Interview for Ohmynews: Brazilian Journalists Support Citizen Journalism

This interview below was first published by OhMyNews International in 2007-06-13.

Brazilian Journalists Support Citizen Journalism
[Interview] Pros encourage and guide more people to it

By Carlos Rix

Ana Carmen Foschini is a Brazilian professional journalist with an eye on citizen journalism (CJ). She and her friend Roberto Romano Taddei, also a professional journalist, have both co-written four books on the subject.

While searching within the subject proposed in the OhmyNews assignment mentioned in the article “OhmyNews Opens Research into Global Citizen Journalism” I came across Ms. Foschini and the work she produced together with Mr. Taddei on collaborative media.

In this interview they talk about blogs, podcasts, flogs/vlogs and citizen journalism. The full set is call “Conquiste a Rede” (in English — Conquer the Web) you may find them at her Web site — indeed very good material for the Portuguese-speaking community.

Ms. Foschini, could you tell OhmyNews readers about you and your work?

I am interested in communications as a whole and in a career more than 20 years long, I have always been close to new technologies and new ideas. I participate of the beginning of a lot of new projects, like MTV Brazil, where I worked as an executive producer. I have worked as radio and TV producer and as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines.

For the last eight years I have dedicated a lot of time and attention to Web projects and studies and right now I work as an editor for a newspaper in Sao Paulo, Metro, which belongs to an international media group that has just arrived in Brazil.

How did you become interested in CJ and how did you decide to write about it?

It was August 2005 when I and Roberto Taddei first began to talk about Citizen Journalism. We decide to write short guides for beginners about how to make blogs, videoblogs, photoblogs and news that would be an introduction to the virtual world. We have no intention to create technical tutorials. We believe that these tools are a cheap way to communicate, spread and exchange opinions, once you don’t need a lot of money to have your own communication vehicle. They allow different point of views and they don’t require a lot of money as broadcasting do. You just have to have knowledge. Knowledge makes all difference when we speak about publishing tools for the web.

As professional journalists, Roberto and I have the knowledge. We decided to share it because we believe that this can change the professional and personal lives of many that don’t have access to good schools and books. There are also a lot of people that don’t speak English and there was nothing about the subject in Portuguese. Brazil is a country of many contrasts: at one side, which constitutes the majority of the population, there is poverty, social exclusion, and scenery where so many have no future. On the other hand, Brazilians who are educated are heavy Internet users who love to interact and communicate by the web.

We decide to make these two different worlds closer by writing short books that are a complement to digital inclusion projects. They are useful as well as part of the bibliography of journalism classes for Portuguese speakers.

What is the response to the idea, to the books?

We released all four titles of the collection Conquer the Web licensed by Creative Commons. The titles are now spread in a number of address such as Agencia Brasil, the federal government news agency; Overmundo, and Creative Commons Brasil. Journalism graduate and postgraduate students read the books in Brazil and Portugal, where “Conquer the web” is a reference for academic papers. Less than a year after their release, the books are known both among blog and academic communities. I think this is a promising beginning still.

Do you think that professional journalists in Brazil see CJ as a problem for them?

First of all, most of Brazilian professional journalists don’t know what is CJ. There is a huge misunderstanding created by the word “citizen”. Some journalists think CJ as civic journalism, something related to political issues, which is a reduction. I don’t think they see CJ as a menace, maybe because they don’t think CJ is a thing to be taken seriously, maybe because in Brazil CJ is something that still is not that big.

The media professionals’ perception nowadays is that CJ is an innovation that a portal, a website or a newspaper website must absorb in order to be renewed. I see students and media academic researchers more worried about credibility of the content, veracity of the information and other issues related to CJ than professional journalists.

Is there real CJ in Brazil? Why?

I identify CJ in Brazilian blogs that are very much alive and full of exclusive content. Blogs break news and they also give voice to the other side of the news.

There is no such a thing as a Brazilian Ohmynews; the closest thing to it would be Overmundo, which is a collaborative project sponsored by Petrobras (a public oil company) and the Ministry of Culture, both related to the federal government.

“FotoReporter” and “Eu-Reporter” were both subjects of interviews here at OMNI. What would be your comments on those two information vehicles and their CJ proposal?

Well, FotoReporter and Eu-Reporter are both part of two traditional newspapers websites. I see them as part of an effort to renew this traditional newspapers’ presence in the web. The main focus is still the newspaper, not CJ. Anyway, I see them as a contribution, as a seed to something bigger in the future. There is one thing that stands out in both: publishing snap shots is easier than publishing articles. This can explain why in both initiatives images are the most interesting contribution.

Who is the best of the best concerning CJ in Brazil now a days?

Besides the Brazilian blogosphere, my guess would be Overmundo. As I said, I think in Brazil, CJ is alive in blogs.

When you go to websites like Orkut, a real fave in the country, I think it is clear that Brazilians like to write and express themselves. How do you see the future of CJ in Brazil?

Internet statistics in Brazil are amazing because apart from a huge number of persons that don’t have access to the web, Brazil leaders in the world scene in some aspects. According to the Ibope Net Ratings research numbers, Brazil is the country that spent more time in a month surfing at home — 20 hours and 4 minutes in November 2006. Brazil was ahead of France, the U.S. and Spain.

The statistics reveal a country that is crazy about web resources such as communication, social communities and instant messenger. I see this as a favorable ground to CJ. The main difficulty, besides digital exclusion, is the challenge to write and formulate ideas in a uneducated population.

Next June 27-30, OMNI is hosting an international Forum on CJ. What is your message to our readers, bearing that in mind?

Collaboration is an extraordinary experience that allows spiritual, intellectual, professional and personal growth. Citizen journalism makes cultural differences and geographical separation irrelevant when we talk about collaboration. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of something new and fresh. I hope we all contribute to its expansion.

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