terça-feira, 11 de novembro de 2003

As decisões dos jornalistas

Tenho andado a ler (por conta do mestrado) muitos textos onde se discute o papel que o público poderá ter na construção das notícias online e qual será a função dos jornalistas neste novo ambiente. Parece consensual que o papel dos jornalistas deixará de ser tanto o de seleccionar quais os factos que serão notícia, para se transformar no que dá credibilidade às notícias.
Num artigo publicado na CJR, a propósito das eleições presidenciais dos EUA, discutem-se algumas das questões relecionadas com as decisões dos jornalistas e editores quando seleccionam o que é notícia. Sugiro também a leitura da análise que Jay Rosen fez deste artigo.

I asked Downie how that works when it comes to page-one decisions — those seven stories each day that the Post is telling the country are the most important in the world. As other top editors at the Post and The New York Times had explained to me, page one is usually a hybrid. There are big "hard news" events that are no-brainers for page one — an airplane crashes, a suicide bomb goes off in Tel Aviv, the president gives the State of the Union address. On the softer side are stories that help enliven the page as part of the overall mix — an in-depth look at the offbeat, an exclusive that other papers won't have, a fabulously told yarn. But after that, editors agreed, on most days there still remain stories that are entirely discretionary, with editors choosing what belongs on the most visible and powerful bulletin boards in our political culture. These stories sometimes involve months of reporting. The results immediately ricochet through the media and become top-of-mind for the nation's elites. How do you decide, I asked Downie, what issues get that treatment?

"We think it's important informationally. We are not allowing ourselves to think politically."

Then an impact on the public agenda is a byproduct of this work?

"It definitely is."

OK, I thought. "If reluctant or accidental agenda setters are destined to be agenda setters nonetheless," I asked, "what is the framework through which you think about how to exercise that power responsibly. Is that a fair question?"

"Yes, that is a fair question," Downie said. "What I don't want to do is what Louis Seltzer at the Cleveland Press did." Downie said that when he was growing up in Cleveland, Seltzer, the local editor, decided that a man was guilty of murdering his wife and set about using his newspaper to convince the entire community.

"I don't want to do that," Downie said. "He turned out to be wrong. You can see easily that that's an abuse of his power. But I would argue it would be a similar abuse of my power to say, 'this guy Miller's got a great idea. This Two Percent thing,'" he said, referring to the policy ideas in my book, "'this really makes sense to me. We are now going to make certain we focus on those aspects of the public debate. We're going to ask politicians, why aren't you talking about the Two Percent Solution? We're going to run a series on the Two Percent Solution.' That would be equally distorting. What Kate Boo's series was about" — the Post's 1999 Pulitzer-winning investigation of group homes for the mentally retarded that Downie had hailed as an example of the paper's finest work — "is intrinsically important. Lives were at stake, lives were lost, governments were not carrying out their responsibilities. That is information people should have. What the people then do with that information is for them to decide. We should not be thinking in terms of setting a public-policy agenda, we should be thinking in terms of setting an informational agenda."

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