precise viewing figures. Some of its shows are broadcast by the US network and vice versa and content is shared between the two, but CNNI is principally aimed at a global audience so each story is judged on its merits. The US network has much more of a US focus. CNNI recently led for example on the kidnapping of US missionaries in Haiti and on the murder of the British MP David Amess.

CNNI is known as a breaking news channel and this is what it does best. When there’s a breaking story it throws lots of resources at it. Part of Richard’s role is to encourage his colleagues to place these stories in a wider context, which is what audiences are looking for. The nature of breaking news is changing. But if there is a big story and you have a guest who can contribute get straight on to the guest bookers, who are part of the planning team. Guests are judged on their merits. Players are of more interest than commentators.

CNNI comes from London several times a day and in normal times they would want guests in the studio but currently they have no studio guests so anyone can contribute regardless of where they are.

Television is no longer the most important outlet. In the US live TV dominates but outside of the US, CNN’s online presence is equally important and they have a digital team in London. London is the largest CNN bureau outside the US and the hub for stories from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It employs around 30 people – producers, reporters, presenters, sports desk, photo desk, business team, climate team.

Pitches can go to Richard or one of the specialist teams.

 

What are they looking for?

Any story you pitch needs to have a topical angle or peg so that it feels like a story that is relevant now. This doesn’t mean that they don’t do features, but it does mean that any off-agenda story should have a strong peg.

 

Top issues

Each year CNN decides on the top issues that it wants to focus on in order to differentiate itself from the competition – this year there are prioritising the climate crisis, China, inequality, the new post-Covid world and global politics/identity.

Climate crisis – they will go big on COP and they will be devoting a lot of resources to it. The international climate editor, Angela Dewan, is based in London. Angela has said that she welcomes pitches from us, although she may be slow to answer. They are keen as part of their coverage of climate change to look at solutions so that the coverage is not all negative and bleak. At COP, they will seek to hold world leaders to account. Climate change pitches need to have a different angle or something new to say.

Inequality is another key topic for them – and they interpret this widely. For example whether billionaires should spend their money go into space or give to more deserving causes, can be seen as an inequality issue.

Whilst CNN is not a campaigning organisation it does sometimes do issue-related campaigns. One such campaign is the freedom project which looks at human trafficking. The campaign is ongoing.

 

MG, 21.10.21

Watch in full: Briefing with CNN

Watch in full: social media training session two

You can access the slides from the session here.

This session covered:

    • Platform changes for LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and YouTube 
    • How to reach new audiences 
    • Team members’ social media presences 
    • Tone of voice – advanced tips 
    • How to piggyback on trending topics 
    • Advocacy management and strategy 
    • Crisis communications 
    • Dealing with trolls 
    • Accessibility on social media – advanced tips 
    • How to take an insights led approach to content strategy as a team 
    • How to create a compelling narrative about your organisation on social media 

 

Watch in full: social media training session one

You can access the slides from the session here.

This session covered:

    • Understanding your audience on social media and their needs 
    • How to be strategic and measure success on social media 
    • How to get more reach and engagement 
    • How to create low cost content 
    • Content pillars: what are they and how to use them 
    • Tone of voice- beginner to intermediate tips 
    • Accessibility on social media

 

Watch in full: Briefing on climate change with BBC News

Briefing Notes: BBC News on Climate Change

Speaker

Matt McGrath, BBC Environment Correspondent

matt.mcgrath@bbc.co.uk

 

Climate and Science team

Matt is part of the 20-25 strong Climate and Science team (it was previously Science and Environment). The new name signals the importance that the BBC attaches to climate change. The team is being relocated to Cardiff so there will be some departures. The main correspondents are David Shukman, Victoria Gill, Rebecca Morelle, Justin Rowlatt, Claire Marshall, Pallab Ghosh and Roger Harrabin. Each has their own area of interest which you can see from their previous reporting but there is some overlap. Roger covers UK and Matt global. Matt mainly produces digital content but also some radio and TV. He covers climate change, IPPC, COP, UN, global policy and impacts.

 

Climate change coverage

Matt said there is a big audience appetite for climate change related stories and interest is growing. When he wrote a story about the latest IPPC report it had 4m page views on the day. He says that their audience research shows that the audience likes mainstream coverage of the big climate stories. They like the fact that the BBC is objective and is a reliable source of information.

