Author: Ruzica Despotovska
The development of the latest technology in addition to the social media development gives opportunities for presenting certain event at the exact time and from the exact place where the journalist is located. Moreover, it gives opportunities to the ordinary people to share true and first-hand information (mostly video recording or photo-taking). In that manner, the investigation of information has become more impartial (having the opportunity to go through several sources) and, when it comes to reporting, there is also a possibility to break geography borders.
From 27-30 October, 2011, the first conference for young European reporters Young Press.eu took place in Antwerp, Belgium. Organised by Stamp Media, a Belgian youth press agency, for the period of three days, as it lasted, the young people had a chance to investigate the current situation in the fields of journalism and reporting, as well as their perspective in future, through discussions, workshops and other interactive methods. There were 84 participants at the conference, all young reporters from Europe, working in various spheres of reporting (from classical reporting to completely alternative journalism). The event was launched the night of October 27th and the opening night was located at Arendbergschouwburg in Antwerp. The ceremony was original, not being overburdened by glamour and spectacles, but rather filled with fresh and young energy. The opening night finished with the inspirational speech of Paul Lewis, investigative editor of The Guardian, who presented a quite positive outlook for the future of journalism. The two following days were the core of the conference. The Friday (October 28) was a rather busy day, when all the discussions and workshops were held. There were four major questions, divided into four workshops:
· The omnipresence of the media
· The spread of biased information
· New models and experimentation
· The future of high-quality investigative journalism
However these workshops and questions raised many others, consequently, provoking various answers, predictions and expectations, seen through the prism of the young people coming from completely different backgrounds, from all over Europe, united in the idea to create high quality stories.
The Opening Night and the Speech of Paul Lewis (The Guardian)
The ceremony was opened with the speech of Stefan Kolgen, the coordinator of Stamp Media-a youth press agency in Antwerp, Belgium. He gave a short summary about the meaning of the conference and its content. He emphasized the importance of the journalism as “the watchdog of democracy” and its power to shape the public thought.
He noted that that could be very positive, but very dangerous as well, due to the possibility the information to be misinterpreted or abused. That is why he stated that the quality journalism and reporting was of an utmost importance. Since the media are omnipresent in the contemporary world and the spread of biased information is quite common, the possibility to shape people`s minds in a wrong direction as well as present a distorted image of the reality raises a huge problem. “One of the solutions”, he added, “is the creation of new models of journalism and alternative reporting”.
The speech of Paul Lewis (The Guardian) presented a rather positive outlook of the current and the future situation of the journalism. According to him, the development of the latest technology in addition to the social media development, gave opportunities for presenting certain event at the exact time and from the exact place where the journalist is located. Moreover, it gave opportunities to the ordinary people to share true and first-hand information (mostly video recording or photo-taking). In that manner, the investigation of information has become more impartial (having the opportunity to go through several sources) and, when it comes to reporting, there is also a possibility to break geography borders. As a best example he mentioned Twitter that, as he stated, “has brought the journalist in direct contact with the source of information.” However, he added that there were a lot of journalists that were rather nostalgic for the “good golden days of journalism”, being rather sceptical that the novelties in that field, such as internet, social media and other sources, enabling instant access to information, would lower the quality of the investigation process. In terms of objectivity and the possibility the various sides of the story to disperse the realistic presentation, he emphasised that it is the precision that was more important, rather than taking sides in a story or the pursuit to be completely objective, since that was not completely possible. At the end he concluded that the days of well paid journalism were over and that now it is dependent upon state and other organisations. Therefore, the social tools “simple, yet sophisticated” are extremely important for the story to be more accurate and impartial. He concluded that the new technology and tools were those that should bring another bright era in journalism.
Workshops’ Structure and Issues
As I already mentioned, throughout the conferences, four major issues were covered, through which another topics were discussed as well. There was a great amount of discussion; around 17 speakers shared their experiences in the field of journalism they have mastered, or felt most confident to talk about. However, the conferences were just an introduction to what was about to be discussed throughout the workshops. While the conferences were mostly based on presenting speaker`s work to the audience with the possibility participants to ask questions, the workshops were more interactive and gave in-depth analysis of the certain issue that was covered. Since all participants were able to take part only in two workshops, I shall present those in which I have participated. Annabel McGoldrick held the workshop named as “The spread of biased information”. She is a former journalist, but now she is devoted to psychotherapy and successfully investigates the psychological side of journalism and writing stories, pioneering in a new journalism branch-peace journalism. She made a detailed analysis to what extent can the information influence people`s minds and how it can shape people`s thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. She focused on the problem of empathy erosion, i.e. a distorted image for certain news, presenting the things “black and white” and forming symbols of adore or hate produced by certain leaders or nations. While the war journalism focuses on locating only the problems and looking for the villain in the story by spreading disguised facts, McGoldrick and her peace journalism prefer peaceful solutions to the problems.
Henk Blanken held the second workshop “The omnipresence of the media”. As a journalist, writer, and blogger as well as currently as a investigative journalist, he organised a workshop where we discussed the sources of information today and the consequences of the internet and technology on journalism and media. We further compared the contemporary and the old-days journalism and made the distinction between the civic journalism (composed by ordinary people) and the professional one. Eventually, we questioned the transparency and quality of modern journalism and the impact democracy and technology have on it. The other workshops that I did not participate in were held by Stefan Andrea (The future of high-quality investigative journalism) and Alex Wood (New models and experimentation), who also included a great deal of their work experiences and useful information in their conference speeches.
Antwerp- Experience of a Lifetime
Despite the fact that we had spent most of our time discussing on the conferences and the workshops, we also had time to meet each other and establish contacts with wide range of different people from various backgrounds, experiences, and fields of interest. We spend every spare moment to meet each other as representatives of our countries and cultures, but as separate individuals as well. As the city itself is a mixture of historic buildings, museums, churches, and cathedrals on one hand, and modern cafes and shopping centers on the other, these four days were a mixture of young people of various cultures as well.
The architecture of the diamond center of the world, mostly dating from the 16th and the 17th century (a period considered to be the golden era of the city), and, in addition to the medieval and renaissance structure of the buildings, almost all streets have kept the paving stone style. Although, the buildings still have historic exterior, inside, they are contemporary, modern institutions and objects. In spite of its old, historic appearance and the abundant tranquility in early mornings, the city is filled with the young and fresh spirit, the spirit of tolerance and multiculturalism.
p.s. I would like to thank Natasa Vidakovic and Yousef Shakarman who decided to take part in the article and shared with us some of their photographs.