Dubai Declaration: From Gatekeeper to Networker - the public promise of the new journalism


“Journalism is vital for building societies. It is a systemic part of the social environment. We need to build a new technical, political and financial ecosystem to support it.

...Traditional models of journalism are in danger of being marginalized as public discourse shifts to direct and networked media. Journalism - both citizen and professional - needs to be fostered in these new spaces.”
These are two of the core messages of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Journalism.

Maybe it was just coincidence, but once the councils (under the auspices of the World Economic Forum) wrapped up their Dubai meeting, the desert destination declared it was facing major financial challenges.

So what else is new?

We see fewer journalists working at fewer publications, dwindling audiences for print and broadcast, crumbling business models, kids preferring to spend their lives on social networks, amateurs articulating their concerns directly. Hard times for media. But the demise of media should not be confounded with the end of journalism. Journalism will have a future.

Dubai Declaration:

“The Global Agenda Council on the Future of Journalism believes there is a need to reconstruct journalism and its relationship with the citizen and society. Public engagement is transforming journalism, offering an historic opportunity to create unprecedented increased value.  The media industry in general, and journalism in particular, have been experiencing drastic changes which call into question their role in mediating information to the benefit of their audience as well as disrupting traditional business models. Yet in an age when information is more important than ever, journalism is vital for building societies. It is a systemic part of the social environment.image We need to build a new technical, political and financial ecosystem to support it.  There is a need to reinforce its basic principles: freedom of expression, holding power to account, providing information and a forum for debate, empowering citizens to make decisions about their lives.

But mainstream journalism must also recognise its past failings and take advantage of new technologies and new social forces to reframe its practice, role and purpose. Journalism has a responsibility to not only mediate today’s realities, which go beyond national borders, are complex and inter connected, but also to engage local and global audiences/societies. This poses an unprecedented set of professional challenges. Even in regions where conventional journalism is still growing as a commercial sector, it is also subject to the impact of the same kinds of technological and social changes. Likewise, the opportunities this paper identifies are available in diverse ways to all news media markets.

The Council believes that it is necessary to redesign organisations and identify business models that ensure the sustainability of professional networked journalism as the digital and mobile media have disrupted traditional distribution models and revenue streams. As a response, news organisations need to ensure constant refining of their talent pool’s professional skill set and equip them with innovative toolkits.

At the same time, to ensure sustainability and relevance, organisations with journalism and journalists at their core may likely develop joint networks and forge strategic partnerships by pooling resources and sharing revenues.

At the same time, the journalism itself is changing and so the business model that creates it must also be reinvented. There is a need to support the opportunity afforded by networked media to develop a more constructive journalism. This is based on some traditional values such as the Right to Know and some familiar kinds of editorial work such as investigative reporting.

But imagenew technologies enable a different functionality. Internet and digital journalism allows for fuller and more expansive storytelling. It affords the opportunity for a much greater connectivity between experts, journalists and the public. But most importantly, it allows the public to participate at all stages. Journalism can now tap into the boundless resource of knowledge and opinion within the audience. The role of the journalist changes from gatekeeper to a networker. The best obtainable version of the truth remains the goal but trust is not a given, it is a mutual relationship between the public and journalist. The authority of journalism will be built by the value it offers working with the citizen, not by a professional code alone.

The Global Agenda Council on the Future of Journalism sees as a priority the establishment and (self) enforcement of global guiding principles for professional independent journalism. Existing gaps: Can a global concept and practice for independent professional journalism be encouraged in countries or environments where a different set of values exists and censorship still prevails?

Journalists are inadequately appreciated and protected. If journalism hopes to reinforce its role of watchdog for abuses of power and democracy, how can accountable journalists be valued and safeguarded? 

Journalism needs the following in its new business models to continue to exist and fufill their commitment to the global society:

  • Innovation and new partnerships;
  • New and improved system of journalism education;
  • Increased transparency and accountability.

News organisations need to understand and leverage the new dynamic of the social media revolution. Traditional models of journalism are in danger of being marginalised as public discourse shifts to direct and networked media platforms. Journalism – both citizen and professional – needs to be fostered in these new spaces.

Journalism needs to integrate the two new principle characteristics of digital media: public participation and connectivity.

Internet and social media permit engagement between the audience and professional journalists as never before. The new media interactivity promises a more dynamic business and society - but there will be a period of creative imagereordering that presents a challenge to all stakeholders.  This Council believes that there are common values across diverse news media marketplaces as well as a global interconnectedness. Journalism has a world role as well as a local or national function. This Council believes that when it is networked, journalism offers a more sustainable business and a more socially useful way to inform and communicate about our world.

Journalism at its best will continue to inform and inspire public debate and action. But this will not happen automatically and needs investment and strategic thinking, primarily by the journalism industry itself, but also by government and civil society.

Council Report – Summarised Proposal


We believe that there is already a mind-shift emerging in the way that journalism operates. Journalism is no longer the sole preserve of the news professional but now operates in a networked information ecosystem based on public participation and connectivity. This new paradigm recognises new principles that build on traditional journalism values such as holding power to account and striving for objectivity. Journalism that embraces the power of networking promotes principles of collaboration, constructive debate and public engagement. We believe this is good for the business of journalism and vital for improving the state of the world.

We propose to leverage the Council’s network to promote this change and its public purpose. 

We will take the Dubai Journalism Council statement on networked journalism to a series of news media conferences around the world: Bonn, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Yaounde, Paolo Alto, Washington DC, Almaty.  These sessions will look at the range of gaps that need to be addressed:

  • Education: news literacy, skills, training;
  • Finance: business models, support for innovation;
  • Legislation: enabling regulation and protection.

Each session will seek to:

  • inspire creative applied thinking among professional journalists;
  • encourage new ways of interacting with the public;
  • encouraging new independent sources of networked news in the civil society, government and business sectors.

Each session will include citizen and professional media innovators. We will record the discussions including case studies, models, themes and issues that are raised.  This will be presented as a report back to WEF Dubai 2010 with a reward that recognises outstanding examples of how networked journalism can have positive impacts both on the news media and the society it serves.”

EJC Director Wilfried Ruetten is a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Journalism.
See also his “Dubai Rant” blog post.
For a full list of Council members, click here.

Flickr images from users ecstaticist, giblet, ingirogiro, joi