2014 | 05 | 12

Get Your Hoodies On!

At the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin 2014, Jochen Wegner (Zeit Online), Katharina Borchert (Spiegel Online) and Anita Zielina (stern.de) came together at the "Kapuzen auf! Über Hoodie- Journalismus, Blätterrauschen und andere Neuheiten im Pixelwald" ("Get Your Hoodies On! Hoodie Journalism, Press Noise and other News from the Pixel Forest") session to discuss how to overcome the gap between print and online journalism.

At SPIEGEL ONLINE, they're trying a two-way "internship program" where online journalists go to print editorial offices and vice versa: the program is designed to dispose of prejudices. Katharina Borchert is weary: "We've been talking about this for the past nine years. And the whole time, the world out there – one that we have to keep up with – continues to turn, and an ongoing flow of new innovative themes comes our way, while we continue to sit here and twiddle our thumbs."

The staff at STERN is attempting to solve this problem structurally. They have joint print and online editors-in-chief. "This gives us an opportunity to avoid nuisances and get rid of existing fears," says Anita Zielina. She argues that it's usually fear rather than arrogance that fuels the debates: "After all, it's about the future of jobs."

Jochen Wegner from ZEIT Online argues that many people see online journalists as the face of the internet, i.e. as those responsible for Facebook, Twitter and Buzzfeed. "Print journalists are scared of the direction the media world is moving in. Constant change and a broader reach are intimidating for many of our print colleagues."

"We have to move away from the attitude of 'It's not worth anything if it doesn't cost anything,' argued Katharina Borchert. She noted that the 'paid content' business model is being widely discussed and implemented to some extent. In order to encourage the development of alternative models, we must be able to play around and experiment. "However, at the moment, we're spending too much time behind closed doors working on complex strategies, we're turning screws rather than experimenting with things," says Borchert. "Are we experimenting enough? Aren't we just copying others? Perhaps, but we're copying too late, too slow and not very well." She argues that we need to give those few people who are actually willing to experiment the space they need for their ideas. We need more of a capacity to act.

Jochen Wegner also pointed to a sense of inertia and a need for a more radical approach to experimentation: "Journalists are not innovative enough; they have too few ideas."The New York Times could be a role model, he argued, seeing as that newspaper recently undertook a painful yet successful effort to refurbish itself. Anita Zielina argued that this process is totally necessary, because "journalism is not read in only one way, but rather via a different number of channels; and soon, there will be even more players."