Hosting the first virtual edition of the annual conference of The International Journal of Press/Politics has been a great challenge that yielded even greater rewards. Like many other organizations, we strove to adapt to the very difficult circumstances that COVID-19 imposed on everyone’s personal and professional lives. We first changed the conference dates from June to September 2020, in hopes that the situation would improve by then, but when it became clear that this was not going to be the case, we decided to hold #ijpp20 as an online, synchronous conference.
As a result, the sixth edition of the journal’s conference was way more inclusive than in the past. It brought together nearly 600 people, coming from 75 different countries, many of whom may not have been able to travel to the United Kingdom to participate in a physical event. Thanks to generous voluntary contributions from more than 80 participants, we raised nearly £1,000, which meant we could make the conference free for everyone, as well as creating a small surplus that will enable us to offer fee waivers to scholars from disadvantaged backgrounds next year.
In 2019, when we hosted our last face-to-face conference in Loughborough, we had a total of 64 participants. During this year’s virtual conference, there was hardly any moment when we had fewer than 80 people connected live at the same time. The number of participants who logged on for at least a few minutes was 254 on the first day, 208 on the second, 203 on the third, and 174 on the fourth and final day. Moreover, video recordings of the whole conference will soon be available on YouTube, so that we can engage an even broader community and for a longer period of time.
I am very grateful for, and awed by, the interest our conference has attracted from all corners of the world. For a journal whose title starts with the word “International”, and whose mission is to expand our understanding of the relationships between media and politics in a global perspective, the impressive breadth of this community is definitely a step forward, and one that we will try to build on in future editions of the conference.
To start putting some flesh on the bones of this commitment to global inclusion, the conference featured a roundtable on what we can do to increase the international visibility of research on media and politics from the “Global South” (a term that has its own problems, to be sure, as we discussed during the panel). Organized by Ana Langer (University of Glasgow) and chaired by Janet Steele (University of Washington), the roundtable included Tanja Bosch (University of Cape Town), Eugenia Mitchelstein (Universidad de San Andrés), Taberez Neyazi (National University of Singapore), Gayathry Venkiteswaran (University of Nottingham Malaysia), Silvio Waisbord (George Washington University), and myself.
To get the conversation started, I presented some data on the geographic distribution of the research and scholars IJPP has published over the nearly 25 years of its existence. You can download my presentation here. And here is the full video of the roundtable, where panelists and attendees offered many compelling insights on the causes and possible solutions to the structural inequalities that still make our knowledge of media and politics too partial and limited, especially at a time when the institutions and normative assumptions of liberal democracy are weakening even in the “Global North”.
Right before the conference, we also launched an edited collection titled “Media and Politics in the Global South and in Global Perspective”, which includes 29 excellent articles published in the journal over the past few years, free to download until 31 October 2020. Very many thanks to SAGE Publications for supporting this and other initiatives that help make our research more accessible.
I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to making this virtual conference a success: presenters, chairs, participants, and supporters. I am also grateful to my predecessor as Editor-in-Chief of IJPP, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, for creating this conference and making it a unique space for lively discussions on media and politics in a global world. And I am hopeful that the next time we meet again, in September 2021, we will all be healthy, safe, and sane, and we will have gone through and overcome the many challenges that await us in the next months. Take care everyone!