The crisis of journalism: challenges and opportunities for the profession and the information industry in the digital age (Phase I)

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

During the last few years, mainly thanks to the developments of the Internet and the expansion of virtual social networks, the debates and discussions around the crisis of journalism have intensified and become more noticeable. These discussions have involved not only academics and journalists, but also political and economic sectors that own media outlets, the public and even the owners of platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter; in other words, it seems that everyone has something to say about the current crisis in journalism. Some mention the loss of credibility of the media (Schiffrin, Santa, & De Martino, 2017); others argue that the media and the professionals who work in them have not been able to adapt to the technological world, that they lack innovation and create content that interests audiences (García-Avilés, González, García & Valero, 2019). Voices have also been heard stating that journalism is no longer important, since today, thanks to bloggers and social networks, citizens can produce news content and be informed without depending on the traditional media, and with this comes what is called participatory journalism or citizen journalism (Puente & Grassau, 2011; Singer, 2011). In short, the causes of the crisis are multiple and varied. However, despite the fact that many have something to say about the present moment, few stop to analyze that journalism is a field that coexists with the crisis, that constantly experiences transformations and that throughout history different factors have challenged the profession. The particularity of the current moment lies in the fact that the discussions have focused on purely technological aspects; that is, in pointing out that digitalization, the Internet and virtual social networks generated the crisis that journalism is currently experiencing (Alejandro, 2010). At this point, it is essential to consider that journalism has been, is and will be a field in constant transformation, and that crises are part of its history, present and future (Knight, 2013). The causes of the crises may vary according to the time and place, since the changes may be generated by technological, political, economic or socio-cultural aspects. Of course, each of these aspects is intertwined with the others, since a technological advance can coincide with political transformations, which in turn have economic and socio-cultural implications. With this, what we want to point out is that journalism is a complex professional field in which factors of different kinds intersect, constantly posing professional challenges. Nevertheless, in the face of this complexity, when talking about the crisis of journalism it is easy to fall into generalizations that prevent a deep and argued discussion. This is what has happened in recent years when the topic of crisis is addressed, because when talking about crisis in journalism it is common to hear that the problem lies in the poor training of these professionals and that, therefore, audiences have lost interest in information; that the media and journalists are no longer necessary because citizens can obtain information easily and quickly through the Internet. However, as the present project wishes to explore, at the present moment of transition and transformation of the field of journalism, a distinction must be made between the crisis experienced by traditional media and the crisis of journalism as a professional field, such as the questions launched by Christofoletti (2019) in his book A crise do jornalismo tem soluçao?; although they are interdependent issues they require particular analyses that make it possible to understand structural transformations. It is worth remembering that, with the development and evolution of the Internet, journalism experienced a moment of euphoria, as it saw in the network the possibility of reaching more people, producing more and better information and stimulating audience participation, all of which would lead to a much broader and more diverse public sphere. These were indeed some possibilities, but over time the reality has been different (Vidal-Folch, 2012). For example, the fact that information could be disseminated more quickly and ubiquitously (Colussi, Franco-Gomes & Rocha, 2018) did not necessarily lead to better information, or reach more audiences, nor did it generate greater income for newspaper companies. Therefore, analyzing the so-called crisis of journalism requires a broad and detailed exploration of its causes and consequences, because although it is true that the Internet has transformed the practices of production, distribution, circulation and consumption of information content, there are structural factors that have led to a change in the way the media are produced, distributed, circulated and consumed. of information content, there are structural factors that challenge not only the journalistic profession but also the information industry (The Future Today Institute, 2019; Simon & Graves, 2019). According to recent data, in Colombia, during the first months of 2019, about 400 journalists were fired from their jobs (La Liga Contra el Silencio, 2019). But the dismissal of journalists is not a Colombian peculiarity; on the contrary, they have been a constant in the world during the last years (Journalism Classes, 2019; Argentine Journalism Forum, 2019). However, when journalists are fired from their jobs, the simplistic analysis resorts to the argument of the poor quality of journalism and deficiencies in the training of these professionals, and instead, little is said about the structural problems of the media, such as its business model or the concentration of ownership and the lack of plurality and diversity. In other words, the journalists who have left the media have not left because of bad workers, or because of their bad training; the massive dismissal of information professionals has more to do with a crisis in the business model than with a crisis in journalistic training; in this, lies part of the differences that must be considered between the crisis of journalism, and the crisis of the media. Some studies point out that, faced with the crisis in the media, "economic objectives have prevailed over journalistic criteria and informative interest" (Soengas Pérezet al., 2014: 105), while other authors question the future of the press (Picard, 2014) or even whether the crisis of journalism is not also a crisis of democracy (Rodríguez Borgers, 2013).Hence the urgency of overcoming reductionist analyses that point out that the problem is the uselessness of journalism or the poor training that professionals have received, because although it is true that journalism as a professional field requires constant vigilance of its practices and values (Tejedor & Cervi, 2017), it is also necessary to review and analyze characteristics of the information industry, its power structures and business models (Poulet, 2012). In this sense, the present project aims to carry out a bibliographic survey on the crisis of journalism. To this end, it will compile, systematize and analyze the academic and news production published in Latin America during the last fifteen years (2005-2019) on the difficulties and transformations that journalism has faced. This State of the Art will seek to identify thematic trends addressed when studying the crisis in journalism and the news industry, characterize the intensity of academic and news production, and determine reference authors, as well as particularities by country. The search will concentrate on the crisis of both the profession and the industry, with the intention of establishing the differences and dependencies between them. The exploration will be carried out from 2005, considering that the second five years of the first decade of the 21st century are a turning point, since this is the period in which the web 2.0 begins to consolidate, and virtual social networks begin to expand and occupy an important place in people's daily lives; and, therefore, in the ways of producing, distributing and consuming information (Mitchell, Gottfried, Barthel & Shearer, 2016).According to the above, the question guiding the research is: according to academic studies and news reports published between 2005 and 2019, what are the main causes of the crisis in journalism and the information industry? From this question, another series of questions are derived, which it is expected to answer with the bibliographic review, among which it is worth mentioning Is the business model of journalism or the profession in crisis? has journalism stopped being important for society? is there a relation between the expansion of virtual social networks and the crisis of the news industry? what differences and similarities are there between the academic analyses and the industry's reflections on the crisis of journalism? the present proposal would constitute an exploratory phase with which it seeks to make a previous approach to the current crisis of journalism. However, the elaboration of the State of the Art will serve as an input to advance in later stages in which the transformations of contemporary journalism will be deepened, emphasizing the Colombian case, and from the perspective of journalists and consumers of information.

Keywords

With the resources requested from the Seed Capital call, it is expected, in addition to compiling academic articles and information on the crisis of journalism and the media, to produce two communications for international conferences, which will later become academic articles that seek to contribute to the discussions and debates around the moment of transition and transformation that contemporary journalism is experiencing.It will also contribute to the investigative training of the School of Human Sciences by linking two undergraduate students from the Journalism and Public Opinion program to carry out their graduate work in the framework of the project "The Crisis of Journalism: Challenges and Opportunities for the Profession and the Information Industry in the Digital Era (Phase I).
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/15/206/30/21

Main Funding Source

  • Internal

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