Media quest for solutions has to be global to really work

Sep 30, 2018
Global Media Solutions: Challenges, Safety Disparities, and the Need for Inclusive Approaches
Last week, I had the opportunity to be in Warsaw for the n-ost conference. Journalism is a challenging trade nowadays, with issues ranging from low wages to the struggle to stay relevant, but this meeting was different. It wasn't about any trendy new tool or how cosmopolitan NY journalists were creating a newsletter to combat Trump. The journalists I saw were discussing how to continue reporting without ending up broke, in jail, or worse. It was basic journalism 101.
European journalists are dealing with similar issues, but with varying levels of risk depending on the country they live in or report from. Polarization, anti-democratic government impulses, and broken media business models are common problems, but for historical and economic reasons, simple details like stable internet links or access to secure communication resources can make everything more difficult. In some cases, the difficulties can be life-threatening. Brazil, where I am from, also fits the “global” model or “real-life” environment where solutions cannot depend on the size of the market.
The Western media environment is incredibly safer compared to societies where democracy is not a deeply embedded concept. This safety is desirable, but it disrupts the development cycle of solutions that are truly universal. The bottom line is universal. There is a fundamental change we still haven’t processed. Previously, the traditional ad model relied upon a world where the product (content or any other name you might want to call it) was scarce due to economic and technological reasons.
The similarities sort of end there. When we talk about Facebook trying to clean up its image hiring fact-checkers, we are seeing a company doing damage control to please its shareholders once the credibility of its ad-money-making machine is lost. It is certainly positive for Facebook and its shareholders, it may have some unintended consequences for its users from the biggest markets, once some of the company's awful practices have been stopped by public opinion.
The big metropolitan wealthy areas of the Western countries are taken care of (even if not enough), but cities outside of the capitalist influence area are excluded from any form of digital safeguard. It is important to say that Facebook is not the evil plotter of capitalism that wants to drain the blood of its users until the last drop and laugh malevolently from its Mountain View headquarters. The social media company simply reproduces the selfish and prejudiced rationale that is at the foundations of the industry.
Media may not have been successful in transposing its ad business model from legacy companies to digital, but it has perfectly inherited the navel-gazing set of priorities, where instability in Moldova, let’s say, is just an almost fictitious country completely detached from reality while the rise of cappuccino prices in Brooklyn deserves lengthy scrutiny.
Such arrogant behavior is, however, also helping to corrode the structures of western societies' institutions as well slowly. Migration flows, the nonexistent set of perspectives fueling nonsensical acts of violence (which more often than not is labeled as “terrorism” in the media), sickening polarization and open attacks on the established law are getting more and more space in societies that hadn't seen them in decades and, along with the relentless advance of rabid, unregulated, growth-addicted capitalism (the same mentioned by danah boyd, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Data & Society at the opening remarks of the ONA conference earlier this month) are sowing the seeds of war. Real war, not just a metaphor for an intense dispute.
People often forget how much experience overcomes memory. When World War I broke decades of peace in Europe, a detail that very few people other than historians remember is that peace had been maintained with the help of those who witnessed a fully raging war instead of those who read about it in history books. As the witnesses pass away, the horror of military conflicts fades away to become tales and the new generations, who want to purify the future with the arrogance of youth, leave the discussion table to wield weapons again, always led by populist politicians on the verge of psychopathy.
People in societies with a lesser degree of freedom of expression are not less capable of taking care of themselves. Anyone having less digital knowledge, resources or safeguards from ubiquitous platforms or simply less freedom of expression will struggle. It’s not “more help” that is needed, but an initiative from the West to include all players when conceiving solutions for media instead of focusing exclusively on their own.
Media is going through a transformation that goes down to chromosome levels. This change is still in its early phases, even if so much has already been landscaped. There is no way to solve the issues of only parts of the problem, because the unaddressed parts will come back to haunt us. Media - journalists, marketers, publishers, developers, investors etc - need to shift their focus from their own interests to how their interests interact with others. Although blockchain is not a solution for journalism, it is the kind of feature that could help a lot: it’s simple, has a low entry barrier, it’s transparent and allows the scrutiny of the public eye and it’s versatile. Journalism (and media itself) need to find its own blockchain or it will keep barking up the wrong tree.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024