Engaged Journalism: Understanding the Adaptation of Media Practices to Changes in the Sociopolitical Context

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 19:30
Oral Presentation
Debora MOURA MEDEIROS, Free University of Berlin, Germany
This study focuses on the media practices actors engaged in the alternative coverage of protests movements perform, create or adapt, as conditions on the ground and the political context change.

Drawing from the methodological resources of grounded theory, such as expert interviews, I analyzed the case of the protests that took place in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, during 2013 and 2014, a period that captures various changes in the country’s sociopolitical context between the first protests during the Confederations Cup in 2013 and the demonstrations during the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

The actors I interviewed were experienced former newsroom journalists, freelance photographers, students, activists. In common, most of them had a formal education in media, a loose network of personal relationships to each other and to social movements, and a strong will to cover events beyond the criminalizing representations provided by Brazilian traditional media.

I generated a theoretical model based on the experiences relayed by the interviewees, encompassing a broad spectrum of practices, from protection practices against police violence to newsgathering practices amid increasingly repressive conditions. All the while actors sought to establish non-hierarchical decision-making structures and forms of relating to social movements as partners and main sources of information in their coverage.

As alternative media and protest movements continue to rise in importance all over the world, I hope this study provides the basis for further analysis of these phenomena from a perspective grounded in practice theory instead of the more frequent techno-centric viewpoint. Through their media practices, actors are formulating new understandings of how journalists and media practitioners should relate to the various sources around them and to principles such as neutrality and information verification.