Creating information with less cost and more focus is possible

Jul 26, 2011
Creating news with less cost and more focus in the changing landscape of journalism: the need for adaptation and reinvention to meet readers' interests and sustain the industry.
As the most dynamic newspaper market in the world, England has been feeling for many years the drama of local newspapers that are withering around the planet, with the exception of places that have an extraordinary circumstance (like Brazil, due to the anomalous economic growth). So, cuts in regional newspapers have been happening since the beginning of the last decade and continue to happen. Instead of the traditional lamenting of the cadaverous remnants of unions, professional associations and business owners could try to think of alternative ways to generate the "news" commodity.
The National Union of Journalists has again criticized the management policies of journalistic companies for the devaluation of newspapers' raw material - the news - due to the excess of free content on the Internet as the trigger for the lack of interest in newspapers. Setting aside some sophisms (such as the content being "free" and the abundance of this content being the trigger for the lack of interest in newspapers), the NUJ is not wrong when it attacks the poor management for the vulgarization of the product. The discomfort is that the union does not care about society or newspapers. It cares about the professionals of that category. If the rest of society goes hungry, so be it.
In the ongoing change in information management, newspapers have lost - and indeed lost, sorry - the position of hubs that could decide where the information was going, which information was going, and at what cost it was going. The sociopolitical power stemming from this configuration is numbered. Similarly, journalists, who prided themselves on having an insertion in the slice of power that was absolutely disproportionate to their salary and social condition, also spun. The means of production has democratized and, unlike doctors and lawyers, who can practice their profession exclusively thanks to a professional career, the journalist now needs to reinvent himself. And so does the newspaper.
The product generated by the newspaper has become expensive. The structure no longer works. There are too many intermediaries involved in the process who have nothing to do with the core of the matter. Keeping a journalist exclusively to write until blood pours from his fingers has become expensive and unproductive. And for the journalist, as much as he has agreed to work for less money, things have reached a point where as the value of his salary has become irrelevant in the overall cost, even if he writes until he drops dead, he will not be able to produce enough to generate enough product [news] to sustain the entire machine.
The reinvention goes where it can. Newspapers, as we know them, are doomed to disappear if they do not adapt to the new environment. Once the competitive advantage of distribution networks is lost (yes, gentlemen, because newspapers did not prevail because they were better or worse, but because they managed to kill competitors who did not have the distribution network), it is necessary to find the reading public wherever it may be (because the public is no longer the same public whose location was geographically determined) and know what it wants. For this, instead of expensive and huge newsrooms, betting on content generated by related communities is an option, because these communities know their own interests and concerns. Instead of controlling the system, the newspaper can start to play a role as mediator and reviewer and keep for itself only the tasks that demand more expertise and talent - and in these matters, which really have an extra quality, charge as premium content.
Before the journalist seeks the razor to cut his wrists, it is worth exhorting a reflection. The role of the journalist is far from over. He is, par excellence, a filter of events from whom society expects a curation of content. Before newspapers transformed professionals into machines writing dumb texts following guidelines given by a lobotomizing manual, this was exactly what the journalist did - make contact with the fact, with the source, let sensitivity listen to what was not audible to everyone and inform. In this, the journalist - the good journalist - is still unbeatable and does not need to be afraid to compete with the generation of information coming from the most varied communities. The role of curator is alive. The journalist just needs to know how to sell his role and the newspapers to understand the need they have, besides, of course, accepting that the process has become two-way. The figure of the journalist has been reborn, but has split into two: the professional journalist and the occasional journalist. Apart from these, there is none, because writing anything in pajamas thinking you know everything is not journalism.
Shelter that society, journalistic companies, professional and occasional journalists and readers will have to redefine their roles and priorities in the coming years. Corporate market reserves that come from the 19th century no longer have a place. Owners of journalistic companies who keep crying that they no longer earn the same fable they earned when Jesus was a child, either. The information process is being shaped now as needs appear. Making money or not with it is a matter of doing what a journalist has always known how to do: pay attention.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024