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.