Church & Media Conference: minority voices, diversity and June Sarpong


“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” These wise words from my favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie show us the importance of diversity in providing a true and full picture of how things are.

As media professionals, who tell stories for a living – whether in print, online, through photography or film - it’s important for us to be intentional about drawing in the voices of those who are not like us.

The theme of Minority Voices will underpin the content for what’s set to be another excellent day. How do we ensure that those whose stories we tell represent the full spectrum of society – whether race, class, gender or physical ability?

june sarpong christian

We, the conference planning team, are delighted to announce that June Sarpong MBE will join us for the day as our mainstage interviewee. As I was growing up as an ethnic minority in Britain, seeing Sarpong as one of the few black women presenting top TV shows was inspiring. She started her media career on Kiss 100 before becoming a presenter on MTV and then fronting Channel 4’s daytime TV strand T4, including interviewing Tony Blair in a special episode – When Tony met June – in 2005. Sarpong is a regular panellist on shows including Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You, Loose Women, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Question Time. She is currently a panellist on Sky News programme The Pledge.

Diversify june sarpong

Her latest book Diversify: Six Degrees of Integration argues the case for the social, moral and economic benefits of diversity while also looking at how limited we are by social division and inspiring us to make change.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says of her book: “I am so glad June Sarpong is working on this matter of diversity. We don’t seem to know how to handle differences. When will we learn that we share one common humanity, as Shakespeare’s Shylock declared so eloquently?”

Sarpong joins a line-up for the Church & Media Conference, which includes Rev Kate Bottley, ITV newsreader Julie Etchingham, Mark Warburton, producer director at Songs of Praise, Professor Tina Beattie and comedian Paul Kerensa.

The conference, which takes place on Thursday, 18 October, at St Mary’s Bryanston Square in London, will also feature sessions on women in the media, pitching, and a live recording of podcast The Sacred, presented by Elizabeth Oldfield, director of Theos.

Written by Chine McDonald, Head of PR for Christian Aid, author, speaker and trustee of The MediaNet

If you haven't booked your ticket yet and would like a copy of June's book, we have added a special ticket which includes a discounted rate, and you can collect your copy from us at the conference!

Balancing Work and Life as a Freelancer

It’s the best of times and the worst of time for people wanting to break into journalism. The best of times because cutbacks by news organisations around the world means there are arguably more openings than ever for freelancers.

But the worst of times because while nearly every major news organisation in the world has openings for journalists, in many cases they are only available to those willing to work weekends and late at night.  

Likewise staff jobs for journalists, with pensions and paid holidays, seem to be fewer and further between.

So how can budding freelancers find the right work/life balance and earn enough to keep their head above water? This month we talk to award winning freelance photographer Patrick Brown,  who recently won a World Press award and has worked for many leading publications as well as the UN in danger zones. 


Patrick Brown, how did you break through into freelance photojournalism?

I began my career as a theatre set builder in Perth, Australia, while at the same time studying art at night school.

I was also working at a multi-storey carpark at the time and remember reading an article about an Australian surgeon, Robert Weedon, who was working in Malawi. At the time, he was the only trained surgeon of two-and a-half million people.

Robert’s life was especially of interest to me because three years earlier he treated me for an internal hernia – basically I had ruptured my bowel and was being poisoned by my bile. He diagnosed my illness, operated on me and saved my life.

I sold my car and my surfboard so that I could fly out to Malawi in 1994 and take photos of Dr Weedon’s  out there. I used 24 rolls of black and white films and 26 rolls of colour.

I was able to use the photos to document his work as well as Malawi’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

I had an exhibition which was a great success in Perth and the same time I had the images published in The West Australian Magazine, which raised money for Dr Weedon’s work and the people of Malawi.

I realised at the point that photographs can change people’s lives.

From then onwards I began working for the magazine and started venturing out to Asia to cover stories. In 1997,  I went to Hong Kong to over the British handover to the Chinese.

In the same year I went to the Perpignan Photo Festival, where I met like-minded photographers. I decided after that I would move to Asia, and did so in 1999.

From there I worked on a variety of photo projects, but specifically I was introduced to the forests, jungles and people of the Thai-Burma border.

My long-going love affair with Asia had begun, and I have now worked in most of the countries of the region for a variety of well-known publications including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN.


What have been the highlights of your career?

I am pleased to say that during the course of my career I have had a multitude of high points.

I have also been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented and generous people who in the earlier part of my career were kind and patient enough to show me the ropes.

Apart for the Robert Wheedon project, other high points include a project I worked on which chronicled the trafficking of endangered animal species in South-East Asia.

