“Only when language barriers are removed can an open culture of discussion emerge that challenges, informs, and involves every single European”, believes Paul Ostwald, one of four Co-Founders of Forum.eu
The end of newsrooms as we know them is not a new theme. For decades, journalists, academics, policymakers and talkshow hosts have proclaimed the final act of print journalism. So far, their predictions have largely been false.
Corona fundamentally changed the situation. Initially, reporters thought of the home office as a welcome alternative to the noisy newsroom. An opportunity to finally write the stories that take time and headspace. But as the alternative became the new normal, journalists across the world realized that a new era of their profession might have just started.
Journalism has been a decentralized profession for decades. From the muckrakers of the 1920s to foreign correspondents that continue to report from war zones across the world, many journalists are on the road – not at their desk.
Still, something fundamental changed in the last few months. Whereas newspapers were accustomed to working with externals, the scale of decentralization is unprecedented. The technical infrastructure – a slow CMS, emails and phones – crumbled as whole teams dispersed into home offices across the world. For a few weeks, editors were frantic and reporters lost.
It’s one of those rare moments where established outlets suddenly turn to the new kids on the block for advice. Many media start-ups are “digital natives” in the professional sense. Some, including ourselves at Forum, have teams that have never met in person. Their digital infrastructures were designed and reshaped to deal with situations such as these. With customized content management systems that work remotely and clear communication guidelines, media start-ups have a comparative advantage in a crisis that affects all outlets.
That’s one part of the story. The second is that the pandemic changed the habits of readers – at least momentarily. Vox is not the only news provider that saw a 30% spike in readership. And many of them expected to receive the most up-to-date reporting from across the world on the unravelling pandemic. That posed another challenge for newsrooms – how do you report when reporters are in home office? A network of foreign correspondents is only partially a solution.
An alternative has been cooperation between news outlets across the world. Forum offers translations of texts from and to seven languages. As numbers spiked in Spain, German and English readers were especially interested to read El Mundo and El Diario’s reporting on the Spanish strategy. While many media companies have resented the idea of content syndication for quite a while, new start-ups bridge the gap between publishers across continents. Most of these new users came for COVID-19 news, but they might remain loyal customers as the pandemic subsides from the news cycle – but only if publishers adapt to their reading habits.
We’re not just experiencing the end of newsroom journalism as we know it. The pandemic has also exacerbated a trend that is a huge gain for journalism at large – the synthesis between established and new media outlets. For both sides, the opportunities are vast and will outlast the pandemic.
Forum.eu is a digital platform that offers its supporters seven articles each day covering stories that impact Europe, with subscriptions costing from €4/mth. The articles are selected from over 19 reputable news sources, including the UK’s Daily Telegraph, and translated into Europe’s key languages by Forum’s international team of journalists.