One week ago the International Journalism Festival held in Perugia, Italy came to an end.
The festival, which was organised for the first time in 2007 by journalist Arianna Ciccone and Chris Potter, is an annual miracle for a country like Italy, whose media landscape is sadly known for being state controlled, biased and mainly focused on national politics.
The annual event combines practical workshops and panels bringing together the world's most renowned journalists, media academics and experts to look at new trends and practices in the journalistic profession.
One of the panels at IJF in the beautifully decorated Sala dei Priori- Perugia, Italy
Over the course of the five days of the 2012 edition, much attention was dedicated to social media and participatory journalism, with speakers such as Al Jazeera's former director general Wadah Khanfar holding an enlightened speech about the future of journalism and the end of media organisations as we know them.
On the stage of Teatro Pavone, in the historical city center of Perugia, he presented to the audience the concept of "integral media", which he sees as the new philosophy for successful quality journalism close to the people and the matters that impact their daily lives: " Our relationship with centres of power, be it governments or corporates, have affected negatively the way that we do journalism" he said during the speech " We are doing journalism because we have a mission and those who would like to come into journalism believing that they are here for the sake of control, or the sake of power, or the sake of profit only, should do themselves a favour and quit from this profession".
Khanfar also stressed the importance of being close to the people and not be scared of the new technological and cultural shifts impacting our days: " Keep your eyes on the people, keep your allegiance to the truth and keep your mind open for the trends of the future, don’t try to resist change, because change is necessary and actually it is very welcome to get rid of the previous experiences that we had", he said.
Wadah Khanfar interviewed at Perugia's Festival
The speech of the former director general heavily echoed Manuel Castell's theory described in his book The Rise of the Network Society, which places individual, decentralised but interconnected nodes (citizen journalists in this case) at the core of a new social structure (media and news organisations in this case) all working together and sharing their collective intelligence.
Journalists can still play a very important role in this context: from news gatherers they will need to turn into professional figures capable of providing context to highly complex issues and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Journalists will increasingly become editors responsible for giving depth and consistence to the content filed in from citizen journalists all over the world.
The School of Data Journalism, organised by the EJC and the Open Knowledge Foundation, was one of the most popular series of panels and workshops attended by the audience of the festival. Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, such as Prof. Steve Doig and Sarah Cohen, introduced the visitors to the history and best practices of data journalism, which is clearly going to become more deeply rooted in the profession in the upcoming future. The lessons learnt from the School of Data Journalism are mainly two: 1) data journalists need to build teams and collaborate, 2) data is everywhere as all sides of public life and administration are somehow documented in some form of data.
So no scarcity of tools or resources for aspiring data journalists.
Other core topics of the festival was the use of social media as news sources and the risks they pose to content verification and authentication and investigative journalism.
But the best lesson the festival repeats every year is that the interest around journalism is more than ever alive and throbbing.
It was refreshing and inspiring to see how many young people queued up, sometimes for hours, to get a seat at the panels and workshops, thus defying the portrait mainstream media usually paints of the Italian youth, seen as disinterested, apathetic and superficial.
The International Journalism Festival is one of the most interesting events in the journalism and media field and an appointment not to be missed.
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