Conference 2012

Society of Editors Conference 2012 
11-13  November, Belfast

THE SoE annual conference – the largest gathering of editors and senior executives from across the UK media – returned to Belfast for the first time in 11 years.

The society returned to the venue for one of its most successful conferences, the Europa Hotel where so many British and foreign journalists were based during the 1970s. 80s and 90s. That conference: 2001: A Media Odyssey made the news as well as debating it.

In the wake of Leveson and with the continuing challenges of how to raise revenue to pay for journalism and as new news platforms proliferate against a tough economic and commercial background, conference 2012: The Way Forward helped editors to find new pathways that will help them look forward with renewed confidence.

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. It was a unique gathering of senior journalists, media chiefs, politicians, lawyers and academics.

Fran Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering at the BBC was succeeded by vice president Jonathan Grun, Editor at the Press Association who took on the role for a second time.

Unsworth said: “Naturally editors have been focused on the Leveson Inquiry which has implications for all parts of the media and continuing challenges and opportunities arising from the economy and rapid technological changes mean we all have to look at new ways to build and retain our audiences.

“Leveson is due to report in the autumn so we debated what that will mean for newspapers and other parts of the media. especially digital platforms. We also looked at the many brilliant ideas editors and their journalists are developing to to help them bring the news in so many different ways to readers, listeners, viewers and surfers both old and new.

“To pinch a thought from that great journalist Charles Dickens whose bi-centenary we celebrate this year “these are the worst of times and the best of times.”*

The conference started with the annual Society of Editors Lecture on the evening of Sunday November 11. The main working sessions took place at the Europa on Monday 12 November with the Gala Annual Dinner in the new iconic Titanic building that is at the heart of the rejuventation of the historic Harland and Wolff shipyard where the tragic vessel was built before its demise during its maiden voyage in 1912.

The conference finished with the now traditional 20:20 Vision Breakfast Seminar and incoming president’s speech on the morning of Tuesday November 13.

We are grateful for the support of Tourism Ireland, Belfast Convention Bureau, Titanic Belfast, Belfast City Council, the Europa Hotel, the BBC, the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and other media organisations in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The conference could not happen without the generous support of Camelot which has been supporting the Society of Editors since 2001.

*“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period . . . “

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) A Tale of Two Cities

11 Nov 2012: Lord Hunt speaking at last night’s Society of Editors meeting, at Belfast City Hall. Picture: Cliff Donaldson