Discover what our future will look like
An impression of our conference in which experts from art, technology and science discussed the news provision of the future
In the autumn of 2019, we organised Dit Wordt Het Nieuws. A conference in which experts from design, art, technology and science look together at the news provision of the future. We investigated how disciplines can reinforce each other to deal with the changing relationship between media and public.
“Journalists are artists”, Mark Deuze kicks off. The Professor of Media Studies feels at home in all the disciplines that will be discussed this evening. “Journalists want to be autonomous, tell their own story and also determine how they do it. They don't care what anyone thinks of the story, but it has to be told”, Deuze explains.
“They want to be autonomous, tell their own story and decide for themselves how they do it. They don't give a fuck what anyone thinks of the story, but it has to be told.”
“They want to be autonomous, tell their own story and decide for themselves how they do it. They don't give a fuck what anyone thinks of the story, but it has to be told”, Deuze describes the background of journalism.
The storytelling techniques are old-fashioned. But the classic journalistic values of objectivity, ethics and serving the public good are still very much alive. Nevertheless, Deuze understands why it is difficult to innovate: “Journalists have to report the news 24 hours a day and at the same time we expect them to change radically.”
Bombardment of ideas
“Normally editors say,” moderator IJsbrand van Veelen continues in a deep voice, “We are going to do this, we are going to do that. But we think it would be nice to bombard them with innovations.”
It will be a bombardment of fresh ideas from the worlds of design, science, tech, data journalism and art. The brand new editors-in-chief of De Volkskrant, NRC and head of digital of the FD take place on the stage to respond after each presentation.
Independence as a hobbyhorse
The first bombing is to Sigrid Gulix of the Flemish investigative journalistic website Apache. They regularly have a lawsuit after a critical article. Even if they win every case, it costs a lot of money and time. "Our own insurer is even threatening to withdraw."
The Apache subscribers are co-owners of the site and vote on the course. In addition, they work without advertisers: “You will never find advertisements for companies or organizations on our site. This way our journalists can write whatever they want. We write what newspapers can't write, what politicians don't want to read and what everyone should know.”
Lara Ankersmit, head of digital at the FD, finds the mutual distrust undesirable. “Journalists shouldn't say to each other: I'm independent, but not you because you have advertisers. We are not influenced by advertisers.”
Image, a missed opportunity in the media
Mieke Gerritzen focuses on missed opportunities in the field of image. The designer and former museum director of the Museum of the Image cites a trend that is unfairly condescending about: memes.
“In my opinion, memes are a form of reporting that we should take seriously. Everyone is looking for images that can go viral. Every hype is worth its weight in gold through advertising revenue. Every reader or mouse click turns a hype into a product.”
As long as the media does not speak the visual language of the young people, that target group will become increasingly alienated from them. Gerritzen speaks firmly: "We will never go back to a pure form of journalism."
Still, René Moerland, editor-in-chief of NRC, believes that newspapers are still the future. According to him, a newspaper should create an overview in the endless stream of information.
Puplnieuws: journalistic junk
Suzan Verberne investigated pulp news on Facebook. She did this by analysing when people click on more than 100.000 articles on this social medium.
“Pulp news is not fake news. It may be true, but it is just journalistic rubbish. ”They are articles purely aimed at advertising income. Written in subjective terms that respond to your feelings.
In the right jacket, qualitative journalism also reaches many people. According to Verberne, that jacket is data journalism.
De Volkskrant's editor-in-chief, Pieter Klok, responds enthusiastically: “This is my main goal for the coming years. More hard facts.”
Sparking tech discussion a la Black Mirror
Artist and philosopher Koert van Mensvoort makes people think about technological developments in an original way with his organization Next Nature Network.
He quickly talks about his projects such as the "Cultivated Meat Cookbook", with 45 dishes that you can't cook yet, or about his fictitious employment agency in the Mediamarkt.
Here people felt how robots and technology change their work. “For example, you saw vacancies like an exoskeleton mover who walks out with your piano, or the super smart handyman with Augmented Reality glasses. And then you have the shiva physiotherapist who gives the perfect massage with four extra robotic arms on the back.”
Comic scenarios, but not inconceivable. Van Mensvoort reaches many people in an original way. Its bus converted into a nano-supermarket reached 150.000 people. "Here we showed people possible future products to start a discussion."
The editors-in-chief respond enthusiastically: “That is something we should also try in journalism”, Lara Ankersmit of the FD thinks aloud.
According to Klok, artists can look into the future better, because they do not think in existing patterns like journalists. “I do believe in driving around in a Volkskrant bus. And I find how they tell about cultured meat much more exciting than the average newspaper article from us.”
Mapping war crimes with your mobile
British Nick Waters is affiliated with the research collective Bellingcat. "Our work is no different from that of many journalists, but our sources are." Using information on the internet, they map war crimes such as the shooting of MH-17. "Suppose there is a missile installation firing at Belgium here - because well", jokes Waters. "Then several people would film it and put it online." And on the basis of one video on social media, they sometimes reconstruct entire events, such as a mass execution in Libya.
“By gluing these images together, we got a panorama of the area. We saw buildings, roads, plants and sand. After a long search on Google Earth we found the place. We even saw the bloodstains. The shadow told us when the execution was carried out.”
"De Volkskrant should be able to do this too, right?" says moderator IJsbrand van Veelen. Klok thinks differently about this: “To be honest, this is too difficult for us. We are better off working with parties such as Bellingcat than trying to set up such a team ourselves.”
What is social media still worth?
The penultimate speaker looks at his name on the big screen and then addresses Nick Waters in English. “My name Constant Dullaart is real. And no, it does not mean continuously boring art.”
Dullaart showed how easy the system is to manipulate. He bought 2.5 million followers on Instagram and distributed them among 30 accounts in the art world. He equalized all accounts and thus removed the competition on the social medium. "I came to be known as the Lenin of social media."
“Later I decided to manipulate this competition industry more dramatically. So I founded a Facebook army: 13.000 accounts inspired by the Hessian mercenaries who fought on behalf of the English during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783.”
It was a stunt with a wink, but he saw the danger coming early. A year later, fake accounts were widely used in the US presidential election.
NRC editor-in-chief René Moerland partially agrees: “The enthusiasm about social media has disappeared from suspicion and knowledge about algorithms. At the same time, people still end up with our journalism.”
Lara Ankersmit thinks the presentation is too negative: “The criticism is justified. But of course there are also good sides: people who form communities and share things with each other.”
Through the eyes of a futurologist
As a trend watcher of The Future Institute, Justien Marseille is actively involved with developments in the media. An important example of this is the so-called social blockchain.
With handy icons and apps you can see in detail who contributed to news and for what purpose. It creates an overview of intertwined interests behind a message. "In the future, we will assign more value to the origin of the channel."
In addition, Marseille sees another trend emerging: "It will not be long before this traceable data predicts where the news will take place."
Looking back Dit Wordt Het Nieuws? The entire event is available on Youtube