An inside look into the Berlin Seminar

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The Seminar in Berlin, which officially launched this year’s programme, included an intensive agenda with a wide range of guest speakers from Germany, UN and Balkans.

 To begin with, fellows received practical information on the Research & Editorial stages – from the story outline to publishing: tips, suggestions, and potential pitfalls, presented by Gordana Igric and Marcus Tanner.

They also attended a presentation with an insidelook into the fact checking process, presented by DR. Hauke Janssen, Director of Documentation at Spiegel. Romanian fellow Mircea Dan Opris, described Fact checking as one of the most important attributes of an accurate article or report. He noted that unlike Western European and North American newsrooms, the South East European media outlets do not hold the special position of “fact checker”. Mircea continued to explain that in the Balkans, most stories are based on journalist’s own documenting process and it all ends up into the editor’s power of knowledge and trust. Without exaggeration, Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s most reliable publications, is a true example of how far and sharp fact checking can go.

David Brewer, from Media Helping Media, and Milos Milosavljevic, in charge for BIRN online projects, presented “Your story online” – Using multimedia tools to enhance understanding and engage the audience. Georgiana Illie, 2010 fellow from Romania, found the presentation very useful in teaching participants how to present their stories in a multimedia way and exploit online contents in order to maximize its value. David Brewer talked about how the media model is shifting from a -to engage with- model (talk-shows, letters to editors, internet communication) to a -to participate in- model, in which the media layout the facts, the audience picks what’s meaningful to them and then shares it with their audience. Milos Milosavljevic presented the new BIRN platform, which allows the fellows to build this type of online product, with various bits of information that let readers in the process of documentation and the background of the stories.

Fellows also attended a presentation on “Demography – Tackling the taboo of population policy” by Dr. Reiner Klingholz, Director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Serbian fellow, Ivan Angelovski, concluded from the presentation that EU enlargement helps EU demography. Basing his lecture on the research project “Europe’s Demographic Future”, Klingholz said that the EU enlargement process could solve many of its demography issues, which will make it more competitive in time. In that sense, the EU should consider including both Turkey and Ukraine in next 20 or 40 years. Angelovski further noted Dr. Klingholz’ explanation that enlargement could affect demography in future EU countries because “people tend to have fewer babies when new opportunity arises”, illustrating it with the situation in Eastern Germany after the fall of Berlin wall.

On the last day of the Seminar, fellows had the opportunity to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, attending a presentation on “Where Do the Balkans Stand in German Foreign Policy?”, by Graf Nikolaus Lambsdorff, Representative for Southeastern Europe, Turkey and the EFTA states. Ruzica Fotinovska, our 2010 fellow from Macedonia, highlighted the most important issues discussed such as the Serbia-Kosovo relationship in connection with Serbia’s EU accession process, the economic downturn inGreece and how this will affect the region, the Macedonia name status, as well as the approach of Germany towards each country in the Balkans and the importance of maintaining good neighbourly relations.

Fellows will now start their 3 months of research, traveling to neighboring countries and to the EU, exploring different aspects of their projects.