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Media Development

Does print journalism have a future?

Changes are ahead for the print media, and at a management workshop in Berlin 11 editors-in-chief from 11 countries are looking at ways to make their papers fit for a digital future.

The Axel Springer Building in Berlin houses Germany's leading newspaper publisher. In the lobby, eleven editors-in-chief listen to Leeor Engländer, personal assistant to the editor-in-chief of one of Germany's leading national dailies, Die Welt. Engländer explains the strategy of the editorial office: news and reports appear online first, and then in the print edition. A few participants of DW Akademie's workshop "The future of print journalism" are surprised. One chief editor asks whether Engländer's afraid that other newspapers might steal his stories. "Not at all," says Engländer. "If it's our story, the others have to quote us, and that's often the case." He adds that these days, readers don't buy newspapers to get the latest news - they go online for that. Print, he says, needs to focus on well-researched background stories.

Kenneth Ashigbey from Ghana talking to Leeor Engländer, referent to the editor-in-chief of DIE WELT (photo: DW Akademie/N.Wojcik).

At the editorial offices of "Die Welt": Kenneth Ashigbey from Ghana speaks with Leeor Engländer

This is the third editorial office the participants have visited. They've also been to the German weekly, Die Zeit and the weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel. The head editors in the workshop come from Bolivia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, Serbia and Uganda. Here at Die Welt's newsroom - one of the largest in Europe - they learn that the editorial workflow here is based on a combined content management system that enables journalists to write both for the online pages and the print edition. "We still have time in Peru because only 25% of the population can access the Internet," says Luz Maria Helguero. "But we know that online is becoming increasingly important, so it's good to be attending the workshop and getting a sense of other editorial offices."

Heading into the future with quality journalism

Alina Radu during the final discussion of the management training The Future of Print Journalism (photo: DW Akademie/N.Wojcik).

Alina Radu from Moldova is a crusader for investigative journalism

The workshop offers more than a glance at Germany's newspaper world. "Bringing together eleven editors-in-chief from eleven different countries is also a great opportunity for people to learn from each other," says DW Akademie trainer, Peter Berger. "Each country has interesting approaches to the transformation from print to online. Kenya, for example, is far ahead when it comes to mobile applications."

That also interests Alina Radu from Moldova. "In my country there are more mobile phones than flush toilets," she jokes, then adds more seriously that she doesn't want to miss the shift to digital technology. Radu is the director of "Ziarul de Garda", an investigative magazine, and is also convinced that quality print journalism has a future. "But I've learned new ideas here on how to position ourselves digitally - and still earn money."

11 editors-in-chiefs with project coordinator Oliver Schilling and trainer Peter Berger in front of the building of the magazine Die Zeit in Hamburg (photo: Oliver Schilling).

11 editors-in-chiefs with project coordinator Oliver Schilling and trainer Peter Berger

Kenneth Ashigbey from Ghana says he's also benefitted from exchanging ideas and experiences. "This is not a teacher-student set-up but an opportunity to get ideas for the future of our papers. These are global experiences, and while we're from different countries, we're all facing the same challenges."

The participants all see journalism as their core business. "As far as the digital shift goes, in some countries time's running out whereas in others, it's more relaxed," says DW Akademie project manager Jutta vom Hofe. "But we all agree that no matter what platform the newspapers will have, the goal will continue to be producing good journalism."

The workshop is also future-oriented for DW Akademie itself. "Since the start of 2013 we've become very active in the area of print journalism," says project coordinator Oliver Schilling. "That's why getting ideas on further cooperation from editors-in-chief from our focus countries is so important."