GABRIEL JARABA, JOSÉ MANUEL PÉREZ TORNERO
Gabriel Jaraba and J. M. Pérez Tornero with the students of the MILID Summer School: Photo, Joana Costa Vila.
- The communicational tsunami
Knowledge, truth and democracy in a chaotic world. For a quality journalism.
This world we live in is called the information society and this time, the communication era. It is so called because of the point around which the economy and social relations revolve. But in recent years there has been an acceleration and intensification of the processes of digitization, extension of networks and primacy of the media to the point that we speak of «the great mediatization».
We can talk about a huge intrusion into our lives, a true digital tsunami that disrupts everything. The era of communication is lived in a chaotic world and the protagonists are the large corporations that have appropriated the network and, if they do not yet own the means, do determine their orientations.
There has been an authentic expropriation of our lives in charge of communication. We were exaggeratedly optimistic at the beginning of the internet, believing that the empowerment of people through technology was going to change the forms of domination. Due to the primacy of big business and money. The Internet has not changed the world, the world of money has changed her.
A lost brokerage
What has changed with the great media coverage in regards to journalism?
The most striking fact is the decline of intermediation. When journalism was born, journalists, editors and information companies acted as intermediaries between the facts, the stories and the public (the grouped citizenry). Thus, journalists had the task of supervising the environment, selecting the news events they considered relevant, and transmitting (reporting) this information to their audience. They fulfilled a function in the public space: they ensured a professional intermediation, based on norms -more or less agreed- and in the exercise of responsibility (any power could ask them to account for their actions).
Today, citizens have many means of monitoring the environment and disseminating through the networks the information they consider pertinent. The explosion of anger and the demonstrations and acts of violence that have occurred in France with the murder of Nahel is a good example of this situation of dis-intermediation. It has not been the journalistic discourse that has raised the anger. It has been the circulation of a video -picked up by a citizen- and distributed by social networks. The editorial task of the media has been largely surpassed.
Is this disintermediation that is being operated good or not?
Good topic to discuss.
From a certain point of view, disintermediation is good because it ends the journalistic monopoly of information (oligopoly, rather).
From another point of view, it can cause problems because it leaves no room for analysis, criticism of the facts and their interpretation. With what can favor impulsive and excessive reactions.
However, is there really such a thing as complete disintermediation?
Our hypothesis is not. That what has occurred is the dis-intermediation of traditional journalism, and that its place has been taken by the large technological platforms, which, without confessing it, act as publishing companies in a covert and subtle way.
- The redefinition of communication businesses (advertising, information, audiovisual)
But there is something else: the affectation of the rules of the game of democracy.
The big technology companies have oligopolized the control of information in almost the entire planet:
a. They have monopolized the advertising that was the livelihood of the media.
b. They have created a semi-public space in social networks where intimate-private-public are confused.
c. They have appropriated the authorship of the citizenry.
d. They have multiplied and saturated the audience’s attention thresholds, and they know how to act in that state of saturation to get a certain amount of time for messages.
e. They have standardized and formatted the contents, from all points of view: syntactic, semantic and pragmatic.
f. They have created the appearance of a totally free information market that, in reality, is governed by them.
g. All the rules that applied to journalism have been broken.
h. They have precarious and robotized a good part of the journalistic work.
3. Bases and characteristics of quality journalism
Fundamental element of the open society. Much more than the information and information product industry. Journalism, acting in its field, affects all aspects of social life and concerns all citizens and social, economic, civic and political agents. Unlike other socioeconomic activities, it is at the center of organized life.
Journalism is therefore an essential element in modern societies. It is not a supplement to politics or more or less public entertainment. Journalism is one of the axes on which an open society pivots and its quality matters to everyone, not only to companies or professionals.
A definition of journalism in this context:
Journalism is defined as the professional activity of compiling, analyzing and disseminating current information. Its exercise is defined (1) because it is a communicative process that refers to facts or events, (2) by the existence of legal regulations and a code of ethics and (3) by those aspects of the business where its activity is framed. If there is quality journalism, its measurement must be based on these dimensions that mark or determine its limits, restrictions, and requirements. (CAVALLER, Víctor. What is quality journalism? COMeIN [online], March 2019, no. 86.
Anatomy of quality journalism
- In its positioning:
General interest and appeal.
Own content, research
- In their work methods:
Aspiration to credibility.
- In its aspiration to transparency:
Clear, concise and specific.
Addressed to everyone, understandable by everyone, concerns everyone.
Accountable to everyone, always.
Separation between information and opinion.
Distinction between interests.
Separation between information and publicity.
