NEUSTART: Shaping the Post-Covid Media Order
Thursday, 17 September 2020 in Potsdam and online
Author: Sophia Wellek
“NEUSTART: Shaping the Post-Covid Media Order” was the title of the international media conference M100 Sanssouci Colloquium held on 17 September 2020. The online digital format was a first for the high-level event that allowed nearly 100 journalists, experts and politicians from across Europe to meet virtually and discuss the post-COVID media order.
Moderator and M100 Board Member Leonard Novy welcomed the participants by explaining the premise and goals of the conference and pointing out how COVID-19 had not only shaped the logistics but also framed the conference theme: “On the one hand, the state of emergency has demonstrated that journalists too, like our nurses and supermarket employees, are essential workers. Yet, on the other hand, the very institutions that produce journalism are suffering from the effects of the worst recession in a century, exacerbating the structural problems many of them were already facing.” Against this backdrop, M100 would serve as a strategic space to discuss “What can we do, what do we have to do TODAY, to make sure, we have functioning media systems, sustaining our democracies, in 2030?”
In his Opening Speech Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford University, addressed challenges to Europe’s media order revolving around ownership (Find here the complete speech).
Anna Sauerbrey, deputy editor-in-chief of Der Tagesspiegel, kicked off the conference providing first-hand insights into the impact of Covid-19 on a German traditional media outlet in an input on “Covering Covid-19: Lessons from the Frontlines”. She pointed to a new appreciation of media by its audience and the realization of the people that media are relevant to the system. Moreover, she emphasized the media’s flexibility and fastness to change, as Covid required a constant change with regard to digital communication. Finally, she observed how media achieved an increase in readership. While Der Tagesspiegel, for instance, usually counts 7-8 million users a month, the readership doubled during the pandemic to a number of 16/17 million users.
Afterwards, the group split in four “Virtual Roundtable” discussions exploring how Europe’s media landscape can secure its long-term viability and address challenges such as fake news, the dominance of large platforms, financing difficulties and societal polarization. Held in parallel, each roundtable examined these issues in terms of economics, politics or society, respectively.
„Renewing Journalism’s ‘Social Contract” was the title of the “Society” roundtable revolving around questions of the relationship between media and the audience and the role of the media in holding the governments accountable. The goal of this session was to identify the challenges and solutions on how to rebuild the social contract. The session was moderated by Frederik Fischer, co-founder of piqd and managing board member of Vocer.
The first speaker Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, held an input on “Why We Need to Defend Free Speech”. He particularly pointed to a double threat with regard to the free speech of journalists:
On the one hand, a real danger to a free media would remain authoritarian state power due to the elimination of independent institutions like the judiciary or their vilification of the media, e.g. Index in Hungary. On the other hand, a prescribed view in media that is actually rejected by the vast majority would threaten a vibrant media resulting in the growing distrust of the wider population in media,
The two threats are ultimately connected: “We have to resist the right-wing populists and to resist their capture”, said Mounk and the only way to resist would be a free and open discussion within the mainstream.
The author and internet expert, Marina Weisband, gave the second input on “A test of resilience: COVID-19, journalism and trust in institution” pointed to the ambivalence of the internet: Of course, it diversified the public which is now better informed, connected and more powerful in general. But simultaneously, the public is more vulnerable to authoritarianism and monopolies and it is harder for media to gain trust in their work.
In this context, Weisband pointed to the need for a second enlightenment: Currently, traditional media would often try to compete with social media in speed and attention. In contrast, Weisband called for slower in-depth research journalism that is better in “connecting the dots in our complex world”.
As to the question of trust in authorities, Weisband explained that this is caused by a lack of control and overview in a complex world. In this context, media would need to stop magnifying irrelevant but loud groups as well as regarding the view of authoritarians and populists as equally valuable but rather shape a common ground for discussion.
