Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spanish Media Share

Innovative E-deas

By Jose Pagliery
FIU Student Journalist

As journalistic mediums evolve, the world may do well to pay more attention to innovative ideas from Spanish-speaking news companies.

In a one-hour presentation discussing the distribution of news, operational directors from four major Hispanic news organizations urged journalism to follow creative paths for gaining and holding readers and viewers.

Their specific advice: engage in unabashed experimentation with new forms of multimedia, including citizen journalism and sending breaking news through podcasts, cell phones and even faxes.

“We all had to adapt,” said José Iglesias Etxezarreta, editor for El Diario de Hoy’s Web site.

Adjusting, the publication increased the size of its online department and granted it more responsibility than what Etxezarreta called “simply cutting and pasting from print reporters.”

It doubled its staff. It gave them attention. And what did it get in return?

The site, owned by El Salvador’s leading newspaper, is now visited over 2 million times per day – a startling figure for a country with a population just shy of 7 million.

“We are the country, online,” said Etxezarreta, who ended up with a symbiotic relationship between two independent newsrooms.

Mario Tascón Ruiz, general content director of PrisaCom, argued that internet journalism must be given a different kind of attention if it is to reach its full potential.

“Is this a newspaper? No, it’s another medium,” Tascón said.

And it must be treated as such. Unlike daily print journalism, e-publications can now calculate reader traffic by the hour, providing advertising companies vital consumer information. Editors across the globe are also noticing the ease at which readers can now provide input for breaking news.

“Readers are no longer passive,” warned Guillermo Riera, digital media director at La Nación.

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Whereas newspapers simply provide readers news and features, the internet allows for a more interactive, public dialogue. By providing a regulated forum for public discussion, getting the news becomes a personalized, democratized process. And breaking news, many believe, will never be the same again.

Citizens in Spain now send (translates to “I reporter”) pictures, graphics, cartoons, and videos, many of which are almost simultaneously published online. All are part of the new age of digital storytelling.

Tascón sees the reporter of the future as a video camera-touting, microphone-wielding writer, hooked up to the internet at all times – a self-sufficient journeyman of multimedia. As an image of dinosaurs flashed across the screen, he described the changes in journalism as a fight for survival, ending in adaptation or extinction.

“Print is the news of yesterday. Online is the news of today,” Etxezarreta said.