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CARACAS, Monday May 16, 2011 | Update
 
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102nd Anniversary
Essentially journalists

The habits of readers in the face of the news have changed. Add to the reading of the newspaper, the consumption of information through web sites and social networks. People do not only consume information, but they also share information. They interact with the news. Against this backdrop, journalism has changed substantially compared to the times preceding the rise of the Web. Although this statement has baffled many journalists, the good news is that the essence of the trade remains unchanged

MARÍA EUGENIA PEÑA DE ARIAS |  PROFESSOR AND RESEARCHER AT MONTEÁVILA UNIVERSITY
Monday May 16, 2011  05:30 PM


How many ways do you have to be informed? This could be your typical day: while getting dressed or having a coffee, you switch the TV on and listen to the news. Then you leave home and tune the radio news report or talk show of your preference. You buy the newspaper or get it at home. In the middle of a traffic jam, you use your smart phone -very carefully, because the underworld has no mercy- to check out how traffic is going. You post a message on Twitter to let the rest of city dwellers know about the phenomenal snarl-up in which you are stuck. You get to the office and surf the web version of your favorite source or sources. You visit Twitter again because you want to know reactions to today's news...

Definitely your news consumption habits have changed. And if you think of your kids or grandchildren, theirs have certainly changed even more. Perhaps they do not even read the comic strips on the paper on Sundays because it... fades, but they know and do share information by other means, namely Twitter, Facebook, text messages, YouTube, and Wikipedia.

Since people's news consumption habits have changed, one could think that journalism has definitely changed.

Some years ago, Jean-Francoise Fogel and Bruno Patiño said in their book Une Presse Sans Gutenberg (A Press without Gutenberg) that "Internet is not another medium, but it means the end of journalism as it has been known so far." The older the journalists the more they are baffled by this statement. In fact, the older journalists will probably claim that the same was said about the radio and the TV, and yet here we are. In the morning, headings from the paper are read out on the radio and TV. During the day, newspaper writers monitor news channels to test reality. There is room for everyone.

However, it is true that never before it was the rule to ask journalists not only to write articles for papers, but also post messages on Twitter, record a podcast for a website and think about the way to build the news: what would appear on paper, on the website, on the social networks, on the text messaging service.

This ignites some reactions we could call natural: "more, more and more work to do." Or "The e-natives keep beating me up; As it is true, the last time I played tennis on video game, the software told me I was 102 years old!" Or "I was not taught this in college."

The expansion of e-media and their diversity are encouraging journalists to acquire new skills. It is no longer enough to write for a newspaper or have the ability to communicate through radio stations or TV channels. Now, they have to integrate all these elements in a multimedia speech that combines text, audio, video, infographics, etc. in the same report. Journalists will surely not have to take part in the whole production process of the report. However, the conceptualization of such report compels journalists to have knowledge and certain skills on using technology available to them.

Journalism is more and more a team job; information is produced in interdisciplinary groups. This demands not only social skills and emotional intelligence, but also a hefty dollop of humbleness to detach from the personal signature and see oneself as part of a collective work.

While in the past journalists were more like artists, now they resemble more a manager. They have to plan the information production, work with very few resources, against a clock that runs more ruthlessly than the closing time, because both the public and the competitors demand more and more immediacy.

Further, they have to talk with the public, as people want to talk with the media, with journalists. The possibilities of interaction that have emerged thanks to the web 2.0 undermine the primacy of unidirectional communication models where the media send and the public receives. User-generated contents are increasingly common in newsrooms. Additionally, citizens no longer have to wait for a space in news agendas because now they have their own communication channels, their own spaces to build their communities, in which both the media and journalists are just another interlocutor. Again, they have to talk, rather than informing, sending messages, answering letters or demands. Journalists need to talk.

The transformation of the professional profile of journalists is not over yet. Some people advocate hyper-specializations, in which every professional completes some specific tasks. However, the situation facing the media in Venezuela, as well as a restricted domestic labor market, seems to suggest that the more integral journalists are the more possibilities they have to take on technological changes without getting lost in tools.

And this is this way because the essentials of journalism have not changed. Journalism, as well as social communication, continues to be a talk among people. Technology has only strengthened the chances for dialogue. Journalism is still a profession with a deep vocation for service. Journalists keep on trying to disseminate true information so that people can make right decisions about life in society. They try to provide a vision of contextualized, balanced and well proportioned reality. They keep on trying to help to create increasingly democratic societies, regardless of whether the news is broadcast over a galena radio, written on an Olympia typewriter, or abridged in 140 characters.
mearias100@gmail.com

Translated by Adrián Valera

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