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A joint AU communication channel in a new format and with journalistic edge

The working groups have now prepared their recommendation for what should replace UNIvers. Both the employees and the students still want a joint communication channel which reflects AU’s diversity and supports a sense of community across the organisation. At the same time, the groups suggest that the new media should focus on more in-depth journalism.

[Translate to English:] Omkring 50 ansatte og studerende var den 10. maj indbudt til inspirationsdag, og input herfra er med til at danne baggrund for den indstilling, der nu er sendt i åben høring.

Since April, two groups of students and employees have been meeting regularly with Pro-Rector Søren E. Frandsen to discuss the content and format of a new AU media. And the intention with the new media (the working groups prefer a newspaper format) is crystal clear.
– It should be a newspaper which makes people think: I must read it. It is relevant and often challenging, and the articles describe the university in such a way that I can recognise what is being said, says Tonny Brems Knudsen, Associate Professor in political science and a member of the employees’ working group.
And even though it is difficult to catch everyone’s attention with one and the same media, both groups say that it is the only solution as it creates a shared identity and a sense of ownership.
– We need to have something in common. There is a tendency for everything to become more and more fractured, but we need something which creates coherence across the university, says Thea Puggaard Frederiksen from the working group for students and a member of the Student Council.

Open and constructive process

The groups were established following the media debate in the spring, when three student organisations sent an open letter to AU’s rector and the chairman of the Board proposing that the existing UNIvers be changed.
The senior management team therefore started the process which has now resulted in a recommendation paper on which the groups agree and which is available for everyone to read and comment on in an open consultation process which runs until the end of August.
– It has been a very constructive process, says Per Stounbjerg, chair of the academic council at Arts and a member of the employee group.
– The discussions have been very open and frank, and it has been interesting to discover how different we are as employees, and how these differences are reflected in our respective wishes for the new media. What interests me may not be as interesting for a technical/administrative staff member at another main academic area.
Both groups have therefore arrived at a content mix which, among other things, includes exciting research stories and articles about large joint social events. One of the main wishes is more thought-provoking and in-depth journalism, where the newspaper employs thorough research to shed light on major and important themes such as the working environment and international trends within the university world.

Clear identification of publisher and editorial freedom

One of the reasons why the students wanted to change UNIvers was a general sense of uncertainty as to who is actually behind the existing UNIvers as well as the degree of editorial freedom. Questions relating to who is the publisher and editorial freedom have therefore been key issues at the meetings. Both the students and the employees therefore also single out credibility as a decisive parameter for the new media.
– It is very important that the newspaper is not perceived as a management PR publication, says Per Stounbjerg.
Tonny Brems Knudsen adds:
– We need a newspaper which focuses less on ambitions and grand words, and which instead gets to the point when dealing with the problems and challenges facing AU and universities in general.
The groups therefore propose that an editorial committee be appointed to establish the editorial guidelines and to ensure editorial freedom. In their recommendation, the groups suggest that the editorial committee consists of seven members: two academic staff members, two technical and administrative staff members, two students and a management representative.
– This way, we also ensure that the media is constantly covering the stories that actually interest people. And, at the same time, the entire organisation will feel a sense of ownership with the media through the members of the editorial committee, says Pro-Rector Søren E. Frandsen, who has actively participated in the two working groups and at the workshop where around 50 students and employees discussed the new media.
The students are also behind the recommendation and the appointment of an editorial committee, says Thea Puggaard Frederiksen.
– I hope it will help to create a credible media that we all have confidence in, she says.
The proposed editorial committee will, in other words, play a very important overall role, but, on the other hand, it will not interfere with the day-to-day editorial work, for which the editor-in-chief will have full responsibility.

Other assumptions

For a new AU media to succeed, a number of other conditions identified by the groups during the process must also be met. Both employees and students want, for example, a clear division between news and information about matters such as registering for exams or travel rules.
– There must be a clear distinction between need-to-know information and ‘communication’. And all need-to-know-information must be available on the Internet, says Per Stounbjerg.
He and the other members of the working groups have therefore included a number of assumptions in the recommendation, stating that the new AU media will only be able to focus on relevant journalism if the other information needs are published elsewhere on the Internet. This includes, for example, a comprehensive electronic calendar and a debate site for ongoing debates.
– A newspaper will never be as dynamic as the Internet, and we would all very much like to see lively and passionate debates at the university. The groups therefore propose that the debates are moved to the Internet, and that the newspaper instead covers the subjects being discussed in the form of in-depth articles that can shed light on the topics from every angle, Søren E. Frandsen explains.
The pro-rector is now looking forward to everyone reading the groups’ recommendation and submitting comments, which they can do until the end of August. At the beginning of September, he will present the recommendation paper and a summary of the consultation responses to the entire senior management team.

Read the recommendation paper (in Danish) at au.dk/nytaumedie