The future journalism is collaborative

By Rayana Zapryanova

Lucia Mesquita is a Jolt researcher whose research is focused on Collaborative Journalism. She aims to understand how collaborations work in practice, what are the best practices for collaborative journalism, and how various stakeholders perceive collaborative journalism.

Collaborations are usually done when the investigating process has bigger requirements than a media outlet can deliver alone. Right now, for example, some of the biggest collaborations are in the area of misinformation and disinformation. Collaborations of this type bring together different media organisations, universities and even advocacy organisations – usually because a single organisation does not have enough capacity or expertise to investigate the subject on its own. 

One such example is the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which includes around 900 journalists from different parts of the world who check videos, audio, pictures and articles. They translate content into more than 20 languages. These people work for specific organisations in their own country. Sometimes they share best practices, sometimes they offer to translate articles from various languages for the purposes of fact-checking. 

Another example is The Panama Papers which is a major ongoing investigation that revolves around big data and involves a network of journalists from around the world sharing information and data. Collaborative journalism is not limited to journalists. Sometimes specialists from other organisations are involved. For example, a media organisation in Amazonia might get information about wildfires from a non-profit institute that is focused on geo-localisations. Then the journalists would ‘translate’ that institute’s findings for the general public. This is an example of a multi-institutional collaboration. 

The third type of collaboration is between journalists and advocacy organisations. In Latin America, Lucia says, they have a lot of problems with violence against journalists. In addition to this, sometimes the government, various politicians and other authorities sue journalists for their reporting. The journalists look for protection by partnering with associations of lawyers. These are now in a big network that is built in the spirit of collaboration.

To sum it up, journalistic collaboration can be done with any other party, be it a third party or another media organisation or another type of institution – academic, NGO, advocacy, etc.

Lucia is producing a podcast that will discuss the topic of her research. She hopes to use the podcast as a platform where ‘people would connect, see each other, see what the other is doing and what is possible to do with a collaboration’. 

She also aims to create a database of all organisations that are conducting collaborative investigations – what kinds of efforts are they doing, and what kind of specialist or expertise they have that could be shared with other organisations. According to Lucia, other journalists are excited about the idea because there’s no such database in Latin America. There isn’t much focus on Latin America in general when it comes to that and a database would offer support and best practice guidelines, among many other benefits.

Lucia was supposed to travel around various countries in Latin America, meet many organisations involved in collaborations and interview them, but because of the pandemic, she has had to change her methodology. She’s doing electronic surveys and online interviews now. 

She was able to get in touch with various media organisations and has sent interview requests to 500 organisations in Latin America. She has pointed out that it is difficult to get in touch with journalists in other countries in Latin America now due to the political situations there. 

“There are some quite amazing experiences,” Lucia says, “you couldn’t even imagine what’s going on there. People had to stop working because there was a shooting in the middle of the favelas [the poor communities]. They have to deal with this on a daily basis and they are doing this thanks to collaborations.”

The Jolt researcher realised while she was doing the literature review for her research, that there were many gaps in the literature when it comes to collaborative journalism. That motivated her even more because she felt she could find answers to many of the problems there but she didn’t have the evidence for that at the time. She is in the process of collecting data now and will soon start doing the analysis of the interviews and her online survey.

She has also written a paper about data journalism and collaboration in Favelas of Brazil, and she wrote four chapters in a book about Latin America that’s going to be released on May 25, in a collaboration with other Jolt researchers. She will also be presenting papers at the International Communication Association conference and wants to do more academic collaborations in the future.

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This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 765140