Free informative activity.
Clear and specific personalization: who does what, what affects whom, what interests who has. To what extent does this concern the majority and why?
The whole point of journalism is credibility: it’s that simple (and complicated).
- How credibility is earned and what we can do.
Without trust between the media and the public, the magic of journalism does not occur. That magic comes from credibility: hard to win and easy to lose.
Quality journalism aspires:
To capture the attention of the public and demonstrate the loyalty of that intention, offering in return credible, verifiable and significant information.
The public that chooses quality journalism expects:
To be treated as an adult citizen, able to choose and value what is extracted from the information and use it in personally, socially and cognitively valuable ways.
The conjunction of both attitudes is the basis of quality journalism. And this is based on a matter of trust, which is subtle and fragile but essential.
Independent journalism is based on an implicit agreement between the journalist and his audience, an unwritten pact of mutual trust. The reader goes deeper into his chosen headline to the extent that he accepts that on the other side of the screen there is someone who looks after his interests as a consumer and citizen. I read you, I listen to you and I attend to you because I understand that you are loyal to me, I dedicate my attention to your medium or to your informative piece because I infer that they deserve trust. The prioritization of the information presented in the newsroom, the use of clear, concise and accurate language in the development of the text, the assessment and contextualization of the news are not only signs of professional quality but also of respect for the public to which one addresses .
The reader goes deeper into his chosen headline to the extent that he accepts that on the other side of the screen there is someone who looks after his interests as a consumer and citizen. The prioritization of the information presented in the newsroom, the use of clear, concise and accurate language in the development of the text, the assessment and contextualization of the news are not only signs of professional quality but also of respect for the public to which one addresses.
4. Towards a refoundation of journalism
Put journalism back on its feet. What is true journalism, how should it be?
Experts define quality journalism in different ways, but they coincide in a key role: to be an independent supervisor of power and a servant of the citizens. But it must also aspire to make sense of the chaotic world that surrounds us. It interprets, analyzes and tries to make sense of the chatter that surrounds us.
Therefore, journalism is not only media and communication activity. It is at the same time an act of knowledge, a philosophical attitude and a civic commitment.
Basis for the refund.
1. The re-founding of ethical values and deontological practices on which journalism is based. This requires revisiting the basic values of journalism -freedom of expression, independence, objectivity, veracity, etc. -, and adapt them to the increasingly complex globality and plurality of contemporary society. And, at the same time, it requires a double commitment: a) with a permanent global dialogue with the aim of actively contributing to solving the great problems of humanity: the realization of human rights and equality, the pacification of human relations and the end of armed conflicts; climate change; the responsible advancement of science, etc.
2. The reconstruction of practices and professional competences of journalism. The question, in this field, consists of responding to a triple challenge: a) An increasingly active and participatory audience that needs to be integrated into the discursive production of the media. b) A digitally transformed work environment that will force many tasks to be shared -if not even delegated- with automatic artificial intelligence systems. c) The need to establish new relations of cooperation and global collaboration between journalists from all over the planet.
3. The design of new business models that make journalistic companies and public service initiatives sustainable. This will require a) renewing the sources of economic sustainability, combining obtaining advertising resources with subscriptions and resources from public funds-; and b) ensure quality employment in the sector, and thus ensure editorial independence.
4. The search for new forms of incardination of journalism in the democratic public sphere. Here it is about renewing the formulas of classic journalism -objective information, control of political and economic powers, pluralism, etc.- and combining it with new services to the public, such as promoting local life, strengthening of a democratic and scientific culture, the contribution to a healthy life, the strengthening of cultural diversity and learning societies, etc.
Dialogue, coexistence and democracy: a global task, a task for us.
The tasks of quality journalism are the tasks of humanization, of making the world a place to lead a dignified life. Journalism is not an end but a means, the means that contributes to human life worthy of the name.
That life affects us all, whatever culture we come from. North and south, east and west, one civilization or another: humanity is one and we owe ourselves to it and to that unity. The basis is coexistence in peace, mutual acceptance and common work for that common humanization.
This new fight for humanization has, from my point of view and in what refers to communication, some basic principles.
Fight against the anonymization of the person, against the idea that we can become a number.
Overcoming the forces of hypermassification that impede our personal autonomy and lead us to behaviors that are purely instinctive or passionate, without the mediation of reason.
Confronting the processes of marginalization and symbolic stigmatization that is practiced in many communication fields.
Put an end to the intensive commodification of our consumption, our time and in general our life.
Advancing towards these objectives can be called integrally humanizing the sphere of communication.
For any inquiry: gabrieljaraba at gmail dot com