Channel 4 News front man Jon Snow spoke about the dramatically changing world of journalism that’s shaped his career and how to keep up in his inaugural lecture as visiting professor at Coventry University this week.
“We’re living in a technological revolution which outstrips any industrial revolution before it,” he began – a point that underpinned his lecture, as he led the audience through the milestones of his own career and the effect of technological advances on modern journalism.
The lecture focused on the power of TV throughout the key moments of the last century. Speaking about coverage of the Gulf War, Snow said: “You are watching a shell being fired at the moment it’s being fired and seeing people die the moment at which they die.”
He also spoke about the influence of television on the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ in Europe, as the Berlin Wall came down: “Because of the power of television we had a democratic revolution without a drop of blood being spilt.”
Throughout the talk Snow referred to the extent to which technology has revolutionised international reporting from decade to decade. He spoke about the difficulty of every report from transporting equipment to sending the films through less than reliable channels: “It was a mammoth operation and yet it was called lightweight.”
The difficulty of reporting from Africa was discussed, from his early experiences of meeting Idi Amin to the problems modern journalism faces in the region: “Africa is still very much uncovered, because the communication infrastructure isn’t there.”
Snow went on to talk about the influence of budgeting within the media, suggesting that the cost of acquiring photos and the choices that are made give us a ‘skewed view of the world we live in’.
As the lecture entered the 21st-century, Snow considered the influence of the internet on journalism in particular the abundance of ‘free news’. He maintained that content is king and, weighing in on the paid content debate, said, “People will pay for high quality.”
Journalists need to be inquisitive and driven to be successful, said Snow, and to the aspiring journalists from local colleges and universities gathered, he gave one important piece of advice: “Being a good journalist takes your whole life.”