Moreover, she called for more transparency in journalistic work and new ways of communication with the audience: “Every journalist is a bit of a teacher.” Weisband hopes that with improved transparency and improved education the fundamental distrust in media and the establishment could be minimized.
Jim Egan, Chief Executive Officer at BBC Global News, gave a third input on “Restoring trust in the age of Fake News”. In his view, the following areas are relevant to the discussion about media trust: He called for a continuous execution of impartiality in newsroom by revealing the facts even if uncomfortable for the public. Moreover, he pointed to the need for social media regulation including both illegal content around insights of violence and hatred but also disinformation and economic regulation of the tech giants.
Meera Selva, Director of the Journalist Fellowship Programme at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, referred to the outlined challenge of news avoidance as well as lack of diversity. Selva conducted amongst other a separate project on mental health of journalists who covered war. Lessons learned from a psychiatrist: “It is bad for people’s mental health to avoid the news.” Struggling would accordingly be a mental advice and promote well-being. Against this background, Selva called for a new debate about the emotions of the audience media aim to bring about – anxiety and worry? “Who is the news been written for – what’s being seen as the norm – who is the default person that we are writing about?”
The Chief Executive of Re-Imagine Europa (RIE), Erika Widegren, pointed to an essay by Madame de Staël from 1791 after the French Revolution about public opinion as a salient example that shows that polarization is not a new phenomenon. 230 years ago, the author already put her finger on the public allegedly being ignorant about politics and aspiring for a happy life because of the extreme political situation where people are obliged to take sides, while simultaneously being more difficult for groups to come together due to the introduction of new media and the spread of lies and hate speech. Today the digital revolution is changing everything and Widegren emphasized: “We are still working with a newtonian physics world in a quantum physics world.” While 230 years ago, media regulation, defamation laws, copyright laws were introduced, today the challenges are moving at a very high speed with the digital and are conflated in a very difficult ideological political paradigm shift which has come from the political, economic and financial crisis. Widegren hence called for more literacy of journalists when it comes to social media as well as more of a macro perspective on the crises by developing an incentive system for the society to counter polarization.
The American science fiction and media theorist Alan Shapiro called for more self-criticism of the media and science: “Forget about this epistemology of truth – you don’t respond to people who don’t believe in truth by just saying ‘Truth, truth, truth’.” The US elections reveal how liberal media keep reminding Trump supporters of the facts while Illiberal media call Trump supporters to be more self-critical. Against this backdrop, Shapiro asked where the self-criticism of the liberal media with their myth of objectivity and facts is and called for more contextualization and historical background, better education of journalists in history, political science and discourse analysis from literature science.
Yascha Mounk responded to the debate of objectivity held by Weisband who called for more participatory education in teaching the truth and Shapiro appealing the media to become more self-critical by raising awareness for the internalized political pressure of mainstream media in speaking the truth.
Brigitte Alfter, Director of Arena for Journalism in Europe called for more listening to the audience as an expression of respect: “Journalists need to bridge a larger gap between power and the people who actually would like to be listened to in a globalized world.” With the digital tools journalists are capable of listening to groups of people, contextualizing and amplifying their voices to bring them and their local problems back to the agenda of the politicians. “Many people have invested a lot in innovation of journalism but we need to innovate journalism as a profession and need to innovate our competencies,” added Alfter additionally. Particularly the way media is listening to its audience and how to collaborate needs to be taught.
The managing director of the news channel ntv and editor-in-chief of RTL Germany’s central newsroom Tanit Koch responded to Weisband’s call for more slow research journalism: “There is nothing on getting news too fast as long as they are right, we should actually work as fast as possible because if we are not somebody else might get there who does not have the same ethical standards, the same professional standards – just blaming it all on the internet – this does not mean would should not also provide context and background. Both is needed also a slow approach to analysis”. Moreover, she commented on the notion of mainstream media which she considers inappropriate due to its use by people who have an utter dislike to journalism. As an alternative, she suggests that the term “independent media” would put it better.
