At the end of August, a group of young JEFers were given the opportunity to travel to Malta in order to learn more about working in the field of journalism and raising awareness through media campaigning. This is what I learned along the journey.
I could see the whole country by one glimpse through the window of the airplane: no wonder Malta is one of the smallest member states of the European Union. I was excited to know that this charming island state would host my first JEF event abroad. I was about to participate in JEF Faker Fighters Regional School, a training the aim of which is to gather young Europeans interested in journalism and the media together in order to develop skills and gain awareness about issues such as media literacy and critical thinking.
The training was kick-started in Europe House in Valletta where I was able to meet my counterparts from all over Europe – young people who shared an interest towards journalism filled the conference room. I felt privileged to be part of such a young and talented group of brilliant minds. Each of us participants were there with our own experience and background, prepared to share them with the rest of the group and ready to learn from each others. I understood this as we were immersed in several team building activities ranging from building paper towers to playing human bingo where the goal was to quickly find a person who had done a particular thing mentioned on the list given to us prior.
After we had got to know each other a little bit better, it was already time to move on to the actual training. Our trainers introduced us to concepts such as fake news as well as the difference between misinformation and disinformation. These abstracts are most often used smoothly in everyday language, yet in order to grasp the essence of what is hidden behind these words it was important to define them so that we were able to come back to them along the training anytime there was a need for that. It was, for example, important to understand the double meaning of ‘fake news’ – not only does it unequivocally refer to a hoax that is spread through different sources of media, but thanks to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign it is also used as a tool to raise suspicions against a news media representing different political views. As both local and global struggles for power have indicated, creating one-sided abstracts can act as a powerful way of steering the public opinion.
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Potentially the most eye-opening part of the training was the visit paid by a guest speaker, Mr Herman Grech who is the Editor-in-Chief for The Times of Malta. The training was carried out following the ‘fish bowl’ method: three of us trainees at a time were able to have a discussion with Mr Grech while others could listen to the conversation – anytime someone felt like taking part in the discussion, he or she could simply take someone’s seat at the front. The Editor-in-Chief told us about how he had ended up starting a career in the field of journalism. In fact, he first worked in the banking sector yet his strive for truth had urged him to shift his future plans. Also, he shed light on the current media landscape in Malta. According to Freedom House, the press status of the island country is relatively free, even if the recent murder of a prominent Maltese journalist and the lack of progress on the investigation of the case have raised questions about the country’s ability to protect freedom of expression.
According to the Editor-in-Chief, another difficult issue that must be faced in the near future is the question of how to tackle the financial unprofitability of producing high-quality journalistic content. The Times of Malta refused to uphold paywalls as Mr Grech felt that it does not serve as a sustainable solution in an environment where quality newspapers are forced to combat more sensational sources of news. Despite current challenges Mr Grech believes that a speck of light will eventually come at the end of the tunnel.
As the training was coming closer to its end, our final task was to put everything we had learned in practice. We were divided in four groups, each of which had to produce a journalistic piece using different media tools. It turned out to be a unique chance to peer-learn from each other. As I had never produced a podcast, I found it very rewarding to try out this media channel together with people who had more experience about drafting a script and speaking on the microphone in an easy-going manner. I was happy to go out of my comfort zone, even to a point where I have started exploring all the possibilities that diverse media channels have to offer.
And finally, all this took place under the Mediterranean sun – was there anything I could have asked for? Events which are organized by JEF and held all around Europe are opportunities which should not be left unused. Next time you have an opportunity, make sure to come along!
TEKSTI Henri Kaarakainen
KUVA Henri Kaarakainen
Kirjoittaja on Helsingin yliopiston oikeustieteen opiskelija, joka on kiinnostunut etenkin Euroopan unionia koskevista oikeudellisista ja turvallisuuspoliittisista kysymyksistä.