Internet Perpetuates Good Journalism

The Internet is the perfect tool to bring back investigative reporting.  It can be used passively as a large research database where reporters can spend endless hours researching previous cases and events.  Talking Points Memo blogger Justin Rood used the Internet to scan for other instances of U.S. attorney firings.  By having such a large database at hand, Rood was able to piece the story together by finding isolated articles in various local newspapers.  “Within days, Rood had identified seven U.S. attorneys who were suddenly out of a job, “many under unusual circumstances.”  Meticulous Internet research helped expose corruption and compelled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to quit.

The Internet can also be utilized as an interactive device that can transmit news tips and sources from the audience to the blogger.  TPM takes advantage of the Internet’s interactive capabilities and receives news from its readers constantly.  “For weeks, coverage of the U.S. attorney firings on TPM was propelled by tips from readers, some of them emailed to the bloggers and some posted as comments on TPM sites.”  Using the audience to sift through or discover information is an efficient way to rack up more research as long as the blogger piecing the story together fact checks the news tips coming in.

I think the article by Will Bunch offered some interesting insight regarding the concept of using other journalists’ work.  I think a lot of people are under the impression that bloggers rip off work from other news sites, change one or two points and then claim it as their own original reporting.  However, Bunch says that by using information already established by other news organizations, journalists can save time since the data  has already been fact-checked.  Blogs such as TPM may use news tidbits already reported, but they certainly don’t claim it as their own.  They give credit where credit is due by either citing the original news source or by linking to it.  Bunch also recognizes that because blogs do not have to devote time and attention to a broad range of news stories, they are able to allocate their resources toward a specific story.  Therefore, there reporting is more thorough and deep. Investigative reporting at its finest!

This is all part of the mounting notion of transparency.  I full heartedly agree with the blogger behind “Joho the Blog” when the author states that transparency is the new  form of objectivity.  Personally, I do not believe that objectivity can truly exist.  Everyone has their own predispositions and beliefs.  It’s inevitable.  Your experiences, careers, friends, family, and genetic makeup can all impact your outlook on the world.  Therefore, how can your reporting not be somewhat biased towards your personal opinions.  I believe transparency will allow better reporting because the journalist does not have to constantly fear that their writing is slanted towards a particular view or they don’t have an an equal number of sources championing a particular side.  In my opinion, this line of thinking often delivers dry, fragmented and isolated news clips.  Writers do not delve into the issue enough because they do not want to risk coming across as biased.  Transparency will solve this issue!  Writers can post their political leanings publicly and link to the sources where they received their information to help give the audience a full accurate picture.  I think transparency will also make readers feel more comfortable with asking questions, which will allow them to plunge into a world of political discourse.  Free and open political discourse on the Internet can only aid democracy.

I really liked the account about NPR focussing their camera on the lobbyists mentioned in an article by The Guardian.  The idea of getting information from the viewers to show who the lobbyists were and where they interests lie was brilliant and so eye-opening!  Lobbyists have always had their own agenda, and I always felt like it was kept in the dark.  But now, the Internet has allowed people to expose what types of interests propel Congress to make the decisions that approve or turn down bills.

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Government Bullies Google

I think this John Stewart video perfectly embodies the main themes of our readings and the dilemma of net neutrality.
JON STEWART SPEAKS ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY

It’s ironic that the Google VP advocates so strongly for net neutrality in 2006, but two years later they prevent the work of journalist Matthew Lee from being shown on the server.  I think it’s sad that Google can be so easily pressured to remove someone’s work or give someone better access because they have the power or money to do so.  I think this is a hot button issue and certainly a matter to keep a close eye on!

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Bloggers Advocate for Media Rights, Independence and Wages

As blogging and social media become more accepted as legitimate mainstream news sources, bloggers are fighting for their rights.  In the article by Sieon Roux called
Bloggers might be excluded from Oregon’s executive sessions,” political blogger Mark Bunster helped propel the campaign to reform Lake Oswego’s media policy.  I find the draft policy that the Lake Oswego council has submitted to be vague.  What does it mean to produce at least 25 percent news content?  What exactly counts as “news?”  Politics?  Business?  Life and Social events?  This seems like it should be defined a little more clearly.  Also, I don’t quite understand why the mainstream news were in such an uproar over the proposal.  It seems to me that if the mainstream media were doing their jobs then they would have no problem fitting the description “institutionalized,” “well established” and producing at least 25 percent news content.  I think this definition could exclude important bloggers that may not have the funds to become well-established or institutionalized.  Serious and hard-working bloggers can serve as an extra pair of watchful eyes and catch problems the mainstream news might miss or neglect.

