Quo vadis, Flemish news media?

18 03 2009

Tomorrow is a big day for ‘quality’ news media in Flanders (I would love to write Belgium, but alas, Kris Peeters represents the Flemish government). Flemish Minister-President Kris Peeters is organizing a Media States-General: a formal meeting to discuss and safeguard “the plurality and quality of the Flemish press” (in Dutch).

Given the ongoing crisis in news media the world over, moribund discourses about the future of print/quality/investigative journalism abound. Flanders – the Northern part of Belgium no one outside of it knows or cares about – isn’t any different. That is why a number of Flemish writers, publicists, academics and politicians are urging the Flemish government to

take concrete steps to keep viable and to strengthen critical, multiform and independent quality journalism in Flanders. (my translation, TVH)

Underlying this call to action is the orthodox concern that journalism stands to lose its role as fourth estate in participatory democratic societies. In the words of Eduardo Potter: “if newspapers go bust there will be nobody watching city hall”.  There is something to be said for this claim, but judging from the reader comments, the public at large couldn’t care less about the future of (professional) journalism.

The authors of the opinion piece make no fewer than 10 suggestions, ranging from regulating institutional convergence to stress prevention policies and in-service training courses. In addition, the authors make a case for “additional investments in scientific research on news quality and the journalistic process”.  This is exactly the kind of research that NewsTalk&Text is promoting. Glad to see that there is an interest in this line of work outside academia.


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