 

Changes to BBC News

A new commissioning system is currently being put in place to avoid duplication and to focus on fewer stories. It was felt that there were too many stories being produced and too much duplication. Commissioning groups will decide which stories to prioritise and the approach will be digital first. Each story will run on radio, TV and online, so for the stories that are commissioned will reach bigger audiences than in the past. There will be greater depth and analysis. The downside is that there will be a narrowing of the range of stories. Matt agreed that the big news story of the day will dominate, as it does now, but said there would be a greater effort to put in place explainers and increase the range of voices that are heard on a story.

 

Pitching

Matt was sympathetic about the challenges of pitching to BBC News. He said a lot is about building relationships. The first story you pitch will not necessarily get commissioned but a later one may. Target a correspondent that you think may be interested and start trying out ideas on them. He said most of the commissioning for the coverage of COP has been done but advised everyone to watch events and post comments or pictures that are relevant on a given day. He said there will be live coverage online throughout COP and this is a good opportunity to place topical stories especially on the first few days of COP when not much is newsworthy. The BBC is going to give COP a huge amount of coverage. Also think about pitching spokespeople, but be clear that they have something to say and are willing to be outspoken. This is a chance to talk about issues rather than a PR opportunity for an NGO. There is strong interest in data – if you are pitching data then the BBC will need access to the raw data and their in house team will make the charts.

 

Impact of climate change on developing countries

This is an aspect of the climate change story that the BBC wants to cover but Matt said that they had covered it already and needed to keep finding new angles. They are also keen to ensure that voices from these worst affected communities are heard during COP and Matt accepts that NGOs are closer to the communities and can help to give the BBC access.

 

Changing tone of coverage

The BBC’s approach to covering this issue had changed a lot since the previous COP when coverage had to be ‘balanced’ with sceptical voices included. BBC News now accepts that climate change is the result of human actions. Given the audience interest, the BBC is aware of its responsibility in covering the issue and wants to ensure that its coverage reaches mainstream audiences. They are often more interested in the practical aspects – such as replacing gas boilers – and Matt feels that future coverage will look more at these practical realities. He also says that want to give more time to food and the food system. There is great interest in positive stories and people want to see solutions and how they work on the ground. In future, correspondents like Matt will be travelling much less and stories will be covered by in country reporters. This has been happening already under Covid and will continue. Reporters will still go on trips – for example to undertake investigations – but they won’t go simply to be seen in a place or to record a piece to camera.

 

MG, 28.9.21

 

Briefing Notes: Podcast peer learning session

IBT hosted an informal peer learning session on podcasting. Members were invited to share their experiences of working on a podcast. 

Internal buy-in and sign offs
  • Getting the organisation’s CEO to support (and sometimes host!) the podcast was suggested as a good strategy to secure buy-in for a podcast.
  • One member also pointed out that an important selling point for podcasts is that they work well over a long period of time compared to blogs or media spotlights and are therefore good value for money for the organisation. 
  • Several members found that linking the podcast to a particular campaign or initiative was important in securing buy-in. 
  • Once podcast production begins some members found there were internal obstacles to getting content signed off, which can be a ‘frustrating and slow’ process, especially if not everyone agrees that the content meets the organisation’s values or content guidelines. One member said they’ve found sharing transcripts can be a good way of getting more contentious parts of an episode signed off because stakeholders focus more on the words being used, rather than how it sounds as an audio clip.
  • The point was also made by one participant that producing more edgy content that engages an audience was more challenging than getting internal buy-in

 

Paying guests and contributors 
  • The issue of whether guests and contributors should be paid for their time was raised. For some members not paying guests, particularly those in the global south who may benefit only indirectly from appearing on the podcast, felt uncomfortable.
  • It was pointed out that paying guests may result in them saying what they think the NGO or host wants to hear, rather than speaking honestly.
  • The general consensus amongst members was that guests would not be paid for appearing on their podcasts.

