Journalist Prize for Informatics 2017 goes to Stern, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Arte

State Secretary Jürgen Lennartz awarded the Saarland State Chancellery-sponsored Journalist Prize for Informatics. The main prizes in the print, radio, and television categories went to the reporter Florian Güßgen for a report in the weekly magazine “Stern,” to the editor Alexandra Distler for a radio report on the Bayerischer Rundfunk and to the director Jan Tenhaven for a documentary on Arte. The awards each include €5,000 in prize money. This is the eleventh such award ceremony to take place in Saarbrücken.

The Journalist Prize for Informatics was awarded for the first time in 2006. The aim of the prize is to honor contributions that not only awaken the general public’s interest in computer science topics, but also address the opportunities and risks of information technology. Once again, the Saarland State Chancellery sponsored the three main prizes in the amount of 5,000. 84 submissions were made. In the print category, the 8-member jury assessed 57 articles, and in the radio and television categories, 17 and 10 broadcasts, respectively. As in previous years, the Competence Center for Computer Science Saarland at Saarland University organized the competition and the awards ceremony. In addition, the awards ceremony was also supported by the CISPA – Helmholtz Center i.G., the two Max Planck Institutes for Informatics and Software Systems, and Hummingbird Diagnostics GmbH.

“The Journalist Prize for Informatics acknowledges Saarland as an international location for computer science and rightly draws attention to its accomplishments in the field. Through its informatics research, as well as the Cluster of Excellence, the university, and the research institutes, Saarland has top-class facilities of international renown. With the new CISPA – Helmholtz Center i.G., Saarland will also be a central location for cybersecurity, not only in research but also in the training of future IT security experts,” explains State Secretary Jürgen Lennartz.

The Saarland, with its approximately 2500 informatics students from 81 countries at Saarland University and its more than 800 scientists, is an important research location for informatics. The Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) includes, in addition to the Saarland University Department of Computer Science, the international Graduate School of Computer Science, the two Max Planck Institutes for Informatics and Software Systems, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Center for Bioinformatics, and the CISPA – Helmholtz Center i.G.

The winners of the Journalist Prize for Informatics 2017 in detail:

First Prize, Print (5,000 Euro):
The report “In der Festung der Cyberkrieger” (“In the Fortress of the Cyberwarrior”), written by Florian Güßgen, is the winner in the print category. The article was published on May 18, 2017 in the weekly magazine “Stern.”

The jury’s statement: “The author gives a thrilling description of how the large Israeli city of Beersheba has transformed into a cyber-capital of sorts, in which science, industry, and the military have become interwoven in a unique way. There are already 300 IT security start-ups in the desert city; the university is also growing steadily. The author enlightens the public about this previously obscure military-industrial complex for IT security. Although his article is light on technical details and current results of computer science research, it nonetheless reveals the comprehensive importance that IT security has for society. The article thus underscores not only the relevance of computer science specialists, but also their social responsibility.”

First Prize, Radio (5,000 Euro):
“Ethik für Nerds – Warum Programmieren eine gesellschaftliche Verantwortung mit sich bringt” (“Ethics for Nerds – Why programming entails social responsibility”) by  Alexandra Distler is the winner in the radio category. The piece was broadcast on March 5, 2017 as part of the program “Zündfunk Generator” on the Bayerischer Rundfunk radio channel “Bayern 2.” The recording is available at the following link:

The jury’s statement: “Cyberwars, social bots, hacks – Who is behind the technologies, programs, and algorithms that are influencing our lives for better and worse?  How much power do computer scientists have over us? Are they aware of their responsibility? The author explores these questions in her 53-minute radio piece. The topic of the broadcast is itself original and stands out from the crowd. Although it is very abstract, the author manages to convey the theme in such a fascinating way that one listens intently for the entire duration of the broadcast. The guests have been very well selected. Overall, the piece is balanced and nuanced. It doesn’t push a particular opinion, but allows listeners to form their own. Thus, the contribution delivers food for thought, in order to question whether many technical systems and the start-ups behind them are violating rules of social and ethical behavior.”

First Prize, Television (5,000 Euro):
The first prize for television goes to the author and director Jan Tenhaven, for the broadcast “Die Silicon Valley Revolution – Wie ein paar Freaks die Welt veränderten” (“The Silicon Valley Revolution – How a few freaks changed the world”). The 90-minute documentary film was shown on April 18, 2017 on Arte and on July 3, 2017 on the ARD. The film’s trailer can be seen here:

The jury’s statement: “The work addresses the beginnings of the PC era by portraying the people who contributed to it. In this way, the broadcast not only conjures emotions, but also uncovers political and societal cross-currents. Furthermore, it conveys the idealism that drove these people at the time. Regarding craftsmanship, the film convinces through consistent imagery, good selection of music and cinematically high-quality image composition. The imagery and music selection in particular make the work enjoyable. The film should therefore be kept and shown in museums, to document the values that formed the basis of digitization.”

On the jury for the Journalist Prize were Dr. Ilka Desgranges, editor at the Saarbrücker Zeitung and a journalism lecturer; Peter Hergersberg of the Max Planck Society’s communications department; Dr. Wolfgang Pohl, managing director of the German Federal Computer Science Competitions; Beatrice Lugger, scientific director of the National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik); Martin Schneider, chairman of the German Science Journalists’ Association  (WPK) and deputy head of TV science programs at Südwestrundfunk (SWR); Reinhard Wilhelm, computer science professor at Saarland University and founding director of the Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz Center for Informatics; Peter Welchering, freelance technology and science journalist; and Dr. Christel Weins, natural scientist and founder of the Journalist Prize for Informatics.

Question can be directed to:
Gordon Bolduan

Scientific Communication
Competence Center Computer Science Saarland
Tel.: 0681 302-70741


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