Finally, Tanit Koch called media to become more customer-obsessed! Instead of focusing very much on media itself and striving for applause from colleagues in the media sector, it should draw more attention to the wider public and audience. For the purposes of illustration, Koch presented the German example: 70 percent of the population live in places smaller than a 100.000 people and not in large urban places while 95 percent of the journalists live in urban environments. In this context, Koch urgently agreed to Alfter’s comment that calls for more listening to the audience instead of prioritizing particularly the media’s concerns: “The academization of our profession is not helping to get people inside the business”.
Alex Sängerlaub, head of the “Strengthening the Digital Public Sphere” division of the Berlin think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, called for innovation also in the way we write our stories. Her referred to a citation by Helmut Schmidt: “News media do not help democracy, it is full of negativity and media democracy produce populists not leaders.” Sängerlaub said that some information is made for attention economy and but there is no value in this. Hence, constructive journalism which shows more perspectives on the topic might serve as a solution to news avoidance and the attention economy.
Lorena Jaume-Palasí, founder of The Ethical Tech Society suggested that ethics should be at the center of our concerns. She called for a contextualization of how to deliver facts and when to do fact-checking, so it would be effective. When talking about disinformation, for instance, journalists, according to Jaume-Palasí, would refer to the context of propaganda but this would certainly not present a matter of fact-checking but rather of identity discourse. “In such context, fact checking does not help but on the contrary, it even radicalizes some profiles.” Fact-checking then would accordingly be ineffective in changing people’s mind about such information because people sharing propaganda are not convinced by logics and facts but rather are doing so in order to prove their loyalty and affiliation to a group or to a specific kind of ideology. Hence, the mistrust and criticsm on social media that was previously discussed is linked to the methodologies and ethics of journalism.
The Ethics and Standards Editor at First Draft, Victoria Kwan, is equally uncertain about the impact of fact-checking on changing the leaders’ minds but reminds of another purpose that fact-checking serves: It holds politicians accountable because in this way politicians know that someone is watching them, eventually making them less likely to refer to mis- or disinformation. Because a fact checker would however not be able to change the mind of a conspiracy theorist, more empathy for the readers is in contrast required. This would certainly not only mean to listen more to the readers but also being empathic in the way journalists frame their story: They should acknowledge that there is anger and avoid ridiculing conspiracy theories and the people believing in them. A strong ethical framework and most of all strong empathy for those that institutions have left behind is hence necessarily required according to Kwan.
Markus von Jordan, CEO and partner of the August-Schwingenstein Foundation, also brought up the funders’ perspective by claiming that journalists alone could certainly not solve the problems of media trust and fake news. “A lot of problems we face is due to social media and attention economy – only about quantity, polarization. It trains a polarized audience.” Hence, he called for new infrastructure solutions that work for the common good.
The media theorist Alan Shapiro referred to his utopia and vision of post-scarcity economy where technology could be designed and implemented intelligently with moral algorithm for instance. To this end, a revolution in computer science is required in order to develop a software coding turning from an engineering discipline to a philosophical humanities’ discipline. Shapiro emphasized the need for ethics to be reintroduced into the heart of platforms and technology because informatics as an idealistic technology has become the most powerful tool to influence society.
Markus Beckedahl, founder and editor-in-chief of netzpolitik.org, agreed that ethics needs to be built into the curriculum of computer science but reminded of the ultimate motivation of the big platforms for their action: “You can train all the computer scientists but if an employee says we have this business decision then they cannot act ethically enough.” Hence, he called for a better framework for non-profit journalism in Germany as well as media literacy training – not only to younger people in school but for all kinds of people in the society.
Miroboard of the “Society” Roundtable:
“Sustaining Democratic Media Ecosystems” was the title of the “Politics” roundtable discussing issues of media freedom and the integrity of the democratic process in the ‚age of misinformation’ and ways of countering future forms of fake news and digital deceit. During the roundtable the speakers mainly discussed whether the actors in the field including the media can be trusted or whether there is a need for more regulation on the institutional level. The session was moderated by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, columnist for The Telegraph (London), ARTE TV, New York Post.
