Sheila Coronel on journalism: Audience is the competition
MANILA, Philippines – In an era of advanced technology and social media, the lines are blurring on who the journalist is.
"What’s changing now is that our competition is the audience. Everyone is now a journalist,” Sheila Coronel said on Friday, June 21, during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
An independent, nonprofit news agency specializing in investigative reporting, PCIJ was co-founded by Coronel with 8 other journalists in the 1980s. She was also its first executive director.
The award-winning institution is witness to decades of change in Philippine journalism, but today, Coronel said “the ground is shifting beneath our feet.”
Even in other countries, technology is changing the landscape of how reporting is done. (READ: Journalism's creative destruction)
Coronel enumerated a few points:
- Social media is the primary carrier of breaking news
- News is all around, [you] no longer have to wait until 6 pm to watch the newscast
- News is no longer distributed by newsmen. People don’t wait for journalists to break the news.
Even investigative reporting is shifting as public records become digitized and journalists troop to the Internet to delve into these records.
An example would be the reports on the extravagant lifestyle of Janet Lim-Napoles’ daughter, Jeane, as seen in her blog and online records. (READ: Napoles daughter owns P80M LA property)
The elder Napoles is the alleged mastermind of corruption and collusion involving the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, constituting the Philippines’ biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
Whereas before, journalists could only do so much, tools of today defy physical barriers. "Now we have tools that allow us to crunch big data to find patterns,” Coronel said. "We're now looking for new forms of storytelling,” she added, citing as example In Jennifer’s Room, a video which used illustrations to report a sensitive topic – the molestation of a young, developmentally-disabled woman.
Coronel urged journalists to reach out to younger generations of readers through the medium they use. (READ: Journalists as agents of change)
But there is an "understanding gap" today, even with the abundance of information.
“Citizen access to data and information doesn’t always translate to understanding and participation,” she noted. (READ: The age of citizen journalism: Driven by conscience, fueled by technology)
In social media, for example, Coronel said it is easier for people to mobilize in this medium when opposing, but mobilization is not toward strategic action.
“[Movement slowly] dissipates as it runs out of tactical moves and clear goals,” she said, quoting Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
As for data, Coronel said it must be individualized and actionable.
US journalist Sam McClure said the vitality of democracy depends on the popular knowledge of complex questions.
Coronel agreed: "It is still true now as governance becomes complex, even more as we face challenges brought by new technology: we need more than ever journalists and citizens who can help public understand complex issues.” – Rappler.com