 

Promoting podcasts
  • YouTube was widely regarded as a useful place to share podcasts and was described as an ‘easy way to get an untapped audience’. YouTube is also a good place to upload transcriptions of each episode.
  • Organisational newsletters are a useful outlet for promoting a podcast.
  • One member’s podcast has its own Twitter account which is most helpful for engaging their existing audience, rather than attracting new listeners.
  • Another member deployed a range of methods for promoting their podcast including visual trailers on YouTube and celebrity social media takeovers.
  • One member tested different social media platforms and found LinkedIn to be far more effective than Twitter for finding new listeners. 
  • Several members continue promoting an episode until the next one is released and also look for news hooks to promote related episodes of their podcasts, even if they were released several months ago.
  • Broccoli Content, the podcast production company, was recommended as a great reference for social media assets to accompany a podcast series. 
  • Headliner can be used to create five free audiograms per month, which are useful for promoting podcasts on social media.

 

Measuring success
  • Members found that measuring success and ascertaining who is listening to their podcast can be quite difficult.
  • Measuring listener numbers is one way of measuring success but it’s important to remember that although podcast listener numbers are often a lot smaller than audiences on other mediums, podcast audiences are often more engaged and will listen to the entire episode. 

 

KT 03.8.21

 

 

Watch in full: Podcast masterclass with Today in Focus

Briefing Notes: Podcast masterclass with Today in Focus

Speaker

Rachel Humphreys, co-presenter and producer Rachel.humphreys@guardian.com

 

Overview

The Guardian set up its Today in Focus podcast in the summer of 2018 and it launched in November of that year. There’s quite a big team – around 10 full time staff plus freelancers – made up of presenters, producers, exec producers and sound designers. Rachel presents and produces (which involves planning the episode, briefing the presenter and editing).

 

The aim of the podcast was to tell the stories behind the headlines, develop the Guardian’s journalists as characters and find a new audience beyond those who read the newspaper or follow the Guardian online. Rachel came from daily news so she is able to turn stories around quickly when necessary, but she enjoys spending more time getting the story right. The lead presenter at the start was Anushka who recently left. There will now be a trio of presenters – Rachel, Mike Safi and Nosheen Iqbal.

 

They were named best current affairs podcast in last year’s British Podcast Awards. They are different from most current affairs podcast as they only do one story per episode and they do not slavishly follow the news agenda.

 

Today in Focus runs daily from Monday to Friday – each episode is roughly 30 minutes long and follows one story. The interviewees are mostly Guardian journalists but other experts sometimes feature and when it’s a human interest story there will be first person testimony from someone who has first-hand experience of the issue.

 

They try and vary the mix each week, a mixture of lighter and more serious, a running daily news story, a human interest story, a big global story, something lighter.

 

International stories

They have run quite a few international stories. In the last couple of months, they have reported from Brazil, Syria, Gaza, Hong Kong, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Canada, China and the US. They have covered Covid, British politics, climate change, missing people, human rights, UFOs. The range is broad. They are quite open minded about the stories they cover. One of the new presenters, Mike, is based in Beirut so there will be more foreign stories going forward.

 

Pitching

Rachel and her colleagues keep an open mind and they are happy to receive pitches. Pitch to Rachel by email, either a story you think they should report on or a human interest issue with a named character they can interview at length. The stories need to have several elements to sustain 30 minutes. One of their recent episodes about families tracing missing relatives was the result of a pitch by a charity to Anushka. Rachel will read all the pitches she receives. It is also helpful if you can send her some audio that you have recorded yourself (it can be recorded on a smartphone).

 

Human interest stories

Rachel spoke about a podcast on human rights in Egypt which told the story of an Egyptian who was detained by the authorities and later released. The podcast also featured his British wife. Casting is key and they work hard to make sure that the human interest stories have strong characters at their heart. They also have a duty of care and will play clips to the contributors to let them know what to expect. It’s good to interview people who have never been interviewed before – they did one episode on gay conversion therapy and featured a woman talking for the first time about her experience of it.

 

Prepping guests

There is no set approach. Sometimes they will send questions in advance or do a research interview. On other occasions, it is more effective to be spontaneous. It depends on the guest and what works best for that person. Answers should not feel rehearsed or scripted.

 

Tone of voice

One of the key reasons for their success is getting the right tone of voice and this has evolved over time. The tone is conversational and informal. The presenter is a like a friend guiding the audience through a story. They bring something personal to it and even if they have prepared the questions in advance it should not feel scripted. They want to explain complex stories but not to patronise their audience and tell them things they already know. Working out how much to give as background to a story is one of the most challenging aspects.

 

Editing

Rachel showed us how she edits with different contributors on different tracks. She will do the first edit then show it to the presenter and exec producer and make more changes. Everyone will listen to it several times before it is signed off and goes to the sound designer to complete. A lot of time and effort goes into editing although on the big running news stories the time is condensed. They will do an interview in the morning, edit it and hand it to the sound designer in the afternoon and s/he may work on it all evening. It goes live around 2 or 3am.

 

The presenter

Choosing the right presenter is key. Rachel feels that the skills needed are to be calm under pressure, to have the ability to empathise, to be able to listen and have a conversation rather than just run through a list of predetermined questions, to remember to ask the obvious questions, a sense of humour, and a voice that is easy to listen to. Presenters should be in the background allowing the story and the protagonists to take centre stage, they should not ask ‘clever’ questions to show off. Follow your instincts – the audience tends to be interested in what you are interested in.

 

Narrative

A podcast is like a documentary, there is a narrative journey, a beginning, a middle and an end. Today in Focus breaks a story up into chapters to provide punctuation. They also start with a question which provides the focus for the narrative. The intro at the top is important – put your strongest sound first to get the audience hooked but don’t tell the whole story in the intro. Remember the thing that got you interested in the story in the first place.

 

Conclusion

Rachel gave us some concluding thoughts. Teamwork is crucial. Tell stories that you’re interested in. Keep an open mind. Keep things simple. Audio is so clever that there is always a way of telling a story.

 

MG

20.7.21

 

 

Watch in full: Sarah Whitehead at Sky News

Briefing Notes: Sky News on climate change

Speaker

Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering sarah.whitehead@sky.uk

 

Climate change unit

Michael Blair news editor

Rhiannon Williams producer

Hannah Thomas-Peter reporter

Victoria Seabrook digital reporter

 

Emails all first name dot surname at sky.uk

 

Sky News has had a longstanding interest in climate change and environmental stories. Sarah mentioned ocean rescue campaign and the new climate series of monthly films. They are now increasing their commitment to climate change in the run up to COP. They are aware that the audience is often depressed by the news about climate change and scared so they have a big emphasis on charting the changes that are taking place and showing the solutions. They want to empower audiences and hold governments and business to account. It is not just up to people to change their behaviour, government and industry have a big role to play too. They want their coverage to reach a mainstream audience, both those who are already interested in climate change and those who may become more interested.

 

The Daily Climate Show – Now they do the Daily Climate Show, a 12-15 daily show which features the day’s news stories and climate change diaries of people who are making a difference. The aim of the show is to be very topical and newsy, they don’t run long features, there are a lot of stories covered (8 or 9 stories in each show). Its regular presenter is Anna Jones. They are also looking for studio guests for the show. The show features lots of data as Sarah says there is big audience interest in data. There is a daily tally of UK fuel consumption showing the proportion that comes from renewables. Ed Conway the business correspondent has now taken on a role as business/data correspondent.

 

ClimateCast – they also do a weekly podcast. This is very accessible. Recent editions have included an interview with a leading climate change expert and with social influencers who are championing the issue. The podcast includes a run down of the week’s stories. It is presented by Anna too.

 

Bangladesh – they currently have a team in Bangladesh and will continue to report from the country in the run up to COP, subject to visas. They wanted to be somewhere where you can see the impacts of climate change at first hand. Michael Blair is there. The correspondent is Katerina Vittozi.

 

Pitching – they are looking for news so give them a new report, new research, new data, something that they can push and will make their headlines. Send photos, video, sound clip. Pitch stories and interviewees and email one of the team not all of them. They are also interested in UK stories. For more information on pitching to Sky News, see notes from the briefing with Tim Singleton, Head of International News, which took place in October 2020.

 

Instagram – they do an Instagram live every Wednesday at 5 which Katerina hosts. It’s a different guest each week.

