Conference ‘Media policy: news journalism & media competency – how can the watchdog be nourished?’

Photo by BNS/H.Rebane

On 7 December 2012, online the Chair of Journalism of the University of Tartu held a conference on media policy, viagra focusing on the quality of news journalism and media literacy issues. The conference, organised in the framework of the MEDIADEM project, experienced windfall interest and participation.

The conference aimed at triggering wide discussion on how professional journalism can be preserved when the business model of news media is in crisis, mainly due to the overabundance of information online and marketing communication. What kind of journalism does the public need? What could be the appropriate policy response? Three panels sought to address these questions.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Halliki Harro-Loit, University of Tartu, argued that the quality of journalism reflects the quality of democracy in a country. As regards media freedom, she noted, Estonia has a very high level of media freedom which does not, however, translate into an equally high level of freedom of expression. Discussion in the first panel focused on news organisations’ perspective of journalism. It revealed that the standard of professional journalism is higher in larger media organisations than in local media houses. Quality journalism might have generally survived in the first round of the economic recession but it is likely to deteriorate in the future. Interestingly, journalists appeared ambivalent in their perceptions of their professional autonomy: while some panelists said they feel rather autonomous in creative work, others argued that lack of resources and the work overload undermine journalistic autonomy.

The second panel discussed the role of non-journalistic actors in media affairs. Urmas Loit, lecturer at the University of Tartu, stressed the need for actual state support of quality media performance, such as through media content regulation. Panelists argued that the media in Estonia act, for the most part, responsibly and no state interference is needed. An ongoing public debate on media quality is, however, needed to stimulate media accountability.

The third panel dealt with media literacy and education. The keynote speaker, Kadri Ugur, researcher at the University of Tartu, argued that media policy could be related to the ability of the audiences to comprehend news media content. Panelists shared the view that media education at schools is necessary in order to develop informed and competent citizens for whom the media serves as a tool for exercising democracy.

The second-year students of journalism and communication at the university shot a video newsreel (with English translation). The audio files of the presentations and impromptus from the conference shall be released (in Estonian) later in January 2013.

The agenda of the event is available in Estonian and English.

For more information you may contact Urmas Loit.