Citizen journalism in Brazil | Bruno Torturra | TEDxLiberdade

Citizen journalism in Brazil | Bruno Torturra | TEDxLiberdade

Translator: Marcia Golfieri
Reviewer: Maíra Soares In the last few days,
or month, actually… I was trying to prepare something to say,
like a little script to follow through with TED’s
ruthless 18 minutes rule, but every time I tried to put something
together, I ended up more confused, tense and more insecure about the meaning of everything we did last year. So I think the best I can do
is to face the challenge, kind of like Mídia Ninja, meaning: live, dealing with the flow while it’s
happening, and not only inside my head, but in the narrative of
Mídia Ninja itself. But… at least I know how to begin.
Which is … I had been a journalist in more or
less conventional media for eleven years. I had been working at
TRIP magazine for eleven years. I had been a reporter, intern,
and in 2011, editor manager. I took over as manager
in the beginning of 2011 and in those eleven years I lost track
of how many interviews I did, how many people
I questioned, you know? And since last year, I don’t know,
for the past nine months, I lost track of how many
interviews I had to give. And there is something very strange
about this change of roles, which was this one question
almost every journalist asked me, always the first or second question:
“What you do, is it journalism?” And not only was it strange to me
because I am a journalist but because no one had ever
asked me that question before. And I gave different answers when they
asked me, “What you do, is it journalism?” They were all variations
of saying “Yes, sure”. But every time I had to think about it, and the answer in fact that I never said,
but elaborated by myself, in the end is not an answer,
but a question I would like to ask: “What is journalism, then?” if what we were doing isn’t journalism, or at least if there is still
any doubt whether what we did, or do up to today, is journalism. And I was interested
because it is a question I never saw being answered
in a satisfactory manner and I had never asked myself that
question while I was a journalist, while I made money as a journalist
working at a magazine. And today I realized, deep down,
that for the past three years – and I’ll be talking about
those three years – my job, without me even realizing it, was more
or less discovering what journalism is in the information age,
in a hyper-connected world. What is it to be a professional
that polishes, disseminates, and checks information in the Information Age,
in a hyper-connected society? What is it to be a mass
communications professional in the age where the press lost
monopoly over mass communication, in which media is an open term where everyone is a public communicator, where everybody produces
and disseminates information? What differentiates journalism then? The most interesting thing was
to answer that question in practice, not only in theory. Then I remember, I think everybody
that helped me build Mídia Ninja – and there weren’t few people – has some story to tell:
“My history began like this.” “I think that was the day when I felt that
I started on this path, in the network, to try to be a journalist
connected to a new philosophy.” My story will celebrate
three years next Saturday; it started precisely
on 2011’s Marijuana parade. For those who don’t remember,
it was a very interesting month that is not remembered enough, mostly from June on. It was a month with many
parades in São Paulo, and it began with a very interesting one;
that was the gathering for diverse people. Many don’t remember it, but
it was a very important day for me, because it represented for the first time
a rupture to the traditional way to summon people to
a successful parade in the country. It was a very well put meme,
much like a viral idea, that started as a joke,
but in fact became a movement that generated political consequences, even if very short. But
it represented a huge change, in my impression. In the following week, there
was the Marijuana parade, and I was there as
a traditional journalist. I was and still feel like
a very traditional journalist. I had my first smartphone in my pocket.
And my Twitter had, I don’t know, around 80 followers, and
I had made only about three posts. My Facebook account was entirely personal. I was there as a chief editor
who wanted to cover the parade. I was going to produce an article
a month later, take some pictures, interview some people,
and write a conventional report. When the parade started,
the police showed up much like during last June’s protests: aggressive, with bombs and gas. It was the first time I was
assaulted by the military police. It was the first time
I inhaled a lot of tear gas. But most importantly,
it was the first time my profession acquired an emotional
characteristic: it became immediate, live, and urgent. At that moment I no longer
felt like a magazine reporter. I simply wanted urgently to communicate with people in their homes. Especially because on my smartphone
I was reading the media saying that the police were there only
to free the traffic on Paulista Avenue. I not only wanted to question all that, but I knew the power
of the “live” in that situation. Reporting it in a month or in
