Knight Center holds first Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas conducted the First Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, on April 5 and 6, 2008 in Austin, Texas. Participants included 26 journalists, academics, and media executives from eight Latin American countries, Spain, and Portugal. Members of the colloquium analyzed digital journalism trends affecting Spanish- and Portuguese-language media and proposed that Austin continue to serve as a forum for discussions about the media environment in the Internet era.

Several participants presented cases of online journalism from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. Guillermo Franco, editor of the online version of El Tiempo (Colombia), presented a multi-year study about Latin American online newspapers.

Click here to go to the Colloquium page.

Journalists, academics, and media executives gather in Austin, Texas, April 6, 2008, for the First Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism. (Photo by Caroline Ventezou)

“They are increasing their hiring for digital operations, and most newspapers are thinking about integrating their print and online newsrooms,” Franco said. “This is something positive because the newspapers have realized that they are producers of content, not just print editions.”

However, most Latin American newspapers are investing few resources in their digital editions and are relying instead on content from their print editions while failing to make full use of digital technologies, Franco noted.

The integration of print and online newsrooms could rescue many Latin American digital operations from their marginalized status, Franco said.(View Guillermo Franco’s PowerPoint presentation.)

The Internet as Center of the Media Ecosystem

Mario Tascón, editor of digital content for Grupo PRISA/El País (Spain), outlined the challenges for newspapers and journalists.

“The influence of print media is diminishing, and the media landscape today is centered around Internet. The five leading U.S. news sources on the Internet don’t originate from traditional newspapers,” Tascón said. “It’s a challenging panorama.”

Digital newsrooms require new professional skills, he emphasized.

“We need information architects, people who specialize in interactivity, forum moderators, video editors, search engine marketers, content aggregators, hypertext editors, and storytellers.” (View Mario Tascón’s PowerPoint presentation.)

Andrés Cavelier, of El Nuevo Herald (USA), referred to new hybrid business models that are occurring in the United States, such as the involvement of non-profit organizations in financing investigative journalism.

Cavelier also reiterated how traditional media fear losing their influence.

“An example is the coverage of primary elections in the United States, where newspapers and online media are competing to provide more news,” he said. (View Cavelier’s presentation.)

Language for Digital Journalism

João Canavilhas, of Universidade da Beira Interior (Portugal), said digital narratives require new ways of handling news.

“A Web news item requires three levels of information,” he said. “First the basic information: the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where.’ Second, an explanation of the ‘why’ and ‘how.” And a third level of context, which includes links, related content, and multimedia.”

In his presentation “Digital Journalism: Proposal for a Language,” (Seethe PowerPoint version), Canavilhas suggested the use of hyperlinks and multimedia in Web-based news, “with an integrated and ergonomic design.”

Hernando Álvarez, of BBC Mundo (United Kingdom), Ignacio Catalán, of El Universal (Mexico), Patricia Santa Marina of Infobae (Argentina) (View Santa Marina’s presentation), and Cilene Guedes of O Globo Online (Brazil) (View Guedes presentation), shared their experiences with media convergence and gave examples of how their organizations are taking advantage of multimedia resources and user participation.

Liza Gross, of the Miami Herald, warned that journalistic quality must not be diminished in the convergence processes. Other participants expressed concern over the demands on journalists, who are frequently required to shoot still and video images, and to write stories simultaneously.

“We were very pleased with the First Colloquium, and we are already thinking about the second meeting in 2009, with more participants from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal,” said Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, and organizer of the Colloquium.

“We like the idea of making Austin a place for journalists and academics to gather to discuss the state of digital journalism in Portuguese and Spanish.”

Alves said the next colloquium would take place the day after the International Symposium on Online Journalism, the annual April gathering in Austin that brings together professionals and academics.

“Next year, we will be celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Symposium, and the event will be even more special combined with the Second Ibero-American Colloquium.”

Participant List

The participants in the First Ibero- American Colloquium on Digital Journalism were:

• Alejandra Rodríguez – El Diario de Hoy (El Salvador)
• Alberto Cairo – University of North Carolina(USA)
• Andrés Cavelier – El Nuevo Herald (USA)
• António Granado – Público (Portugal)
• Christian Marra – Master em Jornalismo (Brazil)
• Cilene Guedes – O Globo Online (Brazil)
• Cristina Aby–Azar – Wall Street Journal Americas (USA)
• Denis Burgeiman – Abril (Brazil)
• Elizabeth Saad – Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil)
• Ezequiel Abiú – Clave Digital (Dominican Republic)
• Fernando Rodrigues – Folha de São Paulo (Brazil)
• Fernando Zamith – Universidade do Porto (Portugal)
• Guillermo Franco – El Tiempo (Colombia)
• Hernando Álvarez – BBC Mundo (United Kingdom)
• Ignacio Catalán – El Universal (Mexico)
• João Canavilhas – Universidade da Beira Interior (Portugal)
• José Zamora – John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (USA)
• Lidia Maropo – Universidade Nova Lisboa (Portugal)
• Liza Gross – Miami Herald (USA)
• Margarita Funes – La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador)
• Mario Tascón – PRISA / El País (Spain)
• Patricia Santa Marina – Infobae (Argentina)
• Paulo Motta – O Globo (Brazil)
• Ramón Salaverría – Universidad de Navarra (Spain)
• Sandra Crucianelli – Canal 7 de Bahía Blanca (Argentina)
• Telma Luzzani – El Clarín (Argentina)

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism in August 2002 thanks to a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Its main objective is to help journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean to develop their own self-sustaining training programs to elevate the professional and ethical levels of journalism in the Americas.