City Talks: In Conversation with Lydia Polgreen

Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost flew from New York to Birmingham to discuss truthful reporting and diversity in the media

Emily Lowes
Oct 11 · 4 min read
We interviewed Lydia at the HuffPost Launch

Lydia Polgreen, the award-winning Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost, flew from New York to attend the Centre for Journalism launch at Birmingham City University.

The launch took place on Tuesday, 8th October, to celebrate the collaboration between BCU and HuffPost, which aims to work as an aide to training the next generation of journalists.

On the collaboration, Polgreen said:

“it’s also partnering with particular types of institutions, ones that reflect the diversity [in society] … those are the places we need to come in and lead the way for journalism in the future.”

The City Talk was hosted by Dr Sarah Jones, Fahima Khatun and myself, and focussed on Lydia’s journalism career, diversity in the media, and truthfulness in storytelling.

Over a hundred students and members of the public attended the event

Lydia’s career has spanned a series of publications and big stories, her first self-identified “big scoop” came after she camped outside a hotel waiting for Ziggy Marley. Of which she also noted, “there is no record to [her] knowledge, [her] mum probably has a copy somewhere.”

She worked as an unpaid intern for the Washington Monthly, while juggling a waitressing job at night to pay her bills. She then heard of an opportunity at The New York Times, where a traineeship for, “people who looked like [her]” opened up. This was a training programme designed for people of different backgrounds, who might not have the same experience or academic background as the typical NYT employee.

Lydia’s time at the publication came to an end shortly after the US 2016 election, when she was offered her current role at HuffPost.

She then went on to discuss her favourite story that HuffPost published in relation to the election, “ROOM FULL OF MEN SCREWS WOMEN”:

The talk continued on the topic of the collaboration, on which Lydia said:

“I’m really passionate about bringing up the next generation of journalists: people who are going to define the next 20 years of the profession in the way that my generation has defined the last 20 years.”

The rest of the day consisted of a series of talks, pitching groups, and networking events. Members of the HuffPost UK team travelled from London to attend the event, including Jess Brammar, Jimmy Leach, Nadine White, Emma Youle and Aasma Day.

The HuffPost Centre for Journalism acts as a training centre for the next generation of journalists and is now operating within Birmingham School of Media.

There is a recording of the City Talk which will be published in the coming weeks.

Personal memoir

Fahima, Lydia and myself

And so, back to my blogging voice. Alongside my co-presenter, Fahima Khatun, I hosted the City Talk with Lydia at the launch. It was the most nerve-wracking and exciting experience of my career.

Lydia is an extremely captivating woman, who has such a warm and inviting persona which only compliments her confidence and self-assuredness. When speaking with her about diversity and truth in the newsroom, it was clear from the way in which she spoke that her passion for the cause is unyielding.

We directed questions from the audience via a Twitter reel

The whole event reignited my love for journalism, which may have dwindled slightly in the search for work. It reassured me that reaching beyond my comfort zone is something to enjoy, and to continue doing. It’s astonishing to see how much my confidence has grown as I’ve become more sure of the journalist I’m becoming; a year or so ago, I probably would have refused to speak in front of 10 people, let alone 100+. The encouragement from my professors is something I will greatly miss about BCU, and I’m envious of the current students who will get to make the most of that in the coming years.

I spoke with Fahima about how the event rounded off what was an incredible year for us both. We started the Master’s in September 2018 by meeting Jeremy Paxman at a charity event, and we ended it by interviewing Lydia Polgreen. Throughout the year, I’ve worked with Fahima on many projects and it is worth noting here what an outstanding journalist she is. And, not only that, she is an all-round amazing person who I am very grateful to have met.

For anyone who might be interested, Lydia recommended the book, “She Said” for aspiring journalists.

Emily Lowes

Written by

Freelance journalist. Birmingham, UK. Here you will find lots of work by me, ranging from critical analyses of journalism, to articles, to blog posts. Enjoy.

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