a week wouldn’t make sense. I began to use my Twitter account;
it was all I had, and my phone’s camera. When I got home, I saw that
my posts had been used as a reference by several different networks
to make their stories. And from fewer than 100 followers,
at that moment I had almost 3,000. I felt something very intense. So relevant regarding what was
happening, that I wrote an article. A first-person report
on the police repression. In a matter of hours,
70,000 people had seen it. Twenty-four hours later, 250,000. In eleven years of work,
I had never been so popular. But most importantly, I had never felt such crucial
importance in my work. And that’s when it started to spread,
as activism in a really deliberate way, because it was through social
communication, through this awareness that the hyper-connected world was
a journalistic boundary to be explored in a deliberate manner. The group “Fora do Eixo” gave me a call. I had written an article
about them and we, along with the groups that
organized the Marijuana parade, organized a parade
for the following week. My role was no longer
traditional journalism. My role was to promote that parade
through factual reports, not fiction. What happened then? A big twist of fate. Livestream was just beginning in the
country, and they offered me a backpack that was capable of live transmission,
able to stream. And I said, I’d never done one,
and I had never seen one. And they said, “Don’t you want to stream?” I said, “Sure! Let’s do it!” They gave us the equipment, which was very expensive and very
sophisticated back then, and I was live. For six and a half hours, Claudio Prado
and I were covering this parade: Freedom Parade in all senses. And once again, when I got home,
90,000 people had seen me. It was not only shocking,
but at that moment it was clear that there was a very clear boundary
to be explored with streaming, with the technological
possibilities that were opening, with something that
in the following years resulted in the beginning of Mídia Ninja in 2013: that was the “PosTV,” that is,
a network of streamers, people transmitting live
around the whole country. That’s the main aspect that I believe
makes the creation of Mídia Ninja unique compared to a conventional
communication network, to the point where people question
if our work is actually journalism. The perception was that there
is not only a technological boundary but also a cultural boundary. What the age of information
means to me, the age of hyper-connectivity, is that
journalism as an activity itself, the media as an activity itself, starts to become a cultural phenomenon,
and no longer a niche phenomenon, not only done by a part
of the society that does a job and gets paid. It turned out to be part of a generation.
Maybe, we predicted that making media through a new journalistic way would become a movement
to mark our generation. Personally, I was very conflicted. I made my living in conventional media, and was trying to build
a different media, an alternative. But the decision I was meant to follow
became very clear by the end of 2012, when the idea of Mídia Ninja came up. The name Ninja came up
in a very peculiar way. I needed to make money.
I had to make money and wanted to make money
possibly by living in this new world. There wasn’t a good solution;
the “PósTV” had consolidated itself as a very low audience channel, but
a lot of construction and real relevance for those who were making it. But my desire was to explore
mainly the journalism and we were discussing
the idea of narrative. What does narrative mean,
for that matter? We say this word a lot, but
we think very little about what it means. We live in a world that is really
a sea of information, right? Something we used
to have a profound shortage of – before the Internet and
especially before social networks – then directly to a world
with vast information, where it may also become noise, right? From a desert we arrived
at an information flood. So, what is narrative for us? Narrative is how you structure this
information, how you tell the facts, and what kind of idea you will build, since the isolated fact
has little relevance from a perspective where
every moment people have access to infinite new information. We realized that, more than a war between different media
there was a war of imagination, of what kind of society we live in. From the other side, the side of
conventional media, I felt with myself – and much more than just with me because
I had an interesting mission to achieve; I felt very optimistic and still do – I saw my colleagues in a much more
serious crisis than the financial crisis that the big media vehicles are in,
severely nowadays: an existential crisis. What is the meaning of this work? People, journalists becoming
more cynical every day, and the public more and more skeptical. There was something new to be done. People had to understand somehow that citizen journalism isn’t just a term, and
it isn’t just a buzzword. It means how to be a citizen nowadays; it is at least to know how
to behave like a journalist. The name Ninja shows up precisely with
the intention to be sufficiently “pop,” to represent this cultural movement. This movement, that
I believe is generational and not a market movement, simply, is how you try to solve the media problem. The willingness to be “pop,” was
