What is quality journalism?
The question — which is more difficult to answer than it might seem — was posed to people in a small qualitative research setting. It was used to help solidify the tasks of a work group formed by our newsrooms’ journalists (newspaper, radio, and broadcast television included).
Among the answers was that there should be no pyrotechnics. Nothing involving Artificial Intelligence or gadgets tailored to our bodies. What the users told us was straightforward and at the heart of journalism. We were asked to always make it clear what the source of our reports is, and we were also asked to highlight the names of our reporters.
They asked for depth, without judgment. They asked for transparency, agility, commitment to the truth. They asked for daily perspectives and contextualisation. They asked to be part of our stories.
And, in the midst of everything they asked for, they clamored for more serenity and less drama. They asked for inspiring stories.
And that is when a panel at the last INMA World Congress in New York with Ulrik Haagerup, now at the helm of the Constructive Institute, passed like a movie in my head. At the event last May, he presented the perspective of constructive journalism. And he taught the audience, with real examples, that people re-engage with the press when they see there are ways out and when a debate about a better future is facilitated.
Of course, we do have an obligation to be watchdogs and document wrong events or misplaced positions that power insists on hiding. But, yes, we can also have a new role: present solutions and positive perspectives.
In an interview for a Brazilian newspaper, Haagerup stated constructive news is the “slow food” for the brain. “Today, people may not even need banks, but they need money. They may not need CDs, but they need music. They may not need the traditional press, pressured by Facebook and Google, but they need journalism.”
This journalism — that does not allow itself to be influenced by scandals and absurdities, that builds bridges, that looks forward — can differentiate the work of the professional newsrooms. It can show the real value of what is produced by our journalists.
Can it save our business model and our industry? Alone, most likely, no. But it is certainly an extra mile we must commit to running.
At GaúchaZH, a digital platform that recently united the forces of two major newsrooms in southern Brazil, constructive journalism has been present. To celebrate the book fair in the city of Porto Alegre, our political columnist challenged herself. Passionate about literature, Rosane de Oliveira recorded 18 episodes of a podcast that delivered consecrated tales in audio format.
The idea was to contemplate those who cannot read or simply prefer to listen. Delivering written culture in a spoken manner takes advantage of the ease of distribution that the digital environment allows us.
And the result? The podcast was among the most-accessed content of the culture session, but there was good news far from sensational numerical results. It was the return of users — and of our newsroom itself, which embraced the product with affection — that sold us on the slow food that Haagerup suggested.
The dozens of e-mails, WhatsApp messages, and social media comments were as inspiring as the chronicles read by de Oliveira. It was an extra mile that made us proud to run.