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European Elections: What went wrong?

European Union flag / santacrucero, flickr

European Union flag / santacrucero, flickr

Instead of celebrating a landslide win in the European Parliament elections last week, social democrats all over Europe see themselves confronted with one question: What went wrong? In an economic downturn, social democratic parties usually gain appeal to voters. Not so this time. The results of last weeks elections show devastating losses for social democrats, especially in Britain, France and Germany. The British Labour Party only got 16% of the vote and came in third place. In France, the Parti Socialiste returned with 16.5% of the vote (12 percentage points less than five years ago). The Social Democratic Party in Germany had its worst result since World War II with less than 21%.

With the Labour Party embroiled in an expenses scandal, their result didn’t come as much of a surprise. In France, however, the opportunity couldn’t have been any better with President Nicolas Sarkozy struggling with his reforms and dealing with an approval rating as low as 32%. But instead of taking advantage of the momentum, the Party Socialist got caught up in a nasty fight over power between Ségolène Royal and now party leader Martine Aubry. Issues were to be discussed at a later stage.

A similar thing happened in Germany. Admittedly, Chancellor Angela Merkel is not an easy adversary to take on. This is no reason, though, to get carried away with endless discussions about coalition building followed by an internal mud-slinging session. Again, policy debates had to be postponed.

It might be somewhat premature to announce the decline of social democracy, as some already do. With all this in mind, however, it should not surprise anybody that voters don’t believe the social democrats can lead Europe out of the economic slump.

For further reading, check out the links below:

Sarkozy on top: A good result for the centre-right, a bad one for the main opposition parties

Left out: How the far-right stole the working class

ISN Weekly Theme: Indian Democracy

Two women with voting cards

Two Indian women waiting to vote / photo: Goutam Roy/ Al Jazeera English, flickr

In the wake of a surprisingly clear victory for the Congress party in India, the ISN focuses on the democratic process in India, the election results and the future of the incumbent government.

  • In the ISN Special Report India’s Status Quo Surprise Jayne Brady, a research fellow for UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education and Harsh V. Pant, a lecturer at the Defense Studies Department at King’s College London assess the challenges and opportunities the Congress Party faces in its second consecutive term in government. In A Silent Opportunity Jayne Brady examines the tasks ahead for Congress as it tries to match action with heightened expectations, while Harsh V. Pant questions whether Congress will be able to seize this unique opportunity or once again squander its political capital in Indian Electorate Seeks Stability.
  • The Indesec Expo 2009 is taking place in New Delhi in October 2009, concentrating on India’s homeland security and defense systems. Find out more in our Events section.
  • And for a bit of historical perspective, read Jawaharlal Nehru’s Inaugural Address from 1947 and Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Quit India Speech from 1942 in our Primary Resources section.

Global Media Forum Day 2: What is InJo?

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Innovation Journalism” (InJo) – the word combination does not yield any Google search results before 2002.

The term was truly – and academically – introduced in 2003 by Stanford Professor David Nordfors, his main point being that journalism and innovation are each other’s driving forces.

Today at the GMF workshop offered by Stanford University, we took the concept of  “Innovation Journalism” apart.

How do we define journalism?

If you have a look at the Oxford definition of the word “journalist”, you find the message defined by the medium: newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. By offering such a definition we are bringing Marshall McLuhan back in, and we don’t necessarily want to do that. Strangely enough for our perception, the word “internet” does not appear in the Oxford definition.

Today’s medium is separated from the message, i.e. the content. A new definition of a journalist should refrain from this occupation’s relation with a medium and focus on the audience, Nordfors says. Journalism is all about offering issues of public interest to the broader audience.

And what do we mean by innovation?

Innovation is more than inventing. It’s the process of creating and delivering new value. As defined by Nordfors, innovation stops being exclusive and elitist. For him, innovation is a “language thing,” not a “tech thing.” It’s mostly about language, Nordfors argues, because any new product needs a name, a definition, a business model and a narrative. And all these things are made of pure words.

Innovation and journalism – the missing link

Innovation journalism can be understood in two ways: It’s journalism that covers innovation; but it can also mean journalism that is innovative.

Why is it important for journalists to cover innovation?

To answer this question, Nordfors builds a bridge between democracy and innovation. Democracy implements ideas in society, innovation plants ideas on the market. In the end, innovation also plays an important public role in shaping societal behavior. To exemplify this latter thought: the iPod is deciding how we will relate to music in the future. It’s not parliaments that decide that. The link between democracy, innovation and journalism is that journalism, according to Nordfors, is key for connecting the innovation economy with the democratic society.

And what is innovation in journalism?

To picture this, think of a refurbished newsroom. Traditional newsrooms use strict categories such as science, technology, business, politics and culture. Now, how would you categorize a story, appropriate to postmodern times, relating simultaneously to particle accelerators and modern ballet? Would such a story actually exist?The point is: innovative journalism should write such stories. Journalism crossing categories is innovative.

The ISN at this year’s Global Media Forum

Global Media Forum Banner

Bonn is hosting the second Global Media Forum (GMF), 3-5 June, organized by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

The forum addresses conflict prevention in the multimedia age, with the main topics including media freedom, media in Africa and the challenges posed by new technologies.

Read all about it, as the Deutsche Welle has recently launched the GMF blog. The conference organizers are also on Twitter @DW_GMF. Photo material will be available on the Deutsche Welle Flickr page.

As for us, we will be at the GMF in Bonn this year. Stay tuned for our liveblogging from the GMF and for our conference daily tweets (@cviehmann on Twitter).

1948-1953: Psychology of Hope in Propaganda Films

In early May London’s Barbican Centre showed its audience the lost and re-discovered propaganda films of the Marshall Plan.

Produced between 1948 and 1953 these films taught the wider Western European public about democratic values and free trade market principles.

The Barbican screening was made possible through the Selling Democracy Project, curated by Sandra Schulberg and Ed Carter.

For all propaganda film nostalgics out there: Some of the films shown at the Barbican’s are also viewable online, via the Film Archive of the German Historical Museum. All available material comes with valuable English descriptions.

Air of Freedom is one of the propaganda films available in the German Historical Museum archive

Air of Freedom is one of the propaganda films available in the German Historical Museum archive

And yet another “vraie trouvaille”, free of charge: The German Newsreel Archives.
The archives are in the process of being set up, but so far 6044 items can be called up.

Screenshot: German Historical Museum Film Archive.

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