Interview: Dr Holly Powell-Jones, Founder of Online Media Law UK
DESCRIBE YOUR JOB…
My main focus is Online Media Law; I run my own business teaching social media law and ethics in secondary schools. Lots of e-safety stuff fails to cover UK communication laws and how they apply to young people’s digital lives, so that’s where I come in as an expert speaker and consultant. I recently finished my PhD exploring young people’s perceptions of the criminal and legal risks of social media misuse, and also do lecturing and media training for universities and professionals too. And, of course, I’m proud to be Online Law Leader for GEC Futures Project.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
Almost by accident! My background is in broadcast journalism, and I worked as a TV and radio reporter and newsreader for a number of years. It was this that gave me knowledge of UK media law, and I wanted to share this with teenagers who risk getting into trouble for what they post online, but aren’t educated on these laws at schools. I got a substantial amount of funding from my local Police and Crime Commissioner and partnered with local media company Eagle Radio Ltd. to deliver this training in schools – and Online Media Law was born! In 2016-17, more than 15,500 pupils received my training, which makes me very proud. It was off the back of this project that I was awarded a scholarship to undertake my PhD research at City, University of London.
TALK US THROUGH A RECENT WORK DAY:
I’m self-employed so my days involve a lot of talking with potential clients who want to book me for work, as every training session is tailored to meet their bespoke needs. Because I’m sociable, I’ll always try to do this over a coffee meeting rather than email! When I have a lecture or a workshop coming up, I’ll check my materials are up to date, choose some relevant case studies, put together my scripts and activities, etc. I recently ran sessions with Sixth Formers at Westminster School, and these are always my favourite working days when I get to interact directly with young people, answer questions, and hear what they have to say. It’s a huge buzz being up on stage, which I love.
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS DO YOU USE ON A DAILY BASIS?
I do spend a fair bit of time on social media! It’s essential for networking and I like to keep on top of news and developments relevant to Online Media Law, too. I also engage with digital news religiously every morning (it’s the hangover from being a journalist!) I rely on digital skills to do almost every aspect of my job, from doing research, to accessing and reading materials, to sourcing potential contacts, to liaising with clients, to building my presentations, updating my website, and promoting my work. I wouldn’t necessarily think of myself as a ‘tech whizz’, it’s just that it’s become a normal part of modern working life, I think.
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS OR ATTRIBUTES WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE EDUCATORS TO SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE TO DEVELOP?
I actually think that ‘soft’ social skills must go hand in hand with technology; i.e. emotional intelligence, awareness of law and ethics, human rights, critical thinking, feminism etc. all need to be incorporated into how we think about and use technology. For me, the most important thing as an educator is to listen to young people, be curious about new technology, and to ‘lean into’ wanting to learn more about it. None of us are born with digital skills or attributes; we all have to learn as we go (and be forgiving of mistakes along the way!) The best way to show people they can try their hand at developing digital skills is to role model this by having a go yourself.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG PERSON LOOKING TO ENTER THE SECTOR?
Firstly, believe in yourself and be aware that just because people are older or more senior than you doesn’t necessarily mean that they have more knowledge and skill than you. That being said, it’s important to stay humble and try to learn from everyone around you. If you don’t know something or want help, always ask. Keep a record of your achievements, who you’ve worked with, things you’ve attended, etc. and put it altogether as an online portfolio. My experience of the media industry is that success is almost 100% down to your attitude rather than aptitude, so if you are willing to learn, keen to have a go, curious, hard working and friendly, then you’ll go far. Oh, and finally: interact with people! Networking is vital – even if it’s entirely online.