INSTITUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT
OF WESTERN GREECE.

 

Istanbul, December 10, 2010


SPEECH OF ATHANSE PAPANDROPOULOS
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SYMPOSIUM

On behalf of the Association of European Journalists and its 3000 members all over Europe, I beg leave to thank you for the extremely kind invitation in this important Symposium. I’ m also very honored to be one of the opening speakers in this great assembly of journalists, politicians and important people who work in the information and media sector.
Both the AEJ and I agree that in fact the media world is rapidly being transformed and information management thinking is racing to keep pace. The result is a bewildering profusion of information and communication theories, concepts and fashions that often replace each other before they can become widely established. Attempting to bring coherence to this fast-fusion of media ideas is potentially dangerous. However, we believe it is possible to discern emerging trends in the development of man media paradigms, defining paradigms of means of understanding the world and the basis for informing action.
We believe that development of new ideas is essential for effectively interpreting and intervening in contemporary journalists’ world. The increasing number of sophisticated paradigms makes greater intellectual demands upon journalists but need to be understood rather than ignored. This today makes the job of being a journalist a great deal more complex and demanding than ever before, but also makes journalism a more creative and exciting activity.
I fully agree with the spirit of the organization of this International Media Symposium that changes as we live in our days and always brings with it new questions to be answered. When the change in question concerns the media, an object with a wide sphere of influence, the topics to be discussed become all the more varied and sophisticated. Globalization and the widespread use of advanced communication technologies worldwide have shaken media traditions to the core. Considerations about impartiality, objectivity and social welfare to one side, even freedom of press has become a concept to be “revaluated”. Any individual who enters the media network now carries the identity of “information receiver” as well as “information transmitter”. Both professional roles and the limits of freedom have been redefined. This new development is as surprising as it is exciting for our societies.
Understanding and answering the new questions requires, philosophically speaking, a new paradigm. The concept of paradigm is at once ancient and contemporary. Its name derives from the ancient Greek work paradeigma. Classically, it meant model, framework, pattern or example and this meaning survived to the present day. Different concepts of management paradigms have been a the centre of critical debate in recent years and the notion of changing paradigms captures the flux of organizational transformation resulting form the surging changes in the business environment.
It was an historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, who pioneered the idea of changing paradigms in The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1970). For Kuhn, science was characterized by the dominance of succeeding paradigms as models of thinking or, as he put it, “a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions and practices shared by a community which forms a particular vision of reality that is the way of community organizes itself”. A paradigm is a systematic net of ideas and values, methods and problem fields, as well as standard solutions that explain the world and inform action. “It’s the way we see the world –not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting”.
Ever since it`s important to replace the certainties of ideologies and value systems that were with industrialization over the last century in a new era. It is not easy. Facts and transformations are moving very fast. For instance, according to the BBC News, as people find new ways to access news in a post-print world, so the demand on those that deliver is changing and this new media age could perhaps bring with it a better kind of journalism. Journalism may be on the edge of a great new age.
How good have we been, honestly, at telling the truth to the powerful? When a crisis blows up, or a problem of deep complexity has to be confronted, few reporters have the specialist knowledge of time to really confront government or a company. Further, the daily competition for newness –always on to the nest story, the next headline– means the media’s attention span has been limited. Too rarely do we return to stories that have “faded away” and ask, what happened next? Our appetite for long-term campaigning and focus fritters away. Fast news has had the same effect on our minds as fast food has had on our physiques.
The next media age may be differently configured. We may have a group of very large “aggregators” bringing busy people the most important new news of the day, rather as now, but there will be fewer of them. But underneath that, we will have large numbers of specialist news sites –for specific companies and sectors, for different environmental issues, for overseas crises –which bring together journalists, academics, specialists, campaigners, professionals, lobbyists and so on. These will be where the expertise and longer-term attention span will be found. They will pile the pressure onto the powerful and keep asking the questions. And from time to time their work will break upwards, to the aggregators (we need a better word) and the global headlines. Or so I hope. There is the real chance of a better kind of journalism in all this.
Under these circumstances, I think that the subject of the Symposium, “Global versus Local”, will provide a fertile discussion about hot topics and will help to clarify some of the questions that have arisen as a result of the change that has occurred in the media. Everybody involved in the media and information industries knows that the spread of global communication technologies and global media companies has helped create a world of globalized culture. The global nature of the new communication networks means that individuals can consume journalism made all over the world and discuss it across national boundaries.
One result is that the intellectual property rights involved in news are made more valuable. More important, journalism has become a multidirectional force field, rather than the one-way street of the traditional newspaper or television news bulletin. Also, because the technology of news-making and distribution is much cheaper and simpler, almost anyone can join the journalistic melee. Today’s newsrooms are, essentially, collections of networked personal computers. Today’s mobile phones can record and transmit pictures, sound and text, turning them into primitive television stations. The interplay between mobile phone traffic, live television, and other news media around the September 11th terrorist attacks on America provided a compelling illustration of the way that contemporary political struggles interact with private and public media.
It is now a routine for consumers to receive 200 or 300 television channels, rather than three or four. Radio, rather than being squashed by television, has entered a new and dramatic growth phase, with radio services accessible by computer, digital television, satellite and mobile telephone. Meanwhile, so-called “pod-casting” has emerged as a technology allowing producers of “radio” programs to share them as digital files with owners of devices like the “I-pod”. Newspapers, although under pressure for share of advertising markets and reader time, are today able to print at low cost in multiple sites, rather than moving vast quantities of newsprint by road or rail over large distances. They too encounter global possibilities. Magazine titles, supremely well-suited to targeting niches in increasingly fragmented media markets, have also found new opportunities. No medium can target readers across the whole social-demographic spectrum as effectively as magazines.
In television, satellite communications and digital editing make it possible for reporters to transmit stories more or less from anywhere to anywhere, and for editors to process them rapidly for broadcast or internet.
When I started as professional journalist, 44 years ago, the most difficult part of the job was the length of the queue at the local telex station. Today, news is multimedia, instant, global and ubiquitous. But I think that the era of local journalism just started. Global firms that sell only homogeneous content are less likely to have an audience. For this reason, multinational companies localize the content with where it will be broadcast in mind. An example of this is MTV –although there is a recognizable MTV content in Brazil the program is determined by local producers.
An example of the importance of local content is in the local news and the public interest in local stories that will impact their existence. CNN International is one example of a company that recognizes the importance of localizing content. American content has decreased from 70 percent in 1996 to 8 percent in 2007. The news media is not the only outlet where local global content has an impact. Even on the internet, language serves as one of the most important boundaries on Web surfing. In February 2001, Google reported that English accounted for 70 percent of the languages used to access its site. By January 2002, English accounted for 57 percent and was just over 50% in 2003. Global Reach shows the diversity of language online.
On the internet companies offer geo-location services enabling websites to determine the physical locations of individual users to find the internet-access point nearest to a particular spot. Google sponsored a contest, from which the creation of geographic tags was invented. The inventor wrote software that added “geotags” to pages based on the analysis of postal code and address. Homogenous global content is not substitute for communication on a local level as indicated by the direction that international news services are taking. People are interested in the things that affect them and hence will always be a call for local content in communication.
For all these reasons, as I already mentioned, we need a new information and media paradigm.

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