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Journalism for democratic society - how innovative media create quality

How do innovations in journalism influence the quality of reporting and thus the public in a democratic society? A new international research project, in which Professor Vinzenz Wyss and others at the ZHAW’s IAM Institute of Applied Media Studies is involved, addresses this key question. From autumn 2020, innovations in the field of journalism will investigated over a period of three years in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

Journalism Professor Vinzenz Wyss and Professor Guido Keel, Head of the Institute of Applied Media Studies at the ZHAW (from the left)

The project managers Klaus Meier (Germany), Andy Kaltenbrunner and Matthias Karmasin (Austria), as well as Vinzenz Wyss (Switzerland), describe their work:

«We are experiencing a split society, shattered democracies and so-called post-factual political discussions. These are great challenges. Using practice-oriented fundamental research, we are seeking to analyse how innovations can advance professional quality journalism.»


According to the researchers, such innovations include, for example, investigative research teams, alternatively financed start-ups, data journalism, editorial quality assurance systems and the use of social platforms. Research projects on media innovations have until now focussed on the diverse economic and technological influences on journalism and have observed how traditional and new media organisations are economically viable. Little research has been conducted into the effects on journalistic quality. This project seeks to address this research deficit.

The research team draws on theoretical approaches and empirical findings from the realms of economic and social innovation theory, as well as on the normative theory of journalism. In addition to case studies and expert panels in German-speaking countries, comparisons with other European countries are also planned.

From autumn 2020, a total of more than one dozen academics will be working on this project. The research findings will provide international guidance and advice, both for media policy and for the organisation of media and editorial departments, so that innovations that strengthen journalistic quality and its role in society can be promoted.

Professor Klaus Meier at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany, will be overall head of the international research alliance. In addition to the IAM Institute of Applied Media Studies, other sponsors include the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies (CMC) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences / University of Klagenfurt and the research organisation Medienhaus Wien in Austria. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The project is entitled “Innovations in journalism in democratic societies: index, influence and requirements in an international comparison” and has funding amounting to around 1.3 million euros overall.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Prof. Vinzenz Wyss. The IAM project team also includes Prof. Guido Keel, Mirco Saner and Filip Dingerkus.