1. Right then, let's begin a big review of what I am doing here with this independent journalism, guaranteed by readers. From the concepts and values that govern the entire field to asking a specific question on any given day. Strategy and Journalism 2022.
2. There are going to be several threads, for the different levels, and we are going to be here for a couple days or more, so if you want to jump in with comments and examples and thoughts, please do so. The books in the first tweet are good for anyone who wants to read more.
3. It's the first time I've done this, I think, but it could perhaps be an interesting annual exercise each New Year, a kind of tradition to go over everything from top to bottom before getting into the thousands of interesting events that will take place in Spain in 2022.
4. The perspective for this analysis is obviously me, a single independent journalist (not a large media outlet or newsroom or media group) with respect to i) journalism, the field and its possibilities and ii) somehow reporting on Spain at the national level.
5. The key question (and it is one that I ask myself constantly) is what is the best effort that I can make as an independent journalist for you as readers, given everything that happens in Spain and the many interesting possibilities that journalism offers?
6. My thoughts on that question have evolved throughout the pandemic. You will also be able to apply these concepts to the actions of other media and journalists you have observed doing different stories. The business of Negre in Congress, or the Luelmo trial coverage, etc.
7. We will look at four levels of analysis:
i) grand strategic (long term, ultimate values and aims)
ii) strategic (medium term, possible paths)
iii) operations (several weeks, attempts to move forward)
iv) battles (immediate, daily, contact with reality)
8. The level of analysis known as grand strategy is fascinating. It's about the fundamental elements over the very long term. Hill, in his “Grand Strategies” draws it out over several centuries with literature as a companion. Here, for example, he uses Cervantes and Don Quijote:
9. Right, differences between countries when faced with the same phenomenon (journalism, war, earthquake, technology, etc.) are usually grand strategic, very long term, because they are based on different cultures, languages and beliefs or social habits.
10. Perfectly observable in the reactions and attitudes to Covid over these past two years. It is also true, in this more recent long term (the last 20 years, for example), that similarities between like-minded groups in different countries are increasingly visible.
11. At the level of war, grand strategy is Churchill's joy on learning the U.S. had entered World War II after Pearl Harbour, with all its vast econonic resources, and the joint decision with Roosevelt and Stalin to first defeat Hitler before dealing with Japan.
12. At the business level, grand strategy is the decision to create value in a particular industry (Apple and computers, Iberia and flights, etc.), long-term brand values (BBC vs. OK Diario), or the legal form that the company will take (public, private).
13. Grand strategy is normally used in terms of nations or wars but if we see it as the fundamental aspects over the very long term, nothing stops us from using it as a frame on the personal level: the decision to marry or have children or follow a profession for 30 years.
14. The framework is not only valid for talking about aspects but also about the impact of things over time: a grand strategic impact, very long term. The loss of a territory if we're talking about a nation. A major bankruptcy for a business. Accident trauma on a personal level.
15. Covid, for example, both in terms of the current complex situation for all societies on the planet and in terms of the impact it is having and will have on all our lives, is clearly a grand strategic challenge. So was the previous financial crisis in 2008.
16. The Catalan separatist challenge was grand strategic. Several years, cultures and moralities clashed and at stake was the separation of a whole chunk of Spain on a social, economic, political and legal level. Puigdemont and Junqueras were proposing a revolution.
17. We can apply all this to journalism and the media and to my own efforts as an independent journalist in a few tweets shortly, but let's first look at some aspects that fall within the grand strategic level, be it a military, business or personal analysis.
18. The issue of ICUs and Covid, for example, is national grand strategy. Why? Because it takes many years to properly train an intensive care doctor. Our global 21st century could throw more pandemics at us. Politicians are light years away from solving these problems.
19. The first thing to take into account or try to conceive at a grand strategic level is the environment that surrounds us, which depending on what level we are at can encompass a lot of different things that affect the situation we are in and the possibilities we will have.
20. Again, Covid is an excellent example. It arises from our surroundings, comes out of the environment and has affected, conditioned all societies on the planet for the last two years (plus whatever is left). The situation of the environment and the changes in the environment.
21. Within the “environment” aspect, there are several relevant things: technology, trends or the momentum of external events, or the structural limitations imposed by the “terrain” in question, physical ground if we talk about war, legal ground for Catalan separatists.
22. It is at this level that a fascinating question arises for me regarding journalism: what would Hemingway have done with an iPhone during the Spanish Civil War? How would that have affected our understanding of the whole today and even the development of events at the time?
23. Let's continue. One of the biggest grand strategic changes for multiple fields in the last decade has been attention and technology: iPhone, Netflix, series at the top, constant YouTube, WhatsApps, etc, etc., etc. Always available, always buzzing, always searching for us.
24. Also at this highest level of analysis, we have factors such as long-term alliances, the capitalisation of a project (long-term assets or funding), the ultimate goals to be pursued, and a certain priority in the major phases of the thing that need to be addressed.
25. Here, too, we have the values and beliefs that make up our identities. Are we democrats or tyrants? Religious or atheist? Left or right? Progressive or reactionary? These are elements that life, in the lower levels, then puts to the test at some point.
