It’s a festival, not a conference

I’ve spent the better part of two days at the Danish Media Festival, so I’m compelled to log a bit of my experience.

First, it is a festival, not a conference, as the conference director Esben Orberg reminded me at dinner. The purpose is to explore the practice of media with challenging discussions, then come together and celebrate. Last night, instead of an awards banquet that seems customary at most journalism conferences in the U.S., there was entertainment in several areas of the Odense Congress Center, including live music in one section and a satire of Danish journalists by a pair of well-known Danish journalists. (I was told I would have loved it, but wouldn’t have a chance at understanding it since I don’t know a lick of Danish.)

The festival has tripled in size since its inception in 1996, with some 1,500 attendees this year. There were 90 sessions, 200 speakers and 15 English-language sessions.

Attendees are incredibly orderly. The exhibition and reception area fills to capacity the moment sessions end and journalists carry on lively conversation. Then the minute the next sessions are about to start, the cavernous hall empties and people make their way into the separate rooms in a most expedient manner. (I would not have believed that 1,500 people could pile into one room and eat a sit-down meal and be to the next session in one our.)

I have met people from all over the world: Australia, Bahrain, England, and, surprisingly, one woman from from my neck of the woods. Fatema Fakhraie, founder and editor of Muslimah Media Watch, runs an operation I would have never guessed had its headquarters in Corvallis, Ore.

Solana Larsen, managing editor of Global Voices Online, gave me an inside perspective on the state of Danish journalism and participatory media. She’s truly a global journalist, part Danish, part Puerto Rican who lives in Brooklyn and has a boyfriend in Germany. She told me that change and innovation don’t come easy in Danish culture, so Journalism 2.0 concepts are slow to take hold. I’ve heard that Danish media are still financially strong compared to their U.S. counterparts, but most fear that hard times are coming.

Kim Elmose, Blogeditor at politiken.dk, works with a staff of 35 online journalists at his organization which employs about 250. So Danish news media are not ignoring the web (Denmark apparently has one of the most robust internet infrastructures in the world), but Elmose said it may be stuck in a 1.0 mode. This was evident during the questions following my presentation, one of which centered on the practice of linking to competitive news sites. It’s commonplace in the U.S. and is actually the foundation of a movement called link journalism, but just growing in acceptance in Denmark.

As I discovered in Portugal, journalism is a shared experience even if practiced in different languages, and progression.

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