It was 10-year multi-award winning photo-documentary which culminated in a book I produced in 2014 – in partnership with journalist Ben Davies – entitled Trading to Extinction.

Another story I will never forget is the mass exodus of 750,00 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh from August and September 2017 onwards.

The images were nominated for the World Press Photo award and won first prize in the Single Image news category.

My images of the Rohingya exodus featured in the August 2018 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, while in 2011 images that I took which showed the aftermath of the Sri Lankan war appeared in


And the low points?

In 2012 the company behind a Crowdfunding campaign that I had launched to finance the launch of Trading to Extinction went bankrupt, which meant that I lost nearly $30,000 of my own money.

The whole experience left me disheartened and even left me losing all my motivation for photography.

But then I realised that it was not photography I disliked but some of the business interests behind it, where everybody is out for themselves.

I understood then that I needed to reignite my love affair with photography, and it took some time to find it again.

Another downer about being an around-the-world photojournalist is this: You have to endure countless bouts of upset stomachs, not to mention illnesses of all description.

What’s your advice to freelancers eager to start in news photography?

Never take no for an answer and keep developing your own narrative.

Trust your inner voice and never stop growing or learning.  

Above all, look after your back – taking photos when it’s painful is a nightmare.


How do you juggle the work/life tussle?


Few news photographers have to endure the horrors of the daily commute and even fewer freelance news photographers do.

For most international news journalists and photographers, the 9-5 job doesn’t come into it. You are on the road all the time. It’s quite a lonely existence.

I’m afraid to say that it’s not nearly as romantic as all the Hollywood movies make it out to be.

Be prepared to put in a lot of time away from your family to pursue your career. It can take years.  

When I am in the field I try to stay motivated by finding new things – and if necessary new ways – of new ways of photographing stuff.

If you can travel with a colleague or a friend do so. It can be unpleasant when you have no-one to bounce ideas off and all you have is your own echo chamber.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of being freelance?

You have the freedom to pursue your own narrative even if it fails.

The most creative people I have met are freelancers.

The reason I feel this is because it is an uncomfortable existence financially and that discomfort has challenged me to push myself into creative areas that sometimes do not work.

But if you want a comfortable and financially secure existence, I’m not sure I would recommend a freelance career to anybody.

On an average year I am earning only about 30,000 GBP gross and on top of that I have to buy a lot of equipment in addition to covering my travelling expenses and sundry other payments.

But on the plus side I have more freedom to make decisions in relation to my job. I am the janitor and the CEO of my business. I have to do everything.

How do you cope with the trauma of some of the events that you have witnessed?

When I witness bloodshed or suffering I remember that I am only a visitor to the scene that I am bearing witness to.

I cope with it by thinking that this is not my reality – my reality is far away.

Bearing witness is in no way the same as personally experiencing the injustices or suffering that I am photographing.

You have to stay detached, otherwise you cannot record an event from an objective perspective.

But I must emphasise that this doesn’t mean to say I’m not affected by what I have witnessed.

I get affected afterwards when I’m going through my edit – the trauma in effect has been delayed.

I would find it much harder to cope with out my biggest support – my wife Camilla – and my family and friends.

Find out more about Patrick and his work over on his website

MediaNet Meets: Tobi Olujinmi


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!

CIM Meets: Natalie Williams


This week, we’re chatting with author and former journalist Natalie Williams,  who heads up community engagement, social action, and communication at King’s Church 1066 across all their four venues. Natalie is also co-author of The Myth of the Undeserving Poor (2014) and A Church for the Poor (2017).

You have had a fascinating career, including spending a year in China working for a state-owned newspaper. What was that like?

It was really fascinating in many ways – I was there when China joined the WTO and won the bid to host the Olympics in Beijing, but also when September 11 happened, the war in Afghanistan started, and tensions were high between the USA and China because of an incident with an American spy plane earlier that year. It was interesting to see how these events were reported by the Chinese State run press: there were certain things we weren’t allowed to report or were instructed to emphasise or water down. So trying to maintain your journalistic integrity while also doing as you were told was difficult. That made it hard. Also my Chinese colleagues weren’t well trained, so some of the basics were missing. Another thing that made it hard was that ‘foreign experts’, as we were called, were paid at least five times more than our Chinese colleagues, who often worked harder and longer hours.

How did you juggle your faith with working for a state-owned Chinese newspaper?

I had been struggling with my faith before I went to China. I was ‘backslidden’ and really wrestling. I actually came back to God and my faith was rekindled while I was in Beijing, which surprised me.

What took you to China?

