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SOME years ago, I stood in front of a row of paparazzi.

Edwina Currie and Michelle Hodgson

SOME years ago, I stood in front of a row of paparazzi.

As their cameras flashed and they jostled for space, I felt very glad I wasn’t the subject of their interest.

The year was 1997. At the time I was working as a publicist for a book publishing company and I had been charged with promoting Edwina Currie’s latest novel.

Remember Edwina? The politician turned writer who last year appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. She had announced the separation from her husband half way through her publicity tour and her book signing at Waterstones in Harrods had turned into something of a stampede.

So what do you think of when you picture a member of the press? The paparazzi?

The pushy journalist from TV dramas, door-stepping some poor member of the public who has suffered a tragedy?

A serious investigative journalist like the one in the current Channel 4 series Secret State, exposing the crimes of uncaring multi-nationals?

A white knuckled editor leaning on his desk, cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth as he yells at his staff to find the identity of the crime- fighting hero of Gotham City?

On November 29 at 7pm, there will be a public debate at the University of Huddersfield called The Future of Journalism. I thought it would be fascinating to put members of the press and related fields on a panel together in front of an audience – of which you could be part (more of this later). As a member of the Huddersfield Creative Arts Network (HCAN), I’m also keen on any event that promotes Huddersfield and shows what we have to offer here.

The Future of Journalism panel includes Tom Watson MP, who took part in the Leveson Inquiry and famously compared Rupert Murdoch to a “mafia boss”; the editor of the Huddersfield Examiner, Roy Wright; senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Huddersfield, Stephen Dorril; and vice-president of the NUJ, Adam Christie.

We all know that the cartoon stereotype of a journalist is a long way off the mark.

Behind every newspaper, there are the news and investigative journalists, there are the editors and reviewers who specialise in arts, sports, science and other areas of reporting and there is a whole team of behind-the-scenes journalists and admin staff whose job it is to make sure that the paper gets out on time, with as few errors as possible. It’s a fascinating environment to work in – and it’s rare that the public get a glimpse into this world and to ask questions of a panel of experts, as they will at The Future of Journalism event.

A couple of years after my Edwina Currie experience, I joined that behind-the-scenes team. I began as a freelance sub editor – laying out pages, fact checking and correcting other people’s grammar and spelling – working for The Independent features desk, The Independent on Sunday news desk and on The Guardian.

Later, I was offered a permanent job on the TV and radio desk of The Guardian, where I continued as a sub editor and occasional writer. Today I run a copywriting and events company and continue to work as a freelance writer and journalist.

So why have I gone to the time and effort of setting up this not-for-profit event?

Because I think the future of journalism is something that affects us all. Consider how Hillsborough was reported and how the fall out continues today.

Consider how ordinary people who have had something extraordinary happen to them get handled by the worst of the tabloid press. And think about the importance of having a good local newspaper, as Huddersfield is lucky enough to, at a time when many newspapers are closing down.

I hope that you will be able to join us on 29 November. All are welcome, from students and those working in the industry to interested members of the public.

So what about Edwina Currie? We lost touch after her book tour, but I remember turning the TV on in 2002 to see her headlining the news after she had revealed her past affair with former Prime Minister John Major. The paparazzi were, of course, out in force.

The Future of Journalism is a not-for-profit event presented by Key Words and the Huddersfield Creative Arts Network in collaboration with the Journalism and Media department at the University of Huddersfield.

Date: Thursday, November 29, 6.30pm for 7pm start (ends 8.30pm). Reserve your place at www.foj.eventbrite.co.uk or call 01484 430 228. Tickets are £5 (£2 conc) plus Evenbrite handling fee.

If you’d like to ask a question on the night, please book on the event and send your name and question to: michelle@key-words.co.uk

 

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