When the IFJ kicked off a debate on the future of journalism among its member unions at its last congress in Cadiz, there were some who were perplexed that this had anything to do with them. They saw it as an issue for the Western nations, or even more precisely the Anglo-Saxon world.
Some of their arguments sounded fine -- why should the IFJ centres its approach to the future of its members based on the meltdown affecting US newspapers? The US is not the centre of the world and, while newspapers are in decline in the West, they continue to flourish in the emerging economies, most notably in India, China and Brazil, where the newspaper industry is enjoying an unprecedented boom.
Just over a year later after Cadiz, I was invited by Russia’s main news agency Ria Novosti to deliver a keynote speech at the European and Asian Media Forum in Astana, Kazakhstan, where the main issue under the spotlight was the future of journalism and the dynamics of new media.
Looking at the programme and listening to the scores of participants representing media, unions and governments throughout all the 11 CIS countries, its is clear that the new schools of thoughts, and the new journalism gurus springing up everywhere have become powerful templates for professional journalists and institutions.
I was knocked back to see all these participants rushing around punching their i-pads and speaking as if they were the main players of the Future of News consensus, talking with ease about the leaps and bounds of new technology and the behaviour of new audiences in a networked world.
It was amazing to hear the discussion among people, some of which still believing they should be part and parcel of the post-Soviet mass media space, talk about how the future lies in hybrid techniques, new delivery platforms, the impact of open source, live blogging and the rise of user-generated content and even the impact of the Silicon Valley on journalism. “New and traditional media and their interaction – merge, ‘divorce’ and transformation” was the title of one of the sessions. “Heated debate: Social Networks – wonder or woe of the 21st century?” was another. Speakers included governments’ representatives standing side by side with bloggers and facebook official representatives.
I took the opportunity to invite unions in these countries to join the IFJ. Apart from unions in the Baltic countries, very few see the needs to be in the IFJ and some of them know very little about what we do. The time may have come for us to make a special effort to attract organisations representing journalism in central Asia. They have a lot in common, are already active in networked groups and will make a huge change to journalism in this region by moulding into a single authoritative voice for journalists.