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Echoes from World News Media Congress, 2023

Held in the beautiful and vibrant city of Taipei, Taiwan, from the 28th-30th of June, 2023, the World Media Congress, organized by World Association of…

Held in the beautiful and vibrant city of Taipei, Taiwan, from the 28th-30th of June, 2023, the World Media Congress, organized by World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) brought together vast and experienced news publishers, editors, reporters and academics from around the world to brainstorm on the emerging news demands and perceived challenges and threats, largely occasioned by advancement in technology with a view to proffering workable solutions.

Majorly, the event, which is the 74th in the series, featured three broad sessions; World Media Leaders Summit, World Editors Forum and Women in News Summit. There where 950 attendees from 58 countries, 26 sessions with 84 speakers and 43 sponsors.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the event on Tuesday, 28th June, 2023, the President of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen, expressed profound gratitude that media experts from around the world have gathered on the Island to discuss pressing media related issues. President Ing-wen said Taiwan has become home to many international media professionals, which is testament to Taiwan’s efforts to safeguard media freedom and the right to free speech and an indication of how deeply Taiwan considers media freedom as an important pillar of democracy. She noted that “media freedom and information integrity affect us all and disinformation directly influences our way of life”. She said the country has developed ways to counter disinformation campaigns, which in recent times become one of the most difficult challenges to democracies. President Ing-wen added that experience sharing with international partners and friends has been invaluable in the campaign. As a means of protecting freedom of speech and democracy as a whole, the President urged government and civil society forces to help build the capacity for every individual to identify true, false, or misleading information, while credible third-party organizations are also needed for fact-checking as a wholesome societal effort.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact and effect on news media occupied centre stage during the congress. Sharing experiences and lessons learnt during plenary, titled ‘Generative AI Media, Saviour or Existential Threat’, Agnes Stenbom, Head of IN/LAB & Industrial, said investing in shared understanding of tools and terminology, pair discussions about risk and potential, as well as engagement with consumers in exploring future AI experiences have been found to be very useful. Other panelists – Laura Ellis, Head of Technology Forecasting, BBC, UK; Tav Klitgaard, CEO of Zetland, Denmark; and Ezra Eeman, Director NPO, Strategy & Innovation identified speeding up the processes, summarizing/expanding, regeneration of articles for different audiences and formatting (voice) as potentials of generative AI in newsrooms, while legal/copyright, accuracy, jobs, effect of creative process were identified as potential threats from G-AI in the newsroom.

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The panelists suggested having a clear editorial and ethical framework, removing any friction in the process, orchestrating and unlocking knowledge, being wild and good use of imagination, exploring how to own more of the value-chain (from the data-set to the interface/access point), broadening pool of talent and most importantly, involvement of audience, as tips reporters could use in navigating the AI publishing era. It was further noted that trust of the media has been on the decline for a while and therefore, while news publishers harness the potentials of technology like AI, they must strive at the same time to restore and uphold the trust of the audience.

Because the success of any media depends on its audience perception, trust and engagement are very vital. The congress also featured a session on growing new and engaged audiences. It highlighted that building a sustainable business through growing and engaging audiences requires systematic initiatives from inside and outside of organizations.

One of the most interesting, educative and cheerful sessions during the global news publishers’ event featured an iconic media personality, Richard Gingras, who is the Vice President, News at Google. During his presentation at plenary, titled ‘We must think beyond the memes’, which focused majorly on the future of news in our societies, Gingras discussed the use of generative IA related to news content, trends in internet policy and regulations among other important observations about the future of journalism.

Gingras spotlighted generative AI as invaluable, with lots of advantages to journalism profession. He said generative AI will enable journalists focus on more creative and complex work – investigative journalism, enriched media among other things. It can also help news organizations grow audiences by translating and transforming content into various languages and formats. Gingras further said AI can offer value in generating useful service journalism, thus expanding a publication’s coverage of its community, and expanding the publication’s reach and value.

The three-day event was really eventful, where well experienced and brilliant media stakeholders deliberated, specifically from their experiences on how they have been coping with and surmounting emerging challenges in news organizations.

Notable among the resources on new ways to sustainable news media was the presentation of a book titled; Innovations in News Media: World Report 2023-2024, edited by Juan Senor and Jayant Sriram. This publication is a very good resource and a ‘must have’ for every media house and journalism scholar as it unveils practical innovative ways on the most important aspects for the survival of media organizations.

The 2023 World Media Congress was made very colourful, especially to the admiration of participants from outside Taiwan with the rich, beautiful display of the Taiwan culture through gala nights and rich delicacies. As evidence to the relevance of technology in news media, awards were presented to winners in nine categories; best news website, best subscription and trust initiative, best in audience engagement, best in use of video, best podcast, best in data visualization, best e-paper concept, best audience engagement and best newsletter.

The next 75th WAN-IFRA congress is scheduled to hold in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 27th-29th May, 2024.

Dr Ruqayyah teachers at the Faculty of Communication, Bayero University Kano

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