The first input was held by Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress on “Media Democracy amid COVID-19 – Lessons from the US”. She explained that in the US fake news has been industrially and technologically spread and at the same time many has been stalled from news organizations to go to digital platforms. While opinion is free, news costs of course a lot. Hence, Neera believes that we need to aid local media covering everyday news because that’s how people get interested in.
Dipayan Ghosh, Co-director of the Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, gave a second input on “Digital Deceit”. He called for taking into account the negative externalities of fake news and the change of perception that they induce when we look at social media and decide whether to tax them more, how we tax them possibly or how we break them up. He claimed that it would be possible to bring evaluation of the negative externality and the harm it does to society and to business and to the work of public services.
The Principal Advisor of the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers in the EU Commission Paul Nemitz pointed to the actions taken by the European Union, especially the European Commission: For instance, the GDPR regulation and other was predominantly achieved because a clear goal was set and various distractions that all member states agreed upon were discerned. He emphasized Europe’s strong performance and action in this regard.
Victor Pickard, Professor of Political Economy and Media Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, reminded the audience that the crisis of journalism did not only hit the West but is a global phenomenon. Moreover, he recommended to not only look at the symptoms but focus on the core root of the crisis: Particularly, the business model of journalism with an overreliance on advertising revenue would mainly drive mis- and disinformation. Pickard advocates a structural alternative: Only public media systems would accordingly be able to support journalism to the extent democracies would require it.
Victoria Hristova and Juuso Järviniemi, participants of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop, referred to the need for more education in media literacy, both for young and also older people. The issue of media literacy should be incorporated into media coverage, including in places where it is not accessible, for instance, on the countryside. Daniela Kraus added that this should also apply to the administration.
Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), responded to the question of media literacy by extending it to civic education including the study of history for instance. Radsch is rather pessimistic about the chance for journalism to become visible in the current information environment. Hence, a deep understanding of the current media system would be required: the way information is circulated, the economic downfalls, the role of diversity in journalism, the design of the platforms like Facebook offering discussions increasingly designed to polarize audiences, the value in different types of reporting (investigative or local journalism) or the relationship between audience and journalists. “There are so many design issues undermining the possibility of news to compete in this environment,” Radsch emphasized and hence, teaching media literacy would just not be enough.
Neera Tanden agreed with the core problems of the media and referred to media literacy as well suggesting an essential problem, in particular in the US: Conservatives would accordingly tend to believe information shared on Facebook by friends or people they know. In contrast, liberals would care more about the news source and media citations. Tanden emphasized that the actual problem would be that misinformation spreads very quickly in such environments where people believe more in the people than the sources and citations. Moreover, the rise of incredible news sites with partisan imitating news site both by liberals and conservatives presents another striking problem because the public is apparently not able to distinguish between actual media sources and non-media partisan or even false information. Media literacy in this context would certainly help according to Tanden.
Courtney Radsch agreed but added a relevant point about the identification of fake news. She fears that people would react by asking ‘Who are they to decide?’ and this would be a legitimate question. Moreover, she questioned whether “improving the people’s ability to understand where their news is coming from” would actually have an impact. Because GAFA is not taking any action, Radsch recommended media to do reporting in a more comprehensive way: “When covering new tech developments, let’s connect that to broader democratic goals or to civil society calls for greater transparency, because we want to think that improving the ability of users to distinguish the funding sources of their news will make a difference, but we do not know because that data is not available and we are using the GDPR as an excuse not to provide data.”
The Chief Diplomatic Correspondent of Der Tagesspiegel Christoph von Marschall suggested to learn from the tabloids: “We can be more tabloidy without being less serious”. Accordingly, it would be helpful to find the issues which are interesting and closer to people’s life and directly influence their life: “Local news builds trustworthiness, because they can control the local.” However, he emphasized that media should remain balanced and not become more partisan or do more campaigning.
