500 years of News; how it shapes lives and behaviours. Illuminating!
Two and some years ago an email from the British Library arrived. Dr Luke McKernan (also co-editor) requested if I’d be interested in joining its advisory board, and later writing for the book: Breaking The News. I would write about Black Lives Matter and Language.
I was thrilled, and admittedly a little nervous (imposter syndrome). I remember the Ghanaian boy pursuing an Applied Chemistry degree before switching to a career in journalism some thirty plus years ago.
The library’s major exhibition opens on Friday 22nd April. The book
features important figures who’ve been newsworthy or shaped the news, such as Olaudah Equiano, Mohamed Amin and Greta Thunberg and “covers the Covid-19 public information campaigns, the NSA leak by Edward Snowden and the media’s treatment of celebrities from Princess Diana to Jade Goody”. More here
This thing called news whether explicit or implicit governs, impacts or shapes human activity, and the exhibition traces its influences going back 500 years. News is a subjective choice configured around objective reasoning. It’s about power and influence: who decides what’s covered and consumed.
I’ve been involved in professional news gathering from landing my first job in 1990 as a researcher on BBC Newsnight. Since then lots has happened.
I would be in South Africa reporting the country’s transition from Apartheid to democracy and Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on the BBC’s World Service.
Thirty youngsters and I would be part of an experiment called videojournalists. “Could a journalists film, direct, produce and report their own stories?”, the industry asked. I became a producer at Channel 4 News working alongside the legend Jon Snow. Several awards, and countless presentations would follow: China, Russia, Lebanon, India etc.
For Black or brown journalists or academics the perception often appears that collective experience and judgement can easily be overlooked. Hence, I feel both humbled and gratified at the invitation, the exercise of sitting and discussing amongst a group of advisors key decisions, and the 4000 word essay that explores BLM and patterning that, if adopted by others could have concertinaed effects. That’s my meta private thoughts.
The exhibition itself is groundbreaking in many different ways which I hope you’ll have time to experience. It’s hugely admirable that a knowledge institution such as the British Library should provide a perspective outside of the news industry’s ecosystem. Whilst it doesn’t set out to provide explicit answers, it should hopefully elicit deeper enquiry; hence providing talking points and further navigation points around this form of communication.
The exhibition comes at a time when the UK gov has Channel 4 in its sight, and murmurings about the future of the BBC and thus is highly prescient. #journalism