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‘There is a future for journalism, but it is a very expansive future,’ says conference organiser

September 14th, 2009Posted by in Events, Journalism, Training

Glyn Mottershead teaches newspaper journalism at the University of Cardiff. He blogs at http://egrommet.net/ and is @egrommet on Twitter.

Journalism will survive – but there’s no simple solution for how it gets there, or who is going to pay for it. That was the key message that underpinned the Future of Journalism conference at the Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural studies last week.

Delegates from 42 countries gathered in the city to hear over 100 papers looking at the industry from a range of aspects:

  • New media technologies, blogs and UGC;
  • Sources; Ethics; Regulation; and Journalism practice;
  • Global journalism;
  • Education, training and employment of journalists; History
  • Business; Citizen/activist journalism

James Curran (professor of communications at Goldsmith’s College) and Bettina Peters (director of the Global Forum for Media Development) kicked off proceedings with their plenary address.

Curran’s plenary focused on different views of the future: the survivalists, the new media romantics and those who believe there is a crisis of democracy afoot.

Being passive is not an option for the industry or academics, he argued. It is futile to try and predict the future: the focus should be on moulding and shaping the future where the two can work together to keep journalism alive.

Bettina Peters of the Global Forum for Media Development questioned whether it was appropriate to try and export business models from the developed world to the developing world. She discussed the need for collaboration between the northern and southern hemispheres. Journalism needs to be looking at mixed funding models, she said.

She too was concerned that journalists and educators needed to engage in a global discussion to share ideas and solutions and that the conversations shouldn’t just be about money or tools – two key strands of current industry discussion both on- and off-line.

Jon Bramley from Thomson Reuters, John Horgan the Irish press ombudsman, and Kevin Z. Smith, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, were among the participants presenting papers. A full timetable can be found at this link [PDF].

Conference organiser Professor Bob Franklin, of the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, was keen to stress that this wasn’t an academic talking shop – but a key place where journalists and those studying journalism can get together to share research and ideas from around the globe, something crucial given the massive changes taking place in the industry.

His view was that the conference showed there is no single future for journalism. This was echoed in roundtable talks with journalism educators who were finding it difficult to determine what media organisations need, while journalists in the room stated that the media didn’t know what it wants.

Professor Franklin, like many others at the conference, believes the key to the future of journalism depends on the platform and location: while newspapers are in decline in Europe and America they are thriving in India, and there is a rise in daily tabloids in urban South Africa – with a thriving market in used copies of newspapers.

“The conference was about the future of journalism, and that future looks very different from where you are standing,” said Franklin. “We were talking about possibilities, not about sowing gems of wisdom. There is a future for journalism, but it is a very expansive future.”

Video: Professor Alfred Hermida on the Future of Journalism

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