Learning by teaching, Latin American style

I started teaching a distance learning course through the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas this week. There are 70 students participating from Brazil, Argentina and many other places in Latin America.

The students are passionate about journalism and hungry to learn how to make the most of this new digital landscape. It’s interesting to see how much innovation and evolution is occurring at media organizations in other parts of the world and, judging by the students’ initial posts to our discussion forums, some Latin American news organizations are blazing some new trails.

The great change

Michel Queiroz is a 21-year-old reporter of a portal site and a former television reporter (FGF TV). He described a participatory content tool developed by his current site, www.OPOVO.com.br, that allows users to participate in polls, promotions and send photos with complaints via mobile phone. So he understands that collaboration is a fundamental tenet of Journalism 2.0.

“In the future, we’re going to expand the user participation at the content production, either by cell phone or computer,” Queiroz wrote in his forum post. “I believe that the great change at the journalistic routine is to create and promote the user collaboration. This is the Web 2.0. The receiver is also a transmitter of information.”

Becoming a natural process

Melissa Becker is a newspaper reporter in Porto Alegre, south of Brazil. She says the digital age has ushered in positive changes for her news organization, Zero Hora; as the tools are getting more familiar, the journalists are able to explore better ways to use technology.

“Newspaper’s reporters get used now to take pictures with a mobile and send the images from the news local to website’s staff post it some minutes later,” Becker wrote in her forum post. “Our story published on paper could be better, more complete with exclusive online contents. Readers’ texts posted in our blog get more readers when published in our weekly supplement. We are working at the contents online that could ‘link’ to the daily paper and vice-versa, and it’s becoming a natural process.”

Becker thinks change came a little late when compared to the U.S. or Europe but once they arrived in the form of a new web site, “it changed our way to work faster than I’ve imagined.” And while she feels it’s becoming a natural process, she writes that “everybody here is still learning this different journalism.”

A revolution

Alejandro Torres is an editor at eluniversal.com.mx in Mexico City who is learning this different journalism by doing it. He receives photos by phone from his reporters, who carry mobile phones to record video and take pictures. “After typing their stories, they go to TV department to edit and produce videos,” Torres wrote in his forum post. “Before all that, all reporters publish breaking news.

“Ufff!!! I am describing a complete different world. And the major changes have occurred in the last five or six years, but the last three years have been a revolution for many of us.”

Don’t forget to pray

Silvana Santiago, a reporter at www.lanacion.com.ar in Buenos Aires, believes the change is just starting. She remembers experiments as recent as a couple of years ago, like one that invited readers to send photographs of their neighborhood problems, that have become common practice (like the ability to comment on news stories). But, she notes, the road for this new technology is not always smooth.

“Even in the ‘mobile era,’ there’s a need to be ‘plugged in,’ because if you have to cover something live outside the newsroom it is still difficult to do it carrying the laptop, the cell phone, the camera, the passwords, and all the digital paraphernalia,” Santiago wrote in her post. “Not to mention the praying that starts from the very moment you leave the newspaper: ‘Let the Internet access work, let the Internet access work…’”

I predict I will learn as much – if not more – from the students as they will from me over the next four weeks.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply