Journalists analyze digital journalism trends and challenges at 3rd Ibero-American Colloquium

Scholars, journalists and media executives from 12 countries exchanged experiences and discussed recent trends in journalism in Spanish and Portuguese, Internet and social networks during the Third Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, held in Austin on April 25, 2010.

The event, organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, followed up the 11th International Symposium on Online Journalism , held April 23-24. Among the Symposium topics that most impressed participants were trends in mobility and the use of portable devices, new funding models (such as nonprofit journalism), recent examples of participatory and citizen journalism, and the new media ecosystem.

The Colloquium featured informal presentations discussing the challenges of digital journalism, the challenges in covering drug trafficking, and experiences concerning the integration of newsrooms.

Border Experiences
In his presentation, Daniel Rosas, from the newspaper El Mañana de Nuevo Laredo, explained the complex situation that exists on the border between Mexico and the United States. The drug-related violence has repeatedly threatened journalists and communicators, resulting in self-censorship.

“Not everything that happens is published,” Rosas said. Many citizens have chosen to report what they experience daily, but is not informed by the authorities or the media. Blogs and services like Twitter and YouTube channel these contributions. “They are an outlet for citizens,” said Rosas.

However, this also carries risks. The spread of unverified or even unfounded rumors promotes fear among the population. Rosas distinguished between narco-violence and narco-terrorism, which used the media at its disposal to scare people.

Judith Torrea of Spain, recently honored with the Ortega and Gasset Award, added that the challenge is to realize what exactly is happening in places like Ciudad Juarez, where she has lived for 12 years. “I am a journalist to tell the stories that are not told [and] I believe that journalism is for something,” said Torrea, who works as a freelance journalist.

The stories that aren’t published in traditional media appear on her blog Ciudad Juárez: In the Shadow of Drug Trafficking, that serves to show “what really is happening in Mexico,” even though it’s in a free form and is a cost to her personal security.

Regional Trends
Other presentations during the Colloquium demonstrated the different innovations and challenges in Ibero-America.

Luis Assardo, from elPeriódico in Guatemala, and Pedro Dias Lopez, from Zero Hora in Brazil, spoke about their successful delivery of headline stories to mobile phones.

Mario Tascón, of lainformació raised the risks of forcing a convergence between digital and print media and emphasized the changes when presenting content derived from new technologies.

The director of Centro de Periodismo Digital (The Digital Journalism Center) in Guadalajara, James Breiner, presented various financing models that have emerged in Latin America and he highlighted how many journalists are looking to create their own media.

Pedro Doria, of O Estado de S. Paulo, explained how his newspaper has tackled the integration of the online and print newsrooms, and he recommended integrating one section at a time, in addition to trying different methods and integration options.

The executive editor of UOL, Irineu Machado, expounded on the evolution of the company, which began as an Internet provider and then transformed into a giant that includes original content, e-commerce, multimedia and presence across multiple platforms.

During the event, the 30 participants exchanged ideas and reflected on digital journalism in Spanish or Portuguese. Among the conclusions was the consensus to emphasize the importance of responsiveness to the challenges of journalism in the digital age.