Journey through FEJS Annual Congress 2016

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Last week Italian city of Turin hosted a hundred journalists squad from 21 countries. For almost a week the internationals surfed between lectures, presentations, talks and workshops, expressing their views and sharing the ideas about future and present of journalism, arguing and gesticulating extensively (you can not do otherwise while in Italy) about the topic of this year’s Annual Congress “Making Media and Innovative Journalism”.

The organizers should take a bow about managing to invite all these amazing and prominent speakers who not only delivered the topics and answered challenging questions, but as well inspired the audience to take brave steps in changing the industry.

Let me just take you through these days, attempting to generate take-home messages.

Anna Masera, former head of the Press Office at the Italian Parliament and Public Editor at La Stampa, gave a speech on innovation in journalism, especially stressed on the necessity of engaging with readers of all ages, as it conquers their loyalty. Despite the ongoing digitalization, we should not forget about those who read paper editions.

According to Anna, good journalistic practice would be writing a weekly paper column and having a living facebook page. Readers are sophisticated, they choose what to read, thus the content should be of good quality and attractive to reach to the readers and retain them. Here is her list:
Put readers first, create quality relations with them
Encourage conversation
Promote transparency and understanding – ‘Objectivity doesn’t exist but transparency does’
Accept, respond to critics and correct mistakes
Don’t be scared because there are no jobs, create yourself through quality work

Viz&Chips Team, consisting of Clara Attene and Barbara D’Amico, shared their knowledge on data journalism and news checking through data.
Scraping and verifying data have always been a journalistic challenge, luckily today new methods, gathered under data journalism umbrella rush for rescue!
Apparently, for many the word data journalism is still something reminding blackhole, both data and journalism are troublesome terms. Good news is that data journalism is not only about numbers (pheww, no maths!), but about all the virtues digital era offers (such as text data arrays, photos, videos and audios) described with two numbers – zeroes and ones. Simple, yet so complicated.
Data journalism offers new possibilities that open up when you combine traditional methods and ability to tell a comprehensive compelling story, carefully and adequately using a range of digital information now available.
Here is the sequence of steps to follow for quality (data)journalism: Information gathering -> Cleaning -> Analysis -> Visualization

Marina Petrillo, influencer and founder of Reported.ly Project, presented a working model of future journalism through her project Reported.ly, currently consisting of 5 people covering giant breaking news from all over the world with the help of social media. Marina stressed the importance of acting ethically in media, always crediting the persons who’s materials are used and strongly encouraged readers to challenge the media if this rule isn’t followed. Just like Anna Masera earlier, Marina mentioned the importance of recognizing and correcting mistakes in public, double and if necessary triple fact-checking and suggested using the “rule of 3 people”. This rules sounds like “If 3 unrelated people say the same thing, it’s worth paying attention to”, meaning it’s not necessarily a fake.
Of course, Marina’s speech was way larger and deeper than this summary, thus I suggest checking out this link (http://www.serviziweb.unito.it/media/?content=7905) for more information.

The next lecture, hosted by Q-creative science founders Aaron Syed and Andrea Zanchetta, creative consultants in the fields of web, interaction and graphic design, user experience and online communication strategies, many attendees (if not all) found extremely useful, interactive and valuable. The guys shared numerous tricks and tips on how to dig for information, use it in (almost) untraceable way, enhance online security, navigate privately on common browsers and many many more exciting things. They have definitely switched paranoia mode on. Cutting the long story short, here’s the summary of what to do in order to protect your data, online surf and your work:
Wrap your head around cryptography and online security
Secure your information with adding final “s” to http// in the address line
Create yourself a persona (with the help of TOR browser) to un-relate the task you do from your real you
Remember not to store anything on your drive
Get another computer, a totally untraceable machine on flea market or online (through TOR, of course)
Encrypt messages and contents using gpgtools.org
Secure email easy way – check protonmail.com
Your writing is unique, change it if you don’t want your work to be traced back to you

For more information feel free to check the full presentation here (bit.ly/fejs2016-online-security)

Nadia Vissers from FEJS partner organization European Journalism Training Association (EJTA) spoke about the importance of fact-checking and introduced the relatively newborn European fact-checking project for journalism students called FACTBAR.EU. Factbar project is actively looking for participants and contributors. Shall you need more information, feel free to reach for Nadia directly.

Much expected lecture on Internet and Power, delivered by Juan Carlos De Martin, Faculty Associate, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, has left a lot of questions yet largely opened a door for an endless dialog and discussion. Many interesting subjects were touched along the presentation, such as
– Digital revolution and comparison of how things used to be back in the 70s and what is looks like now;
– Computers are connected between themselves, there are no so-called gate keepers in the middle controlling the information traffic;
– The Power of the Internet, the most important infrastructure in the world, which is going to become the infrastructure of all infrastructures;
– Everything you do online is recorded: every status update you’ve started writing on facebook and didn’t finish is recorded, the search history in your browser is ON by default, so is location, unless you yourself turn it off;
– Money matters: as we are moving towards cashless society, everything will be traced to the person, every single purchase or device use;
– The Internet of Things creates opportunities and problems all at once. Power enters the environment around us, the point of trust becomes crucial as objects get the power of knowledge, e.g. location. We won’t be sure anymore if let’s say a simple watch performs the same old action of showing exact and accurate time, but as well has recording device, location tracking, heart beat measurement, pedometer or whatsoever.

The culmination of the event was when the big crowd was split into groups for workshops of preliminary choice. After almost a day in total of working on various challenging assignments, Sunday afternoon the projects on radio, video, online, photo and newspaper journalism were presented. Surely, everybody had fun working together and exploring new shades of selected journalistic field.

Only three participants took part in a mentor game on the last day. Nevertheless, pitching individual projects has helped those presenting train their public speaking, overcoming shyness and polishing the idea. One of the participants mentioned ‘taking it slightly as a joke in the beginning, little did I know about the effects the three mentors would have on me – now I want to lead my idea the whole way to its realization’.

I hope everyone found the FEJS Annual Congress in Torino useful, valuable and entertaining enough and ci vediamo prossimo anno a Amsterdam!
Anna Chashyna

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