Fueling innovation in media across Europe with the News Impact Summits

As a journalist, most of my training came from ‘learning whilst doing’ or shadowing a colleague — an approach that worked for practical skills like editing or filming, but was not ideal for fostering real innovation in my work. Dedicated time to learn, prepare, and research was often a luxury.

As audiences across Europe reach for their mobile phones, the need for journalists to foster innovation in their storytelling has never felt so immediate. Providing high quality journalism in formats that work for a range of devices and screens is a constant challenge and getting it right will take more than ‘learning whilst doing’. While the opportunities and challenges of digital journalism and social news-gathering are well known and documented, there’s still a real benefit from finding concentrated time to share best practices in an open forum of one’s peers.

Since the doors to the first event opened in Austria, the News Impact Summits — a series of media innovation events held by the European Journalism Centre and supported by the Google News Lab — have looked to address that need. The Summits bring together journalists, innovators, digital enthusiasts, academics, and students to share learnings and best practices on digital journalism.

Since Austria, we’ve held 14 more events at other cities across Europe: Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Stockholm and Warsaw.

While the series has evolved, the summits share some key features. The world’s leading figures in data journalism, virtual reality, and verification converge to share their learnings and best practices on stage, in classrooms, or over coffee. Timely topics in journalism like the Panama Papers, reporting Brexit, and the role of ‘trolls’ are discussed by a diverse group of attendees, reflecting all corners of the European journalism community. And depending on the agenda, I or one of my colleagues from the Google News Lab will present a workshop on topics like immersive storytelling or improvements in Google’s research tools. (The “NIS” hashtag has also become a common theme, often trending during the Summit and helping to share best practices and insights with a broader journalist community.)

We spoke to Rina Tsubaki, who produced the News Impact Summit from the EJC headquarters in the Netherlands, for some additional thoughts on how the Summits are put together and what she hopes they will help accomplish in the journalism community.

How do you pick the speakers and topics for each News Impact Summit?

We talk to media, journalists and J-schools from the local cities where we’re hosting the Summit to identify topics they want us to cover. But we also try to “surprise” them by bringing in elements that they have not thought of before. When developing the programme, we try to stay practical as possible to the needs of newsrooms. But, we also look to incorporate speaker and topics that are inspirational, so that European newsrooms and media professionals can explore the ideas and consider what they can develop next.

What do you hope those attending will get from the events? Why should they attend?

The series provide free opportunities for digital skills training, inspirational talks, and networking with leading international and national media experts. It’s a collaborative forum for people from diverse backgrounds to meet, discuss creative ideas, and develop journalistic projects together.

What are some of the big issues you’ve covered over the News Impact Summit events? Does one thing stand out as a trend?

One of the topics that caught everyone’s attention was cross-border collaborative investigation — namely, the Panama Papers. Collaboration has become a key to success for producing “impact” in many industries — including ours. We are also witnessing increasing interest in VR and 360 videos and their potential in telling engaging — and often unreported — stories. User-generated content verification is also definitely one of the most popular topics among the European journalists working in the digital newsroom environment.

Anything else you’d like to say to sum up the experience so far?

The most remarkable thing I have witnessed is the “collaboration” born out of our News Impact Summit series. Some attendees were inspired by the international speakers and developed new visual data storytelling projects; and others have even landed a job by meeting with editors and newsroom managers at our Summit. We are offering an environment where all these collaboration and real-life exchanges can happen, and we are very proud to contribute to the future of digital journalism in Europe.

As we say goodbye to the summer in Europe, we’re announcing the next wave of cities where we’ll bring the News Impact Summit to life. Each event is free and the registrations are open now for Prague, and Amsterdam. Come and join us, take some time out to meet your fellow journalists, and think about your next story.

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