We remember the importance of face-to-face reporting

“It might let you glimpse that almost imperceptible frown on your source’s face when you ask a question.”

What new digital disruption does 2022 have in store for journalists? This year is actually gearing up to have more of a vintage flavor. With the Covid crisis still fresh, the spotlight is turning back to the good old low-tech art of on-the-ground reporting,

Almost two years after a global health crisis forced newsrooms to improvise, coming back to the field and rekindling in-person interactions can be a challenge. Some reporters will tell you they’re feeling a little rusty. Others say it was easier to be protected by a screen when covering the world’s misery. Some will even admit that reporting from a sofa has its perks — and, in terms of comfort, definitely beats the uncertainty of meeting anonymous sources in the field.

Technology enables the production of more and more remote reporting — at a cheaper cost, from a business point of view. But there is a crucial need to get back to sources and events in the physical world. Only in real life is it possible to scrutinize the slightest signal without being limited by the time slot designated for a call. If you’re distracted by a source’s background on a Zoom call, you might notice what’s on their desk or happening in the corridor near them. Face-to-face reporting saves you from the burden of frozen Facetime images on a bad connection. It might let you glimpse that almost imperceptible frown on your source’s face when you ask a question.

It’s complicated to get to the truth. Getting to the bottom of an issue exclusively from a distance seems a nearly impossible task, even with the habit of a sedentary lifestyle imposed by curfews and lockdowns during Covid.

“When I was in Colombia to report the life and death of the socialist leader Maritza Quiroz Leyva, I had to check with no less than six sources, realizing that these six people could, at any time, give me six different versions,” recalls the French reporter Emilienne Malfatto. Margaux Benn, a journalist of dual French and Canadian nationality, had the same experience, where she had to consult 15 sources to check a piece of information.

Being online adds more complexity. There’s no hierarchy between people with no agenda, experts with an agenda, fake accounts, and so on. Hate, fakes, and data are one big mess; all sources are speaking at the same level and at the same time. To understand the facts behind a story on Instagram or TikTok, an organic exchange, an actual conversation, with all its in-person perks, as well as its annoyances, is essential. In a recent presentation to students at Sciences Po, Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent at CNN, compared an interview to a dance. “You need to be in the moment to listen to what a person is telling you — it is a real engagement between two individuals, as opposed to a person reading a list of questions and doing their best impression of what listening looks like. Look at their body language and hear them.”

In 2022, as journalists strive to distinguish between sincere insights and questionable testimonies, getting back into the field is bound to come back into fashion.

Alice Antheaume is executive dean of the Sciences Po Journalism School in Paris.

What new digital disruption does 2022 have in store for journalists? This year is actually gearing up to have more of a vintage flavor. With the Covid crisis still fresh, the spotlight is turning back to the good old low-tech art of on-the-ground reporting,

Almost two years after a global health crisis forced newsrooms to improvise, coming back to the field and rekindling in-person interactions can be a challenge. Some reporters will tell you they’re feeling a little rusty. Others say it was easier to be protected by a screen when covering the world’s misery. Some will even admit that reporting from a sofa has its perks — and, in terms of comfort, definitely beats the uncertainty of meeting anonymous sources in the field.

Technology enables the production of more and more remote reporting — at a cheaper cost, from a business point of view. But there is a crucial need to get back to sources and events in the physical world. Only in real life is it possible to scrutinize the slightest signal without being limited by the time slot designated for a call. If you’re distracted by a source’s background on a Zoom call, you might notice what’s on their desk or happening in the corridor near them. Face-to-face reporting saves you from the burden of frozen Facetime images on a bad connection. It might let you glimpse that almost imperceptible frown on your source’s face when you ask a question.

It’s complicated to get to the truth. Getting to the bottom of an issue exclusively from a distance seems a nearly impossible task, even with the habit of a sedentary lifestyle imposed by curfews and lockdowns during Covid.

“When I was in Colombia to report the life and death of the socialist leader Maritza Quiroz Leyva, I had to check with no less than six sources, realizing that these six people could, at any time, give me six different versions,” recalls the French reporter Emilienne Malfatto. Margaux Benn, a journalist of dual French and Canadian nationality, had the same experience, where she had to consult 15 sources to check a piece of information.

Being online adds more complexity. There’s no hierarchy between people with no agenda, experts with an agenda, fake accounts, and so on. Hate, fakes, and data are one big mess; all sources are speaking at the same level and at the same time. To understand the facts behind a story on Instagram or TikTok, an organic exchange, an actual conversation, with all its in-person perks, as well as its annoyances, is essential. In a recent presentation to students at Sciences Po, Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent at CNN, compared an interview to a dance. “You need to be in the moment to listen to what a person is telling you — it is a real engagement between two individuals, as opposed to a person reading a list of questions and doing their best impression of what listening looks like. Look at their body language and hear them.”

In 2022, as journalists strive to distinguish between sincere insights and questionable testimonies, getting back into the field is bound to come back into fashion.

Alice Antheaume is executive dean of the Sciences Po Journalism School in Paris.

Jesse Holcomb

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Joe Amditis

Joni Deutsch

Gordon Crovitz

Mandy Jenkins

Candace Amos

Andrew Freedman

Ståle Grut

Richard Tofel

Mike Rispoli

A.J. Bauer

Jessica Clark

Natalia Viana

Tom Trewinnard

Shalabh Upadhyay

Gonzalo del Peon

Anika Anand

Jonas Kaiser

Janelle Salanga

Simon Galperin

Moreno Cruz Osório

James Green

Doris Truong

Megan McCarthy

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Raney Aronson-Rath

Christina Shih

Chicas Poderosas

Juleyka Lantigua

Stephen Fowler

Gabe Schneider

Anita Varma

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Matthew Pressman

Brian Moritz

Tony Baranowski

Paul Cheung

Sarah Stonbely

Whitney Phillips

Parker Molloy

Christoph Mergerson

Mario García

j. Siguru Wahutu

Eric Nuzum

Mary Walter-Brown

Kristen Muller

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Zizi Papacharissi

Larry Ryckman

David Cohn

AX Mina

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Matt Karolian

Robert Hernandez

Sarah Marshall

Ariel Zirulnick

Alice Antheaume

John Davidow

Cherian George

Joy Mayer

Cindy Royal

Julia Angwin

Rachel Glickhouse

Kristen Jeffers

Errin Haines

Chase Davis

Simon Allison

Joanne McNeil

Anthony Nadler

Don Day

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Catalina Albeanu

Julia Munslow

Matt DeRienzo

Meena Thiruvengadam

Burt Herman

Nikki Usher

Joshua P. Darr

Melody Kramer

S. Mitra Kalita

Izabella Kaminska

Tamar Charney

Amara Aguilar

Sam Guzik

Michael W. Wagner

Stefanie Murray

Jennifer Coogan

Daniel Eilemberg

Jody Brannon

Victor Pickard

Jim Friedlich

Cristina Tardáguila

Francesco Zaffarano

Millie Tran

Kerri Hoffman

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Wilson Liévano

David Skok

Jennifer Brandel