For some reason I’d been interested in China since I was a small child. When I was studying postgrad journalism at City Uni in London, they mentioned internships with the China Daily Newspaper Group. I applied (initially for a three-month role) and said to God, “I want to come back to you, and that doesn’t seem likely to happen in China, but if I get this job I’m going so I’ll leave it to you as to what happens!”

You also worked in the political sector here in the UK for a while. What did you do and how different was it?

Before I get into the politics, I’d like to mention that when I returned to the UK and worked as a journalist, I realised that our ‘press’ isn’t really free either. It’s owned by such a small number of people, and what appears in it is dictated by that small number, not to mention the way things that do appear are framed. This came home to me particularly through studying for my Masters degree in Political Communication a few years ago. In terms of politics, after my MA I worked for an outstanding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC), writing blogs, press releases, speeches and leading on hustings prep. As a Christian, it was a privilege to get to work so closely with the PPC and have some influence in terms of discussing both character and policies.

Today, you work for the church, responsible for social action and community engagement. What does that involve?

Today the comms part of my job involves everything overseeing the website and app to drafting Sunday notices and tweeting. I’m responsible for all media, too. My social action role involves working on the strategy for care for the poor in the church – we run eight projects, and our building is run as a social enterprise, but we’re still working on getting a heart for the most vulnerable into the DNA of the church, with all members growing in mercy, compassion, kindness and generosity. I also work for a national Christian charity called Jubilee+, which helps churches across the country to more effectively support the poorest in their communities. Again I’m responsible for all media and communications, and I get to speak and write on poverty and justice issues, which is a great privilege.

How does your journalistic and communication skills help with this role?

In some very obvious ways, such as writing press releases and understanding the importance of effect communication about vision and events, as well as ‘spotting a story’ and being able to see where something might have wider reach than our local community. (For example, I’ve written recently for the New Statesman and Huffington Postwebsites about the massive increase in foodbank referrals we’ve seen.) But also in less obvious ways, such as having a particular passion for churches to find out what’s going on in their communities, what local decision-makers are concerned about, etc., and taking stats, anecdotes and perceptions from others to help them see the role they can most meaningfully play in their communities.

Would you see this as a calling?

Absolutely. I’m very aware of how God has used and continues to use me, my background, my skills, my experience. I see his hand at work in it all, shaping me, teaching me things, that I now get to equip others with some of what comes naturally to me.

And, what of the future?

I think that journalism needs more Christians and churches need more journalists. Despite the overwhelming amount of information we can get our hands on, it’s harder than ever to get to the truth. We need people working in the media who are full of integrity and committed to truthfulness. But we also need journalists who will teach church leaders, foodbank leaders, debt centre leaders, etc., etc., how to build positive relationships with the press and how to deal with difficult questions.

You can reach out to Natalie on Twitter and listen to her talks from King’s Church over on their website.

5 Traits of a Good Leader


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, @PublicLeaderUK on Facebookand Twitter, or email

How To: Crack the Media Job Hunt


Applying for your first or even fourteenth job in the media is never easy. Be it in PR, journalism, production or digital, our industry is notoriously competitive and ever-evolving, with an abundance of talent on tap.

So how can you increase your chances of being given a chance?

We’ve put together a checklist for those looking for their first job or a new opportunity.

The CV

Keep your CV visually clean and simple, with space between each section so it feels like a relief from the rest of the clutter on a recruiter’s computer screen, experts advise.

Younger applicants tend to throw in too much detail, leading to a dense document cluttered with irrelevancies. It’s better to have a lean, one-page CV than two pages of filler for a recruiter to struggle through.

Media applicants also tend to have chequered careers, Gavin Ricketts recently wrote in The Guardian, changing jobs regularly as they move between projects and working in a variety of roles.

“A compelling personal statement at the top of a CV that brings all this experience into a coherent description of you and your career aspirations, often works well,” he writes.

“The first sentence should introduce the role you’re looking for or the vacancy, if you’re responding to a specific advert. Next describe what experience you’ve gained to help you in that role, and finally write a sentence to show that you’re quietly confident, responsible, alert and willing to take on whatever task the job requires.

“Finish with a little about your ambitions, remembering to be clear that you don’t expect to get there at lightning speed. For instance: “I eventually want to be a producer, so I’m looking for production assistant roles to lay down a good foundation of experience first.”

“You need to communicate that you can work well with others, but don’t rely on simply stating: “I can work as part of a team” – a cliché long overdue for retirement.”

Ricketts advises job seekers instead to demonstrate where they’ve worked in a team, even if it was in part-time work while studying. For example: “I was one of seven shop floor staff, we worked as a team to make sure all customers were given the help they needed”.

