Journalism in crisis? Journalism has a key role to play, but must adapt to technologies

04 | 03 | 2024

19 | 02 | 2024

  • Journalism in crisis: the Foundation brings together five journalists and a technologist to analyze the situation and the future of the sector in the AI era.
  • The figure of the journalist will continue to be fundamental to verify and be a reliable source in the face of the exponential content and disinformation on the web, concluded the panel of speakers at the conference.

The media are in crisis, but journalism continues to play a fundamental role and the sector must adapt to technologies and evolve to reach all audiences. This was one of the conclusions shared by the panel of participants at the conference: Journalism in crisis? In wich have participated as speakers the deputy director of El Mundo, Juan Fornieles, the director of Valencia Plaza, Javier Alfonso, the director of Radio Valencia Cadena Ser, Bernardo Guzmán, the director of Radio Televisión Española in the Valencia Region, Arantxa Torres, the founding president of Innsomnia, Rafa Navarro, and the technologist Elena Yndurain.

Moderated by the Foundation’s director of communication, Laura Torrado, the aim of this meeting was to reflect on and shed light on a sector, especially that of the written press, which is going through a long period of crisis. In the words of the executive president, Javier Quesada, who opened the conference, “I believe that we are going through a critical moment, we have gone from reduced information to a world where networks fragment information”.


Media companies vs. journalism

In this context, the first to speak was the deputy director of El Mundo, Juan Fornieles. The format in which he works, printed, is precisely one of the most affected by the media crisis and the emergence of digital, but in spite of this, for him, “Print journalism continues to be a source that feeds the rest of the media. The influential readers in this country still want to see themselves in printed press, and that’s how we survive”.

Although he does not ignore the decline of the printed press, he believes that there is still a connection with readers that allows it to continue to have a future. Moreover, “The printed world achieves a different approach to the reader. It differentiates opinion from information more than digital media. The way of dealing with information is very different and that is the strength of the print media. If you already have a print media, you have a diamond. I am not going to bury print journalism”.

For Javier Alfonso, director of Valencia Plaza “In 2008 I predicted that in 2013 there would be no more paper newspapers, so as a visionary I have no future. The key to the survival of the paper model is the pdf format, because the paper product is a closed format that is different from the digital one. The newspaper is a closed product, and many people of a middle-aged generation still have that habit”.

However, Alfonso launched an important reflection, and that is that the Internet has become an “amalgam” of things that generate a lot of confusion, “Anyone sets up a platform that calls it a newspaper or the tiktok phenomenon, that there are several youth initiatives that make a newspaper, but in reality it is not journalism, because they take the news from other media and they transmit it with the language of young people. But that is not journalism, they do communication. Journalism in general is not in crisis because there are still some very good professionals, including young people. That journalistic vein is maintained, the problem is to make it profitable”.

The RTVE delegate in the Valencian Community, Arantxa Torres, prefers to be optimistic, “it is true that television has a limiting component which is audiovisual, image, video, and the problem we are facing is that we have ceased to be content producers. Therefore, our role is to contextualize information, to clarify that information, in the face of the multiplicity of channels and the quantity of information”. And in this sense, he emphasized that “There is a content crisis, but we must insist on being good professionals and credible sources, so that citizens have quality sources”.

Referring to the title of the reflection, Bernardo Guzmán, director of Radio Valencia Cadena Ser in the Comunitat Valenciana, said that “journalism itself is not in crisis, because it is a value for democracy, although there are threats, the problem is that journalistic companies are clearly in crisis. And this is an undeniable problem that can affect journalism”.

Technology and AI: threat or opportunity?

Guzmán was also optimistic about the contribution of technology, “I believe that technology, like the industrial revolution, should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat, and although AI can have many factors, I see it as an opportunity. In radio, all technological advances have offered us advantages. For example, the great advance in the world of radio has been digital, and thanks to this the medium is no longer ephemeral. Now it can be listened to on demand, it is not lost. So I would like to think that it will help us to improve a lot more.  In any case, Guzmán believes that radio continues to provide a benefit that other media have lost, and that is the capillarity combining local, regional and international “is a strength, as long as it is viable as a journalistic enterprise”.

The journalist, and now dedicated to the world of the company Innsomnia, Rafa Navarro affirms that we are not in a crisis, but in a transformation, “That it scares us, yes, that we are moving towards a new world, of course. Whoever knows how to adapt will have a good outlook, yes, but this is not only in journalism, but in all sectors. As journalists, we must adapt, as in all sectors.

Navarro believes that print journalism will continue to exist, but the key, as several speakers said, lies in verification, “the journalist will have to pass the veracity machine and the one with the least bias will be the one with the most paper. The journalist as a consultant is essential to ensure that the information is understood, to make it comprehensible. In addition, the freedom of the citizen must be protected, which is what we must maintain.

The debate also featured a technologist, not a journalist, to contribute her vision from the perspective of technology, Elena Yndurain. For her, who has lived the digital sector from the inside, “There has always been mistrust of technology, I have seen it with all the technologies that have appeared, including now with AI, with the GPT Chat. It is a very useful tool. Technology has two sides of the coin, a very good side, analyzing information faster, but also a side that pushes the limits. In journalism you must be more technologists and more sociologists to know how our audience wants information. Technology has gone from being in the background, now it’s in the foreground.

Yndurain, however, did want to draw attention to one issue regarding AI and the new technologies derived from it: “We should learn from the past, for example, from social networks with fake news, etc., and AI will have to learn from that, because it also learns from what already exists. It is important to reflect on where we come from and avoid mistakes. We are training these algorithms with the information already generated”.

In short, and as a conclusion to all the reflections of this conference, technology must be used to improve journalism and journalistic companies. Beyond formats, which will evolve to adapt to new needs, journalists will continue to play a fundamental role, perhaps more than ever in an era of exponential information, in the verification of information and the positioning of reliable sources.