Confident humility: my new favourite phrase

When we interview for reporters, we love the ones who appear to know what they’re doing, and who can talk reassuringly about their skills and experiences.

When we’re picking news editors, we like the ones who put our minds at rest, who exude an unruffled, can-do attitude as they chase stories and pitch newslists.

When it comes to leadership, we want people who have the courage of their convictions, with a clear vision and the energy to see it through.

At all levels of journalism, then, confidence is key.

It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, a virtuous circle that breeds success at every turn.

And yet, it can also be a danger in the wrong hands.

If that self-assured calmness is all there is, if it’s based on the cocky sand of arrogance and lack of talent, we’ve got problems.

So I loved a new description of a key quality needed for journalism, outlined in a tweet from BBC training guru Andrew Wilson.


On the face of it, it’s a bit of an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

But some of my favourite phrases about journalism are, too.

I believe in determined empathy, and in supported autonomy.

Humility is such a key ingredient for good journalism.

The humility that puts other people first – whether they be story subjects or readers; the humility that admits mistakes and training needs; and the humility of someone who is always wanting to learn new things.

Overdone, humility can be just as wearing and damaging as confidence.

But in the right doses, it can move mountains.


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