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23.06.2011

Journalism profession will change but survive – experts

Moscow, June 27, RIA Novosti – Experts brought together by RIA Novosti for its Future Media Forum on Thursday discussed cut-and-paste journalism, customized media, and the future of the journalism profession.

The discussion was part of a special session -- Russian and Foreign Media: Past, Present, Future -- organized by RIA Novosti in association with the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP).

More than 70 representatives of Russian and foreign media took part in the session. Eighteen of the participants delivered keynote speeches on the current development of media in Russia and abroad.

“We’ll try to look ahead, as well as around,” RIA Novosti Deputy Editor-in-Chief Valery Levchenko said in his address. “And we’ll do that not by making forecasts or suggesting scenarios, but by sharing views between speakers who reflect the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of Russia and developing countries.”

IFP Russia Director Oksana Oracheva expressed confidence that the journalism profession will not disappear, and neither will the journalist’s responsibility to the reader. In her view, the Russian news media now tends to produce mainly cut-and-paste journalism and has little interest in providing in-depth analyses.

“Analysis, meanwhile, will be a highly important component for journalists working in the future media,” she pointed out.

Oksana Silantieva, a media trainer at the Higher School of Journalism and an IFP grant beneficiary, echoed the point, saying that the current predominance of cut-and-paste journalism is due to the lack of the author’s individuality in news stories. “We’ve made news coverage impersonal and that’s what we call journalism these days,” she said.

AP Deputy Editor-in-Chief Thomas Kent argued that impersonal journalism is free of envy and that professionals working in new media are generally happier than their colleagues at traditional news outlets. Regarding the problems of new media, he acknowledged that it suffers from a trust deficit.

Taking up the topic of social media, World Editors Forum Director Bertrand Pecquerie said that in the 21st century, journalism will have to move from mass media to customized media that can cater to the individual needs of their users.

The session included a panel discussion in which IFP beneficiaries from Russian regions such as the Altai Territory, Kalmykia, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, St Petersburg and Moscow as well as from Brazil, Peru, China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, made presentations on their local media landscape.

Foreign participants said they learn about current events in Russia mostly from periodicals and TV news headlines and that most of the news stories deal with international visits by high-ranking Russian officials.

The evolution of social media featured prominently in all of the foreign speakers’ reports. They said many countries are now going through the process of convergence between traditional and new media. 

Jing Zhang, deputy editor of China’s Xinjiang Television, spoke about current trends in China’s social media landscape. According to her, new media now has the strongest impact on the political landscape in China and is also instrumental in modernizing the country’s culture.

Some of the speakers highlighted problems with freedom of speech in developing countries today, drawing parallels with censorship in the colonial era.

Nadim Asrar, editor of the news department for the Indian information agency GBN’s website IBNlive.com, noted in his report that one of the major problems facing India’s print media nowadays is the large number of illiterate people, while lack of equipment is the main problem for the country’s electronic media.

Lack of computers and limited Internet access were also among the problems identified by Russian speakers.

“Almost all of Russia’s regional television channels have social media accounts, but they don’t update their web sites regularly as no one knows how to develop them further,” said IFP beneficiary Alexander Ivanov, editor-in-chief of the Rostov Region’s television network Russia 24 Don.

Foreign participants were particularly interested in where Russian regional press get the money to stay afloat. As they discovered, local media in Russia suffer from the same problems as local media elsewhere, namely underfunding, competition with national media for reader attention, and lack of competence to effectively operate in cyberspace. These questions were addressed to journalists from St Petersburg, Kalmykia and Rostov-on Don.

The Future Media Forum, organized by RIA Novosti, is being held as part of the events marking the news agency’s 70th anniversary. Top managers of major Internet companies, the founders of some of the world’s major online media, leading journalists and media analysts are taking part in the forum, trying to predict how the role of traditional and new media will change in the years ahead.