Imminent dangers ahead for journalism, an academic perspective

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“You, journalists, have some problems to solve”, Christopher Cepernich said at the FEJS Annual Congress in Turin. During his lecture, the Italian sociologist claimed how new technologies are shaping this change.

More and more, people can easily write about what they see or do. Indeed, it takes a few minutes to publish an article on personal blogs or a social network. Cepernich affirms how decidedly the role of new technologies has grown. We have reached a stage where everyone is potentially capable of reporting information. People can express thoughts and experience in many ways. Everyone can be a reporter thanks to smartphone cameras. Our western societies seem to be a place full of non-professional, unaware reporters.

Journalists are being replaced by social media users. In this regard, Cepernich talks about a mediatization process. A process where “media [is] at the center of all the events in society”. It seems like every single event is recorded by random people wandering around. TV news increasingly use citizen footage. A journalist should be capable to produce information in order to connect reality and public through narration. Journalists thus used to be like bridges. However, nowadays there is no time to use bridges anymore. People prefer to get directly to the event. Something called disintermediation is happening. Events and public are directly connected. There is no intermediary.

A good example of disintermediation is a web show of the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In “Matteo Risponde” people can ask questions to Renzi. Cepernich used this example to claim how politicians are somehow stealing the jobs of journalists. Indeed, Renzi is the one selecting and commenting the news. A true risk for an objective world of information as the actor himself can’t be impartial whilst reporting news and facts that see him involved.

What can journalism do about that? Cepernich does not leave space for a third option: journalism either has to die or adapt.

By Carlo Epifanio

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