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An Interview with Justin Webb, BBC Journalist

School children "need to have an understanding of technology and a feeling for how they can use it," says Justin Webb, BBC Journalist and co-presenter of Radio 4's 'Today' Programme, speaking to Double First.

In an interview with Simon Jones, Double First Marketing Manager, Mr Webb explained that technology is 'crucial' for success in the future of broadcasting and that this needs to start early.

Mr Webb had been asked to speak at the BSA 2010 annual conference at the Barcelo Imperial Hotel in Torquay. The conference carried a theme of 'Optimism and Realism' and was attended by Headteachers of boarding schools all over the UK.

Recognising the new era of mass communication for people starting in journalism today, Mr Webb explained that school-leavers could not 'learn it on the job,' as he did himself, but they need to have an understanding for technology and a feeling for how they can use it.

Mr Webb also explained to Double First how the boarding school he attended (Sidcot School in Somerset) prepared him for the 'rigours and hardships of life'.
The full transcript of Double First interviewing Justin Webb follows:

Simon: Justin Webb, thank you very much for speaking here at the BSA conference tonight. What is it about BSA that convinced you it was a good idea to speak here?

Mr Webb: It's a wide ranging organisation which represents not just private schools but state schools as well. I was a boarder at Sidcot School which is a Quaker school and I had happy times and sad times. There are reasons for boarding that are sometimes very compelling and equally it's not right for some children. It’s a fascinating idea and I’m interested in talking to schools and keeping in contact with school heads and this is a good way of doing it.

Simon: And you think that Sidcot prepared you for career in journalism?

Mr Webb: Yes, it did. It prepared me for a career in journalism. It also prepared me for the rigours and hardships of life. Jonathan Aitkin very famously said he didn't worry about going to prison when he was disgraced as an MP because he'd been to boarding school and I have a fellow feeling with him.

Simon: How do you see technology helping school children who are interested in journalism?

Mr Webb: This is the really crucial thing. I am convinced that if you're going to make it in broadcasting in the future you need to have started early and have a sense of fellow feeling with the technology and it needs to be a part of you.

It's no good in the future doing what I did and learning it on the job. You've got to have and understanding for technology and a feeling for how you can use it because theres no doubt at all that, and who knows what someone growing up now is going to be using in the way of technology in journalism but the changes have been so huge you can't just hope to learn it from a manual. You've got to live and breathe it.

You've got to have an understanding of how you can use it. You've got to understand, for instance, the possibilities now of social media, and you've got to have an enthusiasm for it because if you don't and you're in broadcasting, you'll die and will lose audiences and won't get to people and that, after all, is what broadcasting's all about, it's getting to people and communicating, and if you're not really good with the technology you won't be able to do it.

Simon: There is much talk of convergence in journalism (print journalists becoming Internet journalists and then video journalists). What would you say to a budding journalist about to leave school looking at the future of journalism?

Mr Webb: If you want to be a journalist you must like language. Don't go into journalism if you don't have a feeling for language and a sense of enjoyment of using it whether you're speaking it or writing it or whatever you're doing.

You've got to have that enthusiasm for communication and if you don't have that you're not going to be much of a journalist. If you do have that don't worry, don't fixate on whether you're going to write or do what I did be on the radio, that's not an important thing.

The important thing for a young person thinking about journalism is a) do I enjoy communicating and b) do I get a pleasure out of words and out of using them in an interesting and crunchy way that makes people take notice. And then only c) d) or e) do I think about whether I want to do radio or television.

Simon: And finally, we have an emergence of text-message English and Internet-English. Where do you see Traditional English heading?

Mr Webb: I don't see this as a threat. I very much take a view that language is about communication and it changes over time.

I've come back from America having spent eight years there and I use Americanisms sometimes and sometimes these rather grate on people and you change it again but I think generally over time language changes and we will take on many of these shorthands as being absolutely integral parts of our language.

Simon: Justin Webb, thank you very much for your time.

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