The vision from Europe

Continuing a string of visionary statements from European media bosses (see the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger here, Reuters’ Tom Glocer here and here, the BBC’s Mark Thompson here, and Burda’s Hubert Burda here), now add this interview with Gruner + Jahr boss Bernd Kundrun. It’s in German in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Sonntagszeitung (sadly and ironically not free) and I’ll try to translate and paraphrase the good bits (please do correct me):

The journalistic skill in the future wil be the moderation of ‘user-generated content,’ exactly like earlier information and data bases in the internet….

Note that he didn’t say that they’d be a gatekeeper. They’d moderate. I think that’s nearly right: Journalists point you to the good stuff as part of their job (along with reporting).

I believe that journalism must find a new definition. But we are standing just at the beginning. I can’t conclusively describe the job description of journalists today…

Imagine his own journalists reading that. And compare that with American editors still trying to circle their wagons around thier newsrooms.

The journalist stays on the ball, he observes… He will be an approachable partner for the reader, he carries a responsibility to perhaps moderate the discussion that follows. It’s in this context that the merger of the online and print newsrooms is occurring…. That is still a frightening vision for many colleagues. We at Gruner + Jahr are trying to get our journalists excited about this, that this opportunity is a challenge.

He talks about the relationship of blogs and big media and says that “the revolutionary attitude of the first bloggers… is understandable but is not a mass phenomenon.” He doesn’t attack blogs, as others do, but he does say that just as magazines have to get readers to give them their trust, so do new online brands — and blogs — need to earn trust. So he says his company has an “expand your brand” program to reach out into all the trends we know, which he says are not really about technology but sociology: blogs, MySpace, Wikipedia, and so on. He says they should not dread them but find possibilities in them.

The interviewer asks whether a big journalism award (a Pulitzer, of sorts, I think) will be awarded to a blogger. “Not yet, but I wouldn’t exclude that in the future.” He says the prize should reward the essence of journalism. By implication, that can include blogs.

All the European media bosses linked above talk the good game but they all have great challenges still to change the cultures of their empires and find new business success. But at least they’re playing.