Thursday, March 05, 2009

Big problem

I've realized the flaw in my master plan, but this is a good thing. In my life, I am learning about two major things right now: journalism (reporting on news for the purpose of creating public information and record), and activism (using vigorous action to bring about political or social change). I do journalism because I believe it is powerful, and can do the job of activism sometimes better than activism itself can. Activism tries to get sympathetic people involved in campaigns that are a step outside of their comfort zone. The end goal, of course, is to get enough people to be moving in a certain way so as to manage to change the world. I believe that journalism can reach a broader segment of society than activists can. It isn't targeted at those that are sympathetic, rather it broadcasts information freely, on public airwaves and on popular web portals. This information has the ability to affect the consensus of a big population. Depending on the degree of the consensus, changes happen as result. Activism and journalism work at different paces, though: I am not sure which is faster, at this point in my life, which is why I do both. I am aiming at a career in journalism because I believe this. I am aiming at doing journalism in a Spanish-speaking country because I believe Latin America is a place that needs to see a lot of changes in the next couple of decades. I was talking to my Ethics prof today about nothing in particular, and I said my ultimate goal is to do journalism in South America. This is not a new thing, I say it to everybody, all the time. But then it hit me (and this is the flaw in my plan). In activism, I subscribe to the belief that changes should happen from the bottom up, that the minds that need to change are those at the bottom, because their power would be the power that would truly transform all levels of injustice. In journalism, I am primarily a print journalist: I write, and read, to get my news. I have very little broadcast training or experience. But in Ecuador at least, the literacy levels of the general population (the ones, who, according to my activism education, are the ones from whom the most powerful and true changes would be coming) is not high. The population in Ecuador that I am interested in affecting, as an activist, would be very different from the one I would be affecting, as a journalist. Written journalism in societies with low literacy levels is a forum for the elite: it is about politics that nobody on the bottom cares about, trends that nobody in poverty is privy to, cultural events that are not important to the masses. If I concentrate on print, in a South American context, this is the audience I would have: an audience, my activism education tells me, which is already lost. An aaudience that will not make any changes unless they are forced to, by the mobilized masses. So, in this conversation with my prof, I thought about two options: go into radio, or make print journalism relevant to the masses. I think you all know which of the two ptions appeals to me more.


Kent said...

Print and radio will both be around for a long time. I also believe that new media will surprise us all. Podcasts and later video via cellphone. Broadcast TV and Web based video services will become indistinguishable.

I would have thought this was a rich world only phenomena until I learned there are more than 2 billion cell phones in use already.
I have seen Maasai herders chatting on their cell phone while walking along with their stock miles from anything we would call a town.

Perhaps journalism will be empowered in a way that makes it indistinguishable from activism. Were I a member of a social network in a Mumbai slum, I would have the power to send a "note" or a link to a pod cast to thousands of my fellow slum dwellers informing them of plans to raze the slum to make room for a golf course.

Availability of media will be astonishing. All the more reason for some of us to train ourselves to generate high quality content!

I am a little jealous of the exciting decades you have ahead of you. I hope to stick around for part of them :-)

Tim or Lil said...

I may be wrong but i think your general assumption that print journalism in all South American countries is the same as in Ecuador is flawed. I believe it may be quite a different situation in Argentina,Chile,Mexico,Guatemala,Costa Rica and a few other nations.(That is, that the minds that read the journalism are from various levels of society...even in majority from "the bottom") No way to know for sure until you visit them, right? Don't limit yourself B. I can see you finding happiness in a variety of latin settings....oh, and bringing about politcal or social change while your at it. Love Mom