A world of journalists rather than without

I was reading yesterday an article from Le Monde about the Assises Internationales du Journalisme that took place in Lille and Arras on March, 7/8 & 9 . I suspect this so-called international forum about journalism to be rather French-centric and deprived of any alternative cultural perspective, as nor the website neither the blog dedicated to the event are available in English. The title of the article by Le Monde was “Spectrum of a world without journalist”. The afternoon-newspaper highlighted the consequences of new technologies which lead to “a demagogical organization of information” as the president of the International Union of French-speaking Journalists, Hervé Bourges, stated. For him the development of new user-centered practices around Web 2.0 technologies ” reveals a hidden, a tacit, but profound will to increasingly develop media without journalists”.

I take this opinion as a rather narrow-minded and unnecessary judgemental one which is nothing more than conservative corporatism in the face of surging social change fostered not only by web 2.0 but also by new practices it fosters and symbolizes. It is rather ironical that a member of media establishment such as M. Bourges openly criticizes this “hidden will” about which we would like to ask him to whom it belongs ? to which power ? for which purposes ? It is of course understandable that a representative of a profession pretends to defend its interest in front of critical changes which will most certainly deeply affect its future but one may ask whether the stake does not request a farther-reaching and more subtle analysis from someone with his status. For example, regarding politics, M. Bourges’ argumentation in defense of journalists seems to rely on their unique value in mediating public debates. That is in filtering, structuring and synthesizing the expectations, doubts and questions “normal” people may rise.

I reject by no mean the idea that well-functioning democracies requires such a work to be carried out and I agree that journalists have for quite some time contributed to play this role. Thus, the conventional expression of “4th power” : counterbalancing the possibility of the 3 others to impose their agenda upon people. However the 4th power is never himself immune from the excess and dead-ends it pretends to fight in others. Media and consequently journalism, for a number of reasons too complex too be tackled here, (e.g. economic constraints; internal organizational logic; self-interest; technological resources; closeness to political/financial stakes, etc, etc) are never a mere independent and caring agent of citizen’s enlightenment. Unfortunately. It is for example interesting to recall with Benedict Anderson the role of the print-press in supporting the very constitution of national state’s “imagined communities” in the XIXth century by propagating through vernacular languages a national feeling before absent.
My point regarding web2.0 and journalism is to suggest that rather than a world without journalist we may, instead, be witnessing the rise of a world of journalists, where most have been entitled the technical possibilities to publish an article accessible to the world or carry out a radio/video program. The truth is that does it does not ensure audience nor accuracy to all wannabe journalists. Talent, hard-work, relevant desk research or field investigation have not become equally distributed so if the role played by journalists is now accessible to most of us, the qualities that made some media or some journalists respected in their field still remain a prerequisite. So when M. Bourges voice his concern he may want to ponder whether many aspects of the respectable work he wants to see journalists to keep doing, are not better carried out on flexible, responsive and dialogue-based web2.0 applications. A world of journalists, no without journalists but still a world with good ones and bad ones. Just the modalities to find out are changing. This may have to
Lastly, I suspect the tremendous changes underway in journalism will soon affect on a similar scale marketing manager, product manager and other brand managers. This is an other discussion but I doubt the heirs of such profession will display less conservatism than M. Bourges…

References :
Anderson, Benedict Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised Edition ed. London and New York: Verso, 2006 (1983)

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Let this diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt. "Che non men che saver, dubbiar m' aggrata." ["I love to doubt, as well as to know."-- Dante, Inferno, xi. 93] for, if he embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are under no king; let each vindicate himself." --Seneca, Ep.,33]"
Montaigne - Essais I, XXVI, Of The Education of Children
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