Journalist and broadcaster Jon Snow visited Bournemouth University to speak to journalism students about his career and the current landscape of journalism in the UK. Jon is the longest serving news anchor for Channel 4 News.
Speaking to students, Jon said, “As journalists the challenge has never been greater and the opportunities have never been greater. Online there are so many opportunities; it is an exciting time to be someone who wants to get into journalism now. To be a hack has always been a struggle, but you’ve got to want to do it, and if you do want to do it very much, you’ll be successful. You’ll be loved, you’ll be trusted, sometimes you’ll be derided but it is a great, great profession.”
Topics covered included the Grenfell Fire tragedy, the decline in local and community journalism, the rise of social and digital media and the privilege journalists have in becoming invested in people’s lives. Jon continued, “Our job is to give a voice to people with no voice.
“To think that the Windrush story breaks in the same year as Grenfell is amazing. Our job is to wake people up and tell them that this is being done in their name.”
When the conversation moved onto new media, such as social media, Jon observed, “We’re mistaken to think of old and new media, the job has actually been made easier now we can Google things! Social media in many ways has also helped us to break through - even your own findings can be disseminated. The digital age has done journalism an enormous amount of good.”
Newsroom diversity was also discussed and Jon is clearly concerned about a lack of connectivity in society as a whole, “25 years ago, the idea of going to university to study journalism was almost impossible. Journalists were often working class and local journalists, and they don’t exist anymore... that is a real worry, there is incredible class disconnection [in this country] and that was brought home to me by Grenfell.”
He also spoke about the role that personal emotion and personal bias play in the newsroom and how the use of emotion in reporting - in instances such as Windrush - can be very powerful. And he shared his own emotional experience as he waited at the prison gates in South Africa for Nelson Mandela to walk free.
The floor was opened quickly for BU students to ask questions of the seasoned broadcaster.
Always aware of popular culture, he even joked about his Game of Thrones namesake, saying ‘he too knows nothing and is also a bit of a bastard’, though with his charming dissection of UK culture and the current media landscape, that became hard to believe.
Students in attendance were from all levels of the university’s journalism courses. The conversation with Jon was hosted by Dr Karen Fowler-Watt, Head of the School of Journalism, English and Communication, she said that she hoped students were inspired by Jon’s visit and thanked him for being so generous with his time and his thoughts, "It was very important to hear a highly respected journalist speak with such conviction about the importance of empathy, sharing with the next generation of journalist that their craft is the most human activity. We all walked out into the sunshine feeling emboldened to produce the very best journalism, since - as Jon reminded us - this lies at the heart of a healthy democratic society".