On 12 March 2019, SWI swissinfo.ch celebrated its 20th anniversary. This provided us with the opportunity to reflect on our eventful history as a purely online news organisation, and to look at the state of the media globally. To this end we hosted an event with journalists from all over the world co-organised by the Swiss branch of Reporters Without Borders.
SWI swissinfo.ch, throughout its 20-year history, has had a unique and even unconventional role within the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). SWI swissinfo.ch is a comparatively small unit of the SBC (around 100 employees) yet, unlike other units, provides content in several languages (ten) and meets the complex challenge of reflecting world news from a Swiss perspective and explaining Switzerland to the world.
Those who love us understand Switzerland; that is our vision. The question of how we, as a Swiss media organisation with an international mandate, can offer global audiences relevant, compelling content has been a key issue for us, especially on the occasion of our anniversary.
The sharp rise in the use of our website from a monthly average of 1,049,111 to 1,236,658 unique clients in 2019 showed once again the strong demand for independent journalism from Switzerland’s public broadcaster. Global crises such as the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic make it clear how fertile the breeding ground is for fake news in uncertain times, and therefore how urgent the need is for trusted reporting from the public media, including Switzerland’s international service. With ten languages we make our contribution, potentially reaching around 75% of the world's population.
Who else explains Switzerland to the world?
SWI swissinfo.ch reflects developments throughout Switzerland’s history – from the country’s birth in the Middle Ages to the players and events shaping Switzerland today, whether in the field of politics, economics, science, culture or education. This Swiss content is contextualised for foreign audiences and made available exclusively in the languages not served by the domestic units of the SBC.
Placing Swiss political, societal and cultural developments in a global context, shedding light on efforts of Swiss businesses to leave their mark internationally, and underscoring scientific achievements that move and change the world – all of this is at the heart of what SWI swissinfo.ch does, as well as spotlighting the specific characteristics of Switzerland and the country’s values.
Another important part of our mission is to enable people to form their own opinions, especially in parts of the world where an independent media is suppressed. Independent, trusted journalism was therefore the focus of our 20th anniversary event. The need for independent journalism is arguably greater today than ever before. This was borne out by the stories on international crises and conflicts that drove much of our readership in 2019.
In order to further sharpen our international focus, the Editorial Board prioritised reporting in 2019 on developments out of ‘International Geneva’. To this end, a new podcast, Inside Geneva, was conceived. Our global readership, in particular Swiss citizens living abroad, also closely followed our coverage of the biggest domestic story of the year – the 2019 federal elections, thanks to our in-depth reports.
Consistently high standards
In order to keep pace with an ever-changing digital media landscape, we have worked hard to upgrade our content management system (CMS). This upgrade has been essential for a relaunch of the SWI swissinfo.ch website, planned for 2020. The new design is intended to further strengthen our editorial strategy and usability, especially for our international audiences in all ten languages.
Driving these changes is our commitment to high-quality content and independent reporting. With this in mind, the Editorial Board has reviewed and updated SWI swissinfo.ch’s quality management standards. In 2019, the editorial guidelines and principles were revised and in the spirit of transparency, made available to the public. The manualexternal link also includes guidelines on storytelling, formats and use of multimedia.
The Editorial Board also refined the ‘four-pillar’ approach it introduced in 2018: Swiss news coverage through the English-service news desk; common content generated by the Production Desk; ‘beat’ or specialised reporting; and country-specific reporting in the non-Swiss languages.
And finally, during the anniversary year, we took a long look back at the very beginnings of SWI swissinfo.ch when, in 1935, it came into being as the Swiss Shortwave Service. Where do we stand more than eight decades later?
We remain a window on Switzerland - today in ten languages. We still stand for the values of freedom, the rule of law, equality, respect and justice. We analyse global developments and conflicts from a unique Swiss perspective. This is all part of our mission. Thanks to our independence, we also enjoy a high degree of credibility internationally as part of the Swiss public media. We are convinced this is of great value in today’s world.
In 2020 we want to continue to matter to our global readership and networks: to exchange opinions, reflect, discuss and provide a better understanding of Switzerland. Switzerland has arguably long been one of the world’s most "globalised" countries. As a nation with four language regions, balancing interests and diverse cultural demands is part of Switzerland’s DNA.
Dear readers, dear interested parties all over the world, we thank you sincerely for your loyalty and the trust you place in us every day.
Your SWI swissinfo.ch management team
Larissa M. Bieler, Maryline Cerf, Reto Gysi von Wartburg, Peter Zschaler, Hubert Zumwald