Here is the executive summary of the conference "Innovation Journalism - Detecting Weak Signals". (originally posted by European Journalism Center - EJC who also have a comprehensive summary )
I want to thank the EJC for putting together a smashing three days at their headquarters in Maastricht. Under the helm of their visionary director, German broadcast veteran Wilfried Rütten, the EJC team brought together a very interesting group of people, maintaining interesting discussions around the clock for three days. It is great news that the EJC has decided to organize a second conference on Innovation Journalism, in 2008. Here is the summary in their words:
The tune of society’s conversation with itself sounds increasingly like punk rock music, said Stanford University researcher David Nordfors at the European Journalism Centre’s three-day conference on innovation journalism. Nordfors, who coined the phrase ‘innovation journalism’ in 2003, heads the Innovation Journalism program at Stanford, run by SCIL and VINNOVA.
To Nordfors, mainstream media today comes off a bit like a commercial rock band such as Led Zeppelin. And to the common man sitting way back in the cheap seats, such rock legends look and sound a bit out of focus.
More fun and accessible to the everyman are local punk bands, the indie groups rocking out in local public houses, he said. They are closer to real life, and much more direct in their message. And they don`t need big trucks for lighting and sound equipment to get their message across, thus making the point that everybody can “perform” if they have something vital to say. When “punk” first cropped up in the late seventies, many saw this as a paradigm change that turned music into a more democratic endeavor, away from big corporations and big money.
Innovation journalism, as Nordfors presented it at the July conference, is concerned with the paradigm changes of today, stressing the importance of technological innovations and addressing the necessity of media coverage of these developments. Innovation and innovation reporting are seen as catalysts for social transformations, tools by which innovations will become more readily disseminated across society.
For many present-day journalists working at traditional media outlets – and the concerned publishers eyeing their account ledgers – the idea of this a shift remains terrifying.
“A lot of journalists feel threatened within their traditional structures,” said Wilfried Rutten, director of the EJC.
More than 20 media experts from around Europe and the United States convened in Maastricht, the Netherlands, to discuss innovation journalism and the innovation ecosystem. The EJC partnered with the Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University, Stanford and Deutche Welle to host the conference.
Most of the speakers, like Evgeny Morozov, the director of new media for Transitions Online, used their presentations to point out innovative developments in new media.
Morozov argued for the wisdom of the crowds, endorsing a bottom-up innovation process stemming from the diverse knowledge distributed among a growing number of people who are socially networking across the so-called blogosphere. Individual experts producing blogs, and the masses using use platforms such as Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, are further positive aspects of community.
“As technology gets smarter, paradoxically we see more and more emphasis put on the role of human interaction,” he noted.
Nordfors stressed the benefit of innovation in a democratic society and the need to understand the horizontal nature of innovation processes through innovation journalism, which treats innovation as a topic and follows its development across various wavelengths, be they technology, business, politics, etc.
In the vertically-structured newsrooms of today, it can be difficult to isolate the concept of innovation and add it as a buzzword to society’s daily dialogue.
Daniel Sokolov, a Vienna-based freelance journalist writing about tech and innovation news, advocated good, old-fashioned community involvement as a way to connect the dots of vertically-structured news beats. He pointed out the importance of talking about trends, trying to get a larger picture, crossing geographic borders. Journalists sometimes have an easier time spotting innovation in societies other than their own, he noted.
Sarah Schantin-Williams of IFRA Newsplex, a consulting group, pointed to several newsrooms, mainly the Daily Telegraph, which have recently reorganised in order to be more innovative. This reorganisation will allow them to be more up to date by focussing on a 24/7 updated news schedule the web allows. Moreover, by integrating more user comments, newspapers can widen their scope to be more inclusive of community aspects Also, by adding video, they are free to leave the narrow constraints of paper based information and can go for a richer and more engaging multimedia experience.
Newsrooms need to focus more on ideas and planning if they’re to produce multi-media packages, she said.
Deutsche Welle, the German broadcasting corporation that employs about 1,500 people from over 30 countries to produce programming in 30 languages, is trying to reach its audience on many platforms, said Wilfried Runde, the head of innovation projects.
Above all, Deutche Welle considers itself a content leader – not just a broadcaster, he said. Of increasing importance is considering how the DW product looks or sounds on various news aggregators and media players – be they iPods, mobile phones or laptop computers.
Stefan Jenzowsky, a Berlin-based marketing consultant formerly of Siemens, and Manfred Moormann, head of broadband entertainment and services at Telekom Austria, represented the telekom industries.
Jenzowsky drew inspiration from both Ron Hammer and the U.S. steel industry.
Mainstream media integrating new media into existing coverages can provide a platform for community, convergence and entertainment – a la Ron Hammer.
Mainstream media outlets need to integrate existing new media technologies into their coverages because integration provides, for any business, an insurance policy for the survival of the company, he said.
“Shares are traded on the assumption of the future performance of that company,”Jenzowsky said after chronicling the manner in which mini mills were able to become successful in the American steel market.
Moormann, who is best known for creating a platform for user-generated content in Engerwitzdorf, Austira, said that to him, innovation is foremost about finding economic applications for inventions. Inventions must have impact – like that of YouTube – if they are to be considered innovation.
Nearly all presenters lamented the lack of a business model mainstream media companies can employ in order to adapt to and be profitable in the innovation ecosystem.
Roland Strauss, a founder of the European Innovation Dialogue, said the image of innovation itself needs a makeover.
“Those who deal with it say innovation is the most important thing for our future – but the citizens don’t care,” he said.
The Mission of the EID – one of many groups trying to create networks of regional-level innovators in the interest of bringing their products or concepts to the EU level – is to be a one-stop shop for innovation – so key to achieving the goals laid out in the Lisbon Strategy of 2000. He spoke with great hope about developments in the works, such as the European Institute of Technology, a European answer to MIT.
Laws governing new media can seem at times about as clear as mud – and the lawyers and lawmakers the proverbial sticks in that mud. Michael Kams, an attorney from Hasche Sigle, and Eric Karstens, an expert in media regulation in the EU, held forth on legal constraints on innovation. Developing laws and policies which can roll with the times won’t be easy, both noted – but it is possible.
Most of the participants of the three-day conference in Maastricht, the Netherlands, came away with a positive view of innovation, EJC director Wilfried Rütten surmised.
He said that the EJC is likely to hold another innovation conference next year. A date has tentatively been set for early September.