Publicado originalmente no especial Predictions for Journalism 2018 do NiemanLab
We Brazilian journalists have to admit that we can do more to contribute to the public debate. Every post published by a newspaper in its social networks triggers comments that are examples of how Brazilian society is divided and, worse, intolerant. The polarization we saw in 2014 is increasing even more as we enter 2018 — not by chance, yet another year of general elections.
Of course, it’s not all journalism’s fault. We are immersed in the same tangle of networks that, according to psychoanalyst Christian Dunker, affects our systems of identification and demand, inflates our egos, diminishes our empathy, and creates hatred in the digital world. At the same time that groups close themselves up in filter bubbles with a false sense of consensus, they also attack whoever puts their beliefs in jeopardy.
Far from feeling sorry and pointing fingers, the goal of this second edition of O jornalismo no Brasil (Journalism in Brazil), a partnership between Farol Jornalismo and the Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism), is to forecast the conditions we’ll see in 2018 and to propose alternatives, in order to write a different story for the year ahead.
The filter bubbles on social networks will not disappear, nor will the lies spread as if they were news. And it’s not only the public that will be affected by these phenomena; good journalism will also be subject to the effects of a society divided and made up of voracious consumers of social media, as shown by researchers Gabriela Zago and Pablo Ortellado. Brazilian journalists should resist the pressure to reduce editorial standards in order to answer a polarized public that demands content for campaigning to share in their social media profiles. But there are ways to win some of these battles. First of all, we must understand how networks work and help our audience do the same.
“Bursting” these bubbles is also possible — using even the very same weapons that trap us inside them. Against fake news bots, for example, researcher Daniel Magalhães foresees “checking bots,” as well as collaboration between newsrooms and media labs as efforts that will help media outlets use algorithms to their advantage.
In this belligerent atmosphere, it will take a lot of skill from reporters to cover the election. Our series points out two themes that will be highlighted in the political debate: public safety and the environment. The former has great appeal to voters and, to escape from “he said, she said” journalism and the “miraculous proposals and magic solutions” that will surely emerge, professor and former police reporter Francisco Amorim bets on data-driven journalism and notions of statistics. His text is also full of practical tips for anyone who will cover the theme in 2018.
Accused of using environmental issues as a bargaining chip, the federal government is expected to conduct more discussions in this area in the first half of next year, predicts journalist Thiago Medaglia, founder of Ambiental Media. Once again, the path of collaboration seems promising, and journalists should be closer to scholars in order to fight misinterpretations of scientific facts.
Improving our products are an important way to confront the industry’s revenue crisis, according to professor and journalist Rafael Sbarai. In 2018, multidisciplinary positions are expected to gain space in journalistic organizations, especially in digital businesses, from where the most innovative services and products in the Brazilian market should emerge.
According to Nina Weingrill and Simone Cunha, from Énois Escola de Jornalismo, the financial health of media outlets is also linked to their credibility recovery. Although the confidence of the Brazilians in the press is still high, these numbers have been falling, following a tendency seen in newspapers abroad and caused mainly by the discrediting on social networks. Partnerships between big outlets and new initiatives, some from the periphery, are expected to increase in the coming year and may help reverse the situation in Brazil. This strategy is a cost-effective alternative in times of increasingly lean newsrooms.
But the most important outcome of this collaboration is the possibility of increasing the public’s trust by diversifying the ways we looks for new stories and the teams that produce them, which are not very representative, a warning note we sounded in last year’s as well. In this issue, we specifically draw attention to the need for newsrooms to reflect on gender inequality in their newsrooms. Veronica Toste, a Ph.D. in sociology, is the one who approaches the subject and presents unpublished numbers recently raised by Abraji and Gênero & Número in the research Mulheres no Jornalismo (Women in Journalism).
Even though politics promises to take up most of the Brazilian news in 2018, there will be, as in every year of presidential elections, a pause in party debates when we’ll turn our eyes to the World Cup in Russia. The huge event will give journalists opportunities to be creative and explore immersive narratives, according to researchers Suzana Barbosa and Adalton dos Anjos Fonseca.
Despite the fact that the prognoses are generally not optimistic, signs of efforts defending the ethical use of technology in elections can already be seen. A public letter was issued this month in order to preserve freedom of speech and access to quality information and to repudiate the dishonest use of false profiles and the propagation of lies masked as news. Among the signatories are journalistic initiatives such as Agência Lupa and Aos Fatos. Focused on the general public, from citizens and candidates to news outlets and civil society organizations, the #NãoValeTudo (#NotAnythingGoes) campaign could well motivate the work of Brazilian journalists and content producers. Let’s make this pact for 2018.