Testimonials of the Study Tour to London

The best projects of our Workshop on Misinformation and Propaganda for Hungarian students were awarded with a study trip to London. Students Renáta Gajdos, Blanka Kovács (both from the Department of Media Studies at ELTE) and Ákos Szegőfi (from CEU), together with CMDS’ Senior Program Officer and Researcher Éva Bognár and Outreach Coordinator Róbert Németh had the opportunity to visit the BBC, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian. 

Read the testimonials of two students:

RENÁTA GAJDOS: “I UNDERSTOOD THAT FIGHTING FALSEHOOD IS NOT THAT SIMPLE”

"Thought-provoking, intriguing and inspiring" – I can describe our trip to London with these three words. For me, it was especially exciting not only because we visited three of the most intriguing media outlets – BBC, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian – but also because it was my first time in London. 

At the workshop, we talked a lot about debunking misinformation, experts explained its mechanism and we tried to figure out how to prevent the spreading of fake news. 

The chance to visit world-famous outlets deepened my knowledge and inspired me to make a difference.

At the BBC we talked with legal advisor David Attfield about what his team does, with Matthew Eltringham about the editorial policy of the BBC, as well as with journalists about their job. Meeting the Reality Check team and finding out how they work was extremely interesting for me considering that my project was related to making a fact-checking website.  

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism raised attention to the problem of local news outlets. It was impressive to talk with Megan Lucero about the Bureau Local, a collaborative, investigative network across the UK. They collaborate with different organizations, investigate local stories, and make the investigative process accessible for everyone via opening up their data and methodology. 

We also visited the Guardian, where we even had the chance to attend their morning editorial conference. During the tour, we were able to visit the Archive, speak with the legal team and the Readers` Editor. I was thrilled about the work of the Education Center. Their team is raising awareness on media literacy across the UK via training teachers and educating children. 

On the whole, we had a great chance to observe how various news outlets use different ways of dealing with misinformation. Via this trip, I understood that fighting falsehood is not that simple. It is not just about making a fact-checking website, but it requires a more complex solution, like teaching people to identify misinformation and develop their critical thinking, so they start questioning and improving skeptical reasoning. 

BLANKA KOVÁCS: “THIS TRIP REMINDED ME THAT THERE IS DIGNITY AND BEAUTY IN THIS AMAZING PROFESSION”

Visiting The Guardian and the BBC newsrooms as well as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s office in London (one of the information capitals of the world) was a rather chilling experience. Having studied Media and Communications, I always find myself in awe of newsrooms, but until now I have only been inside smaller media outlet headquarters in Budapest. Standing in the room where the world’s biggest stories are being packaged and published is something I will never forget.

The program was very diverse, we got to peek into the everyday tasks of various teams. I think my favorite session was with Ailaume Leroy, open source investigator at BBC Africa Eye. The work he and his teammates do (debunking stories using publicly available information and softwares) is a method fairly uncommon in Hungary. It was fascinating to see how an established team dedicated to such a job operates. 

I also enjoyed listening to stories from TBIJ about their local investigations, it reminded me that investigative journalism is not only about big conspiracies or holding global powers to account, but also about trying to reveal dirt in places close to home, discovering small town dirt that you might not even regularly notice in your daily newspaper. Visiting The Guardian, I particularly enjoyed getting to know their news literacy education center for students since the piece that won me this trip was about the very same issue in Hungary.

Sometimes, in the age of social media populism and propaganda, I tend to not disagree with the ones saying “journalism is dying”. Being a journalist in a country where freedom of the press is attacked by a powerful government can be exhausting. However, this trip reminded me that there is dignity and beauty in this amazing profession and that it is worth protecting. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to express our special thanks to Gill Phillips (The Guardian), David Attfield (BBC) and Miriam Wells (TBIJ), without whom this trip would not have been possible.