Newsrooms must constantly innovate to secure their future, says BBC’s Ros Atkins

Posted on: May 17, 2022 by Claire Meadows

Journalists and newsrooms must continuously innovate if they are to maintain a place in people’s lives, BBC journalist Ros Atkins has said.

Speaking at the Society of Editors Future of News conference last week, Atkins said that news is not a given in people’s lives and that reporters can’t assume that people will seek to learn about the world via journalism. Newsrooms must continue to constantly innovate, re-structure and produce content in a format that audiences want to consume it if they are to secure their future, he said.

Atkins said: “It can’t be assumed people understand and value the way that journalism works or why we think that gives the information we produce value. It can’t be assumed that the way we tell stories is the way people want to hear them. Our place in people’s lives is not guaranteed.

“And so when I look at the need to innovate, to reimagine, to restructure what we do – it’s not because change is fun and creative and exciting – though it can be all of those things. For me this is a necessity.

“If you believe in the importance of journalism to our society – and to the world – then actively engaging in what we need to become isn’t optional. This isn’t some distant moment.”

Atkins, the presenter of the BBC’s Outside Source, has seen many of his explainer videos for BBC News go viral. His recent February 2022 explainer on the invasion in Ukraine has more than three million views on Twitter alone.  Discussing the radical shift in recent years in respect of people’s media consumption habits, Atkins told the Society conference that newsrooms must constantly innovate and accept that “not everything is going to work”.

Touching upon his experiences of what had worked and what hadn’t, Atkins said that journalists must continue to ask themselves what help and service they were offering, how their idea was different to existing content or products as well as the digital and social dimension it offered.

He added: “Show them the journalism. Don’t assume people understand why we believe the information we have is of value. Show people the evidence – don’t just assert things. Make the case for journalism. Earn people’s trust. Our processes, our journalism is our greatest asset.”

The Society of Editors Future of News conference took place on Wednesday 11 May 2022 in London. Speakers included the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Daily Mirror editor Alison Phillips, Jonathan Levy, Head of Newsgathering at Sky and Reuters Global Managing Editor Newsroom Simon Robinson. Coverage and photos from the event can be found here.

Read more on Ros Atkins Future of News speech here.