5 Things Good and Bad about the Journalism Conference #SDJT10

If you want to talk about the future of your profession – you gotta be in the present, not the past!

I’m still a “stranger” in the world of journalism, trying to find my place there. Still, interestingly, the things most interesting for me happened on the back channel.

Here’s what I took from the “Süddeutscher Journalistentag“:

  1. Useful information on setting up business as a Journalist by Wolfgang Kiesel (his presentation online) that will come in handy once I’m out of university
  2. An interesting discussion of whether interviews need to be authorized after they have taken place. I have no idea on media law, so that was great. When the panel endet, it continued here and on Twitter.
  3. The CrossMedia discussion, meaning the very last Panel with Björn Eichstädt (Storymaker GmbH), Ibrahim Evsan (Author), Amir Kassaei (DDB Group Germany) and Björn Sievers (Focus Online). As I was hoping, the panel rocked, especially due to Kassaei’s provocative statements towards the Journalists present. Here are some favorites:

– “Most journalism and marketing is irrelevant to consumers”
– “Digital and the internet are not media, they are the electricity of the 21st century. If you don’t realize that, you will never make good online journalism”
– “If you depend on advertisement to pay for your content, you will lose. That’s also true for google!”

– “Content needs to be so relevant it does not have to rely on advertisement

– And finally: “We need to rethink the very idea of what we are doing? What is quality journalism today and what do users need?”

4. My “find” of the day: Richard Gutjahr, a journalist at the BR (public media) who traveled through the US about half a year ago and visited dying newspapers. Smart speaker with good ideas, a sense of people and charisma – I’ll make sure to keep him on my radar.

5. Finally, as most events of this kind, networking with other journalists was probably the most valuable and long-lasting positive of the meet-up.

Considering this, it is even more sad that communication among participants wasn’t encouraged more!

What needs to be improved in conferences like this one:

1. Generally: The location was rather noisy, not a good environment for panel talks.

2. A lot of conversation among people who never before met each other happened over Twitter. Valuable information was completely lost to the rest of the audience.

3. There were no name tags (yeah, they’re annoying, but they help to get to know people ;)) – and shame on me: I failed to get business cards in advance.

4.  There were no live streams of the panels for an internet audience who could not be there to participate – not to mention that it makes for additional PR!

5. There was no visible back channel like a Twitter wall behind the panelists or at least somewhere in the lobby. Here the organization missed out on a feedback opportunity that could have made for a better conference.

Monitor the back-channel! Better even, use it!

The first “Online” panel was full at the beginning. Soon it became clear that the panelists were completely hyped up on (Californian) technology but the conversation about whether these tools could change journalism lacked substance. The back-channel grew impatient. Björn Eichstädt bluntly stated in a Tweet that nobody was learning anything. One rather boring question and a few minutes after that, the room actually emptied. Having a back-channel and actually paying attention to it, might have changed the situation.

Instead of reacting to the problems and changing the agenda, the second “Online” panel with the same people, focused on exactly the same topic. I’m afraid hardly anybody bothered to go this time.

Bottom Line: Potential – Lost!

What these problems showed me is: Most people were trying to talk about something that they haven’t understood yet – and that is not part of their lives!

That is an enormous loss of potential, especially since the panelist setup was good, for some panels great! While the “classic” panels on research and ethics seem to have been fairly substantial, most of the “modern” panels (online, local) did not live up to my expectations. I am very grateful for the people I have met, the conversations I had and the information I was able to gather for my career – and all that at no cost! However, I am sad to say that I think very small steps, if any at all, towards the future of journalism in Germany have been taken today in Mainz. Do we still have to catch up??
Update: @happyarts’s Tweet suggests so. During the conference he wrote on the silence of those journos on Twitter: “They are all explaining Twitter to the others, somebody has to do it” 😉

Maybe I am being too harsh. You don’t think this was the place to discuss the future of journalism? Is there a great panel I missed?

What are your thoughts about the #SDJT10 ?

21:13: Added pictures
19:03 added Tweet
  1. Some more voices on the sdjt10 from those who were there:

    Richard Gutjahr gives his impression from the “other” side, looking down (well actually on eye-level) from the panels. He praises the openness of the audience towards new ideas in his Blog. He sees the “digital divide” going away.

    Moritz Meyer, trainee journo, isn’t super excited about the conference, but it met his expectations and he, too, thinks that things might be moving in German Journalism.

  2. Journalism urgently needs dialogue and inspiration beyond journalism itself – which has been the reason for me to invite Amir Kassaei and Björn Eichstädt. The professional associations also need this dialogue about “future of communication” … But as you can see: Things ARE moving, definitely.
    You’ll find a collection of links according to SDJT10 on my weblog also: http://www.heikerost.com
    Regards Heike

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