Christoph von Marschall moreover argued that media should not wait for governments to regulate but stand up and take action itself. Apparently, media is not successfully reaching the audience compared to the populists, so it should find ways to be more convincing: “Just because we consider ourselves to be non-populist, does that really mean that people should listen to us? We need to make sure to make the better arguments, that we are covering the right stories!” In this context, Christoph von Marschall pointed to the various new methods that help media in reporting, e.g.the coverage of the shooting down of Malaysian flight by bellingcat.com: Social media posts raised questions and delivered relevant material for investigating the case. “We hence have to uncover propaganda but, in the way, that we still believe in our abilities and methods and do not try to be some sort of counterpropaganda.”
Dipayan Ghosh pointed again to the business model of GAFA which he considers to be a core problem: it prioritizes the consumption of dis- and misinformation, because it travels faster than real news and it promotes engagement through the label of profiling and consensus. In this regard, GAFA highlights content that is probable to provoke more engagement and only secondarily considers potential negative social effects.
Neera Tanden concluded with a resistance to the notion of journalists being entirely self-congratulatory: “We have media that are hyper-sensationalistic and attack the motives of people, drive information and news for clicks.” One of the realities in the US according to Tanden is that Trump would have a media domination unlike any entity that has ever occurred in the US which includes an ability to shape the media narrative with his sensationalist news that reporters cover out of the imperative for clicks. “This drives a level of cynicism”, she argued and agreed with Ghosh that the profit motive of media has pushed it to cover hypersensationalist issues and the media would play a role here too. Hence, she pointed to a lot of coverage that media should not be self-congratulatory about.
Miroboard of the “Politics” Roundtable:
(I) Politics: Sustaining Democratic Media Ecosystems
(II) Politics: It’s the Platforms, stupid!? Projecting Europe’s Values in the Digital Field
Under the title “Saving the News? Next Level Journalism” the “Business” roundtable discussed the speakers’ insights and experiences, particularly with regard to the economic challenges of journalism and future strategies to finance and sustain quality media. The session was moderated by Christoph Lanz, M100 Board and head of board of Thomson Media.
Charlie Beckett, Director of Polis (LSE) held a first input on “The future of journalism – post-Covid19”. In response to the massive problems of journalism in terms of revenue, credibility, political pressure and the intense demands on individual journalists and newsrooms that are all accelerated by the pandemic he called for action to avert to be left in its death throes: Journalism would have to speak and act more to demonstrate its value to society. It should have a vital role to fight misinformation online and look at the incredible innovation in formats, marketing, and business models. It should become more diverse in its content and its workforce.
When it comes to issues of financing journalism Beckett emphasized: “Independent commercially funded, competitive journalism is the life-blood of a healthy media system.” He moreover claimed that technology will be critical in catalyzing change. But according to Beckett AI or any other technology or business model would not save journalism unless it continues to radically change its editorial strategies and cultures. Collaboration within and between news organizations will be critical.
Veselin Vačkov, Czech Director of Lidové Noviny explained how Coronavirus accelerated an economic slowdown of media caused by the increasing dominance of the platforms and other factors, eventually resulting in a financial loss due to a low number of subscriptions and low advertising revenues. He predicted a combination of media partly owned by oligarchs or tech companies or of non-profit or public nature.
Christopher Buschow, Assistant Professor of “Organization and Network Media” in the Media Management Department at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar pointed to the results of his previous study “Money for nothing and content for free! The willingness to pay” which dealt with the question of how much people are willing to pay for journalism. Journalism would accordingly have always been subsidized by advertising business and its price tag would have been mainly influenced by the fee determined by other media. Buschow explained that because Netflix and other platforms offer a huge range of content are all available for around little month users and customers do not value news and journalism and why they need to pay more for journalism? Digital literacy could help but Buschow is generally pessimistic about the future price tag of journalism in the future.
