11TH News Assembly explores changing face of journalism

Copenhagen, November 2016:  The 11th Eurovision News Assembly, held in Copenhagen, wrapped up on Tuesday (29 November) after exploring the state of journalism, digital transformation and, in a “post-fact" age, the challenges public service media (PSM) faces in reaching and representing all audiences.

Over 100 news directors, editors in chief and foreign editors from 40 Members in 28 countries attended the two day Assembly hosted by Danish Member DR at their Koncerthuset. The Assembly opened with a look back at how EBU Members covered all the huge news stories of 2016 (watch above).

In her keynote speech outgoing BBC Head of Radio Helen Boaden observed that “people have more news on more platforms than any previous generation – but we are moving into a post fact age where opinions carry more weight.”

She emphasised the importance of explaining and contextualising news more and urged delegates to “pause and slow down".

"If we don’t we might find we have nothing left than an audience that trusts us less and less", she added.

On a panel discussing whether the media is trapped in a “journalistic filter bubble” Ulrik Haagerup, Executive Director of News for DR, said: “We have to report the world as it is. We’re so afraid of being accused of not being balanced that we forget what journalism is - giving people to best version of the truth. Focus on the bad and the good – we focus too much on the bad.” His comments were echoed in his later session examining “constructive news” as a way of trying to re-establish trust in news in societies where trust has eroded.

Much focus was placed during the Assembly on PSM news using new technologies to reach audiences on social media platforms.

In a panel on Digital Transformation, moderated by Madiana Asseraf the EBU’s Senior Media Development Manager, Atte Jääskeläisen, YLE’s Director of News, discussed Kioski – a news and current affairs service with a social media approach and how journalists need supporting by management to help make the digital move. Glen Mulcahy, Head of Innovation at Irish Member RTE gave an update on the latest advances in mobile journalism which “gives the opportunity to tell new stories cost effectively on other platforms". BBC journalist Matthew Price and Zillah Watson, the broadcaster’s Research and Development editor also discussed the pros and cons of immersive storytelling for news to increase audience engagement using examples following the Paris terrorist attacks.

Best practice when covering terrorist attacks was also explored with a panel of journalists from Members who all faced such difficulties in the past year.

Justine Katz from French Belgian Member RTBF explained how 6 journalists worked closely with the police and justice department during the Brussels attacks and subsequent arrests, sharing information during live raids to double check information and check what can be released. VRT’s TV News Editor in Chief Inge Vrancken talked about the conflict between following police instructions and broadcasting live breaking news – especially when commercial competition is live.

“The challenge is that viewers expect us to be a 24 hr news broadcaster during terrorist attacks. The judgement is tough,” she said. “We don’t want to be called sensationalist. You have to make a call on what happened quickly – we have to be careful – there’s a lot of thinking to do.”

The inventiveness of PSM in the field of news was highlighted by various case studies including Norwegian Member NRK’s children’s news show Supernytt which explains current affairs to younger audiences using creative ideas on social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. “Children trust us and we should be there and available to them,” said multimedia journalist Kristin Granbo.

The usefulness of the Eurovision UGC Verification Network, which ensures the reliability of social media content for Members, was also profiled by VRT journalist Majd Kalifeh who highlighted the power of the network: “With 19 languages in the group - who needs Google Translate!", he said.

In the final powerful keynote Amy Goodman, Executive Producer of US investigative show “Democracy Now!” reflected on the media’s role in the result of the recent US Presidential election and the importance of robust, inquisitive journalism to democracy.

“We’re giving a voice to grassroots movements and providing a forum for those in power to engage in dialogue, discourse and debate and that’s where the media fails us,” she told the delegates by satellite from New York.

“We need a media that provides a forum for everyone – anything less than that is a disservice to democratic society.”

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