media

Christians in Media: The Church Service

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We are delighted to announce that Christians in Media is holding its very first annual Church Service for Christians working in the media on the 10th October at All Souls Langham Place, London.

This addition to our current programme of activities is a wonderful opportunity to come together as a broad, diverse family, to pray together, to celebrate together and inspire the many Christians who work in media with stories of genuine faith and hope. 

Join us from 6pm on Thursday 10th October for welcome drinks and canapés, and we'll kick off our very first church service with worship, prayer, reflections, testimonies and an address from the Bishop of Kensington, Rt Rev Dr Graham Tomlin - plus many other guests.

Lots of details still to be announced in the coming months but we'd love you to save the date to join us for this very special evening.

 

SCHEDULE

6pm | Arrivals, wine and canapes

7pm | Church service opens with worship

8:15pm | Ministry time + tea, coffee and chats 

 

What Does The Media Look Like in 2019?

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When historians write about the current decade what will they say? As it nears its end, it’s a question worth thinking about. Was it the time when finally the seriousness of climate change was recognised? The era when we began to wrestle with the epic proportions of abuse in many of our great institutions? The decade of the explosion of social media and AI? The time in which China assumed its role of global dominance? The era of decline, division and disaster in the former powerhouse of the global economy – the industrialised North.

These questions and more are incredibly difficult to answer without the benefit of hindsight.

Without the gift of prophecy, but with a panel of expert practitioners and theorists, last month Christians in Media attempted to answer a more manageable version of this question… “What will the media look like in 2019?”

Now an annual event, the futurecasting gathering attracted a good crowd in a central London venue to listen to the panel musing on trends in tech, the theology of human relationships in the digital era and how the ancient Good News might have something to say to a wider society which is fearful, overwrought and seeking direction.

The panel was chaired by James Poulter, an expert in social media, voice tech and AI. Fresh from an Alexa conference in Tennessee, James steered the panel through an hour’s worth of conversation which would have lasted much longer. Despite the fissiparous times in which we live, the room buzzed with excitement at the potential for Christian values of grace, truth and hope to infuse the media and, as a result, the rest of society in 2019 and beyond.

Setting the scene, Dr Sara Schumacher, an expert in theology and the arts at St Mellitus College, told the audience that she predicts younger generations will teach older generations how to use media well. Older generations will teach younger generations what it means to be human.

She touched on the idea that people are trying to find their own order in a disorderly world. Most notably, after Netflix aired Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, donations to charity shops doubled - proving that it touched a cord with audiences worldwide.

Picking up on the theme of disorder, Warren Nettleford – an experienced ITN journalist – said “The only known unknown is that we’ll have confusion but we’re not sure what that confusion will lead to.”

“As a journalist we have to be more responsible than ever before,” he continues. “People are looking for other forums and channels to get answers to what they want. There is a loss of trust in established media channels.”

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The multi award-winning Church of England digital team has overseen a spate of innovations in the past couple of years. Amaris Cole is a core part of the team and struck a positive note when telling the room how much progress was being made in the digital space by an institution with a reputation for more bucolic pursuits. Amaris said: “We’re focusing on faith in the home- families are using Alexa devices, we want to help parents to grow faith with their children.”

The Rev Dr Christopher Landau, a former BBC journalist, is part of a dynamic church in Oxford. From his vantage point working with students who have grown up as ‘digital natives’ his reflections were encouraging, stating that lo-fi social media and digital minimalism are among trends to look out for in 2019.

Brexit was never far from the minds of those present, with the uncertainty over what will happen regularly acknowledged as a cause of real anxiety. Yet the overwhelming tone of the panel wasn’t bleak – and maybe that’s what sets apart an event taking place within a Christian framework? Hope was never far from the lips of those asking questions or giving answers. Whether it’s the astonishing ways in which smart speakers now allow the transmission of prayers from an app to the family meal table or the profound way in which Christian theology gives a horizon beyond the backbiting and bile of politics in 2019.

Christians in Media exists for those who work in many fields of both secular and faith media. It has members in advertising, PR, broadcast, social, print, and many forms of digital. One of the things which unites these fields is the way they influence public opinion and mood. In a time of acute discomfort in the political process, the economy and the wider social environment, it’s vital Christians act as salt in the midst of their workplaces. Christians in media environments can often feel isolated which churches can be sceptical of those who work in secular media environments.

This event showed why it’s important Christians remain committed to truth and justice and creating excellent content for wide dissemination. It also showed that we may look back on 2019 as a year of positives as well as negatives.



Church and Media Conference 2018: A Reflection

Our Editor Alastair Tancred describes his day at the Christians in Media annual conference.

