HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago, I met with two renowned bloggers and the journalist of an official newspaper. Sparks flew during our conversation, even though these individuals are from the same generation and concurred on the changes that Cuban journalism requires today.
The mutual reproaches in the debate surprised me. One side questioned the silence of the press on issues of interest to the public and the other cast doubt on the convenience of publishings posts with “incendiary” news.
It brought to mind a diatribe against bloggers recently written by a Cuban colleague of mine. They are “like flamethrowers that burn that which they hope to improve to a cinder,” concluded one of the architects of the type of journalism that exists in Cuba today.
He tried to be categorical, insisting that “a certain type of critique today, particularly that in the blogosphere, is bewildering because it is characterized by loudness. In stylistic terms, this refers to the curtness of words and a sensationalist one.”
They say it is always easier to spit on those below us. That may explain why those who attack bloggers today never once wrote an article criticizing the censorship that transformed the Cuban press into an automaton incapable of taking a single step without permission from “above.”
Even President Raul Castro publicly criticizes the acritical and flattering content of Cuban journalism. People on the street mockingly say that food only appears on the evening news and the cinema makes us laugh with a short film showing an involved editorial process at a newspaper.
Young bloggers and journalists cannot learn much from this “style” of doing things. Alfredo Guevara used to say that one of the great problems facing Cuban journalism is that the new generations have no paradigms to follow.
The very crisis facing the model, however, offers us an opportunity to create something new, at a time when the world is changing in search of a language more in keeping with new technologies and the characteristics of human beings in the 21st century.
Trying to sow divisions among journalists and bloggers runs counter to the fusion that takes place in cyberspace. Professional journalists will inevitably have to co-exist with citizen journalism and it is up to us to turn this challenge into an opportunity.
The young people struggling for an improved journalism should welcome the pressure that the blogosphere brings to bear on those who manage the media. By speaking about issues that the press remains silent on, they turn censorship into a tool as inefficient as it is archaic.
Bloggers, however, must be aware that the decisive battle to better inform the nation is being waged by journalists. They are the ones in the media – the radio, television and newspapers – which reach the majority of people.
It would also be unjust to divide journalists into young and old, because we find people who are looking towards the future, and those stepping on the footsteps left behind by others to avoid setting off a mine, in both groups.
If it’s a question of looking back at the past, then there is much to be learned from the critical thought of Julio Garcia Luis. How much progress could have been made had he been listened to, rather than pushed to the margins of the Association of Cuban Journalists, in the 1990s.
It is a question of ceasing to act like firefighters who are fearful of any spark that flies and to make a new form of journalism flourish, creating a space for everyone, where Jose Marti and Julio Garcia Luis are held up as examples of individual courage and professional keenness.
Those who begin to trace this path will surely make mistakes. The press will continue to say less than it should as it begins to free itself from its demons and bloggers will sometimes stick their foot in it, as they learn a trade best developed through practice.
Some bloggers are already brilliant communicators and there are excellent bloggers among journalists. The blogosphere gives citizens a voice and press professionals a space that the media had never offered us.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Eduardo Galeano are two of the best journalists our continent has known. They were the “intruders” of the 20th century who demonstrated that good journalism relies more on audacity and talent than on degrees and PhDs.