February 5th, 2015
by Avshalom Ginosar
“Re-inventing Journalism” – this was the title of an international academic conference that took place in Winterthur, Switzerland (15 minutes from Zurich by train), on February 5th-6th. More than an hundred scholars, most of them from Europe, attended the conference.
Most of the 23 different workshops and presentations addressed, in one way or another, the transition of journalism onto the online world. It seems that this issue occupies not only the industry of news which keeps looking for the successful new business model, but it is an issue of great confusion and concern for the academic community as well. Scholars from different countries and different academic institutions are looking not only for new definitions of journalism and journalists; rather, they question the traditional theories of journalism and look for new theoretical directions, more suitable to the digital era of journalism. In fact, in all the sessions I attended, I heard more questions than answers.
The highlights of the conference were two keynote talks by Prof. Jane Singer of the City University in London, and of Wolfgang Blau, who is now the Director of Digital Strategy at the British Guardian, and previously was the editor of the online version of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. These two figures knew about digital journalism than most of us attending, and both raised questions about its future. However, both of them certainly did not bury journalism as an occupation or as a social activity. On the contrary, both are very optimistic regarding the future of journalism in the digital and mobile world although as a journalism that will be quite different from the journalism to which we have grown accustomed for decades.
I would have welcomed more clarity on visions of that future, by these experts, but of course, they were journalists, not futurists. Perhaps readers might be able to suggest future directions or steer us to insightful work in this area?