Journalists and academics in Brazil discuss ethics in the digital age during international colloquium

By Sebastiao Albano

Hundreds of journalists and academics gathered this week in Natal, Brazil for the Second International Colloquium on Structural Changes in Journalism (or MEJOR, in Portuguese) to discuss the impact of new technologies on professional ethics and identities.

Hosted on May 7 through 10 at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) -- an enormous public institution operating in a state where the media are controlled by a small group of individuals -- MEJOR was “an opportunity for American and European scholars to get together and think about journalism in times of apparent press freedom,” said Maria Érica de Oliveira Lima, a communications professor at UFRN who has written several articles on the media landscape in Natal, in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

De Oliveira considered that the issue of journalistic identity is one of the most important discussions today because technology has drastically changed the role of a journalist and “transformed the traditional idea of a reporter into a comic book character.”

And while a new set of commitments and duties is emerging, it is important for this new generation of journalists to remain committed to reporting the truth with accuracy, De Oliveira said. As University of Iowa journalism professor Jane B. Singer said in her opening lecture, “the only thing that identifies a real journalist nowadays is ethics.”

During a roundtable discussion, a group of panelists said they were confident that journalists will eventually learn to cope and adapt to the challenges brought by new technologies. Professors Zélia Leal, Kênia B. Maia and Maria Luisa Humanes reflected on the ability journalists have shown throughout history to change their routines and learn to use new tools.

“Journalists are accustomed to changes and transformations,” Leal said. “The fax, computers, mobile devices, and now the Internet, are all the same thing.”



Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.