Picture shows a portrait of Ellen Heinrichs (credit: Florian Görner / Bonn Institute).
Picture shows a portrait of Ellen Heinrichs (credit: Florian Görner / Bonn Institute).
Best Practice

More than Tech – A Birthday Greeting from Ellen Heinrichs

I‘m so happy that the DW ReCo team is celebrating their 10th birthday (with the minor restriction that it makes me realize how time flies). After all these years, it gives me the opportunity to explain why I’ve always been fan No. 1 of this extraordinary bunch of diverse, knowledgeable, and friendly people.

To give you some context: I'm a journalist by trade, and before I left DW this year to become the founder and CEO of the Bonn Institute for Journalism and Constructive Dialogue (that DW is a partner of), I worked for Germany's international broadcaster for quite some time. As chance would have it, I became head of editorial innovation only two years after the ReCo team was officially established. How lucky was I to have Wilfried Runde, Jochen Spangenberg and their team of journalists-turned-techies and techies-turned-journalists as counterparts by my side!

Not only did they always monitor and test new platforms, technologies and tools with rigorous expertise, they also shared their knowledge generously – with my team, with colleagues in German Public broadcasting, and on the EBU and international level. They also did something that cannot be valued high enough in our industry: Very early on, they took a holistic approach on innovation in journalism, meaning that they didn't get simply carried away by the endless opportunities digitization had to offer, but always evaluated the potential of these new technologies with regard to public value and journalism itself.

These days, as everyone is trying to get to grips with Elon Musk's Twitter take-over and more and more journalists are starting to realize that algorithms ought to be used ethically, I often remember the vivid discussions the ReCo team and my team head on this exact topic – years ago.

The ReCo people were also ahead of their time in other respects: For one, they've always been a truly diverse team, meaning that they wanted to be international, gender-diverse and include people with all sorts of abilities. In my view, that has contributed to their better understanding of the potential of digital journalism and the ways it can create true value for audiences. For instance, they had this wonderful project called Gourmet, where they tried to figure out better ways to translate "smaller" languages like Burmese, Gujarati, or Pashto into English. So valuable when it comes to accessing regional knowledge and amplifying non-English speaking voices! Maybe the team was also close to my heart because it has always taken a very constructive approach: The ReCos don't just see problems and challenges, they always try to do something about them.

Take one of my favorite projects of theirs, Truly Media: Already very early on, the team saw the destructive potential of disinformation and started to develop this collaborative platform for the analysis and verification of digital content that is now being used by journalists, human rights workers, and other stakeholders. Or look at the way the ReCos use artificial intelligence: In close cooperation with DW's editorial departments, the team has been experimenting with human language technology for years – and can now provide software that helps with the creation of multi-lingual video content.

Digitalization is a huge challenge for our industry. Only when we tear down silos, when we start to truly collaborate and learn from one another will we manage to take journalism into the future. Only then will we be able to serve our audiences with the best possible information on the best possible platform in the best possible way – to support them in taking important decisions based on solid facts. In order to achieve this, to make sure journalism remains relevant in the future, it's crucial that innovation teams unite journalistic, technological and product-related expertise. DW ReCo has always been leading the way in this regard.

So, once again: Thank you, my friends. Keep innovating!

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