In Sao Paulo, Digital Media Leaders Urge Innovation in News and Information Delivery

Jul 182012
  • Knight Program Director Elisa Tinsley (left, seated) with Knight Fellows Bruno Garcez, Sandra Crucianelli and Gustavo Faleiros at the ABRAJI Congress in Sao Paulo.

  • Knight Fellow Bruno Garcez (bottom, right) attended the ABRAJI Congress with contributors to Mural, the citizen journalist blog launched by Garcez and managed by leading Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

  • Knight Fellow Sandra Crucianelli led a data journalism workshop at the ABRAJI Congress.

It’s winter in Sao Paulo, where the Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association (ABRAJI) has been holding its 7th International Investigative Journalism Congress. The slight chill in the air here – a respite from the recent heat in North America – seemed to permeate discussions about the future of media.

So it seemed appropriate that the final session of the Congress featured David Carr, The New York Times columnist renowned for his warnings about the future of traditional media.

The fact that the traditional way of doing business is no longer viable has been debated for a decade and is still not resolved. “Journalism is not declining, the business model is declining,” said Rosental Calmon Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, to the ABRAJI audience. In his July 8 column about the publishing cutbacks at The Times-Picayune, Carr called it a failure to “crack the code.” Based on conversations overheard at the conference, this has become a global issue.

Bringing dozens of journalists together, however, is an open invitation to look for and inevitably find the darker side of the story. In fact, there were encouraging signs at the Congress. Many of the more than 75 sessions held over four days (ending July 14) focused on the new frontiers: data journalism and mapping tools (Knight International Journalism Fellows Sandra Crucianelli in Argentina and Gustavo Faleiros in Brazil), engaging and inviting citizen journalists to participate in the news process (former Knight Fellow Bruno Garcez and Erick Bretas of TV Globo), and using Twitter as a newsroom (Andy Carvin of NPR). Topics ranged from how to write using numbers (Sarah Cohen of Duke University) to global perspectives on investigative journalism (Brant Houston of the Investigative News Network and investigative journalism consultant David Kaplan).

In his presentation on the evolution of the Twitter newsroom he created to follow the Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East, Andy Carvin admitted that the process – he said he’s creating and driving a process, not a product – demands all the time he can give it. Carvin said others should create similar organic, constantly updating and self-correcting newsrooms in other regions.

In concluding the ABRAJI Congress, Carr made a similar point – and a surprisingly positive pitch to the audience of mainly students. He encouraged them to participate in journalism as it cuts new pathways that move far away from traditional models. It’s journalism that isn’t tied to a particular tool, method or even team. It’s constantly changing and adapting – something Carr notes journalists are particularly well equipped to do.