Another timely issue bloggers are facing today is maintaining independence.  The Hartford Courant bought 5 weekly papers, and some of  the weeklies loyal readers fear the news content will be dramatically altered.  “…some readers reacted with alarm to The Courant, seen as reliable but bland, adopting the lively Advocate chain. The local arts community treated today’s announcement like a death in the family.”  I believe their reaction is valid and warranted.  I would be let down if my favorite publication changed ownership because there is certainly going to be a change of opinion as to how news content should be handled.  That’s the biggest issue I took with the Huffington Post merging with AOL.  The quote that struck me the most from the article in The Observer was made by Professor Jack Lule, a journalism teacher at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Lule said, “She [Arianna Huffington] betrayed the ideals of a lot of people who were happy to work for nothing because they thought it was for a cause.”  This hit a nerve because the Huffington Post stood for a dominant alternative to Republican news sites, and I can see why people would feel betrayed since it almost seems like a sellout.

However, I think the argument from bloggers stating that Arianna Huffington exploited writers and  that the business model is a ” galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates” is a little dramatic.  The word slave reproduces the image that people were forced to write for the Huffington Post without any compensation.  From my knowledge of the website, this was not the case.  Bloggers contributed to the site because they were passionate about their topic and wanted to have their voice heard. Personally, I would like to be compensated for my journalistic work, but if I had extra time I would not think twice about donating my work to a reputable site such as the Huffington Post.

 

I think this photo sums up how some bloggers feel about Arianna Huffington merging with AOL.

Image provided by Adbusters

Image provided by Adbusters

 

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Social Funding

The idea of social funding to raise awareness about an issue is quite intriguing.  Through the Internet, journalists and filmmakers can now connect with their fans to ask for donations in order to get a certain story or film published.  I think it’s a great way for people to express their interests and concerns.  No longer do people just have to accept what constitutes as news according to the mainstream media, but they can now put their money towards the issues they want to see covered.  I was doing some research on independent media outlets asking for funds and I stumbled upon this article.    The article discusses The Media Consortium, which is a competition among independent media outlets to raise money in order to pursue their work interests.

The Media Consortium website is quite fascinating.  It’s a site where members can “build relationships, strategize, and constructively work together to reinvent the independent media sphere.”  The site lists a group of projects that are currently being worked on.  There are numerous members that subscribe to the site, but some of the predominate outlets include Democracy Now and The Nation.

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Independent Media Increases Ads and Viewership

I noticed two common themes in Josh Marshall’s lecture “The Growth of Talking Points Memo and the Importance of Independent Media,” and John Tozzi’s article for Business Week titled “Bloggers Bring in the Big Bucks.”  The first universal theme is the proliferation of advertisers flocking to independent media sites.  John Marshall connected with Henry Copeland, the owner of the company “BlogAds,” and soon Marshall’s income was mostly generated by the advertisements.  The money from the ads allowed Marshall to expand TPM and hire full time reporters to accumulate and sift through more news.  Marshall made a very interesting point during his speech.  In regards to the nonprofit magazine he worked for before TPM, Marshall said, “the fact that our continued existence was not based on size or interest level of our readership allowed us to be cut off and not particularly in touch with what our readership had a fine interest in. I think that was not just bad in business terms, but much more importantly, bad in journalistic terms.”  This is very interesting, because one usually associates advertisements with distorting objectivity since advertisers tend to push for certain stories to either be emphasized or ignored.  Therefore, including advertisements would be bad journalism.  But Marshall seems to say that if used correctly, advertisements can help journalists discover what readers are interested in and how to obtain their attention. Once their attention is grasped, independent journalists can start making a difference by opening people’s minds to new ideas or sources of information.

The blog, “I Can Has Cheezburger”also attracts big advertisers.  “The cheapest ad costs $500 for a week.  The most expensive goes for nearly $4,000.”  This is mind-blowing to me!  I know that silly humorous sites are very popular nowadays, but I never deemed them credible enough to attract huge advertisers.  However, I think this solidifies Marshall’s previous point that advertisements do not necessarily strive to change content.  They will go to the sites that attract the most viewers, and website hosts need to be strong enough to avoid content manipulation.

The second similarity I found between the two articles is the art of forming a collaborative community.  Talking Points Memo depends on their readers for money and verifiable information.  Tons of readers donated money to help Marshall develop TPM and hire some staff members.  Readers also helped ultimately break the story about the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys. Marshall said, “we had our readers who sent in – the firings were public, most of them, they were just reported locally. So it wasn’t in one place. The particular advantage that our readers gave us was a really big deal.”

“I Can Has Cheezburger” built up a huge following.  Now, readers create their own posts and the site essentially relies on “fans to submit pictures, write funny captions, and send them in.”  It is a community run website.

