Channel 4 news anchor, Jon Snow, last night made a plea for management to give journalists more time to get out of the newsroom and allow them to “get stuck into the real world”.
Giving the annual Hugh Cudlipp lecture, Snow contrasted the demands of the present day with his experience in Uganda for ITN in 1976, where the impossibility of producing film quickly meant he could produce emotive journalism unconstrained by deadlines or time.
"The speed and pace of what all of us is doing is starving television journalists, in particular, of the opportunity to develop the stature and presence of our forebears.
“These were people who had days in which to prepare their stories, dominated a tiny handful of channels and became iconic figures in the medium," he said.
Snow said it was important for broadcasters to give their reporters "time in the real world. Bosses must carve out time for journalists to get out of the newsroom.”
And he used the lecture for a very personal note to press home that point.
“If I’m any good as a journalist, it is not only because I have travelled to more than a hundred countries to report, it is in part because I am rooted in the New Horizon
“This is a day centre of homeless and vulnerable young people. The Centre is located in Kings Cross. I can make a confession here tonight.
“Over my 35 years with ITN and Channel 4, have stolen time from my employers – a lunch hour here, a diversion on my way back from a story there: a half hour here and hour there to go the Centre and carry out my duties as chair. I was director there before I became a hack.
“It is fortunately ten minutes from my home, and ten minutes from my workplace, and it is a completely uplifting thing every time that one goes there.
“It is also, of course, a very humbling thing, and a thing that reminds you that there are people who are deeply excluded from the world in which many of us live.
“Leveson should recommend many of the people and institutions that have been before him find a way of allowing their staff to get stuck into the real world, it will vastly improve and deepen their journalism.
"We journalists are not a breed apart – we must be of the world we report. The hacking scandal reveals an echelon of hacks who removed themselves from the world in which the rest of us live – they took some weird pleasure in urinating on our world.”
Looking to the future, Snow declared: “ As we look at this wonderful new media world in which there are ever more people of every age who need and search out what we do: online, on air.
“The driver is the ever-expanding hunger for news and information – we can count on it, we can invest in it. We have to hold our nerve and we have to be open with the world about what we are doing.
“We will survive by doing it better and in concert with our consumers than anyone else – if we fail them, they will leave us -that’s the market.
“If we get it right they will join us in ever greater numbers – the money will most assuredly follow the numbers – if it doesn’t we really have seen the birth of a new capitalism!”