Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

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Reporting the Paris Terror Attacks – Martine Croxall comes to Media Futures

October 12th, 2016

3rd Year Broadcast Journalist Emily Wilkes shares highlights from BBC News’ Martine Croxall’s recent Media Futures Session.

University of Leeds alumnus and BBC presenter, Martine Croxall, recently came to the School of Media and Communication to deliver one of the most popular Media Futures talks the school has held.

Nearly 350 students packed into the lecture theatre to hear Martine’s insight into her role as a BBC presenter on the night of the Paris Attacks, and the editorial responsibilities her and the BBC had to consider whilst reporting live on the tragic events. Croxall was on the air for two and a half hours, from when the first gunshot was heard and then throughout the story as it developed, as more attacks took place throughout the city. This talk was eye-opening for anyone aspiring for a career in journalism, as Martine Croxall did not only give an insight into the atrocities of the Paris Attacks, but shared her advice on the important considerations needing to be taken when working on such a big story.

Croxall discussed many of the important factors a journalist must consider when working on a very fast-paced developing story. For example, remaining vigilant about news sources. In a fast-paced environment it would be easy to believe someone who claims to be an “expert”, but his or her credentials must be examined. Similarly, a journalist must bear in mind that when an eyewitness comes forward, they may only have a micro-view on the story. The Paris Attacks were staged across the whole of Paris, and therefore any eyewitness would only likely have witnessed one of the attacks, and could not give an account of the state of the entire city.

She highlighted that when reporting live on a developing story, such as this, “in the immediate aftermath, most news outlets will get it wrong.” For the BBC and other news outlets, it was the fluctuating death toll, which proved unclear throughout the night; many news outlets published different facts, until much later when a final death toll was announced. It is the media’s responsibility to consistently update their information, as they are made aware of it, so their audience is kept up-to-date on the story as it unfolds.

‘Citizen journalism’ is a phrase we hear a lot nowadays, and if you study a journalism course, you become more aware of its importance. Martine Croxall highlighted how much of the footage of the actual attacks came from citizen journalists, who were able to wield their mobile phones from their pockets as the attacks took place. This is the kind of footage professional media outlets are unable to get themselves, as they would not predict such an event happening.

When asked about remaining steady-minded and almost unsympathetic during the reporting of the Paris Attacks, Croxall stated “people don’t turn on the TV to see me in tears.” She explained how she must remain professional at work, and in the case of the Paris Attacks, the emotions hit her the next day.

Media Futures run every Tuesday afternoon. Check the events listings for details of future sessions.

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