TPM and “I Can Has Cheezburger” both started out as sites that did not intend to make a huge profit.  However, it just goes to show you that if you can create something the people really want to see flourish then the advertisers will come to you.  The advertisers do not own the independent media outlets, they simply help maximize their profits in order to continue doing good work.

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Free Love Issues Relevant Today

I found the chapter “Free Love” in the Victorian Age to be very interesting.  Many of the issues free love advocates addressed are still very topical today, like abortion and equal standards of behaviorial conduct for men and women.

One of the “free love writers,”Angela Heywood, wrote “long treatises arguing that women should be more than household drudges and sex objects.”  Today, various independent media publications champion for the rights of women and offer empowering anecdotes and workshops meant to inspire.  I definitely want to point out some of these contemporary publications.  One site that caught my attention was called “Shameless Magazine.”  The magazine’s creed says it aims to “inspire, inform, and advocate for young women and trans youth.”  The magazine’s writers publish inspiring articles about women from around the world making a difference.  For example, an article that appeared in the Winter 2012 issue discussed how young women farmers are gaining ground in the sustainable food production industry.   The magazine also keeps track of different workshops and events that focus on women empowerment.  Here is an image of one of the events they are advertising.

This magazine reminds me somewhat of Angela Heywood and the other free love writers, but perhaps without the overt sexual language.  Still, shameless magazine does not shy away from issues such as abortion and prostitution.  Shameless magazine is promoting an event called “Hustle & Dough,” which is part of a month-long celebration of “International Sex Workers Rights Day.”

There are numerous other outlets that give voice to women who are typically silenced by the men in their society.  One of these great publications is called the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.  The project allows Afghan women to express their uninhibited opinions.

My favorite part of the free love chapter was the section titled “exposing the hypocrisy of the Victorian man.”  I thought it was brave of Victoria Woodhull to publish the story about Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’s affair.  Now, I do not believe that people’s private lives are particularly newsworthy, but I do believe Woodhull addressed a widespread issue.  The issue of double-standards for men and women.  Men should not be pardoned for something women are frequently shunned for, nor should a reputable man like Henry Ward Beecher pass judgement onto people who are participating in the same act as he.

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The Dissident Press in America

The three earliest models of the American dissident press are inspiring.  The three papers crusading on the behalf of labor rights, abolition of slavery and women’s rights were relentless in their fight for equality and justice.  Reading through these three accounts, I noticed several similarities between the dissident press in the 1800s and the alternative press today.

The early labor press campaigned for the rights of the “forgotten” in the mainstream media.  “The Mechanic’s Free Press said point blank that general-circulation newspapers spoke only for the ‘aristocracy of wealth’ and ‘either entirely neglected’ poor people or spoke about common men and women ‘only with contempt'”(Streitmatter 5).  I think this definitely parallels the press today because independent media is compelled to fill in the gaps and give voice to the people the mainstream news neglects. Today, widespread conglomeration is narrowing the interests of mainstream news and they generally promote free trade at the expense of labor rights.  In my personal opinion, the news beat regarding labor unions, labor rights and the problems with growing industrialization seem to be completely missing from the mainstream news.

William Lloyd Garrison’s “The Liberator” was daring and courageous.  Garrison showed the possibilities of developing an open forum for discussion, which is a huge component of today’s independent media and blogs.  Garrison would reprint an editorial attack alongside his own rebuttal.  “Garrison had not only provided his own subscribers with a double dose of lively reading, but he also had introduced readers of a pro-slavery paper to The Liberator and the anti-slavery ideology it promulgated” (Streitmatter 30).  This strategy was genius because he widened his viewership and spread awareness about his paper and the unjust practice of slavery.  Garrison’s technique reminds me of how independent media outlets today promote a cause or an interest so adamantly that the mainstream media cannot ignore it anymore.  Reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo led coverage on a national issue when they pieced together the details about the firing of a group of U.S. attorneys.

Like most independent media outlets today, “The Revolution” cared more about furthering their cause then making a profit. Elizabeth Cady Stanton refused to take advertisements for patent medicines because “she believed that the unregulated elixirs contained so much alcohol that they were dangerous” (Streitmatter 40). The Revolution built up a massive debt and only lasted two and a half years, but its founders stuck to their principles and never wavered in their plight for women’s rights.  This creed reminds me of Common Dreams because they too refuse to accept advertising from corporations since it could conflict with their values of remaining independent and free of any hidden agendas.  Common Dreams states, “We may not have the deep pockets of the corporate media.  But we have our integrity, a shared commitment to truth and a growing base of intelligent readers.”

The early dissident press are great examples of independent media because they show men and women fighting for equality and rights in the face of adversity and hardship and actually making a difference.

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