Will There Also Be a Post-Journalism?

A teenage girl covers her face with her hands in front of a laptop computer, frightened by the news she reads about the pandemic. Photo: Dusko Miljanic/Unicef
  • Opinion by Andres Canizalez (caracas)
  • Inter Press Service
  • Andrés Cañizález is a Venezuelan journalist and Ph.D. in Political Science

I will briefly delve into this forward-looking exercise. In the light of what we, all of the Humanity, are experiencing today, the very scope of these omens and forecasts is seriously threatened. Nobody, absolutely nobody, could have foreseen the scale that the current global health crisis would have when we were celebrating Christmas and wishing each other the best for this year 2020.

Once we are able to put a forecasting exercise into perspective, in the sense that it proves ineffective in allowing us to envision what would come, it is difficult to take as a given any projections made, from present day and place, as to what the post-pandemic world will be like.

Indeed, we have no idea of the world awaiting us. Uncertainty reigns in all aspects of social life.

Based on the above remarks, below I propose three dimensions that, in my opinion, will be distinctive regarding the exercise of journalism in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In the first place, and without a doubt, specialized journalism takes on capital importance. In countries of the South, we have not had many outstanding go-to personalities or figures in scientific or health journalism.

Once the coronavirus has been controlled, there will be a pressing need to train journalists in scientific and health issues. In the specific context of Latin America, Asia, or Africa, this is urgent.

This very pandemic, that has just unleashed a silent yet ruthless war over which will be the first vaccine to reach the market, in a battle involving pharmaceutical companies and governments, challenges journalism to appropriately cover what is going on in its rightful perspective.

We need journalists trained in public health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, vaccination, and so on. Journalists are not meant to replace doctors and healthcare specialists; but they must have a modicum of preparation to ask the right questions and put into the right context statements from health authorities, healthcare staff, and those people indeed affected.

Just as we advocate for a journalism that is capable of challenging political or financial power, today the world needs journalists with the training necessary to challenge the healthcare power. This encompasses ministries of health of different countries, international organizations specialized in this field, and obviously the business world of healthcare.

There is also a pressing need for solutions-oriented journalism. This exercise of journalism of putting oneself in the shoes of citizens and providing them with practical information has become manifest, in the current context, as a matter of absolute essence.

Imagine the media, in a country where government data are no longer existent, providing information on drugstores in major cities, along with their phone numbers, where you can find practical advice for dealing with domestic issues, or simply provide information on psychological or legal counseling offered free of charge by universities as part of their community outreach.

It is nothing less than putting oneself at the service of citizens. In countries of the North, citizens can have direct access to plenty of information online; but in nations of the South, that are disconnected and fragmented, the idea of the mainstream media providing a public service gains importance. Therein lies one of the challenges that has always surrounded the exercise of journalism.

This brings me to one last dimension. Journalism in the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as that during the pandemic, must be humane. It seems a truism, but it is essential that the media and journalists understand that the center of their endeavor is the human being. People are on both ends of a news story: On one side, they are the source or the protagonist of what is being told; and, on the other, they are the public that reads, listens, or watches.

And in the middle of both is the journalist, another human being who has the privilege of connecting both ends of that line.

© Inter Press Service (2020) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service