Today we launch the new Kosovo 2.0 online magazine, which marks a significant milestone in our media presence. During the past six and a half years, K2.0 has introduced a wide range of journalism formats. In 2010, it launched the country’s first blogging platform. A year later, we began with the print edition of our theme-based magazine, which ended this year as a 10-issue collection. Moreover, throughout this entire time, we have always sought to introduce innovative and insightful ways of engaging the public with our content, whether online or offline.
From the outset, our work has been based on a conviction that as a media organization, we uphold a social obligation to contribute toward an informed public debate, where a diversity of voices prevails, and with citizens at the forefront of our undertaking. Our focus has been to particularly emphasize the issues, narratives and experiences that are marginalized, or even excluded, from and within mainstream discourse and media practices.
As we move toward a new era of K2.0 as an online magazine, we see our work within an overarching principle that is all too easily taken for granted, or even underestimated today — that is, that in our information-driven societies, journalism that is independent of any kind of political or financial interest, and that takes the time to inform, explain and analyze, is crucial if we are to contribute toward a self-reflective society. And in today’s media-saturated environment, such journalism has increasingly become the exception, rather than the expectation.
On one hand, information today is more accessible than ever, and opportunities for citizens to participate and create are just as abundant. The digital age has without doubt provided a wide range of tools and formats that in many ways have increased opportunities for participatory politics and facilitated the production of news and information. The online world has become a public sphere of its own, a venue where information, thoughts and opinions are shared and discussions take place.
On the other hand, as news media are increasingly run as businesses, they are largely driven by monetary revenue. Short, fast, scandal-oriented, personality-based news — these are just some of the prevailing media practices and approaches as clicks substitute engaged readers, and ad-generated revenues substitute journalistic impact. Commercialization pressures are increasingly encouraging an overemphasis on the trivial and popular, which disregards the substantial, informative and the relevance of the matters and issues at stake. As market forces are increasingly driving editorial decisions, the public is viewed and treated as a commodity rather than as free-thinking individuals.
However, we cannot measure or speak of media independence only in relation to political, financial or businesses pressures, as it does not solely pertain to making decisions within viable market opportunities or restrictions. An independent media is one that continuously reassesses its function in society, is self-aware and even self-critical. Moreover, it also acknowledges that it holds many societal roles — to explain as much as to question, to inform as well as to entertain. All the while an independent media must remain grounded on ethical principles and recognize the power of words. Language is not just a technical tool with which we communicate; through language we construct meanings, and those meanings become the way in which we come to build knowledge and understand society around us.
Of course financial restrictions cannot be entirely shrugged off. They have also taken a toll on us here at K2.0, as we took the difficult decision to end our print production this year. It was not a decision made lightly. On one hand, it was driven by high production costs that were continuously generating financial barriers and pressures for the long-term sustainability of our organization. On the other, the fact that Kosovo lacks a strong and private advertizing industry, independent of political and business-vested interests, makes it almost impossible for media to find independent financing models.
While we firmly believe that our print magazine will continue to live on in the hands of our readers, we remain committed to bringing the same experience and journalistic vigor as we move the magazine to the online sphere. And it is based on one of the grounding principles of journalism: to serve the public good and make decisions based on public interest. Within such a position, the crucial element is recognizing that the public is not homogenous; to fail in this regard leads to the exclusion and marginalization of voices in society, while reducing issues to linear or singular understandings.
That is why a ‘journalism that takes the time’ to listen, understand, inform, explain and contextualize — regardless of what the 24/7 news cycle makes us think is the next most-pressing issue — is essential to the wellbeing and future of our societies. And long-form, narrative journalism is a format that continues to be relevant, regardless of how we are constantly made to believe otherwise.
Time after time, I hear my university journalism students say how the role and function of online media is to provide information as quickly and as short as possible. I believe that is a perception and belief they have acquired based on the day-to-day examples and encounters with the modern news. While there will always be a need for well informed news outlets, it is imperative that this is also complemented by long-form, narrative and explanatory journalism that provides a sound foundation upon which to contribute toward a larger debate. Because when we speak of how a citizen’s rights have been violated, how a corruptive scheme is undermining the foundation of our society, or how a political class is lacking fundamental leadership — a 140-character tweet, a single quote presented as a news article or an opinion broadcast without providing the necessary context is simply not enough.
These are some of the issues and convictions that have led to the structure of K2.0 we launch today, and why we will continue to produce content in long format.
As we launch our new website, we do not merely present a new design. The sections of our online magazine have been thought-out based on discussions of the issues facing the media today — In-Depth features and reportage that dig deeper into the issue that matter; analysis and commentaries from a range of Perspectives that intrigue, question and challenge; One-on-One conversations that provoke and inspire; In-Short approach on big news and events while never neglecting the importance of context; and Blogs that encourage citizens to continue sharing experiences and enhancing one another’s understanding of the world around them.
As an online magazine, K2.0 will always stay true to our roots as a place where a diversity of voices can be heard, but all the while evolving to meet the needs of our contemporary society. We will continue to believe that words and images can empower individuals and societies, and we hope such convictions will make you want to engage as well.K