Conference 2011

Society of Editors Conference 2011
Magna Carta II – a new media charter
13-15 November 2011

Based at Runnymede on Thames on the edge of London where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, the conference focused on media freedom and its role in a democratic society.

The conference is always a hub of media discussion, strategy and vision that has become one of the major events in the media calendar. The conference focused on the experience of editors across all sectors of the media, explored best practice and the best ways of ensuring the media’s freedom to serve audiences in the 24-hour, global media age of the internet.

President of the Society of Editors wass Robin Esser, Executive Managing Editor of the Daily Mail. He was succeeded by vice president Francesca Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering at the BBC.

Esser said: “Lord Patten faces one of the biggest tasks in the UK media, defending the independence of the BBC while satisfying politicians who ultimately control the purse strings that the corporation is meeting the demands of its licence fee-paying audiences.

“With his unique experience on both sides of the public spending balance and of diplomacy, confronting human rights and freedom of expression issues, his lecture will be apposite to all of the concerns that will be at the top of the media agenda this autumn.”

It took place on the evening of Sunday November 13 and the Magna Carta conference continued until Tuesday morning November 15. At the Runnymede – on -Thames hotel at Egham.

The venue is alongside the Thames near Windsor Castle – and the M25 and Heathrow – near to where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215.

The conference focused on freedom – freedom of the media and freedom of expression for everyone.

King John made peace with the barons who threatened his rule and made a start on giving us the freedoms that we treasure and most of the world admires. In the intervening 800 years the people have gradually taken over the rights so reluctantly granted to the barons and embellished them into a blueprint for civilised democratic societies.

But perhaps these hard won rights are too often taken for granted and so they are eroded. Certainly media freedom is threatened from many directions by those who seek to control it or resent its ability to stand up for readers, listeners, viewers, bloggers and tweeters.

Magna Carta guaranteed trial by jury, created inquests into sudden deaths and provided for habeas corpus – no imprisonment without good reason and the publicity necessary to prevent it.

All of those were debated again in 2011 for a variety of reasons and the media which has developed a special and vital role in democracy still has no formal guarantee of freedom to match America’s First Amendment.

Monday 14 November was given over to working sessions on numerous topics with time in between to have met friends old and new. The annual gala dinner followed in the evening for hundreds of media guests. The conference wrapped up with the Tuesday morning 20-20 Vision breakfast seminar and the incoming president’s address.