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Matt Williams – Head of Home News, ITV News

Three more fantastic speakers, three more fascinating insights into the ever-shifting world of broadcast news. Shout! Communications was delighted to host another Big Talk; first up was former RTS Young Journalist of the Year Matt Williams, now Head of Home News at ITV News.

Matt has been with ITV since 2002, meaning he has watched a national broadcaster remould its broadcasting methods to fit the digital age. This blog will examine his main talking points on the subject.

His first point was to confidently assure the Big Talk attendees that broadcast, in particular TV news, is still the most powerful and effective form of delivering information to a large audience in one sitting.   ITV’s ratings have risen 3 years in a row, with over 7 million viewers nationwide across their platforms – it is certainly not being tarred with the same brush as print journalism.

The most important issue facing TV journalism, however, is its ever-changing relationship with the social sphere. Matt described the world now as being “full of citizen journalists”, which is now a constant consideration in the modern broadcast landscape. Twitter and Facebook are now important digital tools for journalists, and Matt made reference to the emotive and harrowing footage of Lee Rigby’s murderer acquired from a witness for an ITV exclusive. The drama of this footage could not have been recreated by a news crew, but was viewed on live television by millions shortly after it happened thanks to ITV quickly sourcing the content.

Another observation Matt made, in light of the Trump campaign and rise of ‘fake news’, was that as well as being a crucial news-gathering tool in the arsenal of a modern broadcast journalist, social media is now considered a creator of news itself. He described the limitless audience as a “moving target” that consumes content on the go. ITV have to constantly re-evaluate their distribution techniques and platforms to hit that target. He highlighted an example of a short interview clip in the aftermath of the Manchester attacks which was repackaged for social media. 14 million views later, the news team realised the capacity of social with incidents such as this, so they filmed another interview with the same man purely for their Facebook page. These digital ideas and commissions are now starting to reflect back into the traditional TV news agenda; “it’s not just a one-way street”, as Matt neatly put.

Journalists have to be constantly aware of what makes news travel across digital platforms, but Matt believes that in the coming years, with such a turbulent news agenda on the horizon, TV journalists will remain at the heart of current affairs coverage. Certainly, in his role as Head of Home News, Matt is prepared for a busy time in the lead-up to the Brexit deal being agreed. Curated content from trusted news organisations will be more important than ever when cutting through the sea of information available to us. The goalposts have not moved for journalists, it’s simply the rules by which they play that have changed.

Many of Matt’s points led very neatly into Richard Gaisford’s talk, where he looked at the leaps in broadcast technology that have dramatically altered the way TV news is both produced and consumed. You can read a blog on his talk next week.

Alternatively, you can watch the entirety of the talk on our YouTube channel here, and watch all of our previous Big Talks too.

Our next Big Talk will be in March 2018 – stay tuned for more information!

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