The covering letter

“When you write your covering letter, you should never claim to be the perfect candidate,” Ricketts advises. “For me, that is the kiss of death. Being the perfect candidate is not just about ticking all the requirement boxes, it’s also about how you fit into the company.

“So instead of saying you’re the best person for the job, try this subtly different, more modest opening line: “I am excited to be applying for this role. Not only do the requirements match my skills and experience, but I am confident that this is a job I would really enjoy.”

“This way, you’re saying you have the right skills, but you’ve left it to the employer to decide whether you’re right for the team.

“Think of the application process as the beginning of a conversation between you and the employer. Creative organisations tend to be informal in the way they talk to each other, so if your CV and covering letter have a friendly but professional tone of voice – as though you’d just met your next boss in person – your application will come to life.

“The more human and approachable your application, the more they’ll want to meet you in person.”


Preparing for the interview

Aside from making sure you look professional, and you are on time – two things you must do – you want to make sure you’ve studied the right topics to ensure the interviewer doesn’t stump you on any questions, Rachel Deahl in advises.

“Although you shouldn’t think of an interview as an antagonistic situation — most interviewers aren’t trying to test you or catch you off-guard — you don’t want to draw a blank when you’re asked a question. For this reason, you should study up on a few things, and come up with answers to potential questions, before the big day,” she writes.

“One of the biggest pet peeves you will hear editors and hiring managers complain about, when it comes to interviewing, is talking to candidates who don’t know their company or their publication,” she advises.

For example, candidates seeking a job on a magazine should be prepared for questions such as: If you were going to write a story for us tomorrow, what would it be about?’ That requires knowing the publication inside out, Deahl says.

“It won’t do to simply know that Sports Illustrated simply covers sports or that Entertainment Weekly covers entertainment. You need to know specific stories the magazine published recently and you need to know the recurring sections of the magazine.”

How to Make Sure You Have the Right Answers

“The best way to prepare for a media interview is to study your potential employer,” Deahl advises. “If you’re interviewing for an editorial spot at a magazine, grab a bunch of back issues and go over them. Decide what you might change –  if you had the chance – by figuring out the sections you like and decide why you like them. Find stories you like and take note of them.

“Pay particular attention to getting things straight in your head. One thing that notoriously drives editors and others in the field crazy is mistaking them for their competition.”

Keep your cool

At the end of the day remember it’s just an interview. “If you can try to keep things in perspective, and not put too much pressure on yourself, it’s often easier to stay calm,” Deahl recommends. “Go in confident and calm. If you believe in yourself, and speak with confidence, employers will pick up on it”.

Dispel the myths

The Guardian recently published six myths about getting a career in the TV and media industry which are worth noting.

  • You’ll spend all of your time partying with celebrities– For every music or film festival you attend, there will always be plenty of accompanying strategy meetings to ensure the event goes without a hitch. Expect to work hard. The good news is that all the hard work is worth it
  • You’ll spend years in unpaid positions making the tea – Companies are increasingly recognising how integral upcoming talent is to their success. Rather than wasting the fresh insight and perspective new talent can bring, media firms are offering the chance for those without a great deal of direct work experience to get involved with exciting projects
  • It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know – Knowing the right people is likely to prove useful in any industry and media is no exception. Despite this, it’s a very outdated to view access to the industry as something predominately decided by nepotism
  • You need a media degree from a top university – Media is a hugely diverse industry with many types of roles but only some normally require a degree for a new entrant. While a higher level qualification is a very valuable tool to demonstrate willingness to work hard, commitment to a given task and potentially, a genuine interest in a given sector of the media, there are other ways to exhibit these things
  • To progress, you’ll need to bombard companies with CVs – The CV is one way to get on to a potential employer’s radar, but this should always form part of a broader strategy. The media business is powered by creativity and innovation and if you can show this through the way you search and apply for new roles, all the better. Be prepared to send examples of work – showcase things like your photography and design efforts, on Instagram and or Tumblr, and tweet links to articles you’ve written
  • You have a lot to learn and nothing to offer – People sometimes say something is only a cliche because it’s true, but in this case, the constant advice given to young people entering the media world – that they have a lot to learn and should spend their time soaking up as much information as possible – is only partly true. Of course, young people entering the media industry do have a lot to learn and the early period of their careers will involve them spending time gaining vital skills. However, the media industry doesn’t stand still and it is only through the contribution of upcoming young talent – digital natives who often possess real flair for things like social media – that companies are able to stay ahead of the curve