Session 2C | Paper 1 News on Stage: Using ‘live journalism’ to enhance storytelling techniques and raise ethical questions with journalism students

Dr Glenda Cooper, Senior Lecturer – City, University of London, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Journalism


This paper looks at the potential utility of using ‘live journalism’ as a learning and teaching device for journalism students – but also considers how such a creative approach could be used in other departments.

In recent years, news organisations have experimented in multiple ways to engage audiences, particularly online and via algorithms (Ferrer-Conill & Tandoc, 2018; Petre, 2015; Anderson, 2011). However, this has failed to halt growing distrust in media (Fink, 2019). At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the conceptualisation of journalism as a performative event, where both journalists and their stories are presented to a live audience.

I focus on a live experimental performance ‘News on Stage: Up and Coming Stories’ in September 2020, and which showcased City journalism students’ work to a public audience via Zoom as part of the 2020 Welcome Week.  The students worked with a lecturer, theatrical director and actors to turn previously unpublished stories into performances. Five students and two actors took part and techniques employed to (re)create the stories included: verbatim monologue; adoption of personae (eg a professor); soundscapes and interview reconstruction. Subjects covered included space law; the closure of a local hospital A&E; child abuse; compassionate fashion; and life as an NHS worker during Covid-19.  Live interaction with the audience took place through online polls and live Q&As (including the ‘Virtual Café’ element in which the audience could directly chat to the students after the formal performance).  Surveys were carried out of both the audience and students/performers post-event – with the audience there was a rise from 33% to 55% in those who trusted journalists a lot, 88% found the event very interesting and 55% took an active role (eg asking questions, filling in the snap polls etc).

By transforming their news stories into public performance, students were given the opportunity to explore different kinds of storytelling, experience instant feedback and interaction with their audience and engage with questions round journalistic norms of objectivity, distance and verification. . Our experience of the event was then used to integrate drama into a first-year module on newswriting.

The paper will focus on the following: how theatricality, playfulness and creativity can facilitate students to produce quality work and how it allows students to engage with ethical questions in their discipline in a safe environment. While this event was tailored to journalism students, I hypothesise this could be expanded to other departments, in which they work with the News on Stage team to produce creative storytelling around lived experiences (for example in psychology or law) but also  helping equip students with transferable employability skills: such as presentation, teamwork, management and leadership. Following the pandemic of the last year, I suggest such intensive co-collaboration helps fosters trust, inclusivity and community with students working together towards a common goal.

Slides from the session

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Recording of the session:


Anderson, C.W., 2011. Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. International Journal of Communication5, 529-547.

Ferrer-Conill, R. and Tandoc Jr, E.C., 2018. The audience-oriented editor: Making sense of the audience in the newsroom. Digital Journalism6(4), pp.436-453.

Fink, K., 2019. The biggest challenge facing journalism: A lack of trust. Journalism20(1), pp.40-43.

Petre, C., 2015. The traffic factories: Metrics at chartbeat, gawker media, and the New York Times. Tow Center for Digital Journalism Available:

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