There is no unanimity about journalism - even among journalists
Jul 2, 2013
new digital formats
Crise no Jornalismo: A disputa entre acadêmicos e profissionais ameaça a credibilidade e o futuro da informação digital.
There is no journalism without journalists. The motto seems obvious, but it's not. Especially for two groups: journalism professors who still discuss the Hypodermic Needle Theory and professionals who can still distinguish journalists and "journalists" (the quotes are used to differentiate the "professionals" from the "amateurs"). From a non-existent discussion, a radical dispute was created about who owns the journalism of the future. And while we fight over the shadows in the cave, we lose sight of what is really relevant - what are the business models and formats of tomorrow's journalism.
A warning: there is nothing temporarily new here. Not even the example below is new (it will be a year old in May). I decided to write about the subject after hearing a colleague who works in print media talk about the virtues of print and the disgrace of digital journalism and also from hearing an academic make the same kind of prejudiced assertion.
A profile of a journalist from the Business Insider website made by the NYT last year leads to the discussion. Joe Wiesenthal, the star of financial market coverage for the site, is portrayed in the profile as an obsessive workaholic who swaps day for night, tweets uncontrollably, and risks his own health for the almost physical need to be the first to point out the first trend, report the fact first, warn about a future event first. Naturally - according to the report - the journalist's error rate is high, but the general feeling is that he and the site (which is a kind of tabloid for Wall Street), endorse the thesis that it's worth making errors more frequently to be the first to break the news. Despite the drawbacks, Wiesenthal is followed by a heavyweight audience, like the Nobel Prize in Economics and NYT columnist, Paul Krugman.
An American academic described Wiesenthal as pathetic, saying he didn't teach his students to follow that model, but rather, to be right much more often than wrong. The owner of Business Insider, Henry Blodget (a former Wall Street analyst who was banned from the stock market for trying to 'pump' stocks during the first dot.com bubble, in the early part of the last decade) wrote an article slamming the professor at Tampa University, basically saying that he didn't understand the new digital journalism and that he was doomed to cling to an outdated model.
While the journalistic and academic versions of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and Shas continue to fight, basic principles of journalism for the first time in five hundred years have ceased to be firm and cause journalists to increasingly lose the trust of society with mistakes like those of El Pais in the case of the publication of Hugo Chavez's photo.
Today, the production of information is at an impasse that seems to be exactly at the place capitalism usually calls a market failure. The process of decomposition of traditional journalism, its forms of revenue, and its publication protocols are not being compensated at the necessary speed by the new digital formats. The causes of this transformation go far beyond the lack of goodwill of the radicals on both sides, but without them, the transition can only be more painful and dangerous - not only for them, but for society as a whole.
It's a mistake to think that the fissure in the world of information began with the digital era. Academia and research in communication have been divorced from practice for decades and traditional journalism has also been deteriorating its greatest asset - credibility - for a long time. The discussion about who is right or wrong has as much effect as a bar conversation because the basic changes to which journalism is being subjected are irreversible. In short: the ship is sinking and we're all on it. We can choose to go down with it or seek a way out. For now, the overwhelming majority of the protagonists of the shipwreck still prefer just to insult each other.