Boniswa Khumalo from South Africa (Left)  Xiaoyu Gu from China (Right)
Boniswa Khumalo from South Africa (Left)  Xiaoyu Gu from China (Right)

I have always had a mild insecurity with proclaiming myself as a journalist. This insecurity comes from the two-fold subjective experiences of being a woman and entering into a profession of ‘endangered species’.  

On my sleepless 12-hour flight to Edinburgh, sitting next to my fellow South African delegate Aaisha Patel, I tried to subdue my groggy state by flicking aimlessly through the in-flight entertainment and I had a realization. Future News Worldwide Conference directors and planners are doing something daring. In a world where journalists have had to rage against ‘the machine’ and learn to embrace ‘the machine’, a conference such as this one welcomes the changing tides that are happening in journalism in our digital era. I say this conference is daring because it happened and will continue to happen during a phase in history where people are communicating differently. 

The conference was hosted at The Scottish Parliament and over a few days I got acquainted with the other fellow delegates, guests and organisers. After reflecting on the whole experience I penned down a few lessons that I learned.

When it comes to the ‘power of storytelling’, which was the theme for the first day, there are three major issues that were interwoven in David Pratt, from The Herald and Anne McElvoy’s, from the Economist talks. Powerful storytelling is about telling a story authentically, through the most effective medium and it is about knowing the ‘language’ of the audience the story is intended for. Like throwing an angled pebble into a pond, I learned that perfecting these criteria will lead to the wanted ripple effect that great stories have. This ultimately fulfils what the purpose of storytelling in journalism: affecting change and affecting understanding.

On the second day, after flossing away the remains for haggis in our teeth, we focussed on the challenges facing journalism. One of the predominant issues is the lack of funding and remuneration that entrant journalists face. After engaging with Christina Lamb, from The Sunday Times and Donald Martin, from Newsquest Scotland, it became clear that the issue of funding is not a millennial issue. Christina Lamb also highlighted the trials of reporting on women, who face harsh censorship in other countries. With the help of a flying conch as a ‘speaking box’, which proved why we all did not choose a career in sports, we tried to unravel other challenges. This included the trauma that journalists face when they are reporting on sensitive issues or in war-torn countries.

Pressing concerns such as fake news were adequately addressed by the workshops by Google News Lab, Facebook and the UK university networks. The workshops equipped us with the tools to curb any journalistic blunders that lead to the questioning of the legitimacy journalism in this content heavy, click bait era we exist in.

Extending past the artistic grounds of the Scottish Parliament I got to explore the city of Edinburgh with delegates from Morocco, Germany, Sudan, Kenya, India, Russia and The Republic of Korea. The late sunsets and short nights threw off our body-clocks but we managed to soak in the castle crested skyline and caught wind of bagpipes playing the air, every now and then. 

This experience has given me the nudge to use my voice to tell the stories of marginalised voices because I have the safety network of peers around the world. After this experience I am slowly gaining the confidence assert myself as a journalist.