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UNESCO urges French journalism educators to innovate

Journalism classes need to be innovative in curricula design, if they are to impact on journalistic practices in the newsroom. This was the message delivered by Jānis Kārkliņš, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at UNESCO, during the fourth edition of the Conférence nationale des métiers du journalisme (CNMJ), which started today at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

In his welcome remarks to over 250 French journalists and journalism educators, Kārkliņš said that the future of journalism had become uncertain but, he added, it was “in this very uncertainty that a new journalism can be shaped – one that responds to new social, economic, political and technological shifts”.

He outlined UNESCO’s own attempts to shape the future of journalism, citing the Organization’s Model Curricula for Journalism Education published in 2007, which had been adapted by at least 70 journalism schools in 60 countries in diverse linguistic, social and cultural contexts.

He told the gathering that, as part of its innovative efforts to respond to new challenges, UNESCO had since launched a compendium of ten new syllabi, which could be accessed online.

He said: “This publication represents UNESCO’s response to emerging global challenges for specialized journalistic literacies associated with Climate Change, Data Mining, Intercultural Communication, Human Trafficking, Digital Safety, among many others”.

Kārkliņš also pointed out UNESCO’s efforts to promote World Press Freedom Day, including the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. He urged the participants not to underplay the issue of professionalism, saying that journalism ethics was a challenge in a communications environment that in many places was distorted by public relations “spin”, excessive commercialization, and new media devices that forced journalists to try to beat near impossible deadlines.

He also disclosed that UNESCO was proposing a Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education, whose aim would be to promote the “aspect of collegial discussion and sharing of perspectives among all the members, in an effort to pursue ‘excellence’ in teaching, researching and practising journalism globally”. 

The Conférence nationale des métiers du journalisme (CNMJ) is a forum for dialogue and debate. Born in 2010, it includes 14 French journalism schools recognised by the profession. It caters for trainers, professional associations, public authorities, researchers and other qualified stakeholders.