Giant media houses battle caving advertising revenues and billion dollar losses worldwide. Not only has the American media mogul Rupert Murdoch signaled job cuts throughout his corporation, but resignations and recruitment lock downs are written are on the agenda throughout Austria and other countries. Those who are allowed to stay must put their journalistic idealism on hold. S/he does the work for two now, researching stories for local papers or private radio stations no more, but rather cutting and pasting messages from news agencies. In terms of content, the editor is no longer measured by quality - what counts is that the "news" can be told within a maximum of one minute and thirty seconds. Is this what we`ve come to expect from the so-called fourth power of the state?

It`s as clear as day: a shortage of finances and personnel yields devastating effects on journalism. In such a time, institutions like PR agencies flourish, providing rehashed, recycled material for editors, who thankfully accept this service and pay their readers back in well-disguised plugs posing as actual journalism. This is one possibility of the exercise of influence that politicians also make use of. Or so discovered New York Times journalist David Barstow, when he found out that some pensioned generals from the pentagon were selected to act as analysts in radio and TV, creating propaganda for the Iraqi war. Mass media declared itself as eager to help, and went on to supercede serious journalism with political propaganda. That Barstow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism this year, yet was all but ignored by big TV stations in the U.S.A., is symptomatic: informed criticism of the system is unwanted.

Both on national and global levels, media as well as its associated journalism is neck deep in the crisis. It is exciting to observe how, in front of this backdrop, people take the reins into their own hands, becoming their own agents and producers, and writing their own content. An awakening of citizen journalism, or the fact that paid professional journalists carry out their research on assignment from communities (catch phrase: "community funded journalism"), are early signs of a fundamental change. Free radio, community TV, bloggers, and twitters (happily put to use by CNN as of late due to a shortage of other sources) are examples of citizens engaging structures that diverge from the norm.

Critical, high quality journalism is essential for the functioning of a democratic society. Current public media especially fulfills an important function in this regard, provided they don`t find themselves in a stranglehold by governments, which brashly interfere with their agenda by occupying jobs and programs with party politics.

The Elevate Festival would like to contribute to a better understanding of various problems posed by the media and journalism scenes, as well as exciting projects and innovative concepts that diverge from mass media propaganda and PR.

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