This question was in the focus of the conference co-organized by the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ), the Hungarian Editors’ Forum and the Goethe-Institut in Budapest on 5 December 2016. Hungarian and international experts discussed how the most significant changes in media technology, business, and ownership structure affect journalism.
In their opening remarks Sándor Orbán (CIJ), Michael Müller-Verweyen (Goethe-Institut), Ilona Móricz (CIJ) and Balázs Weyer (Hungarian Editors’ Forum) addressed how to preserve journalistic standards and, at the same time, adapt to the constantly changing digital environment. Furthermore Balázs Weyer announced the re-launching of Award for Quality Reporting.
During the first session of the conference, in his keynote lecture titled ‘The good, the bad and the journalist’, German journalist and documentary filmmaker Hubert Seipel analysed the impact of US president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign on mainstream media. The changing role of editors was in the focus of the second lecture held by Brankica Petkovic. On the basis of a recent European media research project she stated that editors were acting more and more like businessmen and serving the interests of the owner instead of the journalists. According to her this practice jeopardizes the integrity and independence of the overall media system.
Afterwards five panellists joined the discussion: journalist of the recently closed down Népszabadság, András Dési, reporter of the investigative portal Átlátszó.hu, Attila Bátorfy, associate professor of University of Pécs and head of Mérték Media Monitor, Gábor Polyák, Balázs Weyer, and János Horvát (CIJ, president of the Board). They predominantly tackled the issue of growing political and economic pressure editors were facing. They highlighted that government influence was a worrying phenomenon distorting the media market and undermining the trust in the media system.
In the second session Vincent Duffy, news director of Michigan Radio (USA) and chair-elect of the Radio-Television-Digital News Association (RTDNA) also mentioned the impact of the Trump campaign in revealing the changing features of the media system. He told that media used to have much more influence on the public agenda, but now Trump would be able to influence it with a single tweet. Besides, he emphasized the importance of the public trust in journalism and the education of journalists.
Grzegorz Piechota, research associate of Harvard Business School and former editor of Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland) focused on Facebook and its algorithms. He stated that Facebook had become a crucial actor of the media system, although originally it was not considered as a media outlet at all. In the US half of the population consumes news via Facebook and fake news emerging in social media had an effect on the outcome of US elections.
During the closing panel Norbert Kustánczi (editor-in-chief, 24.hu), Gyöngyi Roznár (editor-in-chief, Nyugat.hu) and editor András Pethő (Direkt36) also discussed the role of social networks. The importance of professional and independent local journalism was emphasised, as well.
More photos about the conference by László Bellai and ©Goethe-Institut Foto – Andrea Felvégi: