Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Innovation journalism within a comprehensive framework of innovation communication – Stanford 2010

A year has passed and another Innovation Journalism Conference at Stanford University (Stanford 2010) has been concluded. I hope its contents will resound in your thoughts and your understanding of a new global consciousness as they do in mine.The conference achieved a breakthrough that will also be felt in Slovenia. One of the factors in this step forward is the fact that the Stanford University’s Center for Innovation Journalism has been renamed to “Center for Innovation and Communication”. The InCo movement for innovative breakthroughs foresaw this change several years back. This year was also special because of those representing us at Stanford University. Their path was paved by former InJo Award recipients and other conference participants: Nataša Korajžija, Sabina Vrhnjak, Bojana Humar and Samo Kranjec. This year’s participants and awardees built on our previous experiences and affirmed Slovenia as a progressive, innovation-orientated country focused on higher goals. This article presents opinions by two of them: by Matej Praprotnik, Val 202, RTV Slovenija, a holder of the scholarship granted by the Slovene Human Resources and Scholarship Fund and a participant at the Innovation Journalism programme at Stanford University in 2010, and by Edita Cetinski, host of the “Prava ideja” (The Right Idea) television programme, the InJo Award 2010 winner in the category of Slovenian public media and a participant at the InJo Conference 2010 at Stanford University. I hope their views will open new dimensions of the innovation ecosystem to you as well.

V: What new ideas has the Conference offered?

Edita: The Conference primrarily left me with an impression that the media, the university and industry do care about what sort of society we live in. The people there are dynamic and want us to spread this positivity. I heard several sound solutions for bringing innovation closer to people. I found the example of KQED which involves radio and TV shows as well as webcasts broadcasting under the joint Quest trademark especially interesting. This approach ensures better presence and larger audiences.

Foto: Vibacom

Matej: For me, perhaps a new view on the role of journalism, especially in the context of innovation ecosystems. Journalism no longer has the role of a gate keeper in vetting and deciding which topics are worth publishing, it primrarily plays the role of a mediator placing innovation within the broader social and economic contexts, thereby giving it depth and enabling open discussion. The goal of innovation journalism is therefore to engage as many participants as possible. The media still gives an impression that innovation is inseparably tied to science, and focuses less on social innovation which actually creates added value in a very similar way. This context also makes the renaming of the Center for Innovation Journalism to Center for Innovation and Communication a logical move. And finally, I think this was the first year the discussion was also conducted through the Twitter network: summaries of some of the key opinions of this year’s panellists and participants can be found there.

V: How are you experiencing Silicon Valley these days?

Edita: First of all, it is very different from what I imagined. I certainly did not expect such a lovely little town (ed. Palo Alto) with so many green areas. The people are exceptionally kind and willing to help. We felt very well received, and have no complaints and personally I am thrilled. You can feel the presence of an abundant knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit. Everybody is hungry for new ideas.

Matej: It is exciting. I am pleased the conference was so successful in the sense of attracting the attention of all interested in the concepts and visions that innovation journalism and communication speaks about. I find discussions with journalists from other media houses and environments particularly stimulating. The environment here is ideal for exchanging ideas about the future of journalism, particularly from the aspect of using social networks. We also opened a debate on the best journalistic tools which among others include Wiki, a simple internal communication tool within a media house. Naturally, many debates in such an expressly innovative environment highlighted innovation within journalism.

V: Which story did you find most exciting?

Matej: Being a journalist working at a public service I was particularly impressed by two stories from similar environments. Deutche Welle is seeking audiences on completely new platforms, and is particularly innovative in its approach, which is something that should be expected any from public service after all. Especially, if the public service incorporates innovation in its strategy and misson. KQED is similarly advanced in the field of innovation. The stories we are preparing for the Quest programme are communicated on four different platforms which is a unique approach of a public service to topics and branding. I am not aware of a single example within the RTV (Radio-Television Slovenia) where a single programme – or brand – would simultaneously be broadcasted on the radio, television and web, unfortunate, - as this would have an educational component as well. This is the only approach to ensure that relevant topics will actually reach audiences regardless of location.

Foto: The conference 2010 at Stanford

Edita: The story of KQED and Jure Leskovec, (who looks like a teenager,) is one of 30 computer science professors at Stanford University. Personally, I also found Tim Draper interesting. He is an exceptionally charismatic VC with a positive ecologic orientation.

V: Matej, what was the key message of your group? (ed. Matej also moderated one of the debate subgroups at the Conference)

Matej: The public services – radio and television – whose business models are normally not burdened by limiting access to topics are ideal environments for the debate on the influence of innovation on the society. The idea of public service is to address the broadest audiences and to bring them together in a debate within the new media world. To be able to involve as broad a circle of truly dynamic and participating people as possible, innovation journalism must be familiar with all channels (platforms) of distributing topics and understand their respective advantages. Therefore, innovation journalism must also be very innovative and seek audiences where they exist. Young people might not listen to radio or watch television, but they can be found within social networks, YouTube channels, etc. To the question whether future journalists will have to learn computer programming (to be able to understand the complexity of networks and distribution of news) we answered “No”. However, it is necessary for media houses to have suitable strategies and understanding of the tools and technologies available today. Brands (i.e. media brands) that guarantee a high quality of content remain important. In addition to media brands, the role of personal brand is clearly becoming important as the name of the journalist guarantees objectivity, relevance and integrity. One more thing: the idea of the public medium is clear – contents are available to everyone without additional expense. There are no grounds for having a particularly open approach to broadening contents. Any public service can also affirm its brand through a YouTube channel, although the service might appear as competition at first glance.

Edita’s comment: Matej was well-prepared for the roundtable. The KQED story was well received at Stanford University.

Foto: Stanford 2010

V: What is your personal opinion about the InJo concept? What will be the future course of its development?

Edita: This is one of the best movements I know. It definitely has a future, as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the Conference. We need to stimulate the debate about innovation journalism and about the ways and methods of bringing innovation closer to people for them to accept it as an integral part of life and become aware of its significance. Naturally, our role as journalists is to provide realistic reporting with a critical distance, to show its effect on society as a whole, and not only on the individual.

Matej: The concept of innovation journalism embodies the principles of investigative journalism and meets with similar difficulties as well – especially with the lack of commitment and funds, both by editors and media houses. The rate of change and arrival of new technologies dictate that journalists will more often have to explain the influence of technology on our lives in the future: Whether we like it or not, innovation affects the life of every individual, therefore it is necessary that someone assumes responsibility, explains it and opens the debate. I see innovation journalism as a step towards a period of “collective innovation”, when most of the society will be involved in a meaningful debate. This period of collective innovation is an ideal I believe in, and innovation journalism and communication are two steps in the right direction.

Foto: The conference 2010 at Stanford

May the InCo movement spread further and continue to open space for an open and progressive debate. Join us.

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