A reflection by Sergio Baraldi on the change in attitude of Italian journalism with respect to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. From sensationalism to mediatic responsibility.
Accused on the web and on social networks of presenting a catastrophic narrative of the coronavirus epidemic, journalism must face up to the need to rethink its identity. The Covid-19 epidemic appears to have initiated a change in the profession which hitherto embraced the logic of sensationalism, over-dramatization, and personalisation that has still not prevented the decline in sales and advertising revenue. The traditional function of an intermediary between events and the public which entered into crisis – with the advent of new communication technologies, the Internet, and especially social media after 2000 – could return in a new form. Disintermediation could yield to a new re-intermediation.
Journalism will have to reinvent mediation in the new information scenario. In a society where there is a plethora of information, a plurality of channels, and where inter-connected audiences have acquired a stronger power of choice, new skills, and the demand for new social protagonism is increasing, mediation must acquire different characteristics. An expectation not of a pedagogical and political orientation seems to be emerging, influential in the tradition of the Italian press, but with the need for a cognitive and reflective map to help orientate the reader in an increasingly complex, dense, and therefore more difficult to decipher, society.
The business model will also need to be revised. But the new mediation will also need the ability to change the relationship with the public who now have new rights. The new mediation must take place in constant interaction with individuals, in a process of continuous change and adaptation. In this context, the issue of ethics of the profession becomes decisive and values such as responsibility, credibility, participation of individuals and transparency play a central role. Journalism will have to decide whether to be a factor of fragmentation, as it has been in recent years, or of integration. The coronavirus epidemic thus presents itself as an opportunity for the reorganization of the relationship between journalism and democracy.
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