Fake news, funding and innovations in the media will be highlights at Media Party in Buenos Aires

For five years, the Buenos Aires, Argentina branch of Hacks/Hackers has gathered thousands of journalists and tech experts in its fair city to discuss the future of news and innovation. This September, the conference known as Media Party will address one of the biggest threats to the news industry and greatest opportunities for innovation: fake news.

"The big bet of this year has to do with basically the great theme of the year, fake news. There is a lot of interest to develop new ideas," Mariano Blejman, founder and director of Media Party, told the Knight Center. "It's a big issue: on the one hand there is the interpretation of the news and the misrepresentation of the news, and on the other hand are the companies that are trying to solve the problem from the technological point of view. It is a topic that has to be addressed at a general level on all platforms, media and users. "

The event, which will be held from Sept. 13 to 15, is backed by the organization Hacks/Hackers, a network of journalists (“hacks”) and technology experts (“hackers”) that seeks to generate and disseminate ideas about the future of news and information.

In Blejman's opinion, in addition to fake news, Latin American media have faced other challenges in terms of innovation in the last year, such as access to funding to develop new ideas and lack of consolidation of digital native media.

"There are very strong actors in the market who have been around for many years and a lot of bargaining power, and that makes the emergence of new media more difficult. We have seen that there is a point where the digital native media plateau, stop growing, and need some injection of capital or knowledge," Blejman said. "As for interactive journalism, we expected a bigger explosion, we have not seen the explosion as we expected."

However, there are issues in the field of innovation in which Latin American media have advanced, such as new ways of getting information to the audience and significant improvements in the measurement of these audiences.

"There is a big bet on distribution issues, there are a lot of sites that are making newsletters, trying out new forms of distribution, they are improving their team to work with social networks," he explained. "Undoubtedly in terms of metrics there is a big bet on new ways to understand that content and there are stronger options in the topic of metrics in newsrooms."

The increasingly important proximity of technology giants like Google and Facebook in the region's communication industry represents both challenges and opportunities for the media: while on the one hand, they are platforms that carry significant amounts of traffic to digital publications, on the other side, they represent a competition in terms of advertising sales. This dual relationship motivated the Media Party to invite these companies to participate relevantly in the event.

"(Facebook and Google) They manage audience information much better than the news media. Without a doubt they are very big strategic partners, and from another point of view they are competitors," Blejman said. "It seems to me that the two great players have understood the impact of the quality of information in societies and it seems that they are working hard to improve these relationships (with the media) and work together."

Media Party will feature more than 50 workshops, a fair to present more than 70 innovative projects and a hackathon to generate innovative ideas in the media industry.

Speakers included for this year include Aron Pilhofer (James B. Steele Chair in Journalistic Innovation at Temple University), Jacqui Maher (Condé Nast journalist), Jeff Jarvis (professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York), Pablo Mercado (Director of Technology at Vox Media) and Carlos Martínez de la Serna (Director of Digital Innovation at Univision). In addition, the organizers are in talks with representatives of Google and Facebook to take part in the conferences.

"We always work from place of experience talks and how to solve problems," Blejman said. "That is the difference between Media Party and other events: there are not so many forums for debate, but rather the desire to get together to solve problems, work on specific issues and find solutions. It's an event that focuses on production. "

In the first two days, Media Party offers morning talks and afternoon workshops. This process identifies conflicts and situations that can generate innovation. The hackathon takes place on the third day, to explore the ideas proposed and to work on innovative solutions.

For this year's edition, Media Party plans to receive 2,500 participants from various parts of Latin America and the world who can register on the event website for free thanks to the support of partners such as Knight Foundation, ICFJ, Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations, Knight Mozilla Open News and IBM.

"The goal is to open a unique space in Latin America where you have the possibility to sit down and work with people who are innovating on a global scale, and who would otherwise be much more difficult to access," Blejman said.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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