When, on the morning of France Info on September 14, Fabien Roussel was asked if he would boycott the World Cup in Qatar, the national secretary of the French Communist Party stepped in and returned the question to reporters.
The day before, the daily newspaper Reunion and the Indian Ocean had decided the question by announcing its choice not to publish “any article or advertisement that evokes the sporting aspect of this 2022 World Cup” on the grounds that by crystallizing “an intolerable attack on human dignity and freedom[…] perhaps no one has ever gone this far in a naughty system caricature. »
What options, therefore, are offered to the media with regard to coverage of these events, and furthermore, for all kinds of events entangled in ethical paradoxes?
We will talk here about the media as a structure for content creation and distribution, which raises questions about the boycott of the 2022 World Cup: the national or regional generalist media used to cover the World Cup and which have the necessary resources to send journalists there.
Covering the World Cup with minimum critical eye
This is a choice that requires no effort, not even wondering about possible alternatives. Media whose economic model is dependent on advertising revenue, and/or which is completely subject to political and financial power, will only be able to act as information hatcheries controlled by institutional communications services. It’s clear: you have to go and cover the World Cup in Qatar. Even if they feel that the question is on the possibility of a boycott of the event, the drawbacks are too great not to cover them. The risk of losing readers in demand for sports information and therefore losing the advertising revenue associated with it is too great, not to mention the risk of alienating event brand sponsors who could get angry and pull their allotted advertising budget for this. media, It has been seen before in other topics..
After prefectural journalism, this medium will offer us press conference journalism by offering their readers (who will not pay, or little, for this information, let us remember) an anthology of information from different communications services. The turnkey report is presented by, at your option, FIFA, which will probably tell us that the hosting of the World Cup was successful despite the challenges faced, Qatar, which will no doubt teach us that the stadiums, infrastructure, landscapes of the countries are very beautiful and perfect tailored to Western investment, or a brand that will surely not fail to demonstrate that their athletes achieve outstanding performance during this unmissable event.
Boycott global events
Don’t go there, don’t talk about it. Strong commitment to all generalist media whose “sports” pages are still dedicated to football. Because as summarized former manager from the sports department of Agence France Presse: “Sport is football, after all”. Not going there and not talking about it is choosing to create a void to fill in editorial terms and offer alternative content to your audience. Undoubtedly a boon to a sport that is less publicized, as long as you manage to keep your audience off the hook. The boycott option is a strong stance, commendable in terms of activism against the “foot business”. It remains to be seen whether it is effective if not done by all the major media. And effectively, we mean the possibility that this boycott will act in fact on the organization of the Football World Cup in the future.
If this boycott had only been carried out by “militant” media, most of the information created around the 2022 World Cup would have come from others who had chosen to cover the event with minimal criticality. In the general notion that “journalism was the first draft of History”, it is simple enough to leave the burden of this draft to the media that legitimizes the organization of the event, see the previous paragraph.
The boycott also raises questions about access to information for its readers: as a medium, not discussing a subject means preventing (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the quality of the media) a population from being informed, and therefore finallymaybe score an own goal.
Fulfill its information mission: go to Qatar and refuse the communication service game
Let us remember the main mission of the news media and therefore the journalists they employ: to inform a population. Regardless of the medium in which journalists work, this mission remains the same. Whatever values their media stands for, this mission is the same. Obviously, each medium has its own editorial line, a framework that allows the editorial staff to choose the subject, and the audience knows what to expect.
So when an event like the FIFA World Cup in Qatar comes along and media outlets always cover this kind of event, the immediate boycott is a stab in the editorial line that audiences follow.
So instead of risking losing a loyal audience and leaving the narrative of controversial events to those who refuse to criticize it, one can fully promote the idea of fulfilling its informational mission while choosing a less conciliatory angle. Facing the World Cup solely in terms of sporting performance and a new, high-tech stadium is not the same as tackling it in terms of the working conditions at the stadium site and the stadium’s carbon footprint. These angles, of course slightly unfavorable to the organization, would allow to limit the work of communicators and to promote as many ideas of journalism as possible as a counter-power, even in terms of entertainment. Thus, and in practice, for major generalist newspapers, coverage of the World Cup can be limited to a minimum in terms of sports information, to satisfy the population’s need for information on what remains the most popular major sporting event. in the world, while allocating to budget investigative services hitherto dedicated to sports services.
These new details will allow for redundant investigations into sponsorship, control of information, respect for human rights… and why not expect disclosures about how sponsors manage their cognitive dissonance between humanist values and reality in Qatar, or about the techniques Qatar will use. , FIFA, and sponsors to try to control… information.
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