Last year, I attended Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at the Ohio State University learning and honing my digital journalism skills. Not only the course, the program was fantastic as I got to know a few brilliant people there. One of them is Manuel Moreno, from Spain. We became more brothers than friends and spend a brilliant week together. I feel privileged to know him as he has a devoted himself in technology and runs Trecebits – a popular portal and is expecting publication of his first book in 2014.
After we both returned to our homes, he wanted to publish an interview at Trecebits. I couldn’t speak Spanish so he took all the pain to send me English questions, translate my answers and publish it in the popular website. Since it’s in Spanish, I thought I would keep the English version in my blog. Here it is:
How do you think journalism has changed since Internet and social networks became popular on the newsrooms?
When I first joined in as an intern reporter in one of the daily newspapers in Nepal some 14 years ago, there were no computers at newsroom. There were Macintosh computers to design pages in designing section. Since then a lot have been changed. Now newsroom in Nepal can not be imagined without computers and media are slowly getting hooked with social networks.
At a few newsroom, social networks are still blocked at peak work hour but they are slowly getting popular as source of information.
The change that social networks have brought include sourcing information and promotion of the news items. Journalists in Nepal mostly use social network to get tips for news stories and share a lot of things they write.
How do you use them, in a professional way? Do you use them at job?
I do use them a lot personally. On the profession way, I use Internet and social media for various purposes. The main purpose is off course to keep up with what’s going on and what people are saying on the events happening.
It’s a great source of information and opinions on those information. That way, it also becomes a source of information – and at many times I have used the social media postings to tip the journalists for next stories.
The other professional use of the Internet and social media is verification and crowd sourced verification. Internet is a great tool to verify information, to dig deeper on people and events, and to find out background information. The social media is great for asking people to verify things and pull out contents.
Which social network, tool, do you prefer?
I prefer Twitter and Facebook. I use TweetDeck with nearly a dozen column, using filters and lists, to keep myself managed with Twitter timeline. Facebook is good for it’s most used social media platform in Nepal thus there is every chance to getting people you want there.
Digital or print… do we really have to choose?
Not really. They both are complimentary to each other. But I also feel that this is not a question that should matter to journalism or journalists. Because they are just platform to present the news. The better, easier and cheaper platform will dominate how the news is presented.
For us as journalists, we should focus on the future of journalism, not indulge in the question about existence of platforms.
Is it a new era for journalism? Is there future in journalism beyond Internet?
It’s indeed a new era of journalism. This is because we have a new powerful platform that we never had and this is going to change the way journalism and journalists work. The skills required for journalists, the immense possibility offered by the Internet as a platform of news presentation and the way audience receive and share in social media has changed a lot in the way journalism works.
Journalism always has a future. The emergence of the Internet is complimentary to the profession and it’s not alternative. Journalism emerged out of people’s need to understand and keep up with important information happening within a society, and it will remain to be such.
People will always look for information, difference perspectives and opinions of others. It’s just human nature and that Internet or even “citizen journalism” can’t completely fulfil.
Digital journalism is still looking for a way of monetization. Do you think that content should be free on Internet or the readers should be charged for the best articles?
Revenue generation is a big challenge for the digital journalism. The challenge should be met by contextual solutions. There is no universal solution. Of course some can sell the contents by charging the readers, but then if you are going to charge, you need to ensure that the contents are worthy and original. If same or similar content is available elsewhere for free, why would a reader pay for it. For some, advertising may be the solution, for some paywall may be the solution.
Overall, I feel like the basic contents should remain free on the Internet. Only exclusive content should be charged. By exclusive, I mean the content that are not available other place.
Technology has changed our job, but what typical journalistic takes should never change?
The basic principles, ethics and skills of journalists should never change. What I believe is that “good journalism is good for journalism” – even in today’s struggling period. The principles of accuracy, balance and credibility, the ethical standards such as unbiasedness and fairness and skills like news gathering, verification and priotarizing according to need of audience are the jobs that journalists should master and adhere by, more vigorously in the Internet era.
You live in a country where the main challenge is that the population have a real access to Internet, but what other challenges do you face at your job as a journalist?
Access to Internet is limited in Nepal. Only around 12 percent have the access on computer or related devices (excluding mobiles) and that too is limited in urban areas. This is the big challenge as digital journalist. Overall challenges for journalism in Nepal is lack of professionalism due to lack of trainings and skill development opportunities, lack of revenue thus very low wage for journalists (minimum wage fixed is around USD 110 a month which many of the journalists do not get), aggression on media (there are incidents of beating and threatening journalists almost every day) and impunity.
Do you believe in citizen journalism? Some people says that blogs are dead. Do you think so? What role played blogging in the recent history of your country?
I believe is citizen journalism but not as alternative to journalism but as a part of alternative journalism. Blogs are old, but not dead. During 2004, when I started blogging as one of the pioneer bloggers in my country, it was a ‘cool, trendy’ thing around the world.
In 2005, blogs were the only source of uncensored information in Nepal when the then King Gyanendra imposed military censorship in all newsroom after cutting Internet and telephones off for a week. Blogs led the fightback for democracy.
Even last week, there are an inhuman incident happening in eastern part of Nepal. Mainstream media somehow chose to ignore the incident completely, but a blog raised it to an extend that it got national attention. Mainstream media were forced to cover the event after a couple of days, and in a way help the victim to get justice.
Mainstream media are not enough always and at that time, blogs play crucial role in complimenting the journalism.