Important dilemma of digital journalism is attitude to social networks

Ljubljana – Digital journalism in Slovenia is on the rise and is no longer only an additional channel. Working online has its specifics and brings new dilemmas, one of them being the attitude to social networks, sharing contents and communicating with followers, agreed participants in a panel on contemporary trends in journalism on Thursday.

According to researchers Jernej Kaluža and Sašo Slaček Brlek, a survey among journalists from the newspaper Večer, web portals 24ur.com, Siolo and MMC, and radio station Val 2020 has shown that the intensity of work in online media is greater than in classical media.

An online reporter covers more stories and more different topics, said Slaček Brlek. New digital skills are also required in connection to social networks and multimedia contents. “Here we have a generational turn – expectation that the young bring these skills with them, while the older are usually not expected to acquire them,” he said.

The pair interviewed 38 journalists at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, and enquired about the effects of the coronavirus epidemic on their work after the first wave. “Interestingly, most of them expressed optimism,” said Kaluža, adding that the epidemic had not had only negative effects on journalist work.

Digital media had a bigger range during the first wave of the epidemic than before and the audience appreciated trustworthy information more. However, advertising on websites decreased.

In the second wave, editors noticed experts are more careful when giving statements for the media. “We don’t get answers to certain questions,” said the editor of daily news programme at Val 202, Luka Hvalc.

In the second wave, media are trying to publish more positive stories that are not related to the epidemic, said Petra Lesjak Tušek, the head of the Slovenian Journalists’ Association, which co-hosted the debate with the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Večer editor-in-chief Matija Stepišnik said journalists had been working at full speed since the start of the epidemic. “The level of production that Slovenian journalism has delivered is cause for optimism,” he said.

One of the challenges of journalism in the digital world is social networks. Stepišnik pointed mainly to the level of communication on social networks and the government’s way of communicating.

He believes a journalist must consider very carefully what to publish. He said news on Twitter was topical for only a short time unless it came from this bubble. “When it goes on air you give it weight. Consideration and contextualisation is needed,” he said.

Hvalc said media lacked a strategy on how to communicate on the contents that appear on social networks and how to respond to them by highlighting the arguments of experts.

Kaja Jakopič, the editor of the new media desk at the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, said they had offered special contents during the epidemic providing responses to people’s dilemmas.

Turing to the government’s attitude to the media, Stepišnik said the attitude of politics to journalism was complex. He said the tension between PM Janez Janša and the media had been there for years, while the current strategy is discrediting. “Quality media know what stand to take at a certain point while at the same time opening up to views that are not in line with their editorial view,” he added.

Petra Lesjak Tušek from Večer said not a week went by without responses to discrediting. The goal is to prevent a complete decay of the media space, she said, adding that journalists too had responsibility in this respect. She also said all this affected self-censorship.