The Future of Journalism in the Digital Age: A Conversation with Naja Nielsen

On September 2, 2021, Naja Nielsen, the Digital Director at the BBC in London, delivered the Journalism School's inaugural lecture on Science Po's YouTube channel, during which she discussed the journalism of today and tomorrow.

In her talk, Nielsen touched upon a variety of topics such as her personal trajectory and the curiosity required when working in journalism, the role of the journalist and why this profession remains so essential in today's world, as well as the journalism of tomorrow and the influence of digital media on changes in the field. 

"What is really driving you?" Nielsen asked young people during Thursday's live stream. "People get a better life and often have more success if they pursue something that gives them meaning and equals what their inner drive wants them to do."

Indeed, Nielsen embodies this concept well; her inner drive encouraged her to pursue journalism and to work towards improving this field that she loves. By using her own experiences as a framework for reflection, Nielsen linked her observations of her family's experience to the need for journalism to be accessible to everyone. Having grown up in a working-class family and been surrounded by debates on social issues all throughout her childhood, Nielsen pushes back against the idea that journalism be reserved for educated audiences:

"It should not be difficult to consume journalism, but it should make you think, it should spark conversation, and it should make you feel engaged in society."

For Nielsen, journalism is most successful when it uses contemporary technology to allow the greatest number of people to understand what is happening in the world. She used the BBC's journalistic model as an example—which is to say, providing breaking news and context simultaneously—in order to highlight the positive impact that digital media can have on journalism. In her eyes, the profession is just as important as it ever was and she hopes to continue developing it in order to "[hold] power to account, [shed] light on hidden matters, [make] the unheard voices heard, [give] the mic to people with no power or that have a different point of view or perspective. "

In order to ensure that this important task continues, Nielsen reminds listeners that it is the youth—the journalists of tomorrow—who will help define the future of journalism and allow the profession to evolve. For Nielsen, more than anything, the qualities that she looks for in the new generation of journalists are passion and integrity. According to her,

"Good work leads to more good work. It has to be good but you also need to take chances and try something new."

The Sciences Po Editorial Team

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