Vol. 23, No.1/Fall 2000
News Division Panel at Global
A highlight of the Global 2000 conference in Brighton was the News Division session "The Impact of News in a Changing Global Climate," which focused on some of the problems that news librarians face around the world.
Panelists for the session were Romanian librarian Mihaela Danga, who manages The Freedom Forum News Library in Bucharest; BBC Research Editor Kate Arnold; and myself, a librarian at The Freedom Forum News Library in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In Russia, there really aren't any news librarians as we know them in the West.
I gave a brief introduction to the main issues which are limiting press freedom in Russia and reviewed the recently signed Information Security Doctrine - a vaguely written document which hopes to protect the national interests of Russia by curtailing the free press. Now it seems that anyone reporting oppositional coverage of the second Chechen War, or a less than favorable view on how the Kremlin handled the Kursk submarine tragedy, would not be following the doctrine and could face consequences.
I also outlined a number of problems regarding access to information, including the lack of a freedom of information act, the lack of commercially available databases like driver's records and the absence of internet connections in newsrooms.
When you add this up, along with the history of Soviet media, there hasn't been much of a news research culture instilled in Russian journalists.
Romanian librarian Mihaela Danga echoed this theme while presenting background on the media in Romania and providing a basic history from the Communist era to the present day.
Danga explained that few journalists use the internet as a professional tool. She added that, like Russia, Romania also has a state secrets law that protects the interests of the state.
She explained how news is often presented in a very opinionated form and that there is a time delay before the news reaches the people. "It is really not breaking news that is getting reported," she said. "Most media outlets have so-called archivists, or people who collect information, but there really aren't people to assist journalists to do research."
Both Freedom Forum libraries are exceptions to this rule. Journalists and students are constantly in our libraries to use the internet connection and for various training programs.
In contrast, Kate Arnold illustrated how news organizations have been evolving in the UK. "It is a time of great changes brought on by new technology. Journalists are redefining their roles, while news organizations are adapting their products to meet new forms of news consumption," she said.
Librarians are also redefining themselves to meet the new demands by developing more collaborative relationships with journalists and providing advice and direction in production processes. She added that the 'digital divide' program of the British Government aims at having an online presence for all governmental services by 2005.
Chris Hamilton is the librarian at The Freedom Forum News Library in St. Petersburg, Russia. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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