An interview with Ivan Berni

Interview with: Ivan Berni, Journalist and Coordinator of Master in Journalism, IULM, Italy

Interviewd by: Simona Pezzano, IULM, Italy


1. Does copyright still matter for journalism in a digital environment? (What subject do you consider fundamental to teach in a cross-media journalism course?)

  • I think we can’t do without copyright, but it is necessary to find a standard to modulate it. This is the main resource to protect intellectual property’s creations and to provide a possible future for those who want to work in this field.

2. How can traditional journalists deal with Big Data? Do we need new professional skills?

  • We would never have expected to be able to accumulate the huge quantity of data that we now must manage. For journalists, this situation should simplify their work, as long as they learn how to use data in a less superficial way. In fact, what is crucial in data journalism management is not only searching and organizing data, but above all, creating a sociocultural context.

3. Should journalists care about so-called “trans-media storytelling”?

  • It is interesting to underline that while we are talking about trans-media storytelling in a theoretical way, over several months, ISIS has been using this technique with great skill, taking advantage of video game formats, for instance, to threaten us, Western people, in our own field.
  • Here again, what is crucial for journalists is that they should acquire a more refined critical vision to correctly understand the message that ISIS is sending us through their videos.

4. What is the practical knowledge required by a journalist at present?

  • These days, those who want to become journalists ought to know how to use graphic design and video editing software, but they should also know layout and design techniques to create newspaper pages.
  • They should be able to edit their videos for TV news reports.
  • They should also know how to use specific digital tools if they want to work for radio stations.

5. What are the cultural skills linked to journalists?

  • There are some specific proficiencies which are valid also in digital time. For instance, if you want to write a piece of news for both papers and the Web, you should avoid repetition. But if you want to make a good TV or radio news report, you should do exactly the opposite, since the audience’s attention threshold is far and away lower in these media.

6. What are the most important topics that we should teach in a Master Programme in cross-media journalism?

  • Paradoxically, I still consider it fundamental to teach how to write articles for newspapers or magazines, because I think the print paper will still last for some time.
  • Another fundamental course is video reporting, since up-to-the-minute information is getting more and more crucial for online news websites.
  • Finally, I consider it truly important to teach photojournalism, because journalists should be very knowledgeable about how to use images in providing news and for providing really moving emotions, rather than just adding images as complements to accompanying text reports.

7. Who are the most qualified people to teach cross-media journalism?

  • Our Master Programme in journalism is very much oriented towards the job market; that is why our teachers are all professional journalists. We want to keep up with the times; that’s why, for instance, we ask a geographer, who is a member of The Guardian Editorial Board, to teach in our master course. Since he is an expert at mapping, he is, in fact, able to evaluate which news deserves to get the best play on digital platforms, following the well-known principle of “digital first”.
  • We have also a data journalism course in which students learn how to use an Excel file for exploring databases that are a treasure trove of information, but only if you know how to use them. In fact, you should know how to ponder data, because numbers have no meaning if you don’t recreate the context that supports them.

8. Ethical and deontological aspects of journalism.

  • The core question is, for whom are journalists working? I think journalists work to provide information, and that means we are working for the public good. So any time journalists discover information, they ought to ask themselves whether it has value or not, but also by which standard this value is determined.