Media Facing the Pandemic: The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom School for Journalists
The difficulties and pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by everyone this year in various ways and journalists are no exception. The news industry, seen as a crucial pillar of democracy, has been dogged by numerous newspaper closures, job losses and furloughs, and the sector struggles to remain sustainable with the shift to digital. High concentration of media ownership, political interference, threats to freedom of expression, strategic lawsuits, online harassment and perhaps most shocking of all, recent horrific murders of European journalists. Such pressures and risks, highlighted in detail in the Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), have been compounded by the additional challenges brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.
It was against these circumstances of the pandemic that this year’s edition of the CMPF School for Journalists and Media Practitioners adapted, shifting to an online format over a period of 5 weeks, offering fresh challenges and new opportunities to connect over distances.
The CMPF school for journalists was conducted online this year.
Meeting the need for constantly changing skill sets
The School provided journalists with a unique opportunity to update their skills for an industry in a constant state of flux with a focus on the dynamics of performing the work of a journalist during an unprecedented global health crisis. CMPF Director, Pier Luigi Parcu, observed that “one of the characteristic paradoxes of the COVID crisis we found we returned to throughout the course was that the demand for quality journalism has increased while the economic resources needed to fund and perform that work have diminished."
The topics offered benefitted from instructors recognised the world over in their fields. Included in the curriculum were classes on tools for collating and visualising data in an accessible format to explain the pandemic; a comprehensive look at the shifting landscape of media freedom and regulations in the EU; how to perform investigative journalism with the limitations of lockdown measures; how to combat the rising tide of mis- and disinformation, and alternative models of revenue for publishers.
Participant Adriana Urbano said of the School “it was really useful, as it focused on data. Data has become central in reporting on the pandemic and journalists can be seriously hindered by a poor understanding of data. Furthermore, data analysis is in high demand and participants were introduced to the topic by high level experts.”
Reaching a broader audience
During this year’s session, the School also offered two open webinars to explore some of the most pressing issues facing the industry. The first covered journalist safety, an issue emphasised in successive Media Pluralism Monitors as a prevalent threat to the ability of journalists to perform their jobs.
In the second webinar European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová joined the School in a direct dialogue with participants. The Vice President spoke of the importance of the CMPF’s work on the Media Pluralism Monitor, which was an important source in the Commission’s recent Rule of Law Report, and made note of the fact that the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the negative trends in the media, saying “not only is aggression against journalists increasing and attacks are more frequent but also the access to information is more difficult than before COVID.”
Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency
Vice President Jourová also detailed the steps the European Commission is taking towards supporting the media sector, such as the Copyright Directive and Digital Services Act. The session provided a unique opportunity for the School’s participants to ask the Vice President questions about the role in the Commission in protecting freedom of the media and media pluralism.
Click below to watch a full recording of the event with VP Jourová.