The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

brasilobserver - Nov 11 2014

(Leia em Português)

I am convinced that journalists know nothing. Or, to be more generous, much less than we think we know

By Tiago Lobo

I have a thousand words to tell you a story. And so far, you can see, I have already spent twenty and taken me three minutes which is about half the average time, it takes me to smoke a cigarette, or finish a glass of Whiskey.

Sometimes writing comes quickly, it’s simple, sometimes automatic. But the thought and deciding on how to tell a good story can often take longer than the writing itself. Journalism is a kind of “literature done with haste”, and thus has a nasty habit of yielding to industrial pressures, becoming cold and ephemeral. So fleeting as a sheet unnoticed floating in the wind. When this happens it ceases to tell a story and the reader is offered a bureaucratic report instead. The writer ceases to perceive the beauty, and subtleties of life. And the leaf is shed, lifeless, in a poetic flight facing death.

The tree, which sacrifices its beauty for the sake of survival, because it needs to save energy, could offer its poetry to add much needed reality to a report on sustainability, as a perfect analogy about the biggest concern of humans in the 21st century.

And if anyone has doubts about this, just search the text of American journalist Joseph Mitchell, who decided to tell the story of a woodpecker hammering the trunk of a tree. The reporting from Mitchell became a classic piece of journalism, immortalised in the pages of the New Yorker magazine.

It’s the thought and the time devoted that enables a journalist to break the barriers of this literature made ​​in a hurry. To escape the pressure of time and space, and create a piece of journalism in its essence and guarantee the permanence of the story. This whole process is guided by a human urge to tell and share facts about history.

When you talk about journalism today, people think of the immediate consumption of 24 hour news. A diet of chaotic fast food of badly verified, staggered and frivolous information. Here, I am obliged, to remember Spyros Makridakis, a management guru who has a lot to say to the media. In one of his texts, he argues that our culture accepts certain statements as true, even though they may not be. According to Makridakis, from an empirical perspective, the information available in general is redundant and provides little additional value.

If we analyse Brazilian journalism, you can see Makridakis’ view in action. It’s surprisingly easy to imagine the major daily newspaper in the country becoming the same vehicle, in terms of content. After all, the headlines are the same, the same news stories are recycled and are treated equally.

So, I ask, is your time better spent consuming various reports made ​​in a hurry or focusing on stories that will explain to you with analysis and depth, the facts that interest you?

Too often journalists project a view of knowing about a subject without really understanding it. They think know and they will die believing that they understand what readers want to read.

Some have decided that you do not want to read. Giving rise to the latest fad for infographics, colours, pictures that do have the same dimension and data, such as well researched reports, analysis and viewpoints that transform human life in frigid statistics.

I am convinced that we journalists know nothing. Or, being generous, much less than we think we know.

Perhaps, in this disguised arrogance, journalism lives it’s most intense autumn. Journalists in their refrigerated offices are blind to the poetry of life and reproduce the dullness of their digital office atmosphere. Try to translate them through electrical pulses and binary codes. Living perched on the phone and with eyes glued to the computer – their window to artificial human life. May be why extreme themes like murder, poverty, corruption, disasters and life in society are taken as banal clichés.

The individuality of the facts and human nature will always find a gust of wind to navigate the world. It’s up to journalists to pay more attention and to go back to great story telling, just like the Argentine writer Mempo Giardineli said: “people never cease to be interested in stories well told.”

* Tiago Lobo is a freelance journalist, editor of Pensamento magazine