To the rescue of our “background”

In my early years of reporterism, the record files were imperative to be able to offer the reader the most appropriate context of the news.

We did not presume to suppose that the reader knew, from beginning to end, the details of an event. We had to quote its origins or causes, place and time so that it did not lack complementary information, and this was solved with one or two paragraphs of strict synthesis.

Back then, this background, was for us the editors, the best and most reliable tool for quoting antecedents or previous elements that would permit the reader to have a point of view as thorough as possible of the history or event reported.

Between a while ago and this day, as the text formats were reducing, in the tenor of the new tendencies to synthesize to the maximum the news in an era in which the image and the video are predominant and preferred by the audiences, the resource of the “background” seemed to go into decline.

Contemporary readers or users of the media, whether print or audiovisual, are often looking forward to evolve, without so much enthusiasm for the legacy ways, and this may explain why contextualization does not matter too much.

But now I perceive signs that come to show that, in reality, modern media users accept and appreciate the antecedents and do not just throw them away, as we believed.

The most eloquent example is the acceptance of publications dealing with data, the set of statistical or historical elements that contextualize a news episode and constitute a rich source for knowledge.

The website “Ojo publico”, from Peru, is a model of innovation in the matter of rescue of our “background”. At the last general assembly of the Press Association in Salt Lake City, Utah, this team earned two awards for journalistic excellence.

One of them was earned for the category of environmental journalism, with a graphic and textual report of a road that cuts the heart of the Amazon, and another one of photography on the slaves of the gold fever, both supported in antecedents that connect to current realities.

They had already had another resounding success in promoting research on indigenous massacres and acts of corruption from the past, which because of the speed with which information is diffused, they had to leave many core details in the subsoil of the news.

The success of this modality was so palpable that being a digital site, they decided to make tabloid impressions of these investigations, revalorizing the paper support and, more than anything, the relevance of the antecedents and the contextualization.

This is a good message to the editors of the present, who often forget the parting point of a story as they keep working on it on a daily basis or frequently enough, leaving the reader wondered about how, when, where and why this or that episode occurred.

The past never ceases to be hold value, either as a reference to the root of a problem or as a lesson of how not to make mistakes in the present or the future because, according to the axiom, history always repeats itself. And that’s why we stumble twice.

Translated from spanish by Randy Rodriguez.