What is Journalism ?

Posted on julho 4, 2010


by Stivers

*Denis Russo Burgierman

In the midst of this very complicated discussion about whether journalism is dying or not, I suddenly realized a previous question: after all, what is journalism?

From what I learned in the years when I was an executive at a important media company, journalism is an activity that is part of an industry. The industry is called “publishing.

Publishing, in short, is the industry that sells ads, determines and organizes information and then sells publications containing information mixed with ads.

Journalism is the soul of “publishing”. Or, a less romantic version, is the bait. It works like this: I savor that fabulous story and wonderfully informative and I am so enraptured that when I least expect it … Bam!! I was hooked by an ad for beer! Hmmm, that thirst! And so the big media companies join the buck fortune grateful to the reader and the advertiser can pay for its imposing buildings and the bonuses of their executives.

Is that journalism? It is the job of framing ads with useful information and enjoyable?

If it is bad news. Although it now looks good this Brazil growing, and the media are earning a lot of money with the rise of the middle class, there are dark clouds on the horizon as well. And they herald a storm so terrible as that is already sweeping the rich countries, where newspapers are dying like flies.

In a world where information is excessive, it is becoming difficult to charge for it, especially when it comes to information industrially produced: large-scale standardized. In a world where the consumer is losing the ingenuity and can filter information, it is becoming difficult to convince advertisers that the ad simply hide it inside the worm journalistic hook to customers. If these two problems are not resolved, bye bye publishing: after all, the money from the audience and advertiser’s money are their only two sources of revenue.

It is the death of journalism then?
No. It is, perhaps, the death of the industry which, over the last century, argued journalism. Rest in peace, publishing. Be missed.
It turns out that, while publishing collapses, will emerge millions of opportunities. When large industries that are relevant services collapse, make room for innovative people proposing different things. We are entering a time of experimentation, invention, novelty.

Even so, I decided to leave the mainstream media. After 10 years in Editora Abril, today I work in a small company called Webcitizen, whose simple goal is to transform the world using information. (If you want to know some of our projects, you can find them on the web: http://www.votenaweb.com.br, http://www.issonaoenormal.com.br, http://www.tedxsaopaulo.com.br)

Working here on the outside of the mainstream media is quite different from working there. Now that my work is no longer the haven of an industry, the struggle was harder. I lost some privileges – easy access to respondents at the mere mention of the name of the publication, for example. Now, every new project we invent, have to convince the interviewees that we are serious, we know what we’re doing, that is worth spending time with us.

Another privilege is lost easy access to the reader. While he has a relationship with the magazine where I worked, was always willing to listen. Any minute phrases that I write there automatically earned an audience of hundreds of thousands. Now, out here, I’m one voice among millions in the cacophony of the Internet. If what I write is relevant wonder. If not, will be solemnly ignored.

This new experience makes me think hard about the question put in the title of this paper: What is journalism?

Journalism is not only the activity of an industry.

Journalism is an attitude: it is to be curious about the world, is to be humble is to ask questions and be transparent in disseminating information, revealing the most of all interests involved.

I do not know how it will be the future of journalism. Indeed, in no longer know what is journalism: that word no longer means almost nothing to me. I do not know if amateur bloggers journalists are more or less than professional reporters who do nothing but reproduce press releases. I do not know if the word “journalism” is used in 10 years. I do not know if every newspaper in the world will fail or if some will reinvent itself in time

I do not know if the business model of large media companies will be sufficient to sustain the impressive buildings and bonuses of executives.
But one thing I know, will still need people who have the attitude of a journalist.
If I were giving advice only, it would be this: focus on attitude, not the business model.

* Dennis Russo is a journalist. He worked as Director of Writing magazine Superinteressante and was in charge of special projects of Editora Abril. Despite being “a press guy,” as they say, inherited from the interaction of cyber Silicon Valley more than the habit of dominating the world. Today is Director of Content WebCitizen, a company that proposes to stimulate civic engagement and bring together citizens and their governments through the digital culture.

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