Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alma Guillermoprieto optimistic for digital journalism

New Yorker writer Alma Guillermoprieto believes that despite the collapse of big media companies, new forms of journalism are filling the gap. (Photo from El Informador)

“Online media have displaced the old technology of ink and paper,” she told an audience at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, where she gave the Julio Cortazar Lecture. “Will the long tradition of journalism collapse along with the big media companies?” she asked. “We´re facing a world so new that defies prediction, but I say no, on the contrary.”

The important thing for journalists to do in this crisis situation is to go back to the basics of gathering facts, and then “tell us what you see.”

Accounts of her talk in Spanish can be found at El Universal and El Informador.

Seated next to her on the dais was novelist Gabriel García Márquez, whose foundation funds the lecture. Her talk was titled, ”How to Be a Journalist and Not Die in the Attempt.“

Mexican journalists murdered
Guillermoprieto, a native of Mexico who has covered guerilla wars and drug violence in several Latin American countries, said she was disturbed by the number of Mexican journalists who have been assassinated and have disappeared in recent years. Drug violence and corruption have escalated especially in the past few months.

Covering this type of organized crime is extremely dangerous, she said. “In a war, a reporter can go into the trenches on the front lines and come out alive, perhaps; but those who cover the druglords go down into a dark tunnel where the bullets can come from any angle.”

On the subject of the new forms of online journalism, she said, “It will be up to the new generation of journalists to invent not only the new technologies but also the new ways of telling the tales of these times; they will describe some of the most frightening dramas that human beings have ever witnessed, but they will also have the privilege of telling of the adventures and exploits that people today have not yet imagined...

“....if they succeed in reporting on this new world in depth, with knowledge, without prejudices or corruption, phony patriotism or ideological leanings; if they place all their passion and all of their time into their work; if they succeed in telling stories accessible to everyone, they will help all the inhabitants of this planet to move forward, and the journalist´s profession will not die in the attempt.“

Informador has a short video of her remarks.

It was a real treat to see two of my favorite writers. I have long admired Alma´s work in the New Yorker. When I arrived for this lecture I had no idea that García Márquez would be coming. He made no remarks but waved to the crowd.

Snoozing with Gabo

Gabo seats himself at right angles to the audience with his chin in his hand and squints at the speaker, which allows him to pay close attention to what is being said as well as occasionally close the one eye visible to the audience and possibly sneak a snooze surrepetitiously. I thought I saw him drift off once or twice. He´s 80 and has written a bunch of great novels. He deserves a rest.

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