External contribution

Journalism is dead, long live journalism!

- What is it to be a journalist today?
- I can’t really answer that, I left the profession(1) 7 years ago… but I can testify from my experience.

I worked in radio for 12 years in the biggest private radio and television company in the country (direct competitor of the public service). I was practical: I could be put in almost any position. I started by presenting the weather, then the flashes and the newspapers. I was also a reporter in the field. From institutional press conferences to news stories, through the « marronniers » (recurrent subjects treated each year by the media, such as sales or the beginning of the school year), I covered a variety of subjects: a trial at the assizes, floods, winter marauding… as well as political and international subjects (but without ever going abroad)

To tell the truth, today, few of the subjects I have dealt with come to mind… mostly because of the lack of interest from and for these subjects. This can also be explained by the fact that I had the feeling at one point of being an information machine (we read, we digest quickly and we spit it out), of consuming subjects and sometimes oversimplifying them to fit into the dictatorial framework of timing (« An interview is a maximum of 40 seconds »). All this for what? Supposedly so that « Jocelyne de Charleroi feels concerned ». But has Jocelyne ever been? Who is to define what she wants, wishes to see and hear?

The policy of levelling down, especially in the choice of subjects (when they are not spokespersons, what real role of information — in the sense of « educating about something » — do the mainstream media still have?), greed and stinginess of the employer (« always more with less »), precarious contracts, lack of transparency (which could exacerbate competition among employees) and sometimes of humanity… I saw and lived the other side of the coin during 12 years. When I left the company, I could claim to be the oldest freelancer who had never been fired or contracted (all other freelancers had either been fired at some point or hired), what a privilege! That being said, there are also good memories, and a few colleagues who help you smooth out the daily grind.

I still believe today that journalism is a beautiful profession. Among its facets: that every day can be an opportunity to learn and share what we have learned with others. It is also an opportunity to broaden one’s vision of the world or of a reality, whether it is close to home or far, far away from where one comes from. But what those who work for the politics of the mainstream media (whose shareholders) do to the profession kills the nobility of the profession.

As I grope my way back to journalistic writing today (through this testimonial article), I realize my denial, the illusions I’ve held onto all these years. I liked to believe that I was free and objective within the editorial line that was given to me. I also thought I was doing my bit by proposing to deal with subjects that are less easy, more complex or far from the daily concerns of the average listener. But it was all soup. Even when prepared and garnished with the best of intentions, it is still soup. I served it for years… to enrich a private European group. I am not ashamed to write it; my lucidity almost warms my heart today.

Yes, objectivity is a lure. Nothing and no one is neutral, and even less so as a journalist. Only by clinging to the facts can one hope to be so, but this imposes the question of who gives the facts (what are the sources? If everyone has the same sources, how is the so-called objective information made?). There is also the choice of subjects by the editorial staff (which criteria prevail?), their hierarchies (what will be put in the headline, in the spotlight?), the timing (the time devoted to this subject rather than another)… all these factors are subjective and we ourselves, as human beings, are a subjective filter of the reality we see, observe, describe. Don’t we say that the observer influences what is observed?

Once the objectivity of the journalist has been discredited, it remains to reenchant the profession, to reinvent itself. But before that, questions come to me: When did I fall asleep? When do we decide to keep quiet? To give up and accept to level down? It is pernicious… In my experience, we let ourselves be « formatted » slowly, to be literally eaten by the company. Thus, as we go along, our critical spirit is lost or exhausted. We accept, we trivialize, we smooth ourselves, we are indifferent… to become cold, automatic and rigid, like a robot or a machine. And then, by dint of ranting and raving (such as contesting the legitimacy of certain subjects(2) or working conditions), one either becomes marginalized or wears oneself out. The choice remains to leave or to accept to merge with the company’s policy. I will have held on for 12 years, no matter what… 12 years of complicity. During this time, I’ve seen some sell their ideals for an anchor seat, an editor’s chair or a more comfortable salary. There are some who dreamed of being a war reporter and ended up in a glass cage that served as their office. When the ego wins…

What about today? What about my willingness to remain curious? To denounce injustice?

What I want today is to be able to find my voice again, also to carry others, those who have little or no voice in the mainstream media.

What I wish to do today is to testify and to give an account of certain realities for those who live them and for those who are sometimes radically removed from them. Just tell them, « It exists. What do we do with it?

What I wish today is to be able to express myself with my heart (I am not a robot) and to be human to take into account the human.

And for that, you don’t need to be a journalist.

It is no longer a question of deluding ourselves: journalism is political. One can be a free and independent journalist, without a press card and without being listed under any banner (yes, this exists) while being committed to causes and with all one’s being.

No more hypocrisy, let’s assume! This is the least we can do to strive for honesty, if not so-called objectivity.

Mahé

Notes et références
  1. Je parle ici du métier de journaliste mainstream (massmédia) dans un monde de blancs (eurocentré).
  2. Parmi les critères, selon moi, qui fait qu’un sujet valait la peine ou non d’être illustré (c.-à‑d. faire l’objet d’un reportage), il y a la portée de ce sujet au-delà de la/des personne(s) concernée(s) : est-ce qu’il touche à quelque chose de plus macro ? Donne-t-il lieu à un fait de société ou est-ce purement anecdotique?
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