By Vincent Leb
Austrian TV-reporter Jens Lang was one of the first graduates of the study programme “Journalism & Media Management” at The University of Applied Sciences in Vienna back in 2007. A decade later, he still feels passionate about his job and sees a big future for journalism.
You originally wanted to become a print journalist for a political magazine but ended up working as a science reporter for Austria’s public broadcaster ORF. What aspects do you not like about TV-journalism?
Lang: The shortness of the reports, most probably. You have to tell a story in 70 seconds that does not seem banal, yet only focuses on the main information.
Also, most people do not watch TV as a main activity. They check their phone, empty their dishwasher or make out with their girlfriend while the TV is on. When people read a newspaper, they have to concentrate.
Do you sometimes regret not being a writer?
No, not really. On TV, you still have a huge audience compared to other media. Furthermore, I am convinced that pictures can still evoke much more emotion than a descriptive piece in a newspaper ever could. Just think of the emotional impact the videos of planes crashing into the World Trade Centre during 9/11 can have on an audience.
You have been in the business for over a decade now. Are there reports you are still proud of?
I once found proof that a sleeping aid produced in Austria was added to the substance of lethal injections. These injections were used in death sentences in the States. The company then stopped delivering to the US and political discussions started intensifying in the EU.
In addition, only two months ago, my team found out there was a doctor claiming to heal patients suffering from cancer with medication that, according to our research, was completely useless. The prosecutor has started investigations now. We will see where this will lead.
Especially young people consume TV through streaming platforms and get their news from social media. How can news programmes stay relevant in the future?
I still believe journalism has a big future. Information is a basic human need. The question is: How can we supply news to our audiences in the future? The ORF has successfully implemented news onto its Facebook-Page for instance, targeted towards younger people. This is only the beginning, of course.
You have got a permanent job at ORF. Many young journalists struggle with finding a job and often end up working for PR-companies. Why would someone still consider becoming a journalist today?
Someone questioning whether journalism is the right thing for them in the first place might look for something else: You need a lot of passion, interest and will to fight your way up. Still, I think journalism is one of the most important yet fulfilling professions there are. I remember being asked by a friend in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe whether the upcoming rainfalls coming from the Pacific would have dangerous effects on our lives here. We as (science) journalists can calm people down, explain what is happening and draw their attention to ongoing problems.
Of course, it is not easy nowadays. But that was not the case ten, thirty years earlier, believe me. If you really want it, you will do it. We should stop talking dead journalism constantly.