Italy: Future of News at Perugia International Journalism Festival

From April 25-29, 2012, Perugia, a charming city in the Italian region of Umbria became a vibrant meeting point for media enthusiasts and journalists from all over the world, at International Journalism Festival. Speakers included Wadah Khanfar (former director of Al Jazeera), Andy Carvin (NPR), Paul Lewis and Amelia Hill (Guardian), Marco Travaglio (Il Fatto Quotidiano), Evgeny Morozov and many others whose names ring a bell for anyone interested in media (full list of speakers).

Global Voices wouldn't miss the opportunity to be present as well, especially as this year's focus was participation and citizen journalism – arguably, the future of the news.

#ijf12 became a trending topic on Twitter. Picture: official logo.

#ijf12 became a trending topic on Twitter. Picture: official logo.

With panel discussions, keynote speeches, workshops, networking and interviews taking place everywhere, the fast-paced atmosphere of the festival could sweep you away, especially in the heat of Italian weather. People bearing the Festival's red badges saying ‘volunteer‘, ‘speaker’ or ‘staff’ took over this beautiful city and turned it into a melting pot of visionary ideas.

But enough about the pleasant circumstances. What were they talking about and why was it so important?

Open journalism is the future

Participation and collaboration in journalism stole the show; the most attended sessions touched on sourcing citizen reporters, working with readers to fact-check and even bringing them into the heart of the editorial process. Here are some examples of the discussions:

The panels about the future of news focused on community participation and ways to engage the public in journalistic processes. Mark Johnson, community editor at The Economist, stressed the importance that reaching out to social media and engaging journalists in dialogue with readers.

A young Costa Rican journalist interviews her Ugandan colleague Kevin Doris Ejon - the first journalist to interview Joseph Kony. Picture: Kasia Odrozek

A young Costa Rican journalist interviews her Ugandan colleague Kevin Doris Ejon – the first journalist to interview Joseph Kony. Photo: Kasia Odrozek

Wadah Khanfar of Al Jazeera proposed a vision for integral media in his keynote, which was livetweeted on his Twitter account, according to which journalists will actually no longer be producing the news. According to Khanfar, the news will be made through social networks and by smart bloggers, and the role of journalists will be to filter and sort out the relevant ones in order to steer the public discussion.

In addition, he stressed on Twitter:

@khanfarw: Corporations that owned the story are now challenged by those on the ground that are producing quality and accurate reports. #IJF12

In his keynote, Andy Carvin, who as he claimed, could be rather described as an information DJ [Disc Jockey] than a reporter, talked about the importance of experimenting to find new ways of doing journalism and presented his approach of reporting the Arab Spring via Twitter.

Andy Carvin's talk about tweeting the Arab Spring. Picture: Kasia Odrozek

Andy Carvin's talk about tweeting the Arab Spring. Picture: Kasia Odrozek

On another panel Paul Lewis talked about the innovative culture of the Guardian and its move towards “open news”, which is more than collaboration. It is bringing readers into the newsroom and involving them in the future direction of the newspaper.

Bringing technology and data journalism into the newsroom were also key themes at the Festival, with a series of workshops on data journalism hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

(Rising Voices grantee Friends of Januária from Brazil was recently featured in the new Data Journalism Handbook by the Open Knowledge Foundation and the European Journalism Centre.)

Stefano Rodotà, Emeritus Professor of law, while talking about the intersection of media, democracy, power and knowledge in his keynote speech, stated that denying someone Internet access because of downloading copyrighted material should be considered a violation of human rights.

Global Voices takes the stage

Besides a strong presence of Global Voices members, mainly from Global Voices in Italian, the Italian Editor, Bernardo Parrella, and Co-Founder of Voci GlobaliAntonella Sinopoli, hosted and participated in several panel discussions. (Here is a self-produced Flickr photostream).

While debating the importance of digital and social publishing and “aggregating the news aggregation” the guests mentioned several books published by independent publishing house Quinta di Copertina in collaboration with Global Voices in Italian, ‘70 chilometri dall'Italia: la rivolta del gelsomino‘, as well as Sinopoli's book ‘White Arrogance‘.

GV at the festival: Bernardo Parrella and Antonella Sinopoli in the panel about open journalism. Picture: Kasia Odrozek

GV at IJF12: Bernardo Parrella and Antonella Sinopoli in the panel about open journalism. Photo: Kasia Odrozek

At the panel on news reporting and social media curation, representatives of BBC, France24 and NPR debated with Bernardo Parrella about the role of citizens in the making of the news and the verification problem. The BBC insisted that traditional media, obliged by the trust put on them, provide verified news and a “whole truth” to the audience that citizen media aren't really able to. Parrella drew attention to the importance of experimenting and opening up of the mainstream media to the public.

There were many other highly interesting conversations taking place and you can find videos, press releases and articles covering almost all the events at the Festival's website.

Furthermore, consider passing by next year, as it seems the festival gets better with every edition according to Evgeny Morozov who tweeted:

@evgenymorozov: Had a very good time @journalismfest in Perugia this week – it gets better every year (and I thought last year it was impossible!)

Paul Lewis seemed to sum it all up in his tweet:

@PaulLewis: Is Perugia's #ijf12 the most enjoyable conference for journalists in the world? #ijf2012


This post was written in collaboration with Janet Gunter.

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