The wonderfully well-lit and spacious venue of St Mary’s in London – a church which justifiably prides itself in being free of religion but not Christianity– was the space for this year’s conference.

It was an eventful day from the outset. Arriving guests and delegates received a comprehensive welcome pack which included news that we have been re-Christened with a new and much more appropriate name – Christians in Media.

No sooner had we digested this – along with the delicious biscuits that accompanied our morning coffee – than our ultra-capable Mistress of Ceremonies brought proceedings to a start. Author Vicky Walker kept us on track and on time throughout the day.

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Interview by Chine McDonald with June Sarpong MBE:

Theme: Broadcaster and author June cogently discussed this year’s conference theme – change, diversity and minority voices.

Memorable quotes: [Discussing famous people she had interviewed during her career, including George Clooney and Tony Blair]: “My favourite has to be Will Smith. He’s everything you expect him to be.”

[Speaking of her quandary as to whether she would pursue a career in journalism]: “My mind said follow your dreams.”

[Speaking of getting an MBE]: “It really mattered when I got the MBE. There is not enough representation in a positive light of black people in the media.”

[Speaking about social media]: “Now you can find your audience even if you do not know anyone.”

[Talking about overcoming discrimination in the workplace]: “In the US you cannot be a big company without having a person of colour in a senior position, which explains why a lot of people have moved there. British business and industry is beginning to catch up… Brexit gives us an opportunity to tap into unused talent.”

[Speaking about her Christianity]: “Faith is a big part of my life – I pray every day… I was hit by a car when I was 14 and only got through it by prayer and meditation. It was the beginning of my relationship with God.”

“Christians are seen as weirdos in Britain – we have got to rebrand our faith and make sure we are more open and welcoming… there are so many people in this country who need Christianity.”

Alastair’s comments: June had a wonderfully gentle way of expressing herself. She described her struggle to break into broadcast journalism with no self-pity even though she had to overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles to break into what was then – and some would argue still is – an overwhelmingly male and pale industry. She also movingly described how she overcame her own doubts – and those of her family – about her career choice. She said those reservations were so strong she even had a name for them – “impostor syndrome”.

Breakout Sessions: Ministry of Comms Workshop with Vineyard Director of Communications Mark Crosby

Theme: There are thousands of people in our cities who are unaware that God has a better plan for them. We can make sure they are better informed by using the tools at our disposal more effectively to communicate with them.

Memorable quotes: “Prayerful planning prevents poor performance.”

“Every time you communicate, you are asking people to take one more step into an adventure of God’s making.”

“Millennials are seeking authenticity – someone who can articulate ‘this is who we are’.”

“Always try to use language so as to make quite clear what you mean – make sure your sentences could not mean anything else.”

[When using social media as a means of communication]: What is the message you are trying to convey? Who does it need to reach? Where can you find them? When is it best to say it?

“People forget data information but stories stay with us for a long time.”

Alastair’s comments: Mark is a master of his trade who obviously has a heart to reach out to the poor and dispossessed. In Jesus’ time we were encouraged to proclaim our message from the rooftops, but today we have to think how the same objective can be achieved through well-devised media strategies and social media.  

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Panel Discussion: What Does God Look Like On TV?

Theme: With the BBC announcing a “Year of Beliefs” in 2019 comprising specialist programming and documentaries about faith and religion, the panel discussed how this would affect the representation of faith in the mainstream media. Participants in the debate chaired by the Rev Kate Bottley included Songs of Praise Producer Mark Warburton, ‘More Tea Vicar? Author the Rev Bryony Taylor and BBC Project Director Mark Friend.

Memorable quotes: Mark Friend stressed that broadcasters must strive to appeal to a wider group of people when it comes to faith issues “a broader audience” was needed to be attracted by “new creativity”.

Bryony Taylor argued that it was good that faith issues were cropping up more in everyday TV – including numerous dramas that had featured vicars in various guises – because there was a level of public indifference and ignorance about Christianity.  She described wearing a dog collar in a supermarket queue and being asked by the checkout woman how long she had been a nun.

Mark Warburton said that some people watch Songs of Praise – which often has a bigger audience than the total number of people who go to church – on Sundays before they themselves going to church. “But I prefer people who do not go to church [to watch the programme] than those who do.” He said that social media and digital are playing a key role – if you can do social media well, you can experiment with new kinds of content.

Alastair’s comments: The three expert panelists were in a way all singing from the same hymn sheet. Faith broadcasting is a challenge in the 21st century and no one should be under any illusions as to how hard it is to retain and attract new audiences. The fate of the BBC’s Something Understood programme is testament to that.

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Panel Discussion: Future-proof

Theme: Our panel of experts explored what next year will bring for new technology in the media in a discussion chaired by Christians in Media’s James Poulter. Those on the stage were the Church of England’s digital supremo Adrian Harris, the Rev Liz Clutterbuck and the BBC’s head of Voice Mukul Dewichand.

