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OSCE Media Representative holds conference on Open Journalism in Vienna

“We have to stop being afraid from newcomers in journalism and new media,” said OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic (@OSCE_RFoM) in her opening statement at the Open Journalism Expert Meeting on May 5 in Vienna that aimed at examining the effects that open journalism has on traditional media.

OSCE Open Journalism Conference in ViennaModerator of the day Geneva Overholser (@genevaoh) of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism said that many journalists still saw themselves as gatekeepers, still standing at the gates but not realizing that the fence has long gone.

“Got a smartphone? Commit an act of journalism!” encouraged The Guardian Features Editor Jon Henley (@jonhenley). The Internet had changed the game, forever, but open journalism was an extraordinary opportunity for traditional journalism.

“Journalists can no longer bullshit.”

“Readers have always known more than journalists but now they can say so”, according to Henley and they did so as fact checkers, contributors, and distributors. Increasingly, articles were the beginning of a process, not the end. In the future, thus, it would be more useful to define what an act of journalism was instead of defining who was a journalist. “Open” was a new attribute to journalism that does not mean that traditional journalistic skills and judgment such as objectivity or accuracy were abandoned.

Tarlach McGonagale (@tarlachmc) of the Institute for Information Law of the University of Amsterdam sees journalism as a craft. And as any craft changes over time, so did journalism. At the same time, some craftiness on the side of legislators and politicians would be needed to accept and embrace open journalism.

A number of legal principles had been established by the European Court of Human Rights, including presentational and editorial freedom, protection of sources, or protection from searches and seizures. These principles have been valid for traditional media in the past, and they were also valid today. There was a greater diversity of actors today as well as alternative institutionalized structures, but the most important aim remained to allow individuals to engage in public debate.

Aidan White (@aidanpwhite), Director of the Ethical Journalism Network cautioned against “technological triumphalism” and suggested as a survival strategy for journalists to get back to what they did best: quality journalism. He warned that corporate communication was filling the void that has been created by the emptying of newsrooms. Questions at hand were how to check facts, how to moderate content, and how to guarantee “quality before clicks”. It was time to rebuild the ethical base of media, promote self-regulation at enterprise and national level and limit the use of law.

Tonya Samsonova (@toniasamsonova) of Echo Moscow News stated that also bloggers were professionals. At the same time she disagreed with demands that bloggers should need to register as mass media. In Russia, there was a great variety of traditional media, but little public discussion or sharing of political views and opinions. The Internet had increasingly become the platform for such discourse and Twitter and social media became a source for journalists on what is going on. Nevertheless, editors needed to distinguish the real information from social media. Open journalism wasn’t a platform of trusted sources. However, media houses publishing false information was more dangerous than false information itself.

The first speaker of the afternoon session, Attila Mong (@attilamong), was introducing a number of initiatives of atlatszo.hu to facilitate journalism from Hungary, including a “FOI machine” which was supporting freedom of information requests from journalists and the general public.

Tim Karr (@timkarr), Senior Director of Strategy of Free Press, said that for him, concepts of media freedom and internet freedom merged already some time ago. Any form of journalism must be protected, including the open Internet as a platform on which different forms of journalism were taking place. To keep the Internet open, transparency was needed on different levels, including the application and network layer.

Boro Kontic (@BoroKontic), Director of the Media Centre Sarajevo, reported from Bosnia and Hercegovina that social media were also used as a tool to criticize traditional media for false or manipulated content, particularly in times of crisis. However, political and regulatory issues needed to be solved in order to foster the digitization of society.

Juan Luis Manfredi Sánchez (@juanmanfredi) of the University of Castilla La Mancha reported on a growing trend of new media companies founded by journalists that became entrepreneurs. He also stressed the importance of hyper-local journalism as a possibility to create small projects with limited resources to create new local media. What still was missing, are new narratives and new ways of storytelling: today a newspaper was looking like a newspaper 20 years ago. Also, business cases were still underdeveloped to sustain new media outlets.

The conference on open journalism (#openjournalism) was the first event in a series of expert meetings organized by the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). More information at www.osce.org/event/open-journalism and www.osce.org/fom.

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