It all started when our teacher, Ms Tan Ee Lyn, forwarded us an email from the British Council congratulating us on winning the short-essay competition and a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the Future News conference in Edinburgh. It was a moment that was unbelievable to us.
Reality slowly sank in over the course of the next two weeks as we counted the days to the start of the conference.
On the first day of the conference, we met up with more than 70 young aspiring journalists from over 20 countries at the Scottish Parliament, where the conference, which was organised by the British Council, was held over the next three days. Through the various speeches, workshops, and master classes conducted by industry leaders from the likes of Buzzfeed, Reuters and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the conference proved to be an eye-opener and a fruitful learning experience for us.
A theme that came up strongly across the speeches was the changing landscape of journalism, notably how the role of new media has grown in the last two decades. This provided food for thought on the corresponding changes to the role of journalists. Journalists in the digital age are no longer just writers; they are expected to sell their news on both online and offline platforms to the public, whose attention span is ever shortening.
The speech that had our hearts palpitating and us sitting at the edge of our seats, was the one by Sue Turton, an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered the wars from the frontlines in the Middle East. Through her vivid recollection of her personal experiences, stories and videos about her career as a war correspondent with Al Jazeera News, we were able to learn firsthand and see for ourselves that journalism is not just a job for these journalists, but rather, a way of life in working and fighting for what they believed in.
Of course while we received wisdom from the movers and shakers of the journalism world, speaking to other delegates was a humbling and enriching experience for us as well. The Future News had delegates from countries that we’ve always read about, but have never actually interacted with. For example, we spoke to delegates from Mozambique, South Africa, and Pakistan (amongst others). To them, journalism is their life. It’s not just a story that they can detach themselves from. When we shared with them about Singapore, our grievances about Singapore’s socio-political climate seem rather miniscule against corrupted government, appalling lack of social security, and of course gender inequality. They genuinely believe that they are the new generation that can change their world, mostly through education and social media. Their fiery spirit and compassion for the less privileged in their societies really touched us.
This three day conference in Edinburgh might have been a short stay, but the lessons learnt and international friendships forged will follow us and continue to shape our decisions in the many years to come. Through the speeches and lessons shared by the key speakers during the master classes, we walked away with fresh insights and perspectives on what the spirit of fine journalism entails. We are also grateful to the British Council for the opportunity to explore Edinburgh and get a taste of the way of life in the UK.