The Guardian Media Conference: What is it like working in the Media?

Here is a review of The Guardian Media Conference: What is it like to work in the Media? from the Glasgow event on 18th of October 2005. I wasn’t very impressed and should have spent my time and money staying in Edinburgh reading books, persuing projects, job-hunting and writing.

The long review is in the content box, including suggestions for making it better. Slight problem in how to get this review to the people who matter, and to get them reacting and changing for the better. Now, i wonder if anybody would appreciate that or not. Actually nobody would most likely appreciate it, subject to apathy and inertia from the organisers site and probably scared rabbit like behaviour from the audience.

Guardian Media Conference: “What is it like to work in the Media?”

The Guardian Media Conference “What is it like to work in the Media?” was a total disappointment for me. First of all I discovered I only had 30 pence left in my purse and 12£ in my bank account. Being left in Glasgow with hardly any money, no clue where to go and already getting hungry and graving for a cigarette, i asked nearly every passer-by for directions as there was no address given and finally made it after a lot of searching and guessing to the Bute Hall in the University. Only then I was told that the conference would now take place somewhere else. So I arrived quite late, but luckily enough the doorman was happy with £10 entry fee. I took my seat in the old church hall now transformed into a theatre. Immediately I noticed how narrow the leg space was and how uncomfortable the seats. I had trouble with taking notes.
The audience of about 90 people sat in the theatre seats and the speakers at a table with microphone and mineral water were some 5-10 metres away from the first row. From the first moment on, it seemed to me neither the speakers nor the organisers wanted to make any contact with the audience at all, but were just there to deliver their talk, self-celebrate, get some money and disappear again.
Questions were not allowed in the morning and it seemed impossible to catch any of the speakers before or after their talk. They did not hang around either, and had no name tags attached to their suits. The website of the conference had no contact details either, only information on how to pay. It seemed the whole gist of the conference was rather to preserve their elitism in journalism than to open it up. It was very discouraging actually, rather than empowering or encouraging. Often, the speakers would even repeat themselves or the content of previous discussions.

The chair seemed to be rather ignorant and uninterested in the audience and hardly made contact with us. I don’t know her name either. The atmosphere was rather hostile. However, the other participants of the conference were rather nice to me and we chatted away and helped me out a bit. Participants came from all over Scotland, like Paisly, Inverness, Stirling, Edinburgh and beyond from various different courses, such like Media Studies, Security Studies, Design, gap year after Journalism, English or teaching.

There was no apparant interest from any of the speakers really in the audience, that was particularly disappointing. Though the recruitment consultant specialising in media jobs was at least doing a quiz and giving away some tickets to people who got the answers right.

In the afternoon it was a little bit better, though at that time I was already a bit too pissed-off to try to engage with any of the speakers then. I felt a bit set-up by The Guardian, as it always gives the impression it would be a more ethical media outlet than the other papers and actually care about people at least occasionally, especially as it is a media trust and not owned by a private individual, media conglomerate or share-holding multinational company.

Also most of the time it wasn’t actually about working in the media, it was about getting in. The first section focussed most of the time about pushing advertising and media sales jobs, which I hate. Occasionally, the only journalist on the panel would try to chip in with ideas about blogs, podcasting, rss-feeds, individualised media and digital TV, which was then taken up by the other two in how to include advertising in these new media outlets. I hate advertising. I hate capitalism. I felt really sad, is there no ethical and moral job in the Media possible? Most likely not. Fuck it. Fuck the corporate Media!

The topic of second take was ethics in media. Might have been a good opportunity for the conference to evaluate itself. Instead, we had to cope with a disillusioned, bitter and sad, conservative, ex-Telegraph editor who could not even see that he had done the right thing with his anti-war stance for which he was sacked.

The most positive thing about the 2 lectures was, that at least it was possible to catch the full name and the professional positions of the speakers thanks to Power Point. Not that I like Power Point presentations particularly, however, sometimes they are better than panel discussions. Also at least the talks were structured well and sparkling, even though I don’t like recruitment solutions, but at least we were treated with some video clips and a well enthusiastic, interesting and professional talk with the possibilities of interaction, and the guy had put some efforts and preparation in the talk.
I liked the talk of Matt Locke though, it was so good to have some reference to the Creative Commons licenses and the efforts of the BBC to give something back to its users and build and participate in a community.
However, what pissed me slightly off is that the topic of the Jim Brown talk was actually not about the different “Careers in Media“. I expected to be treated to a good overview of the different positions available and introduction to the structures of media companies from everything from cleaner to printers to secretary to PA to journalist to editor to media owner, instead there was just a separation into “creative” and “commercial” sector, and most of the talk focused on what would the ideal candidate for the recruitment agency be like, along with the assurance that they would not take any penny of the candidates salary.
One of the turn-offs apparently is if the applicant has its own blog and critisises employers on it.

So even if my review would mean I would incredibly narrow my future employability, I would still do it. Because Indymedia gives us the confidence, that


Neither by ourselves or by others. We will continue to resist. May the rest of the world be co-opted and surrender to capitalist forces, may they drown in competition, selfishness and greed, we will continue to fight for what we believe is right.

One of the Guardian people said she would not consider employing a trainee if they would not have their own blog. Wonder if they would look at the content of the blog, too, and I wonder if there would be any censorship or limits to freedom of expression taken. Well the other two panel discussions where nearly the same as “working in the media” ended up very similar to “getting your first job”.

And what pissed me off tremendously even more is that they did not respond to either of my 5 emails asking to give me the name and job discription of the people sitting on the panel so I can share and complete my notes. I asked for it last Wednesday or so, and today it is Sunday, with still no response.

If arrogance, ignorance and being self-centred is the biggest turn-off of prospective job candidates for media jobs, it certainly is for ordinary folks regarding journalists already in the job, too.
As well as the power balance makes it an even more bitter battle in the latter.

How to improve the Media Guardian Conference?

  • more group work like in the Sheffield International Film Festival Newcomer Day

  • everybody should introduce themselves, speakers and audience, and have name badges,

  • lunch and breaks should be held together so there can be some informal talk, too,

  • the speakers should be named at least on a sheet handed out on the day

  • there should be real contact details of the organiser and the chair of the event(s) on the website and the magazine, including telephone number, email and a postal address

  • speakers should include university lecturers/teachers

  • more time for private and public questions

  • cut the advertising talks/speakers

  • have group works according to intrest of audience,

  • have at least a feedback session/questionnaire at the end and take suggestions for improvement seriously

  • have exact location with street name and full address on the website so people know where to go and can show up on the day on the door

  • have a mobile phone contact in case people get lost in search of the conference location

  • put out some signs on the street

  • have the bus connections and public transport connections to the location on the website

  • location to have more comfortable seats with more leg space and laptop and electricity connections and writing facilities

  • make conference attractive to people of all ages, not just the 19 year olds

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