Dominique Roch, Head of digital communication of Autobahn GmbH des Bundes, added that we would have been discussing the ways of financing media for a long time already without much movement and ambition in the industry. A subscription model could help but only if the audience receives the content it is interested in. The big platforms, such as Amazon, Netflix and other are already personalized but in her view, journalism would be more attractive, if media shared and accumulated all the data as well while simultaneously working on data protection.
Moreover, Roch called for more diversity in journalism, particularly focusing on the gender aspect: “Everything is created for and by white man and nobody else is really taken into consideration.” Now with the Covid19 crisis, there would be a window of opportunity for change because the work place would have broken up and media world as well would be shaping up.
Maaike Goslinga, Managing Director of De Correspondent in the Netherlands, responded to Buschow, by sharing her experience: During the pandemic, the amount of memberships of De Correspondent has skyrocketed! The audience would actually be willing to pay more due to its “pay what you can” model with an average paying much more than expected and because it would stick to its clear mission values. She therefore recommended to sell memberships rather than subscriptions because there would be much more incentive to pay if the consumers did not only receive a product but actually also believed in the cause and were aware of its importance. Goslinga moreover called for offering particular and outstanding content and redefining the relationship with the outlet’s audience, as many media currently do not often precisely determine its target group which might be a cause for lack of identification with the outlet.
The founder and editor-in-chief of Oštro in Slovenia Anuška Delić claimed that the quality of legacy traditional commercial media would have declined to a terrible level but suggested that the non-profit media sector could in contrast not fail with standards due to financial pressures.
David Cohn, Senior Director of Advance Digital’s Alpha Group added: “We should not focus on saving the legacy institutions but instead focus more on the idea of saving journalism!”
Stephanie Reuters, CEO of the Rudolf Augstein Foundation, subsequently held an input on “To the Rescue?! Status quo and perspectives of non-profit journalism”. In reference to the title, she emphasized that the role of non-profit journalism would not be to preserve a particular version of the past, but rather to serve as a vehicle for transformation, a source of innovation, mode of journalistic practice and reminder to align journalism with the public interest. She explained that non-profit newsrooms would complement private sector news media very well, because they would fill the gap when the market is failing and provide high-quality supplements to limited public information offerings and allow private outlets to receive new forms of funding by turning “partial-non-profit”.
Non-profit journalism rose in reaction to the democratic crisis of 2008 in the US and in light of its weak media system. Within the last decade the number of non-profit news has therefore jumped to more than 250 in the US. In Europe, however, there are close to 150 thousand charitable foundations annually spending about 60 billion euros but hardly investing in journalism. In light of the struggles of commercial journalism in the digital age and how media freedom is under pressure, Reuter called European foundations to focus more on non-profit journalism. Because donors and policy-makers, however, would know too little about non-profit journalism in Germany so far, an expert group within the association of German foundations has been established and at the European level similar goals are pursued by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) with the Journalism Funders Forum. “These activities are baring first fruits but if we want to tap into new sources of funding of non-profit newsrooms, then we need to remove policy barriers”, Reuter said. In many countries journalism is however not recognized yet as a charitable cause. In Germany, the Rudolf Augstein Foundation is hence actively lobbying for that change, just as the forum for non-profit journalism does – an alliance of media actors, foundations and unions. Several parties across the political spectrum already support the demands.
Against this backdrop, Reuter called to raise awareness about this new way of funding journalism. She called the foundations to be more self-critical about their purpose, because they themselves would depend on a well-informed public to believe their aims and hence, should be interested in funding journalism as well. She called the policy-makers to ensure legal certainty: Innovation should be promoted through independently managed funds and open for non-profits as well. And finally, she called the non-profit entrepreneurs to draw more attention to reporting their impact and contributions to the common good.