simply to have a catchy name but that also meant something. Ninja was the suggestion of a friend,
Debora Pio – giving her the credit. She said that it had to be something
“Ninja like.” I said, “Ninja is perfect!” It fits with the independent narratives,
the journalism, and the action! The fact that the journalist
is not just a news gatherer, but he really interacts with
the world, seeing journalism as, first of all, recovering its
social function, its origins. That it is not about making money,
not only to be a business, not to sell ads and be viable. Journalism shows up as a
political profession, first of all, an essential duty for you to put together
something that is increasingly important, which is establishing a common
place for public dialogue. To be able to stimulate what
the Internet allows us to achieve there, which is the collective conscious
that is more and more lucid and more and more informed. Mídia Ninja appeared
with very few pretensions to become such a phenomenon so fast. No one could predict June, but
we knew there was something in the air. Many people believed Mídia Ninja was created to cover the protests. Mídia Ninja, however, was
created for something else, but the protests ended up
representing it very well. That other something was trying
to convince the journalists that what is in crisis is the business
model, not journalism itself. Trying to get this generation
of young communicators who were born with the Internet, who were
already born feeling like communicators, who do not see journalism as
something separate from their lives, and mix these two together. Perhaps most importantly
would be to offer the public something there is a demand for,
with a high expectation, which is a change to the narrative,
another way to produce information. The June protests not only catapulted us
to this fame, not because we were too big, but because we were nationally very
articulate, a product of the PósTV’s work and particularly a product of the
extreme organizational capacity and coverage of “Fora do Eixo.” But also because I think we underestimate June
as simply a political phenomenon. I think that as much as it is a political
phenomenon, or more in fact, it is a communication phenomenon. If you were on the streets in June,
and you can still go today, you can see literally more signs
criticizing the TV network “Rede Globo,” the newspaper “Folha de São Paulo,”
than Governor Alckmin, for example, who was possibly the one most responsible
for the police violence that led so many people to the street. I think at that moment
we proved our thesis, not because we became a pop phenomenon, but because we’ve touched on an
essential point: challenging the media regarding the production and
dissemination of information and questioning what is journalism
from the point of view of a generation, from the viewpoint of a cultural movement
that can define not only our time, but be crucial for us in
handling this century. It appears to be something pretentious
to talk about the century, but this is precisely what I’d like
to mention at the end of my talk. I think we still do not realize
that we are hostages of the rigid industrial mindset
of the twentieth century. What internet represents is not
just a paradigm shift; is not just a technological, economic, commercial paradigm shift, right? Or simply of communication? It is in fact our species paradigm shift. For the first time, we managed
to build a communication network that turns us into a super organism. And it happens simultaneously
with the biggest challenge of our history as a species, which is in fact a planetary crisis
of a virtually infinite complexity, where only collective emerging
and decentralized solutions but made in a convergent way,
– and only a communication system perfectly integrated
in this world is able to do it – journalism turns into an absolutely
fundamental civil activity. Absolutely crucial so we can
not only motivate debate, but also answer,
“What is in fact journalism?” “What is journalism?” The best answer I got after these months,
which actually feels like a lifetime, is that the journalist’s role,
before anything else, is the expansion of awareness, the expansion of public awareness. And if we do not expand our public
awareness as quickly as possible and in a more lucid manner – well informed as possible and not only
independently, but interdependently – we’ll have a century, closing
and speaking of the century, a not very desirable century. But I’m absolutely optimistic, I think we are living in the childhood
of this whole process and that’s how I close my talk, saying that the Power of Together
for me is just that: The construction of this collective
consciousness and the ability that we have not only to communicate
but to create solutions emerging, complex solutions to the problem
that, at end, belongs to us all as well. Thank you!


  1. Post
    Lopez Mario

    Very interesting.  Where can I find more information on LIVE STREAMING?  I live in Chile and we need this too.  Please let me know.


  2. Post
    Said Baixo

    This is a leftist under government orders. Midia ninja is not journalism, is a trending activism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *