On Monday March 24th, an 80 strong audience of young people aged between 14 – 24 plus professionals, stake holders and interested parties from the worlds of media, education and youth engagement, packed out the lecture theatre at the Free Word Centre for the second in our debate series looking at young people’s trust or lack of trust towards those in positions of authority. The title of this debate Trust in the Media – who do you believe? promised to take a candid look at young people’s feelings towards those responsible for creating and manipulating contemporary news media and pose the questions; do young people feel that their voices are heard? and following on from that, how well they feel they are represented by the news and media?
We split the debate into different sections:
The camera never lies?, What is the News?, How are young people represented in the news? and ending on the question, Do we need to trust the news?
We had a great line up of speakers on our panel of industry speakers: Piers Bradford, Commissioning Editor for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, Derren Lawford, Commissioning Executive for London Live, Angela Phillips, Senior Reader & Lecturer at Goldsmiths University, Ruby Mae Moore, Editor-in-Chief of Amor Magazine and Adam Sich, Senior Producer for Truthloader, ITN’s Youtube News Channel. Dekan Apajee, freelance journalist and media trainer with 10 years experience working at the BBC was our Chair for the evening.
The young voices in the room comprised of 14 – 25 year olds from all over London and we even had a group of students from RSA Whitley Academy in the Midlands, and the voices of some students from Manchester University on whether they trust the news and media and if they think their voices are heard.
In the Camera never lies section, we took a close look at a series of images, including the now infamous photo of Mark Duggan, which though taken at his daughter’s funeral when he was holding a wreath and clearly in disbelief and shock, was cropped to make him look aggressive and thuggish, going viral at the time of his death just before the 2011 London riots. We asked the room whether they could believe their eyes and trusted what they saw online and in papers?
The debate was very interactive with lots of people from 15-70 grabbed the roving microphone and added in their opinions, including Stoke Newington Schools’ Head Girl Eden who said she wished that young people could stop always being represented as ‘gangsters, in hoodies’ and start being celebrated for all the good things they do and contribute to society.
Amor Magazine’s young women’s life style magazine’s Ruby Mae Moore noted that she felt that young people are often mentioned in the news when it’s in response to a negative news story and she wished it would be the other way round.
We also heard from Hacked Off’s Director Brian Cathcart who said that he felt that the news is “stuff we tell each other” and he felt that there are “too many white, middle class blokes” like him responsible for the news and things need to change.”
Despite the fact that we shared the statistic from a recent Demos Report that
“81 percent of young people feel that they are misrepresented by the news and media”
We ended the debate on a positive note.
Jo Glanville Director of English PEN who is a former current affairs journalist and who campaigns for the freedom of speech and the rights of writers and journalists around the globe stood up and gave three examples of what she calls “ground shaking” examples of journalism which have uncovered important stories which needed telling, and otherwise would not have been told namely: The Snowden Files as revealed by The Guardian, the Phone Hacking Scandal, also published in The Guardian, and The Daily Telegraph’s revelations of the ‘MP’s cash for questions’ scandal. Jo pointed out that “all three stories have resulted in seismic changes, including, the loss of jobs, people going to prison and even the closure of a newspaper. ” She said that though we should maintain a “healthy scepticism and distrust” of what we see and hear in the press, that it is still “vital, living in a democracy as we do, that we also allow the freedom of speech for the press and we celebrate the art and craft of good journalism”
Angela Phillips, Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, heartily agreed with her and said she felt – as a teacher – that it was important that we teach the next generation of journalists how to evaluate and trust but not trust the media and to be rigorous in our story telling.
Piers Bradford felt that as commissioning editor who also is responsible for lots of outreach that Trust and their relationship with young people, is the single most important thing that a network like Radio 1 has to have at its heart and soul and as the driving intention behind everything that they do.
Steve Moffitt A New Direction’s CEO argued that 25% of young people in London are unemployed and don’t feel like there are platforms for them to get their voices heard or opportunities out there for them he asked the panel of speakers what they were going to do about it?
Derren Lawford, Commissioning Executive at London Live’s soon to be launched 24 hour entertainment and news station replied that he’s responsible for a daily nighttime slot called ‘Roar’ and that he’s looking for talent and ideas from young Londoners and invited audience members to come and talk to him and send in videos, blogs, ideas for stories, particularly local stories from their London borough.
Finally, young Poet Laureate contender James Massiah rounded off the night with a specially commissioned piece for the evening entitled ‘Media Village” which touched on themes that wove their way through the evening.
For the full podcast of this event, please click here.
This debate was co-curated by Fran Plowright and Free Word Centre in association with English Pen and is part of the Time to Talk Crisis of Trust in Europe series.
Our next debate in the series ‘Trust and New Technology’ takes a candid look at young people’s relationship to new technology and will be chaired by BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney at 6.30pm on Wednesday May 7th.