Personal Matters: a manifesto for DIG Festival 2019

15 May 2019

Today, the role of journalism in society is being called into question.

Declining trust, increasing fragmentation, rising censorship, disappearing business models, violent attacks waged on reporters: from Malta to the Philippines, all of these factors are challenging the function of journalism as a watchdog for democracy and undermining freedom of expression across the world.

It’s the end of an era. As we mourn it, we’re seemingly burying another of old media’s legacy axioms — one that we have chased for so long: objectivity, and the myth surrounding it.

In an increasingly polarised society, where censorship and political attacks challenge the work of whistleblowers and frontline reporters, the mission of journalism is expanding from the premise of solely ‘reporting facts’ to the act of ‘advocating for causes’. It’s not shameful anymore for journalists to publicly defend their ideas — more often than ever, through their own work.

To explore this paradigm shift, we’ve dedicated this year’s DIG Festival to “Personal Matters”: we believe that great journalism is about impersonal facts, but also about personal ‘fights’. The more the battle for free speech becomes political, the more the beliefs, background, origins, and views of journalists need not be hidden nor set aside, sacrificed on the altar of objectivity. Journalists’ personal sphere has a role in their path toward truth. The personal, matters.

In an era with fewer certainties, we need to ask different questions. If journalism is advocacy, how can we ensure to be transparent enough with our audience? Will sharing personal thoughts and beliefs be a way for journalists to regain trust from citizens?

While we mourn the crumbling of the old era, we’re seeing more quality journalism than ever before; we’re witnessing a spike in collaborative projects; a proliferation in investigations that hold power to account, spreading vastly through social media; communities held together by the force of single stories published by brave reporters, who – in exchange – are seeing their lives threatened from state forces and coward opponents.