26. If we are talking about groups or organisations (nations, parties, armies, companies) we can analyse cohesion and internal commitment: will the group withstand the pressure of what is to come? Good leaders? Is there dissent and fratricidal struggle or union and morale?
27. Here Pablo on Telegram talks about where he finds value in what I do. This comes a little later, in tomorrow's thread on the strategic part. Options or paths that cause a favorable reaction. Each reader will have their own opinion or preference here.
28. Here Elena raises the issue of attention and manipulation by master of those arts. It is true, in business, politics, reporting and public opinion. That is why values and ethics and knowing how to differentiate between propaganda and journalism are so important.
29. Who am I (or who are we)? What is our ultimate goal? Are we going to fight or not? Is it worth all that effort? Why? Why do we think life will be better that way? In that case, what should be done first? Are we willing to suffer to achieve our goals?
30. Through this exercise of thinking about values, identity, goals, visions and preferences over the long term, our antagonists, rivals or even enemies, depending on the case, appear at this level. Those people who will help us and those who will prove an obstacle.
31. Let's see if we can apply all this to journalism a little. Think about what the values of serious journalism might be: truth, reason, logic, description, proof, knowledge, compassion, complexity, perspective, history and...publishing.
32. If we have got the ultimate aims and values of journalism right, when we do a bit of it, the antagonists we expected to appear will do: politicians or bureaucrats trying to prevent the publication of something, or ideological fanatics who rage at an independent description.
33. The “powers” of journalism, we might say, are few at heart. Perhaps the freedom of thought, the freedom to write and publish and the freedom to ask questions. I think, I write, I ask. Especially if it annoys whoever is in power.
34. So now we can understand some recent examples. The media scandal in the Basque Country that @Javier_Torrox has found: newsrooms taking public money from the politicians they should be holding accountable in exchange for an editorial line. A massive grand strategic failure.
35. If for serious journalism we value independence, the right to question and publish, always focused towards readers, and we find media outlets accepting millions from politicians in exchange for their editorial freedom, that's an absolute grand strategic failure.
36. This higher level is where we must interpret what happened with @javiernegre10 in Congress or now @7nn_Tv in Moncloa. We may or may not share their editorial philosophies, but if we accept they are journalists, they should always be able to ask politicians what they want.
37. Now, on this same level, the other side of that same debate arises, from what we have said about technology, attention, polarisation and values: does what they do tend more towards journalism or ideology? Or are they just like La Sexta and Público but on the right?
38. What happened with the Laura Luelmo murder trial in Huelva also poses a major grand strategic problem for journalism, society and democracy. A whole trial for the most serious crime of all—and the life sentence that followed—with no reporting at all.
39. It is true everyone is fed up of Spanish morning TV with superficial live shows that repeat images of horrible crimes no one would want to see if it were their child or wife, but for a judge, a public power, to leap from there to banning all reporting of an entire trial...
40. Also on that list are all the governments, ministries and regional ministries that prohibit journalists from entering some public area in order to control the narrative, to stop you seeing what is happening in hospitals or on the docks when immigrants arriving in their boats.
41. This all might seem relatively unimportant. Everything is very polarised now anyway. But if we value journalism in the face of power, every time a minister or a judge uses his authority to stop reporting or a question, it is serious for democracy. We lose as citizens.
42. @flombao mentions more govts buying media in Galicia this Christmas. Here is the full list. Several media outlets get two payments: print and digital. La Voz de Galicia takes €883,043. Impossible for them to hold politicians to account like that.
43. And this level also includes Rajoy's plasma TV or now Sanchez's decision to just take questions from left-wing media. All unacceptable if we believe in journalism and a healthy democracy. Did El Diario and La Sexta demand Negre or ABC be able to ask questions?
44. Are you a politician or bureaucrat trying to stop people getting access to important public information? Great, you're going to find me fighting that. Are you a polarised political fanboy on Twitter, angry that I won't promote your ideology? Fill your boots, it won't work.
45. The broad field of cryptocurrencies, by the way, not just #Bitcoin, is certainly something I see now as a new grand new strategic element to take into account. It will affect many fields on many levels over many years. We shall have to adapt and explore.
46. If we now understand the grand strategic level of analysis a little better—concepts, values, ultimate struggles and aims, alliances, fundamental issues—and have seen how it applies to some recent media situations in Spain, we can ask the same question about this project.
47. Do I still believe in journalism? Do I still think that it is useful, that it is a noble purpose that benefits us all? That the society we all share is better with better information and analysis? Am I still willing to work in that field, despite the obstacles? Of course.
48. It is true that at some moments over this past year I have grown very tired of politicians who obstruct reporting and of deniers and ideological fanatics who do not listen to reason, often in a rude and even insulting manner. But they are just our antagonists.
49. It is also true, at this grand strategic level, that I feel that there is a certain under-capitalisation that prevents me from doing tomorrow the journalism that I would like to do if the right resources and tools existed today. But there is always a solution for that.
50. In the long term, almost 10 years for The Spain Report, we must celebrate that independence that readers guarantee. Not a penny in ad revenue, in public subsidies or from political parties. Tomorrow we will talk about formats, strategies and value.