A contradiction in terms or a possible horizon for those who work in journalism? The topic was discussed at Sophia with the NetOne communication experts

For a year and a half, three entities engaged in culture and communication – the Associazione per NetOne, the Sophia University Institute and the magazine Città Nuova -travelled around the world to carry out a professional experiment of ‘dialogic journalism’, that is journalism that builds bridges instead of walls and seeks not only to produce information, but also to bring about social change.

The wave of migration towards Europe that has characterised the last few years provided the occasion for the journey, as a number of journalists were interested in following the story from up close. The initiative involved several people who all lived the experience together, visiting some key countries and regions in relation to migration (Hungary, Greece, Poland, Sicily, the Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Colombia) in a transdisciplinary dimension: politologists, sociologists, religious people, humanitarian workers, among others, were also present, and each one produced journalistic reports for their respective media. The experience is recounted in a book (The journalist and migrations, edited by Michele Zanzucchi and published on the Quaderni di NetOne review), which was presented at a seminar at Sophia, in the presence of students and professors of Political Studies.

It was precisely during this itinerant experience that the idea of a ‘dialogical journalism’ came about, not as a new form of journalism, but rather as a new approach to the job – a set of values, ideas and attitudes that can guide journalists in becoming factors of ‘social cohesion’ through the news stories they produce, in addition to producing them. The seminar at Sophia, which was attended by the members of the Abba School (study centre for the elaboration of a ‘doctrine of unity’) of the Focolare Movement, enquired on the possible ways to realise a ‘dialogical journalism’, looking at some of the theories of communication and at journalistic practice, which is becoming increasingly frenetic as a result of the digital revolution.

The categories that can uphold the proposal for a dialogical journalism were explored, in which the exchange between experts and professionals must have a central role in order to bring about the collective creation of knowledge. With an added question: can journalism be truly dialogical in the current globalised and digitalised context? And, if so, under what conditions? What should be its characteristics?

The seminar was introduced by Vice-President Daniela Ropelato, who emphasised that this line of research has its place in a university institute where life and theory, profession and reflection go hand in hand. After a presentation on the Journalism and Migration project and the birth of a ‘dialogical journalism’ by journalists Stefania Tanesini (in charge of the NetOne international board), Giulio Meazzini and Michele Zanzucchi (who also teaches at Sophia), three professors went deeper into investigating on the ‘feasibility conditions’ for dialogical journalism: they were Pasquale Ferrara (‘The role of journalists in the infosphere: marionettes, agitators or mediators?’), Cristina Montoya (‘Application of Pierpaolo Donati’s social relation theory to the case of dialogical journalism’) and Pal Toth (‘Relational reflexivity in Margaret Archer and dialogical journalism’).

The final part of the seminar was dedicated to broadening the theme of ‘dialogical journalism’ to include the greater perspectives of the contemporary world: if communication is at the centre of our attention, because every event that occurs in society has a communicative aspect, whether we like it or not, then we are caught in the Net, or, better, in multiple nets, and we realise that every act can be interpreted as a communicative event. In fact, from a certain point of view, that is exactly what happens. To a certain extent, this mode of interpretation is present in the founding texts of the charism of unity too. Piero Coda has been arguing for some time that communication is a ‘transcendental property of being’. Likewise unity, unity in diversity as well as any act of relationality or information can be viewed from an ontological perspective – but also, of course, from a communicative one. Communication, however, just like any other pervasive event, just like any event that ‘contaminates’, is the object of study of many disciplines: not surprisingly, we speak of ‘communication sciences’, in the plural.

Interpersonal communication, communication in the community and even mass media, with their functioning, thus require a transdisciplinary approach by nature, and that approach is central to the work of Sophia, the Abba School and NetOne professionals. Talking about the great challenges of the infosphere we are faced with – new models of collective rationality, excess of information and fake news, technological changes that are revolutionising the way we meet, intercultural dialogue – Pasquale Ferrara presented ‘Thinking the infosphere: new thought and communication paradigms to respond to the challenges of the 21st century’, while President Piero Coda expressed his views on ‘Thought reform and dialogical communication in the anthropological perspective of Trinitarian ontology’.

The seminar marked the beginning of a journey of study and research which, it is hoped, will bear fruit and generate culturally relevant ideas.

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