The World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC), held at the University Paris-Dauphine from 9 to 11 July 2019, is the only global event dedicated exclusively to journalism education. It brings together journalism professionals, researchers and trainers from all over the world (600 participants from more than 70 countries) to exchange best practices, innovations and challenges for journalism and its teaching. Organized every three years, it was the first time it took place in France, celebrating its 15th anniversary.
Pascal Guénée, WJEC Paris 2019 Chairperson and IPJ Dauphine Director, launched the Opening Ceremony, highlighting the themes covered at the congress: innovation, diversity, pedagogy but also information manipulation, the treatment of environmental issues and the safety of journalists. Joe Foote, President of the World Journalism Education Council, went back over the history of the creation and development of this event.
“The theme of the congress, “Teaching journalism during a disruptive age” is particularly stimulating. It is true that journalism training faces major challenges, shocks and turning points that are reflected in the issues addressed, for example, ethical challenges in the digital age, the spread of false news and the search for the truth, security issues and responsibility, for instance, for covering attacks. This congress is therefore a great opportunity to reflect on the evolution of pedagogical practices, to test new ideas, to think about the transformations and new challenges of journalism education” continued Isabelle Huault, President of Paris-Dauphine University in her official opening speech.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, was then invited to take the floor. In her keynote speech, she reminded the audience of UNESCO’s mission: to promote the free flow of ideas and therefore freedom of the press, by monitoring and alerting the situation of journalists worldwide, through a normative and preventive work to improve national situations by accompanying countries to develop their legislative framework on these issues, and providing capacity-building opportunities to them.
In the face of the current technological “disruption”, “the need for professional journalism is, in my opinion, all the more ardent. This journalism is an increasingly essential public good. Because truth is not a public good like any other, truth has no ministry, it must be produced, elaborated but also guaranteed by free and disinterested consciences, independent of political, economic and technological power. These are the free consciences that we must protect, support and promote, not only for their own good but also for the common good, since it is their essential function to enable the construction of enlightened societies; societies where everyone has the intellectual tools, factual information and reasoned analyses to make choices; choices, which to be free, must be informed. Professional media are what allows a society to make an informed decision about its destiny” pointed out Ms Azoulay.
Following the audience’s questions, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Moez Chakchouk also underlined the importance of the media’s commitment to sustainable development goals, in relation to climate change but also in emerging areas such as new technologies and artificial intelligence.
Through various regional and national projects, UNESCO through its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is providing support to and developing partnerships with a number of journalism schools to assist them in attaining a defined level of excellence, improving staff training, curricula, learning materials and resource centres, as well as their networks and management skills.
For this purpose, the UNESCO’s series on Journalism Education provides model curricula and handbooks designed to be used as an entire course, or in bespoke ways to suit the media landscape and the needs of journalism students at the local level. Developed by experts who are at the cutting edge of journalism education, they are presented in a variety of formats and languages.
During this Congress, UNESCO distributed 1,400 hard copies of these training materials (on gender equality, disinformation and climate change, notably) to participants. UNESCO also invited experts and delegates from LDCs and sponsored a panel on Climate Change.