Which are the next walls to fall?

By Luca Tancredi Barone,
ACCC freelance journalist (Spain, Catalan)


This November 14 members of EUSJA were offered a grant to attend the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin – the international conference on future breakthroughs in science and society. EUSJA has been invited to this fascinated event not once, and the journalists always could get enough possibilities for interesting articles and useful contacts. Our Spanish colleague, ACCC freelance journalist Luca Tancredi Barone shares his impressions – both positive and negative. Photos: Raili Leino (science journalist from Finland) and from www.falling-walls.com.

It was my first time at a Falling Walls Conference. After being rejected in the first round, when a colleague had to cancel at the last minute, I was able to receive a grant that covered the conference fee and one hotel night.

The Conference has been truly inspiring for me. A lot of nicely presented speeches on cutting-edge topics, mostly on science, but also on economy, human rights, policies, start-ups. The invited speakers had been carefully selected, and their time slots were respected in an original and entertaining way: a professional mime would intervene to “convince” the speaker to cut it short when time had arrived to leave the stage. The general feeling was that this conference gathered many interesting people, both on the stage and among the public.

I had a chance to talk with some of the speakers and met people in the public who shared their different background with me. Many journalists also attended the meeting, and it was interesting to meet them too. I am going to prepare some interviews I will also share with you as soon as they are ready. Tweeting during the conference was also entertaining, though I would have expected more interactions. The opening event, on Friday night, was at the Science museum – a very suggestive venue, especially at night – to hold a celebration. And the dinner was in another fascinating museum: the Communication museum. Very nicely chosen environments.

Despite my general positive feeling about this event, which I plan to attend again in the future, there is still room for improvement in my opinion. First and foremost, the venue is not ideal for the number of people, many of which had to sit on the floor during the conferences. It was also difficult to listen to the forums, small discussions organised during the breaks, where three sets of the scientists talking in the previous sessions where moderated each by a journalist – all the same time in the same, concentrated area. This during the coffee breaks, so while people were trying to get to their coffee, all in the same space. This worsened during lunch time, with very long cues and not very abundant food I have to say. Certainly, not the most important aspect of the otherwise exciting day, but still, given the fact that the venue was in an isolated area, the risk of remaining without anything to eat was high if you were not fast enough.

Most annoying was the fact that journalistically it was very difficult to perform the interviews. If you needed a quiet place to record your interview, it was impossible. Of the 8 interviews I planned, I was given access to only 4 people, one I had to figure out myself, and I was only given one short slot in a (relatively) quiet room. The rest had to be done in the press room, together with many other people in a very noisy environment. I believe something better could be organized for sure. Finally, despite the fact I had been invited to both the welcoming event and the dinner, I had been cancelled from both lists and had to ask to be admitted in. And, together with a good number of people, had no table to sit for the dinner, and had to dine standing – in the end, it wasn’t a bad experience: I shared the time with interesting people. And the president of Falling Walls came personally to say he was sorry and explain that the no-show percentage at the dinner was unusually low. Easy to forgive but still telling of a may be not too smooth organization.

Last observation for EUSJA: I think that to better help freelancers, a contribution should have been given to cover flight expenses and at least one extra night – the events were during two days – even in a cheaper place.

Robert KirshnerJules Hoffmann

Anne GloverFALLING WALLS 2011 - Radialsystem Berlin