Memorable quotes: Adrian Harris pointed out that the Church of England has now gone truly digital, and new technology was the bedrock of its evangelism, discipleship and common good campaigns.  He said a key objective now is to reach out to irregular church goers through new technology, pointing out that 40 percent of households in the UK next year will own a smart speaker. He said there now tremendous opportunities “to use digital [technology] to bring people into a relationship with God”.

Liz Clutterbuck said that a key decision recently was the decision by the Church of England to launch a Common Prayer daily worship app. She said this was so significant because it makes accessible something that previously “was only available in a lonely church”. Now anyone who wants to can have access to daily prayer, with the Alexa speaker even on hand to say The Lord’s Prayer or Grace ahead of meals.  But she cautioned that “Alexa cannot administer Holy Communion, because the sacraments cannot be downloaded to a device”.

Mukul Devichand said that the BBC was testing a number of different types of new technology, especially in relation to smart speakers and the kind of ways they can respond to the queries of children. He said that the future lies in algorithmic and personalised content. He said that we in the media are now entering an era where things are getting much more sophisticated. But we are still awaiting what he described as as “a killer app in voice” that will dominate the market.

Alastair’s comments: Adrian Harris could not have put it more eloquently. Christianity is never more relevant than it is today and if we are to proclaim our faith successfully we must use devices like Alexa and other forms of Artificial Intelligence to bring people into our community.

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Breakout Session: The basics of Filmmaking with Susie Atwood

Theme: In an hour Susie went through a beginners’ guide to taking better video – either with an iPhone or with a more sophisticated camera.

Memorable quotes: “Think about whether you’re going to film in landscape or portrait. Are you going to use a tripod? Remember that sound is almost as important as the video and not to leave too much headroom as you frame your picture. Simple is best.”

Alastair’s comments: It’s no easy task teaching people the basics of film-making in an hour – the BBC take several days to do it. But Suzie made an exceptional effort, skilfully reminding her audience that before they even start they must figure out what is the purpose of their film, who is it for, how long should it be, what is the desired outcome and best approach?  

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Panel Discussion: Glass Ceilings And Pay Gaps - What Changed And What Still Needs To Change For Women In Media?

Theme: An assessment into what challenges women in the media have faced and what obstacles still confront them in 2019. The panel was chaired by WTalk founder Tobi Olujinmi and comprised the Rev Sally Hitchiner, The Telegraph’s Lucy Denyer, Prof Tina Beattie and journalist Tobi Credein.  

Memorable quotes: Sally Hitchiner [Talking about the success of Love Island]: “We love to see beautiful people and deconstruct them to our own lives to see if it could fit. We are people scratchers… Celebrities sell products that have a longer shelf life than they do.”

Tobi Oredein pointed out that we live in a “Kardashian era” where traditional ideas of married people being loyal, romantic and intimate with another are fast becoming outdated. She called for positive discrimination to assist people of colour in the workplace.

Lucy Denyer – a mother of three - pointed out that a key reason for the gender pay gap related to women who lose out because of child bearing. But she said things were changing, and that in 10 years’ time young mothers would find the work place to be more accommodating than it is now.

Tina Beattie: “The gender and pay gap is unjust, but more unjust is the sight of obscenely rich and overpaid people on our streets and the huge economic injustices that exist in our society.”

Alastair’s comments: It was sobering for me as a middle aged, middle class white man to hear of the struggles these admirable women have overcome to get to where they are today. We men have not made it particularly easy for women of any background or class to work in the media, yet at no point did this formidably talented panel remind us that we should repent for past misdeeds.

Special Screening of The Wait By Susie Atwood

Theme: Susie’s documentary The Wait follows the lives of Syrian Christians who escaped oppression in their homeland to take refuge in Lebanon.

Alastair’s comments: Susie’s film superbly captures the tension among the refugees as they nervously wait to find out if their visa applications to seek a new life abroad have been accepted.

We loved seeing you at this year’s conference, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on our sessions in the comments below!

MediaNet Meets: Tobi Olujinmi

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We're thrilled to welcome a new trustee to the MediaNet this month, former lawyer now founder of entertainment and faith network The W Talk. We asked her a few questions to introduce herself to our wonderful community of fellow Christians in media!

Tobi, tell us about when you first became a Christian.

My Nan was a huge part of my life growing up. When I was 16 , she had a massive health scare and I challenged the God, I always heard my mum praying to. I asked him to miraculously heal my Nan and let me know it was him. Despite the close call, my Nan survived and I knew in my heart that it was a loving God who was ultimately responsible for her healing – he had kept his promise. Since then, I have never looked back and I have discovered that, everything I need is in him.

