Does Cultural Journalism have a future in Spain?
Five experts in the field analyze the current situation and invite to be optimistic.
Journalism is going through difficult times because of the economic crisis, and in Spanish newspapers the cultural section is suffering more than others. “In culture we have always fewer pages, and this is the section most sacrificed,” said Manuel Llorente, the Cultural Editor at El Mundo. He was one of the professional journalists that participated to the conference about Cultural Journalism, hosted last Tuesday, April 16, at the cultural centre of El Matadero in Madrid.
The conference was the third one of a cycle of lectures about journalism called Ciclo Periodismo y Periodistas, organized by the Spanish Journalists Federation, the IPECC, a Spanish entity focused in Culture, Communication and Audiovisuals, and the press agency EFE. The aim is to analyze and clarify the current situation, finding possible innovative solutions for the future of this profession.
In front of an audience of 120 participants, many of them young journalism students, César Antonio Molina, the former culture minister and director of The Reader’s House at El Matadero, started the event as moderator, willing to inspire hope in future young talents through an optimistic look to the future of cultural journalism. “We need to encourage people towards journalism because this is a profession that has worth,” he said.
Despite the invitation to the optimism, the conference and the debate that followed were characterized by concern for the future.
Borja Hermoso, the Culture Editor at El País, pointed out how the change in people’s habits is affecting journalism, saying that “current journalism is like a piñata for children: we are just waiting that something comes out.“ His concern was above all referred to the journalism’s transition to the digital, and he concluded his speech by suggesting to “blow up journalism, and start from scratch.” How? Creating something “more complex and deep.”
On the same wave was the intervention of Jesus García Calero, Culture and Entertainment Editor in ABC newspaper. “Our business model is what fails, because is still too related with print version,” he said. The reality is that everything is changing fast, and journalism is suffering for this change; but at the same time there are positive elements, as the larger number of reachable readers, increased thanks to internet and new devices. The challenge is to engage readers, capturing their attention as fast as possible and giving them great stories.
“As cultural journalists we are like in a labyrinth: we need to find the right path and meanwhile produce good information,” García Calero said.
But there was also someone who has more hopes for the future of cultural journalism: Mario Moros, cultural journalist at Cuatro TV. He made the audience smile with amusing and entertaining metaphors on the importance of the role of culture. “People ask me where come from my different look on things. I answer them that it’s because I am myopic and I need to get very close to see things. Culture gives you this option too,” he said. Despite changes and economic difficulties, for him it’s important to not renounce to the height and the quality of news provided: “we can not change the eyes, but we can try to change the look.”
Ramón García Pelegrín, the Cultural Editor at Cadena Cope and collaborator in La Linterna, was the last speaker. In his opinion, despite of the difficult economic situation, future prospectives are not so bad. “We don’t have to forget that 800,000 people visited the Dali exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, that tickets for the Rolling Stones’ concert were sold out in seven minutes,” he said. Culture plays an important role in the society, and not all hopes seemed to be lost. “
A brief debate followed the intervention of these five journalists, carried on by the moderator with a nostalgic remembrance about past journalism. “Prestige was the way to get pages in culture in my time,” he said. “There are many people who consider themselves as journalists without being. I do not know if it’s good or bad, but it’s the reality.”
“But what is a real journalist?” asked a girl sitting in the first lines, beginning with time for questions from the audience. “You learn to be journalist practicing,” said Ramón Garcia Pelegrín. All the guests seemed to be agree with him and the fact that if in the last years Masters in Communication have been created, it means that these are the channels to enter in the journalistic field professionally.
But not always studying is the solution. “We lost our job as journalists,” said a girl as spokesman for two other girls sitting to her side. “The problem now is that we cannot find a real job, but only internships less paid or unpaid to do the same job of a “normal” journalist. What could we do?” The question, that touched a weakness and sensitive point, caught the attention of the public, while it seemed make trouble for the five journalists.
“I think the only thing you could do is follow with a specialization like a Master in Social Media,” said the Cultural Editor of Cadena Cope, generating an obvious disappointment in the public and in the three young girls.
Manuel Llorente, who remembered the importance to be different and to find new and different way, clarified: “Like with the story of the shipwreck in Colombia and the castaway who had been saved spending days alone in the sea. Everyone had already read that story, but Garcia Marquez found a way to tell it in a different way and to make it the subject for a book.”
The situation for cultural journalism is a difficult and dark one, often still too tied to the memory of the past and unwilling to change to innovate. The hope is in all those young people attending the conference that despite everything still dream to become one day good journalists.