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Covid-19 has helped tackle phone phobia, says journalism trainer

Paul WiltshireThe lack of face-to-face meetings during the coronavirus pandemic is helping win the battle against ‘phone phobia,’ a journalism trainer has claimed.

As previously reported by HTFP, University of Gloucestershire lecturer Paul Wiltshire has been campaigning to cure a “phobia of phones” among some of his students over the past two years.

Last year Paul, pictured, set first-year students a deadline of Christmas to conquer their fear of the telephone and has also introduced initiatives such as getting performing arts graduates to pose as hostile interviewees in order to help.

Now Paul says the Covid-19 situation, which has meant his students have been unable to conduct face to face interviews, has helped them to understand the importance of the phone.

He told HTFP: “It’s still work in progress, but I think we’re slowly winning the battle.

“There are times when an email can do the trick efficiently, but in a lot of cases, there’s no substitute for a proper conversation.”

Citing the example of holding remote news days as part of his students’ training, Paul said: “I was reassured by the way their default setting was to ring each other and people contributing to stories.”

He added: “I think the Covid situation has meant the phone has been perceived as more useful.

“It’s still a bit of a work in progress but I’m detecting a little bit less reluctance. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re turning a corner.”

Other industry figures to speak up on the issue in recent years include Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter, who raised concerns in 2019 about job applicants being “absolutely terrified” of conducting face-to-face or telephone interviews.

Leeds Trinity University trainer Richard Horsman sparked a social media debate the year before that after saying he was “terrified” by the number of journalism students who “won’t pick up a phone or challenge a press officer”.

You can read all our coronavirus-related stories here.