 

 

MG, 22.6.21

Watch in full: Dan Stewart at Time

Briefing Notes: Time

Speaker

Dan Stewart, International Editor dan.stewart@time.com

Key contacts

Justin Worland, climate change policy Justin.worland@time.com

Aryn Baker, climate change human impacts Aryn.baker@time.com

Ciara Nugent, will lead on COP Ciara.nugent@time.com

Alejandro de la Garza, covers innovation alejandro.delagarza@time.com

Elijah Wolfson, covers science and health (based in New York) elijah.wolfson@time.com

Alice Park, covers health and medicine alice.park@time.com

 

Overview

Dan is the international editor, based and London, and leads on all international coverage, although he is regularly in touch with New York and takes decisions jointly with them.

He spoke about some of the many changes that have been taking place at Time. It was best known as a weekly news magazine but now it is reinventing itself as a global media organisation. The magazine is now fortnightly and distributed in 45 countries although its biggest audience is in the US. But the magazine represents only a small part of the content that is produced. Time have a big online presence with articles, photos, videos and a podcast coming. 90% of their journalism is online only with 10% going in the magazine.

The current owners are Mark and Lynne Benioff from Salesforce and they are investing in the brand, not looking to make money. There is a big push on experimenting and innovation to reach new audiences. They currently have 2m subscribers and the goal is to reach 10m by 2030. One on five subscribers are outside the US.

The online audience is also mainly in the US and they are read by policy makers in Washington and New York. But there is a growing global audience in Europe, Africa and Asia. They employ 120 journalists worldwide with correspondents and stringers.

They are not trying to be a breaking news site. If they report on a breaking news story then they will try and find their own angle so that they have something new to say. They are interested in finding stories that have a wider impact and shed light on global trends. They are quite choosy about the stories they cover.

 

International coverage

Their international coverage is crucial and Dan says that they ‘cover the world with an American accent.’ He explained that they are trying to make connections, explain events and the impact they have. He cited their coverage of Myanmar and Covid in India as being successful and popular with their audience.

 

Climate change

They have had a big push on coverage of climate change with a special issue of the magazine last month and another one coming in the run up to COP26. They are currently planning their COP coverage but one of the issues they are focusing on is the role of the global south. Will leaders from the global south be able to attend COP? Will their perspective be heard? The theme of their coverage is ‘climate is everything.’ They want to show audiences that it affects every aspect of our lives – for example food and diet, educations, archtecture. They want to find stories that make these connections and are surprising or unexpected. One recent climate change story focused on the Rift Valley in Kenya and the way in which lakes are merging, displacing communities and creating climate refugees.

In addition to their online coverage they have a weekly climate change newsletter which reaches an influential audience. The aim of their climate change coverage is principally to reach a mainstream audience. They will be watching COP26 closely. Dan gave us the names and contact details of the climate change team (see key contacts above):

Justin Worland, based in Washington DC covers policy

Aryn Baker, based in Rome, covers the human impacts

Ciara Nugent , based in London, will lead on COP

Alejandro de la Garza, based in New York, covers innovation

With their climate change coverage they have also tried to give young people a platform. They chose Greta as their person of the year and have a strong relationship with her.

 

2030 Project

In January, they launched their 2030 Project with the aim of looking at solutions to some of the world’s key issues such as sustainability, innovation, etc and examining the ways in which the world is changing or needs to change. They have a partnership with the World Economic Forum which has called for a ‘great reset.’ Dan referenced the challenge of meeting the SDGs by 2030. They have created a microsite for this https://time.com/time2030/

 

Pitching

Pitches should be targeted at Time, you should show some knowledge and understanding of what works for them. They should be short and to the point. Think about why this would work for Time and offer exclusivity if at all possible. Pitch as long in advance as you can, especially if you are publishing a report. Pitches can go direct to Dan or to one of his colleagues. He receives hundreds of emails so cannot promise to answer every single one. It’s very unlikely that they will take photos or slideshows or video as they have a big team doing with this. However, if you have a photo that captures something important taking place that may work for them – Dan will pass it on to the photo team.

 

MG, 25.5.21

Watch in full: What have we learnt from international coverage of Covid?

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Briefing Notes: Unreported World & Channel 4 News

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Watch in full: Nevine Mabro at Channel 4 News

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The Media: Where Next? | Watch Full Report Launch Event

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Watch in full: Tim Singleton, Head of International News at Sky News

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Watch in full: Gemma Fox, Deputy International Editor from The Independent

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Briefing Notes: Brand activism with Mark Iremonger

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Briefing Notes: Beyond Today, BBC Podcast

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