You qualified as an attorney in New York, what was that like and why there?

Yes, I qualified as an Attorney at Law in 2013, which was an adventure to say the least. I have always had an interest in media and entertainment and thought that the US would be where I would launch the commercial side of that career.

You worked for a London-based legal firm for three years, then you gave it all up. Tell us about that!

Apart from working in the legal field, I speak publicly, typically at Christian Conferences – I love it, and am humbled to be used by God in this way. There tends to be a moment of such joy and peace at Conferences, but I found myself asking – what’s happens next? Who occupies their minds next? Who has a major say in the climate of culture? Who controls trends? For me, the answer was media. I knew the time had come for me to attempt to use all that I had learnt commercially and learnt on the Christian and merge the two together. I am passionate about the stories of faith being in the global mainstream space.

How difficult was it to leave the law and begin something so very different?

It has been a steep learning curve, but it has been an exciting adventure and I look forward to what’s next.

Has your legal background helped you to set up this new venture?

It has assisted me with the commercial aspect connect to Intellectual Property. I have also been able to stay in contact with colleagues who have been a blessing to our Start Up and development of the app.

You speak at conferences across the world, who would you say is your primary audience?

At the moment, my primary audience tends to be women and reminded them of the power of their faith and God. It really is one of my favourite things to do, once I get passed the nerves.

What does the future hold for Tobi Olujinmi?

Right now, it is growing W TALK, the start-up that I run, our app launches soon and willcomprise of shows, podcasts, devotionals, and community discussion. I am really excited about how this will contribute to changing the global perspective on faith-based entertainment. I am also happy to now be a trustee at The MediaNet and getting stuck in there.

You can follow what Tobi's up to over on Twitter, and find out more about The W Talk on their website!

5 Traits of a Good Leader

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In your role within the media industry, you have the opportunity to be a trusted voice for God, glorifying Jesus in what you say and do. Below are five qualities that good leaders possess. Will you aspire to and work towards these?

1. You ask God what His vision is

Ask God what His hopes and plans are for you and your area of responsibility. If you’re leading a team, ask Him to guide you in your relationships with the people reporting to you. If you’re developing a new script, ask for creativity, imagination and divine inspiration.

Listen intently to the heartbeat of God. Remember that you can’t do everything, so commit to acting on specific things God speaks to you about, and pray that others will rise to lead in those areas of the media where you cannot reach

2. You listen and serve

Ask your team members what they think needs to be done and research your area of expertise. What processes should be maintained and what practices should be changed? Are there communities underrepresented in your newspaper? Are there workflow processes that are inhibiting, not aiding, your team’s ability to work?

See the need, understand the challenges, and do something about it. Don’t let goals and outcomes become so consuming that you forget to serve the people you lead.

3. You take responsibility

Servant leadership shouldn’t be a passive activity, waiting until someone else asks you to do something before you act. A good servant leader will be proactive, intentionally stepping into the gap and taking action where it is needed. They are not power-hungry, but nor do they wait for instructions; they use their initiative and act on behalf of those they lead, where others might walk away.

If a colleague in your production crew or social media team falls ill, can you offer to temporarily take over their workload? Refuse to give in to the idea that it is always someone else’s problem – if you leave it to someone else you’ll be left following their vision instead of God’s.

4. You never stop learning

Good leaders learn from people who have gone before them, from those at the chalk face who they are leading, and from their own experiences, good and bad. Is there an experienced press officer, photographer or producer who you could ask to be your mentor? Everything won’t go right all at once; be humble enough to acknowledge areas for growth and then build your competency in that area.

Learn and grow by doing. Hebrews 11 is a list of ‘heroes’ of faith – scared people who felt unprepared and had made bad decisions in the past. But they trusted God enough to step out in faith and begin doing what He had called them to do. If you have the opportunity to work on a new project outside of your comfort zone, ask God if this is an opportunity for you to learn and grow.

5. You speak out

When something needs to be said, step up to the microphone. This applies to those who have an external audience, such as journalists and presenters, as well as those who don’t, for example sound technicians, camera operators, and the like. Has your documentary work given you a heart for a social justice issue you could champion? Is there an internal matter, perhaps a damaged relationship in your team, where you could play a role of reconciliation and peace?

You serve under the authority of God and are committed to speaking with that authority into the place to which God has called you. But make sure you speak with wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and not rashly or in anger (Proverbs 13:3, James 1:19).

Earn the right to lead and speak by establishing credibility: work hard, know the facts, and demonstrate your commitment.

Abi Jarvis is Public Leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance. Find out more at thepublicleader.com, @PublicLeaderUK on Facebookand Twitter, or email hello@thepublicleader.com