Yesterday, saw one of BBC’s most influential journalists, Stephen Sackur, visit our islands and give two talks on journalism and debate. The interactive structure of both events allowed the audience to interact with the HARDtalk host and ask him all sorts of questions, starting from current affairs, politics and his experience as a journalist. Both events were organised by the University of Malta Debating Union (MUDU) that was recently set up by the University of Malta together with Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) with the main purpose being fostering debate amongst Malta’s upcoming professionals currently studying at University.
The morning session held on the University Quadrangle, titled ‘Building Skills: The Importance of Public Speaking and Debating’ sought to bring to the front the great need for students to speak up and share their opinions in a professional environment. Sackur started out by mentioning a Times of Malta article written by Professor Mario Vassallo in which it was pointed out that many Maltese, including students, all have a strong passion for opinions and are quite vocal of them in the street and within their circle of friends, however when they come to publicly speak about the same issues they go silent.
Sackur continued to give all present some tips on how to make a powerful and strong debate, where he emphasised the importance of research and basing your arguments on facts. “The success and failure of an interview is determined by what happens before. I have a team that helps me research and see what the person I am interviewing has been through. What strengths and weaknesses I can pick away at,” he explained. Following the Trump phenomenon was brought out as an example of a person who does not base his arguments on facts, one who explicitly said he does not prepare for any of his debates, but voices out what comes to mind there and then.
The importance of respecting both your fellow debaters as well as your interviewees was also pointed out. Sackur explained how many interviewers look at their guests and interviewees as solely telling lies, and in turn making the audience believe so too. “I don’t assume that all my guests are lying to me. I believe that there are plenty of people doing things in life cause they believe in public service. Most people who enter politics and that sphere of public life and influence do want to do good, and they want to change society for the better. It can go totally wrong, but their intention is to change for the better,” Sackur went on.
The second event was held at the Old University Campus in Valletta and was titled ‘Investigative Journalism’. The second talk took the same form as the first, however this time with an even bigger audience and with many local journalists present who gladly engaged in conversation with the BBC journalist in order to get to know how journalism on our islands can be improved.
One major point that was brought out in both instances was the need for fair and researched debate and discussion locally, but also globally, especially from our youths. Thankfully, the setting up of the University of Malta Debating Union (MUDU) is slowly steering the University in the right direction by fostering debate amongst its students and organising such events that are beneficial to the growth in discussion of current events and politics.
Nicole Borg is a currently a 4th year student studying Communications and Theatre Studies. She joined Insite as a writer and editor in 2014/2015. Following she progressed to join the media team as Publications Officer in 2015/16. Currently she is the Executive Editor of Insite Malta for the term of 2016/17.