A tailor-made, multitasking newspaper
Journalists will have to be able to master multiple languages
If you were born after 1990, you have witnessed the evolution of journalism over the course of three decades and how its model changed three times. In the Nineties, it was the reign of print and television although the pioneers of online information where already present. Digital’s slow overtaking of these forms took place in the 2000s, when it became evident that internet would become the natural source of news. Internet’s definite affirmation came around 2010 when the proliferation of blogs, social networks, and apps forced even the most prestigious newspapers to consider the digital metamorphosis. It’s impossible to anticipate what the journalism of the future will look like as long as our focus is on products as this would mean forecasting where technology is headed. We are however able to discern that its general model will put greater emphasis on substance rather than how the information is presented.
The journalism of the future could by tailor-made, multitasking and have an international dimension.
Tailor-made in so much as newspapers will have to offer the reader (or viewer) a product that is able to attract their attention regardless of the continuous stream of information that is available daily online. The focus will have to be less on timing and increasingly more on quality. The objective must be to raise quality to such a standard that the product is truly something worth consuming and paying for. This can be done through apps that sift through valuable information for a professional within a few minutes; services that guide the reader in understanding everyday life; reports that combine timing with quality using all possible mediums so as to better reach the audience. What this means is that when a user goes online to find out what happened in New York or Nairobi, the user does not care whether the information from Il Sole 24 Ore comes via Twitter or through the website’s homepage (or, even less, on paper). The user wants to access the information and will reward whoever provides it faster and better.
This is where multitasking - an expression that has been abused and has almost lost its literal meaning - comes into play. It does not mean doing but rather knowing how to do more thing simultaneously. Coincidentally, in journalism, this translates into the use of multiple media. Today, we still have divisions between “print”, “online”, “radio”, “TV”, and “newswire” journalists. As if the medium to which the information is destined to represented a status rather than an instrument. In the future, which is already here, the journalist should take notice of all the skills required by the role. Knowing how to use more than one medium is not a demerit, it helps the journalist to grow. Just like when a person is learning a new language, the initial disorientation will leave way to a deeper and less limited awareness of oneself. If the journalist knows how to write an article for the newspaper, why can’t he or she hold a live Twitter event, use the radio or create a video reportage? And, most importantly, why should all these be conceived as separate products that must be kept distinct from each other? Increasingly low thresholds of attention require the alternation of languages. In 2018, a report should be made up of words, video, interactive graphics and audio.
This is a principle that is equally intuitive and problematic. Italian journalism is limited by the constraints of a language that is used by approximately 60 million people, while English-language journalism or journalism in Mandarin have a potential pool of billion of users. French and, in particular Spanish also have a greater catchment area. Internationalization means looking away from ourselves, it means opening up to possible partnerships and tools that go beyond the local dimension. Some might view this as a contradiction compared to “provincial” journalism, which has been able to withstand any and all crises. But internationalization does not necessarily mean cutting ties with the territory, it actually means the opposite. It means creating an even stronger tie with the territory to obtain more interesting and more complete information that is better suited to attract the eye of those skimming the news on their smartphone early in the morning, at home or in a city far, far away. Today, everything is simultaneous. And this can happen even for Italian journalism.