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6.2. Journalism in the new media era

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In his book “le journalisme à l‟ère électronique”, Alain Joannès gives indications for journalists on how to use the new methods that are now technologically available to the press. In this section, those methods will be described and discussed, based on the findings of the book. The aim of this is to show that new techniques are now necessary for journalists in order to be complete journalists and these are influenced by the use of Internet. The image of the reporter that goes out in the world with just a pen and a writing pad is now obsolete and should be updated to a new one, which will along the following lines take shape.

According to Joannès, the first step is to rethink the profession of journalist. This begins with a new way of treating the information.

News cannot be treated like 50 years ago when they were just a linear representation of the events, with a beginning, a development and then a temporary conclusion(47). Now news should be treated with a narration technique called rich media. This technique consists in using all the expressions means to tell, describe and explain. An event is brought to knowledge of the public by texts, drawings, pictures, animations, sounds and videos, taking account of their specificities(48). Of course if one of these mediums is not necessary in a situation, it is not obligatory to use it.

The journalist should explore all the expression means that are at his disposal, for the sake of versatility. The journalist cannot know as much as a sound engineer for instance, but he should at least have a few bases in the field. Then by operating in rich media he can choose which medium are the best depending on the editorial lines, the circumstances, his writing and his sensibility. The more the journalist knows the different techniques the better, because time will be spared and he can work on his own(49). Another quality the journalist should posses when operating in rich media is empathy. The journalist is not supposed to express realty as he felt it. He adjusts the data and the facts in the narrative coherence that seems to fit the best his audience.
With these new notions under control the journalist can now concentrate on improving the way information is given to the public.

The next step explained by Joannès, is to reinvent the gathering of data on information. In the electronic era that we are in right now, the journalist finds the elements on said information by having a curiosity in three dimensions:

1. Acuteness of his faculties of judgment, perspicacity and penetration.

2. Sensibility to the emergence, in order to detect decisive facts and future-oriented phenomenon.

3. A state of mind that allows finding interesting things without having to search expressly for them.(50)

When this curiosity in three dimensions has become a habit for the journalist, he then works like an artisan, who has a particular equipment to produce original information.

Continuing the developments of Alain Joannès, the journalist arrives to the point when he has to verify the information that he looks for. He operates in a universe that is characterized by a multiplication of centers of interest, dissemination of sources and volatility of information. In such a context evaluation is a crucial skill. It is acquired and improved trough two means. First it is a personal system of validation. “Who inspires whom? Who speaks? Who broadcasts? Who controls? Who reproduces and how? What kind of deformations does it contains?” In this system sources are classified according to their reliability and are frequently challenged. Secondly a certification network composed with trusted people and uncontested authorities. A journalist that doubts one piece of information has to be able to consult quickly people or sites that do not use the same evaluation system as his own(51).

Once the sources are reliable, the next task is to analyze the documentation that is available. With Internet the journalist has a huge amount of documents that are available to him, which are constantly renewed. The challenge is to be able to understand the argumentation and principles of a document to use it after. There are different techniques to analyze texts, sounds and images that are described by Joannès and those can be used by the journalists to work in the electronic era. The bottom point of all these techniques is clear: by applying them the journalist can master and assimilate the document. Then he can use the date that is contained in that said document and use it for his own piece.

The next chapter of Joannès‟ book explains the necessity for the journalist to put a good documentation in place. This way he can access useful data when he needs to and it enables to put the news in perspective. The journalist should not possess an enormous documentation, in which data is difficult to find. First of all it takes time to create such documentation and it takes time to research it. Facts, ideas and their effects are carefully put in place so they can be exploited in three different ways

1. Enrichment of information

2. Reflection on the news

3. Extension of journalistic curiosity(52)

With Internet there is a lot more data accessible to journalists. This makes the creation of an organized documentation vital.
The next suggestion is to organize differently the newsroom of the paper. The journalist is not one that works all alone and writes his piece with no help. Electronic networks help cooperation in two ways. First the newspaper business is changing because of the Internet forces business models to be rethink. Secondly networks encourage individuals to exchange(53).

The journalist from today should be independent in the basic exploitation of four softwares: word processing, retouch of pictures, basic video editing, audio recording and editing. He should be able to use collaborative work tools as well. Two administrative journalists have to be used in order to administrate the publication rights. A newsroom should ideally employ a journalist that is an expert in one of these tools, so he can help others learn about his field of expertise. Then with shared knowledge, expertise and collective learning aptitude, the newsroom is much more efficient and works very well when they absolutely need to.(54)

Continuing the suggestions of Joannès, the next part is to plan the broadcasting of the information. After evaluating the nature of the information, the form and the rhythm of diffusion has to be determined.

In this time and age the challenge of real time could very well be the regenerative element of journalism. Find answers to that challenge means to ask questions about what should be broadcasted and at what time. The new broadcasting tools that are available allow a methodology that clarifies how news are treated. Additionally it gives a sense of responsibility to journalists to classify events and to distinguish clearly between facts and commentaries.

The last advice of the book plays a vital role. It is the exhortation to exploit interactivity. It is a decisive component of the communication. By being able to handle it, the journalist constructs a new ethic with his audience.(55) Indeed with new information methods like blogs for instance, the journalist can integrate other contextual elements in his communication, which he could not do before, and therefore help his audience understand better. But a blog has to be treated by a professional journalist. The model of the citizen journalist that informs others is not ideal, because most of the time the information contains ten times more commentaries than facts. Therefore journalists should adopt a certain ethic of information in order to improve the quality of information. With that ethic and with the help of the tools of the electronic era the debate between journalists and audience can take place again.

Furthermore the era enables the journalist to listen and understand better the audience, which is only asking to trust him more. He can work to restore the reliability of the profession as well.(56)

All these tips could really be helpful if they are applied by journalists. This helps understand that new media does not necessarily mean information that is of low quality. On the contrary new media can help ameliorate that quality and restore the good reputation journalism had in the past.

47 Joannès, p. 30
48 Joannès, p. 31
49 Joannès, p. 40-41
50 Joannès, p. 80
51 Joannès, p. 113-114
52 Joannès, p. 142
53 Joannès, p. 143
54 Joannès, p. 161
55 Joannès, p. 187
56 Joannès, p. 202

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