Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mediacentar, Sarajevo

The Mediacentar, Sarajevo
Picture courtesy Nataša Mirković

Imagine a set of editorial guidelines that are continually updated, with journalists in every corner of the world able to edit them, add to them, challenge and stretch them, enhance and polish them.

Such an online resource could be a vibrant, best-practice guide, reflecting the views of journalists from every continent.

It could take account of the tensions and issues associated with working in transition and post-conflict countries.

It could examine core editorial values such as accuracy, impartiality, integrity, privacy, globalisation, taste and decency, and all other editorial values and from every cultural perspective.

Sounds unlikely, but it’s happening.

After five days working together, a team of ten journalists from eight different Balkan countries has produced the first draft for these guidelines.

The countries represented were Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Serbia and Montenegro.

Our hosts were the dynamic team that runs the Mediacentar, Sarajevo and the media development network, Netnovinar .

They’d set up a project, initiated by the South East European Network for Professionalisation of the Media (SEENPM), to deliver a best-practice handbook for journalists in the region.

It was to look at editorial ethics, particularly as they affect journalists gathering and delivering news online.

That task was big enough, but we decided to go one massive step further.

Working on the editorial guidelines wikis
Picture courtesy Nataša Mirković

We decided to not only produce such a handbook by the autumn, but also to aim to make the text available in Wiki form (like Wikipedia) and open it to everyone to improve.

Nedim Dedic, the technical genius at the MediaCentar, set up the wonderful open-source, distance learning tool Moodle and built in all the functionality we needed to produce the first draft of the guidelines in wiki form. The headings are

  • Integrity
  • Independence and Impartiality
  • Accuracy
  • Fairness
  • Privacy
  • Taste and Decency
  • Audience Input
Hopefully, that Wiki will be made live once the handbook has been published.

The handbook will form the first iteration – the Wiki will ensure the guidelines are always fresh, relevant, focused and sensitive to editorial and ethical issues in every country.

Online journalism is moving too fast to have guidelines printed on paper only. A Wiki, with the potential of having every journalist in the world acting as editor and contributor seems a crazy, brave, but somehow logical way forward.

Let’s hope it works.

Client: Mediacentar Sarajevo
Media Development Organisation: SEENPM