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Ein (sehr vorläufiges) Manifest für den Bio-Journalismus

In nahezu allen wesentlichen Lebensbereichen gibt es eine Nachhaltigkeitsbewegung, nur im Journalismus nicht. Zeit, das zu ändern.

„Fail fast, fail forward“ heißt es in der Startup-Szene und meint: Wer Angst vor Fehlern hat, geht keine Risiken ein und wer keine Risiken eingeht, kann in turbulenten Zeiten wie diesen nur verlieren.

Das klingt nun allerdings einfacher, als es ist. Denn wer nach vorne fehlern will, der muss wissen, wo dieses „vorne“ ist. Momentan herrscht darüber in der Branche kollektive Uneinigkeit. Für die einen ist Facebook vorne, für die anderen Snapchat, für einige Video, für andere Virtual Reality, für manche Bezahlinhalte, für wieder andere, zahlende Mitglieder. Und ständig ist das vorne von heute, das hinten von morgen.

Beim International Journalism Festival in Perugia habe ich gemeinsam mit einigen Teilnehmern darüber nachgedacht, warum wir uns im Journalismus so schwertun mit einer längerfristigen und werteorientieren Entwicklung. Warum gibt es Nachhaltigkeitesbewegung in nahezu allen wesentlichen Lebensbereichen (Strom, Essen, Kleidung, etc.), nicht aber im Journalismus? Und gäbe es ihn, wie müsste er aussehen, dieser Bio-Journalismus?

Das Ergebnis unserer Überlegungen, ist dieses „Sehr vorläufige Manifest für nachhaltigen Journalismus“. Ich fände es spannend, diese Überlegungen mit euch weiterzuspinnen.

1. Sustainable Journalism owns its own distribution channels.

Let’s be honest: It’s really hard to abandon social media. But if we use social media, let’s make sure, we use it in a way it strengthens our own distribution channels. Whatever our social media strategy is in detail, we should make sure it grows our mailing and text messaging lists or our own website. Those three (newsletters, text messaging groups, website) are the only products we (sort of) control on the web.

2. Sustainable Journalism requires diverse newsrooms.

By many readers journalism is perceived as elitist and detached from their reality of life. This perception is backed up by data. Most newsrooms are enormously homogenous, meaning white, middle-aged, male, academic. Hardly any newsroom has its ranks filled with more than a third of women. In executive positions the situation is even worse. But those numbers still look fantastic compared with the share of journalists with migrant backgrounds. Even though 25% of the population in Germany has migrant background, that’s true for only 2-3% of journalists. And there are so many underrepresented groups, we don’t even have data about: Transgender journalists, single parents, pyhsically disabled, college dropouts, journalist from non-academic households, etc. They all could provide unique perspectives and connect with audiences, that feel left out right now.

3. Sustainable Journalism is discursive and dialogical.

Journalists never were in possession of “the truth”. We know it, the readers know it, so we should act accordingly. Let’s be open about our fallibility and ask our readers for their help and opinion.

4. In Sustainable Journalism there’s zero tolerance for hate speech.

That said: It’s naive to believe open comment sections are the way to go to achieve that goal. They either fill up with hate speech or require a level of active maintenance that’s simply not affordable for most newsrooms. There are alternatives though. DeCorrespondent and Krautreporter established a more targeted approach to involve and engage users. Comment sections are only open to paying members and members share personal data which helps the newsroom to tap into their specific expertise and networks to improve reporting and foster the bond between writers and readers.

5. Sustainable Journalism respects user’s data.

This data of course has to be treated with utmost care. On the other hand: It’s a fact that a lot of users are happy to share their data if that provides them with better and more convenient services. There’s no fixed playbook to deal with the complex issue of privacy online. A good start is to understand what kind of data exactly you’re collecting with which services, to what end and what happens with this data. It’s very unlikely any newsroom can answer those basic questions.

6. Sustainable Journalism is complementary and based on cooperation, not competition.

A lot of resources end up in fighting unnecessary battles.That is between each other or between publishers and platforms like Google and Facebook. This makes publishers look like bullies. No one likes bullies. The main challenge isn’t the competition. The main challenge is producing journalism that is relevant for readers and finding a way to reach readers however it’s most convenient for them. Cooperations are going a long way in reaching wider audiences and improving reporting. Think Panama Papers, Wikileaks or the Snowden files.

7. Sustainable Journalism is based on business models that guarantee editorial independence.

Ads are not necessarily bad and neither are public or private funds. As long as editorial independence can be guaranteed, every penny helps a little.

8. Sustainable Journalism requires fair salaries.

“Fair” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”, but is should.

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