Conference 2020

November and December 2020

About the conference

The Society of Editors (SoE) held its Virtual Conference through the months of November and December in 2020.

The conference reached its finale on December 3, ending on a high note with a keynote discussion with Managing Director of the Independent, Christian Broughton.

The final session brought to an end five weeks’ worth of discussions, panels and debates covering topics as wide-ranging as Mental Health in the Newsroom, Diversity in the News Media and the Protection of Journalists.

The Society’s annual conference usually takes place each autumn with the nation’s news media gathering to debate the most important topics facing the industry. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the decision was taken to spread the events across several weeks creating a digital record of the discussions.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society said: “When we realised the Society’s conference would have to be a virtual event this year we were determined to ensure the annual must-attend event in the media calendar would not disappoint.

“Thanks to the enthusiasm and professionalism of our strong list of panellists and chairs I believe that not only did we achieve our aims but surpassed them.

“I must thank all those who participated for their tremendous input, our sponsors Camelot and Facebook, and also everyone who joined us for all or some of the sessions.”

Scroll down to see how you can watch all of the debates and discussions as well as read the full news coverage of the series.

The highlights of our free event programme included:

  • Five keynote speaker discussions with major industry figures.
  • Three panels looking at Diversity in the News Media, Media Training and Mental Health in the Newsroom.
  • Five nations and regions debates: Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, North East England and The Midlands.

Catch up with the news releases and re-watch our events

Christian Broughton: “surprised year by year” that more titles are not following The Indy’s success in moving online-only

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It is a surprise “year by year” that more titles have not followed The Independent’s success in moving to a digital-only platform, the title’s newly-appointed Managing Director has said.

Speaking to the Society of Editors (SoE) Executive Director Ian Murray to close the keynote discussions of the Society’s Virtual Conference for 2020, Christian Broughton, former print and online editor of The Independent, sat down with the SoE, in conjunction with the London Press Club, to discuss his priorities for the year ahead, the Independent’s investment in its TV brand and international expansion, the demand for “trusted sources of news” during the pandemic and America’s “polarised” relationship with the press. Read more >>


Culture of unpaid work experience not healthy, says leading journalism training panel

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The culture of unpaid work experience that exists in the journalism industry is not healthy and must end, a leading training panel has said.

Closing the debates as part of the Society’s Virtual Conference for 2020, the ‘State of Training’ panel, in conjunction with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), discussed the future of journalism training and topics including the pandemic’s impact on courses and learning, the Facebook Community News Project extension, apprenticeships and the online abuse of journalists. Read more >>


Unique threats and challenges to Northern Irish media, debate hears

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The debate – Northern Ireland: A Place Apart – heard from a panel of media experts on how the province tackles unique threats and challenges for its media.

The panel heard how it was normal for journalists to have to undergo extreme security measures at their homes to protect them from the threats from paramilitary groups and criminals. Read more >>


Platforms must allow “legitimate debate” around Covid vaccines, says Media Minister

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Platforms must have mechanisms in place to allow legitimate comment and debate around issues such as future coronavirus vaccine treatments, the Media Minister has said.

Speaking to SoE Executive Director Ian Murray, John Whittingdale MP discussed topics such as efforts to tackle the dominance of social media giants, the progress and scope of online harms legislation and abuse against journalists online.  Read more >>


Appointment of government spokesperson must not result in erosion of ministerial access, says ITV News Editor

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The appointment of Allegra Stratton as the government’s official spokesperson must not result in an erosion of journalistic access to ministerial figures, the editor of ITV News has said.

Speaking to SoE Executive Director Ian Murray, Corp discussed topics such as the role of broadcasters and polling during the recent US Election, the importance of opinion in journalism and the necessity of diverse representation on and off screen, the role of digital platforms in attracting new audiences and ITV’s priorities for the year ahead. Read more >>


Media scrutiny has been harmed by Covid-19 crisis: SoE debate finds

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The ability of the media to scrutinise those in power during the pandemic has been severely hindered, a debate on the importance of free press during the Covid-19 crisis heard yesterday.

Panellists taking part in the Scottish nations debate spoke of frustration at delays in providing information under Freedom of Information requests and the effect of executive decisions on how the public were being kept informed during the crisis. Read more >>


Threats to reporter’s children raised in SoE Conference on online abuse

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A panel discussing threats to journalists heard how a reporter’s children had been threatened in one of the most shocking examples of abuse being debated as part of the Society of Editors’ Virtual Conference.

The exchange was made to The Chronicle’s Newcastle United Football Club editor in response to a comment about a player’s performance. Helen Dalby, Reach’s Audience & Content Director for the North East told the panel discussion of the incident where the abuser had tweeted ‘respond, or your children won’t return from school.’  The tweet had been reported to both Twitter and the police. The abuse was removed, but no further action was taken, she explained. Read more >>


Remote access to court hearings likely to take “one step back” confirms Lord Chief Justice

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Despite the strides made around remote access to court hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic, the justice system is likely to take “one step back”, the Lord Chief Justice has confirmed.

Speaking to SoE Executive Director Ian Murray, Lord Burnett of Maldon said that while he was “an enthusiast for open justice” careful consideration needed to be given before enabling extensive remote access to hearings moving forward. Read more >>


Society diversity debate calls for more representation at the top of the industry

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Ensuring there is more diversity at the top of the editorial newsroom structure not just at entry level is essential to meet the challenge of creating a media that reflects society.

Chaired by Polly Curtis, managing director of PA Media, the panel sought to explore practical ways and measures that the news media industry could take to meet the challenge of improving diversity in newsrooms as well as content. Read more >>


Responsibility of whole media to educate public on democratic position of devolved nations, panel hears

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Discussed on Monday 16 November as part of a panel debate looking at ‘The Size of Wales’, Paul Rowland, Audience and Content Director at Media Wales said that, when considering media coverage of the Covid pandemic, it was important, alongside titles based in Wales, for titles produced in England to also report on Welsh decision-making comprehensively and accurately. In comparison with Scotland, he said, Wales did not historically have a lot of Welsh-based titles and, as such, the responsibility also lay with the English media to accurately reflect the way decisions were being made at a devolved level. Read more >>


BBC must embrace diversity and explore new mechanisms for engaging with audiences, says Kamal Ahmed

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The BBC must embrace diversity and inclusion and continue to explore different mechanisms for telling news stories in order to better engage with its audiences, the corporation’s Editorial Director has said.

Speaking to SoE Executive Director Ian Murray, Kamal Ahmed said that by continuing to promote diversity and inclusion and by BBC News listening to its audiences and exploring different methods of telling news stories, it was hoped that it could re-engage with those that no longer recognised themselves in its news coverage. Read more >>


Issues with government communications “at every step” during pandemic

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Journalists have experienced issues with government communications “at every step” since the start of the pandemic, the Society of Editors has heard.

Leading journalists in the Midlands said that despite officials having “a thankless task” at the start of the pandemic, communication had been “chaotic” at times and there had been ongoing problems with both central and local government communications during the crisis. Read more >>


Covid has highlighted depth of mental health issues in newsrooms

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The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the depth of mental health issues in newsrooms but offers the chance for important changes to take place to help journalists cope with the challenges.

That was one of the themes discussed at the first panel debate of the Society of Editors’ Virtual Conference 2020: Mental Health in the Newsroom.

The panel, chaired by SoE President Alison Gow, heard appeals for changes in the way in which journalists are expected to carry out their duties and the type of stories the industry focusses on, to encourage more “empathy and humanity.”  Read more >>

Resources on Mental Health in the Newsroom >>


Visit the programme to view all of the events. Find out more about our speakers here