Editor-in-chief of ZEIT-ONLINE, Jochen Wegner, next moderates the discussion on the future of journalism.
His panel consists of Jakob Augstein, publisher and editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper der Freitag, Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal and Cyndi Stivers, a digital-strategy and media consultant, currently working with Tina Brown Live Media and *Acumen Fund *.
Opening the discussion, Wegner asks Augstein where he sees journalism going.
"We just heard about UpWorthy, but I do not think the US and Germany are currently in the same place," Augstein says. The progressive leftwing paper der Freitag tried to establish itself with a community journalism concept five years ago. It is still making its money with print, however. In Augstein's view, the digital world and journalism remain more divided in Germany than in the US.
Blumenstein notes that she has actually noticed a return to content in recent years. She notes this is true for her own paper, but also for Buzzfeed, for instance, where an investigative reporter was just hired. "Another thing we see every day is that we are incredibly lucky to have a front page of a newspaper," Blumenstein continues. "The front page stories are the ones that get the most traffic." To her, this suggests people are craving for a curation of their news consumption. But the WSJ is also expanding its business model with older and new strategies. On the one hand, the paper recently re-included real estate listings in its print edition. On the other, it launches a tech-site.
The death of the journalist?
"Why do we need journalism?" the editor Wegner asks provocatively. Augstein believes journalists serve the same purpose as hundreds of years ago: to curb power. So far, he has not seen such power curbing via the Internet. Blumenstein adds that journalists and their editors continue to be needed as fact checkers or truth revealers.
Next Wegner wonders whether more popular journalists could move of the direction of Arianna Huffington or Glenn Greenwald in future, leaving papers or publications to create their own product. Blumenstei believes there is a need to differentiate between advocacy journalism – the category she places Greenwald into – and classical journalism. Classical journalism in her view needs to weigh both sides of any story.
Stivers believes such classifications are secondary to transparency. Any publication needs to be accountable and clearly communicate when a piece has been sponsored.
Papers and pennies
Inevitably, the conversation next turns to financing and business models. Different ideas are discussed (Augstein stresses journalism must remain independent) before the discussion is opened to the floor and Hubert Burda raises his hand.
"It's more an opinion than a question. I'm old enough to not only ask questions," he jokes. Traditionally, a paper had three very profitable sections: real estate, cars and employment. These are now gone, Burda explains, which makes profitability extremely difficult. Burda's Fokus changed its business model to survive coexistence with the Web. As such, Burda has found a way to subsidize quality journalism.
"I find the Handelsblatt has the best model and is very cutting edge," he says as the session ends. "There, that's all I'll say and it's probably too much."