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Review: The Student Media Summit 2018

Entering its eleventh year, the 2018 Student Media Summit (led by NUS at Amnesty International in London) promised to be ‘a must for any student with an aspiring career in journalism’.

For £5, the two-day event is certainly well-valued (and who can say no to free M&S, Pret and Pizza Express food included in the price?). The keynote speakers Ian Hislop, Nawal Al-Maghafi and others meant the event largely lived up to its hype.

The Diversity panel... was scheduled behind a glorified advert

That’s not to say the event ran without its flaws. Halfway through the first day,  the NUS representatives opted to plug their replacement for the NUS Extra card, creatively entitled Totum. Their motive was clear- promoting a student-oriented product to student journalists for some free promo. The issue wasn’t so much the blatant product promotion or the delivery, it was in its timing; the press briefing came directly before a Race and Diversity in Media Panel and BBC News’ Nawal Al-Maghafi’s talk. The Diversity panel discussed the difficulty of breaking into the higher echelons of the industry based on racial prejudice, although they were scheduled behind a glorified advert.

The additional half an hour added to the afternoon meant some students had left the auditorium as Newsnight's Al-Maghafi took the microphone. Perhaps moving the so-called ‘NUS Press Briefing’ to the end of the summit would have been a better decision for all parties.

Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop lived up to all expectations to bring the curtain down

That being said, the keynote speakers, panels, and workshops that the students actually registered to see and listen to overshadowed this. Lindsey Hilsum- a late replacement for Jon Snow- set the tone for the event with her anecdotes of war reporting, while Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop lived up to all expectations to bring the curtain down. Discussing his rise into satirical journalism, the absence of women on the panel of ‘Have I Got News For You’ and everything in between, an hour of Hislop alone would have been worth the paltry registration fee.

The available workshops in between covered a wide range of topics across the spectrum of radio, print and digital publishing. The personalities leading the sessions were interesting and engaging, although on the whole they could have done more to make the sessions more interactive. In some cases, they came across as slightly smaller versions of the main lecture theatre-style talks, with some students being resigned to sitting on the floor or standing outside of an open doorway to attend the session at all. This is despite the event being oversubscribed, with over thirty people being turned away and put on a waiting list.

One of the most important points raised was the ongoing work of Amnesty International to protect and encourage journalism on a global scale. From the beginning, efforts were being made to promote the case of Egyptian journalist Shawkan, who was imprisoned in 2013 reporting on a protest in his homeland. Amnesty's involvement in the Student Media Summit provided a stark reminder of the suffering of freedom of expression worldwide and how more needs to be done to protect it. 

In between the two days of the conference, the location of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Centre in Shoreditch was both student-friendly in terms of entertainment, and more importantly, surprisingly cheap! For Zone One London, £25 for two nights in the Dictionary Hostel isn’t too bad. There was a social event put on at the end of the first day, although in a couple of hours of walking and tube-catching it was possible to see the tourist sights of the capital for those who aren’t London-based.

The culmination of a largely well-organised, cheap and genuinely interesting event supported by high-profile figures makes the event accessible and important for any aspiring journalist. After eleven years a few of the issues could and should have been ironed out beforehand, especially the issue of space in the workshop rooms, though I’d foresee the Student Media Summit continuing well into the next decade. Certainly worth attending for any student media members!  

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