The Managing Director of Medienhaus Wien Andy Kaltenbrunner reacted by raising the question of independence of journalism and how funding of state sources impacts media and called for a public debate on the matter.
Ides Debruyne, co-founder and managing director of Journalismfund.eu, a publicly funded organization facilitating independent cross-border investigative journalism in Europe by connecting donors and journalists, pointed to the need for a distinction between journalism and media legacy media. Accordingly, it would be crucial to ask how to save journalism without traditional media. He shared his observation that journalists increasingly start collaborating locally and internationally and non-profit organizations in his view are on the rise as well.
The editor-in-chief of Politico Matthew Kaminski called for focusing more on the success stories of media. He observed three common themes by successful media: First, they would have a clear idea of their target group which would help them finding ways to becaome more attractive for its costumers or audience. Second, media companies would tend to be more successful when embracing the idea of blurring the lines by becoming a version of a mix of broadcasting, radio station, tech company, think tank or other and by connecting with the community with a clear mission on why the audience should be interested. Third, he emphasized the need to make clear the value added for media, particularly in the context of a declining value of speed and breaking news in general.
Sue Cross, Executive Director of the Institute for Nonprofit News, added to Reuter’s input that charitable status of journalism could also be incentivized by individual donors because donations to non-profit newsrooms by individual donors are growing significantly.
Cross moreover referred to a further advantage of non-profit news when it comes to its audience relationship: As non-profit newsrooms serve the public and provide more interaction, events, a community, the relationship to its audience is fundamentally shifted because consumers develop a feeling of being part of the journalism.
As for the role of foundations, Cross explained that news as a charitable concept would of course be a new phenomenon but would be growing incredibly fast with around 300-400 non-profit news in the US, all founded in the last 10 years. Nevertheless, there would be much work to do convince more foundations to provide funding for non-profit journalism.
Mandy Jenkins, General Manager of The Compass Experiment, also reminded of the different realities for local newspapers compared to national media: “Investigative and in-depth news are really sexy and get a lot of money, but they are not the only important content sides out there.” Accordingly, local journalists mainly reporting on community news and daily life like schools or business openings would be very important as well but are not as much supported by the big donors. She suggested a lack of appreciation for reporters working on the local level. Simultaneously, the economic issues of some communities moreover would be a necessary obstacle for local media to convince its audience to pay for content for lack of financial resources.
Dominique Roch suggested as a solution that more cooperation among various local actors, including shops, smaller owners or media outlets in order to overcome the cahllenges of Coronavirus together: “Find other people that are small and together you can become big.”
Miroboard of the “Business” Roundtable:
The strategic implications of each roundtable were summarized in the closing plenary discussion, “The Path Ahead: Strategic Implications,” which concluded with remarks by the US activist Cory Doctorow: “We are all in this together”. In his speech, Doctorow emphasized “we should all understand that big tech is a cancer” and “big tech lies all the time”. Pointing to a variety of empty promises by GAFA, he explained that these companies get away with it for lack of real punishment. For instance, he called for finally depriving them of the legal tools for illegitimate use instead of just imposing a fine. But such punishment would be urgent according to Doctorow due to the profit-oriented nature of monopolies: “Monopolies have millions of dollars to spend on perverting the course of justice, including the blockage of privacy regulations or competition laws.” Monopolies would steal ourselves determination and corrupt our political process, destroy our ability to differentiate between the truth and fake. “Once we realize that we who worry about the future of the media and others who worry about every other monopolized movement are all on the same side and worry about pluralism and self-determination – once we figure that out, then we will be unstoppable”, concluded Doctorow.
The crisis in journalism, which has been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has brought Europe’s media order to a crossroads: “As democratic societies, we need to think now about the kind of public sphere and the kind of media landscape we actually want to live in,” said Leonard Novy, member of the M100 Advisory Board, in conclusion. The EU member states, he emphasized, have to work together in determining their digital future.