Read all about it: truth in demand

Tuesday 19 October, 6.00pm until 7.30pm, Central European University, 1051 Budapest, Nádor utca 9, Hungary

Venue: Central European University, 1051 Budapest, Nádor utca 9, Hungary

Internationally, journalism and the mass media have changed profoundly over recent years. Reportage and commentary are no longer the privilege of professionals, who are now challenged by ‘citizen journalists’ armed with mobile phones and laptops. On the world wide web, anyone can aspire to be a journalist: numerous ‘public platform’ websites - from NowPublic to YouTube - allow the person in the street to post his own on-the-spot reports, photos and opinions about the big issues of the day. Mainstream media struggle to respond. In Hungary, for example, leading newspapers such as HVG and Népszabadság Online have invested heavily in their online presence, creating ‘blogospheres’ in which their own writers, and invited guests, can comment on events. Even Rupert Murdoch, that doyen of the old newspaper world, acknowledges the next generation will have ‘a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from and who they will get it from.’ News International has led the way in introducing pay-walls for its online content as newspaper sales decline.

Some enthusiastic commentators impute digital media with revolutionary powers: to vanquish old fears about corporate ownership influencing news agendas or the political bias of state-run media. Chinese activists can communicate beneath the radar of the authorities, and Iranian protesters’ phone-films showed the world what was happening despite official censorship. In Central and Eastern Europe too it is hoped that political domination of local media may be counterbalanced by alternative news outlets on Web 2.0.

Should the opening up of the world of journalism to the ‘masses-on-the-mouse’ be celebrated? Can we hope to rely on a ‘democratised’ virtual coffee shop without editorial control? Are the mainstream media so obsessed with imitating the blogosphere that they risk sacrificing their own standards? By trumpeting a culture in which everybody’s unedited opinions must be heard, do we risk reducing ‘journalism’ to a competing cacophony of undifferentiated hear-say and prejudice? Something can be true regardless of public opinion, so might attempts to ensure ‘balance’ actually get in the way of reporting the truth? Without journalistic ethics such as editorial control, fact-checking, and an aspiration for objectivity, how can we ensure people get the information they need to be well-informed citizens?

The discussion will be introduced by Kate Coyer, director, Centre for Media and Communication Studies, CEU


Eszter Babarczy
senior researcher and associate professor, Moholy-Nagy University for Applied Arts, Budapest; cultural historian, journalist, essayist and translator

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; author, What's Happened to the University?, Power of Reading: from Socrates to Twitter, On Tolerance and Authority: a sociological history

Ellen Hume
Annenberg Fellow in Civic Media, Centre for Media and Communication Studies, CEU, Budapest; former US journalist and media commentator

Eva Katona
freelance journalist; chief secretary, Association of Hungarian Content Providers; former editor-in-chief, Kreatív

Angus Kennedy
convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination

Produced by
Angus Kennedy convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
Recommended readings
Andrew Marr says bloggers are 'inadequate, pimpled and single'

BBC presenter tells Cheltenham Literary Festival that citizen journalists will never replace real news

John Plunkett, Guardian, 11 October 2010

This is not journalism as we know it

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Andrew Calcutt, Independent Blogs, 3 October 2010

Hungarian media law like in 'totalitarian regime': OSCE

Hungary's much-criticised new media law was reminiscent of a totalitarian regime, the OSCE's media freedom representative said Tuesday on the margins of a conference on free speech in Budapest.

France24, 22 September 2010

Five stars in their eyes: can you trust unpaid theatre critics?

Everyone's a critic these days – so how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? And who is reviewing the reviewers?

Bella Todd, Guardian, 2 September 2010

Murdoch is right

If we value good journalism, why don’t we pay for it online?

Joy Lo Dico, Prospect, 24 June 2010

New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age

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Natalie Fenton, Sage Publications, 21 October 2009

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Steven Barnett, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2009

The tyranny of expertise

Yes, rational modern societies ought to be based on reason and evidence. But experts are increasingly wheeled out to close down debate rather than provide enlightenment.

Frank Furedi, spiked, 11 September 2009

Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World

Beckett sees the growth of new media and technologies as an opportunity for, rather than a threat to, the traditional practices of journalism. However, he observes, those practices will need to change and adjust to take advantage of the opportunities offered by what he calls networking journalism.

Charlie Beckett, Wiley-Blackwell, 20 May 2008

Wired World, Wired Learning: The Serf Surfs

Perhaps the most important difference between Old Media (television, radio, print) and the Net is the fundamentally different way they engage the user.

Ellen Hume, NetMedia Conference, 1 July 1999

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