Juha Rekola on The Future of Journalism in Finland and Beyond

Helsinki, 15.5.2019: Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman for Journalists in Finland,addressed a group of members from the European Journalists Network in Helsinki on a topic which has been discussed since time immemorial but is now more relevant than ever.

Where are we now? The industry has been undermined and is in great turmoil with social media platforms taking the lead in what people read and how they interpret it. Scepticism towards the media has increased exponentially to the point where open warfare has been declared by an illustrious President across the pond. Reporters without Borders claims that 2018 was the worst year on record for safety of journalists and even countries that have traditionally been friends of the free press are now in decline. Hanna Arendt, the venerable American philosopher and political theorist, put it aptly:

“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. …”

This bodes for dangerous circumstances where crowd manipulation reigns as can be seen in the numerous right-wing populist parties gaining traction across Europe and beyond.

It takes the research of Rasmus Kleis Nielsen to shine a spotlight on the future. His 5 key points include (Authors are Dr. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Meera Selva):

1.) Social media platforms control access to audiences where as before media organisations were the ‘gatekeepers to the news agenda’
2.) This move does not generate ‘filter bubbles’ as many would believe. Instead, our attention is driven by ‘automated serendipity’ which results in more diversity of information
3.) Journalism is losing the public’s attention and in some countries, their trust
4.) Business models for funding of media no longer work and together with the weakening of journalism, make the profession vulnerable to commercial and political pressure
5.) News is more diverse than ever, and the best journalism in many cases better than ever, taking on everyone from the most powerful politicians to the biggest private companies.

It is not surprising that digital use is growing and revenues are amounting to 30 to 40% of the total. As we already know, it also provides more diversity but at the same time there is so much to sift through before reaching qualitative truth. It lies within the scope of journalists and publishers to manage content which speaks to the public good and restores faith by calling out post-truth and the harm it can do.


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