World Association of News Publishers

SMS Master Class at Durban Congress “Inspirational”

SMS Master Class at Durban Congress “Inspirational”

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The WAN-IFRA World News Media Congress 2017 saw CEOs, news editors and advertising executives from around the world gather in Durban, South Africa from 7-9 June to discuss the global media landscape. It was a time for discussion, reflection and solutions, with a host of seminars and meetings that touched on gender, digital innovations, sustainability and more. The Congress also saw 135 Media Freedom programme participants from around the globe in attendance.

By Colette Davidson

One of the quintessential features of the Congress was WAN-IFRA’s Strengthening Media and Society Master Class, which brought together 65 participants from around 50 media outlets, representing 12 countries within each of the SMS programme’s target regions – Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Participants were chosen based on their level of engagement in the programme, and were privy to five days of special sessions and panel discussions.

The first day saw a welcome seminar, where participants learned about South Africa’s unique political and media history, including the effects of apartheid and the challenges journalists face in the country.

Participants kicked off day two with a seminar on building and sustaining new audiences with Julie Posetti, Head of Digital Editorial Capability at Australia’s Fairfax Media. The session highlighted the benefits of using podcasts as a tool for audience engagement and was well-received by participants.

Later in the morning, Lisa Mcleod, Head of Digital at the Times Media Group in South Africa, led the “Why Money Matters: the Economics of Modern Journalism” seminar, looking at how the media can become more sustainable.

The afternoon saw two “Open Kimono” sessions, with the first on Best Practices and the second on Challenges. Participants were divided into five separate groups and mixed with media professionals from different countries to share ideas and learn about the challenges faced in their respective countries.

“It was a very enthusiastic session where each journalist got to hear the threats and risks that colleagues face in other parts of the world,” says Javier Garza, SMS regional manager for Latin America. “It also left me with a strong sense of solidarity and similar experiences that journalists around the world share.” 

On Wednesday, a special Women in News summit, entitled “Breaking Through,” was held for women participants within the SMS programme. Facilitated by over a dozen women media professionals, the session was a chance for strong and powerful women to share their experiences of working in the news.

“It was a really inspirational and empowering session where women shared their challenges as well as their successes,” says WAN-IFRA project manager Mariona Sanz Cortell.

After a networking lunch, participants geared up for a theatre-style session called “10 years on from the Declaration of Table Mountain – the State of Media Freedom in Africa.” Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, was joined by SMS MFC country representatives and SMS regional managers to discuss the freedom of expression landscape since WAN-IFRA launched the Declaration of Table Mountain campaign at the 2007 Congress in Cape Town.

In the evening, the Golden Pen award was presented to Turkish journalist Can Dündar, who has been living in exile in Germany since June 2016, after being arrested in November 2015 for revealing state secrets while editor-in-chief at Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.

On the final day of SMS programme activities, participants attended sessions on ethics, newsroom safety and digital harassment. By the time the gala dinner rolled around, it had been a jam-packed week of informative discussion on press freedom and the most essential issues facing the global media today.

“This week was a way for editors from all over the world to get inspired, learn about others’ successes and challenges, and develop solidarity between each other and their media outlets,” says Sanz Cortell. “I see it as the starting point of several possible inter-regional initiatives that will benefit quality journalism and society at large." 

And while the future of the printed page is at stake for media around the world, some participants found comfort in the fact that newspapers are here to stay.

“At last year’s Congress, there were more speakers who hesitated about whether printed papers would disappear,” says Valentina Boeta, a journalist at Diario de Yucatan in Mexico. “Now, they sounded more convinced about the fact that print would remain only as one of the multiple products of media organisations.

“It is more clear what the future of newspapers is and how to embrace it.”


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2017-06-26 14:42

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