The inevitable reform of journalism

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By ARTHUR GROHS*

All signs lead us to believe that printed journalism has lost its purpose, under its current configuration.

For a long time now, there has been talk of two crises in the press. The first, better known, deals with the gradual process of reducing the audience that pays for content and also its advertisers. The second, mainly present in journalism faculties, focuses on a moral decline in journalistic vehicles, which, roughly, it is associated with acting at the service of reactionary and/or neoliberal agents.

Much has already been said about these two discussions, resulting in redundancies that seem to lack a realistic solution. However, below the radar, the future of printed journalism brings together part of the two previous diagnoses and seems to remain in an almost entirely speculative discussion of an extinction caused by technological overlap.

It is nothing new that printed journalism occupied, a long time ago, a space of relative protagonism in the public debate. Due to pecuniary ambition, it was believed that it was possible to transfer its success in more “literate” circles to the general public, which, as we see today, became a resounding failure. This does not mean, however, that people who do not have higher levels of education should not or do not want to be informed, but, on the contrary, their interests tend to differ, to a large extent, from those of classes with greater purchasing power.

To this end, the “victorious” model in the 20th century was informative, aimed at the alleged intention of informing without the author's intrusion into the content of the text. Soon, the newspapers gave up “their partisan content, emptied of the doctrinal meaning that had marked them so much in the previous period”,1 in favor of a model that focuses on news and, in the background, comments that, with exceptions, are superficial guesses about current events, located in columns written by journalists with a longer career or by personalities who, in theory, would help to boost the number of interested parties.

It makes sense that this effort would be undertaken over several years, mainly considering the dissemination of news regarding essential services, jobs, elections, etc. However, as the new millennium advances, insisting on this model appears to be something foolish: if you can get information for free via radio and television, why subscribe to a periodical that, when it reaches you, would, in most cases, be dated? Worse, in some cases, even outdated. In the case of magazines, the question is: when there is no almost instantaneous obsolescence, is the content, in fact, indispensable?2

In the United States (USA), a country where, in historical terms, the consumption of newspapers and magazines is greater than Brazil's in absolute and relative numbers, the scenario is not encouraging either. Everything suggests that the market has lost its purpose and the public is aging or simply uninterested.3 In other words, all signs suggest that printed journalism has lost its purpose under its current configuration. This gets worse as most newspapers buy news packages from agencies (such as Reuters, Agência Estado, etc.) and the practice of reporting is increasingly rare, given the understanding that the cost does not compensate for the delivery.

When talking to “old guard” journalists, one notices an almost unanimous dissatisfaction with young journalists, as, in many cases, they restrict themselves to the newsroom, doing interviews via video, telephone, text and email. , or, put another way, because street activity is secondary to his workday. However, it is difficult to believe that this is a voluntary choice of the current generation (even more so when the profession is often portrayed with bravery and waste, as in Quase Famosos and Spotlight). Everything suggests that it is the combination of increasingly smaller budgets to maintain a journalistic model in complete decline.

The job market for these professionals, it should be noted, is, in the overwhelming majority, outside their specialization, that is, in advertising environments, video/cinema production companies and in consultancies in the corporate world that do nothing more than public relations and communications. internal. In colleges, there is an effort to try to create curricula that try to balance the essence of journalism with the reality of offers, seeking to combine technical-professional training with scientific-academic training, the attempt of which has been subject to criticism.4 In other words, market demand calls for professionals with technical skills and the academy tries to prepare a workforce with training for activities of any and all nature.5

Some aspects underlying these issues, however, are far from the domain of journalists and colleges (such as, for example, how much the businessman is willing to reinvest based on the profit of the operation) and will never belong to the scope of decisions that the newsroom will have to take. It would, therefore, be naive, if not obtuse, to try to overcome impasses of this nature, whether within the university or as an employee.

There are alternatives to this problem. Some would defend, for example, public financing or subsidies, which, given the Brazilian situation (if not the politics of Western countries, in general and their political demands), is unthinkable. One solution is an attempt to return to the first half of the last century, that is, the adoption of journalism carried out mainly by columnists. Without, however, aiming for the universal: targeting a specific audience, with the purpose of providing them with arguments and, why not, with an orientation to political events. Obviously, this alternative will not solve the problems nor will it be “bulletproof”.

Firstly, because this understanding of journalism presupposes the profession as an intellectualized craft. Therefore, it would exclude many of those who do not have mastery of robust subjects (such as politics, economics, the arts, etc.) and who, therefore, would not be able to undertake a discussion or objections to propositions that arise in the public sphere (such as reporters and editors). Therefore, it would probably choke the job market even more.

Second, there would be a need for serious commitment and investment on the part of interested parties. It has already been noted that, by way of illustration, in the USA, there was a generational gap on the left side of the public debate. Intellectuals from this political spectrum, without much questioning, followed the course of events and, as a result, the majority of them ended up away from public discussions and included in the increasingly isolated academic universe.

The outcome was a gradual replacement of them by financial market analysts and voices that, in general, are aligned with the so-called hegemonic forces.6 This means that in this race some would start laps ahead; while, those who propose to dissent from the status quo, they would need to insist on projects and alliances whose return will be basically moral (at most civic).

At least, in the largest urban centers, where there is possibility and some tradition in critical commentary, this seems to be a viable alternative that could prosper (even if in modest proportions). In smaller cities, criticism aimed at political and social issues should be taken more seriously, in order to contribute to the reversal of electoral monopolies. Otherwise, news journalism will remain on the sidelines of its supposed future.

The provocation is launched and, whatever the response, it is, at the very least, questionable, whether anyone believes that the future of the profession lies, as is the reality today in several vehicles, in the publication of news of three or four paragraphs (with three or four lines each) and second-hand materials. After all, as it stands, everything seems to be conspiring in favor of a major shipwreck.

*Arthur Grohs is a PhD candidate in Communication at PUC-RS.

Notes


1 Rüdiger, F. (2023). The Journalistic Thought of Albert Camus: Twilight of Late European Liberalism. Brazilian Journal of Media History, v. 12, p. 22-44.

2 Out of curiosity, print subscriptions accompanied by digital subscriptions have the following costs: Folha de S. Paul: R$99,90 monthly for the first six months; The Estadão R$61,90 monthly during the same period; the magazine Veja costs R$39,90 per month for its subscribers on a 12-month plan; while the magazine Time, R$18,00 for 12 months.

3 Para dados, consultar: <https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/fact-sheet/news-platform-fact-sheet/#:~:text=for%20news%20below.-,News%20consumption%20across%20platforms,said%20the%20same%20in%202021> e <https://www.poder360.com.br/economia/revistas-em-2021-impresso-cai-28-digital-retrai-21/#:~:text=As%20revistas%2C%20assim%20como%20os,e%20a%20total%20diminuiu%2025%25.>.

4 Rüdiger, F. (2022). Communication Epistemologies in Brazil: essays on science theory. Milfontes.

5 It should also be remembered that Communication courses are new at the university. Newsrooms have historically been occupied by people with training in areas such as Philosophy, History, Literature and Sociology, as well as politicians. In general, the press was the environment in which those who aspired to establish themselves as literati and politicians acted. About this, see Neveu, É. (2006). Sociology of journalism. Loyola Editions.; Rüdiger, F. (2020). Origins of academic thought in journalism: Germany, Soviet Union, Italy and Japan. Island.; Winock, M. (2000). The century of intellectuals. Bertrand Brasil.

6 Jacoby, R. (1990). The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of the Academy. Edusp/Cultural Trajectory.


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