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The Stars4Media exchange programme for media professionals

Stars4Media is an exchange and training programme for young media professionals (“rising stars”) to accelerate media innovation and cross-border coverage in Europe.

How innovation and training can help the news media overcome the crisis? Check the policy brief “Fighting the media crisis through innovation exchanges: lessons from the Stars4Media Pilot Project”.

Interested in tips to find partners and get inspiration from best practices developed during the first year of the project? Discover the Stars4Media Handbook. (pdf)


Challenges facing the media sector in Europe  

Stars4Media is responding to the needs identified by the #Media4EU research project. According to this analysis, media professionals often fail to communicate across “silos” (i.e. commercial, editorial, communication, social media, IT) and to cooperate across borders. In particular, within most traditional media, top management lacks the skills to lead fast changes across editorial and commercial boundaries. Moreover, most media companies do not have enough resources to set up their own skill-building exchange and innovation programmes. The project has three objectives:

1/Promote media innovation, along three axes: technological, marketing/business, and quality content production, with the aim to unleash new business models.

2/Build new media partnerships and mobility across Europe, exchanging not only future leaders, but also sharing content, product ideas and new technological tools.

3/ Foster an environment conducive to quality journalism and media pluralism, supporting democracy versus online disinformation.


As such, participants are young professionals (“rising stars”) with 2-10 years of media experience, coming from different fields (journalists, data journalists, graphic designers, tech developers, and managers for social media, products, marketing). This cuts across functional “silos” hindering new ideas and speeds up media professionals’ careers. To bring ideas, promote their initiatives and join innovative training, media professionals can take part in a vibrant and resilient community: the Stars4Media LinkedIn Group!


A solution to boost media innovation

Stars4Media is encouraging innovation through skill-building activities between media outlets with a common interest. The process consists of three steps:

      1. Selection: following a pre-selection phase based on expressions of interest, media professionals are paired around innovative initiatives and they benefit from training during the Stars4Media Lab virtual event (30 March-1 April 2020)
      2. Exchange – physical and virtual mobility: 4-12 weeks of cooperation between paired media organisations, involving both physical and virtual mobility. For its first edition, Stars4Media is supporting 21 innovative partnerships, bridging 100 media professionals from 17 countries. Out of all beneficiaries, 47% are women, 30% work as journalists, while the rest come from other professional backgrounds such as content marketing, social media management, editing, engineering,  and business. 18% of the total participants are freelancers. Overall, 41 proposals have been evaluated, and 21 ideas, the best and most promising, have been selected. More information on the 21 selected initiatives can be found here!
      3. Debrief and follow-up: Evaluation of the results and their impact, promotion of the best practices, and 5 prizes awarded to the outstanding initiatives during a virtual conference in October 2020. Watch the event video here.

The Stars4Media ‘Initiatives’ are innovative ideas developed by small cross-border and cross-disciplinary teams of young media professionals around three thematic waves: DATA for media, TRUST in media, and Coronavirus. For example, an initiative can be a new service, a new editorial format, a new product, or a new process. Paired media organisations are testing ideas, producing content and developing initiatives around these topics:

      1. Constructive Journalism
      2. Fact-Checking
      3. Data-Journalism
      4. Artificial Intelligence and Translation technologies
      5. Media response to the Covid-19 crisis

This project was voted as a Pilot Project by the European Parliament into the 2018 and 2019 EU budgets (see the list of moral supports, including 15 MEPs and 13 media outlets).

About the Consortium

SMIT stands for Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology. SMIT is a research group part of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and IMEC. VUB’s SMIT is the consortium leader.

Europe’s MediaLab (Fondation EURACTIV) is a think-and-do tank for the health of the media sector in Europe. It contributes to a healthy democracy and the emergence of a European public sphere. It is the initiator of the Stars4Media project.

WAN-IFRA, is the global organisation of the world’s press. It is a global network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, 60 member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is the largest organisation of journalists in Europe, representing over 320,000 journalists in 72 journalists’ organisations, across 45 countries.

This project is co-funded by the European Commission (grant agreement number: LC-01337350).