Crossing Borders

The other day I heard about an event I want to share with you: the Journalism Across Border conference. It took place from 26 Sept – 28 Sept at University of Technology Ilmenau in Germany. Let’s get right to it.


How does the conference relate to the field of activism?

As you probably know, this blog deals with the effectiveness of social media in activist movements. Within the world of social media, blogging represents a powerful weapon. Blogging started the Arab Spring. Well, but is blogging a form of journalism?

The answer depends on whom you ask. Bloggers might say yes, whereas journalists probably would say no. Admittedly, bloggers and journalist usually have different aims. Journalists want to inform, while bloggers rather want to share their opinions. Things aren’t always that black and white, though.

Both journalism and blogging increasingly take place across borders, reach and influence audiences. Therefore trends and developments that are discussed on a congress of cross-border journalism are relevant to the field of social media in activism.


What were the conference’s most important takeaways?

The conference touched upon a variety of topics. Its overall theme was „The Production and ‘Produsage’ of News in the Era of Transnationalization, Destabilization and Algorithmization“. A special focus were the issues of rights and ethics in journalism. The purport of conference reads as follows: “The current questions of mankind cannot be answered locally or nationwide.”

The Nigerian attendee Farooq Kperogi shared interesting insights from an African point of view. According to him new technologies gave Africa the ability to represent itself in the world without having to rely on the old foreign correspondence model, which only tells one part of a story. Kperogi added that the disadvantage of the old model was the alienation of Africans by foreign correspondents who create content for their domestic audiences.

In many African countries an interesting development has been taking place. An increasing number of international news organizations has been closing their local bureaus and correspondences. The future model of news coverage relies on the collaboration with local African journalist to provide news coverage about African issues.


Does journalism follow activism?

To me it seems like trends in activism have preceded the ones in journalism. For many years social movements have been benefitting from new technologies that enabled everyone to write and forward facts and opinions. Movements became more decentralized. Is mainstream media about to follow?

I doubt that mainstream journalism will become citizen journalism soon. In the new model of collaboration Western media organizations are likely to collaborate only with African media professionals. This approach doesn’t resemble citizen journalism at all. However, similar to activism, the journalism industry will get more connected and probably become more diverse and less centralized. Also very much like in activism, the new model of news coverage will provide more people with the opportunity to get his or her voice heard.

Western media organization might adopt the model of collaboration to lower costs and increase the speed of their news coverage. Whatever, their reasons might be, I welcome this decision as it puts local knowledge in the center.

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