When an experienced journalist selflessly shares his knowledge

Kvalitetno novinarstvo
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Would you like to work for a well-known German news agency? Would you like to know what an editor there expects from a journalist? The textbook Quality Journalism in Southeast Europe by the long-time head of the DPA office in Belgrade, Thomas Brey, in some ways opens the doors of this agency to both journalism students and more experienced journalists.

Using the internal editorial rules of the DPA as a model, Brey offers journalists in this region and language area (Serbian-Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin) not only a comprehensive textbook on the essential tasks of journalists and forms of journalistic expression, but also practical advice. He generously reveals tricks, tips and solutions to a multitude of dilemmas that every journalist faces on a daily basis.

From the perspective of journalists in Serbia, an important part of the theoretical work deals with the role of the media in democracy. A large part of the media community seems to have forgotten the “watch dog” role of journalists, and the right of the public to be informed in a timely but correct manner which doesn’t seek to manipulate public opinion.

Important chapters on the legal basis for serious journalism follow, with subsections on how to deal with sources, quotes, facts, opinions, suspicion-based reporting, due diligence, personal rights, privacy and other legal issues, which are a sore point in the work of journalists in Serbia.

Brey’s writing is not lacking in detail, but he obviously had a young audience – used to short, quick posts and other forms of expression typical of social networks – in mind. For them, he has created a very useful checklist summarising the basics of professional journalism.

More than half of the book is devoted to examples of print, electronic and online media reportage, as well as media articles published in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

Drawing on more than 100 examples, Brey analyses the most common mistakes, including linguistic exaggeration, and obscuring the essential point with details, comments and the like. What is good is that Brey stays true to the standards of the German agency in the analysis, making no allowance for the aches and pains of this market, such as the impoverished media, the lack of a budget for photographs, etc. 

In other words, young journalists learn good practice from the beginning, while their elders are reminded of the goal they should strive for, regardless of the very challenging circumstances of the domestic media.