Work For the Future

It is no doubt the role of the press is changing since the election of Donald Trump. Many news outlets are fearful of Trump’s transition to the White House because of how the president-elect has treated the media in the past.

According to The Guardian, Trump has been waging a war against the media since the beginning of his campaign. And because of this, media outlets are unsure of the future.

“Trump waged an unprecedented one-man war against the media during his election campaign, banning some organisations from his rallies and regularly inciting his supporters to boo and jeer reporters,” The Guardian wrote.

Outlets, like The Nation and The Guardian, have published articles reinforcing their dedication to the highest of journalistic standards and reached out to their readers for monetary support to get through the next four years. The media is afraid to lose its freedoms but is determined to produce better journalism in spite of it.

Now, more than ever, analytical, factual, thoughtful, emotional, critical and expansive journalism is needed more than ever. However, the threat of a collapsing media industry might be enough to turn away young journalists. But, journalists should not back down from this challenge. If you are fired or cannot get hired, do not hesitate to use the Internet, one of the greatest modern tools, to get the truth out.

Journalism has always been entrepreneurial but now it is more than ever. Build your brand and push out meaningful content. Stay focused by understanding that what journalists do is important and necessary to a functioning democracy.

Starting a new media business is taxing but can be accomplished by staying true to yourself and following these tips.

But remember to always be independent and fierce so that the errors of the press during the 2016 presidential campaign are not repeated.

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Internet Lag

Did you know that American Internet is ranked 31st and 42nd for download and upload speeds, respectively? It seems like a strange statistic when you consider that most of the online milestones, like the creation of Facebook, Google and literally the invention of the Internet, happened in the U.S.

As it turns out, over time the major companies that control the internet created a monopoly. According to Susan Crawford major companies have “divided up markets and put themselves in a position where they’re subject to no competition.”

After a monopoly is formed, customers have no where else to buy their service from so the corporations in charge can be lazy. These corporations no longer need to update or invest in infrastructure. Then, other countries, where there is not a monopoly, use the latest technology to update their systems. This allows their users to experience faster internet speeds, while users in America are stuck with slow speeds because of the corporatization of their country.

It seems that there are hardly any sectors in America free from corporate manipulation. What’s the most interesting is that most of the public has no idea things like this is even happening to them because the media does not shine light on the problems.

But I guess, how could they? Since they are corporatized and controlled by power and money as well. How can America become the best it can be when everything from politics, media and the internet are all controlled by money? Soon, someone is going to have to start putting the interests of the consumers and public first. But that can not happen until we have a truly fearless press once again.

Where the Mainstream Went Wrong

Many people across the nation are heartbroken and devastated about Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election. To many, this is a nightmare they cannot wake up from. While witnessing the emotional response to this election, it occurred to me that the mainstream media has failed in its mission to provide accurate news to the public.   The political coverage on this past election cycle has left many desensitized to the evils (like racism, sexism, homophobia) that plague the American culture. The desensitization of America by the mainstream press has led many Americans to not fully understand the impact of discriminatory policies.

On Twitter, many users criticized the mainstream press. One user, Imraan Siddiqi tweeted, “CNN right now: ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have acted as a 24/7 infomercial for Trump and reported on actual news instead.'”

Of course, CNN did not actually say the above quote but Siddiqi raises a great point. Has mainstream media gone too far this election cycle? The mainstream press did not represent each candidate equally and gave significantly more air time to Trump, which allowed his rhetoric to take hold.

But now, in the dawn of the final poll results, it’s important that the press learns from its past mistakes and attempts to do better in the next four years. The press needs to actually serve as a check on the new governmental powers by closely following newly appointed officials, court decisions and the Trump administration. They need to be analytical and critical and tell the complete story instead of being a parrot of the government.  Journalism has re-learned a valuable lesson today: What is published is heavily consumed and has great impact.

Independent journalism is more important than ever now, so that the new administration is held accountable for its questionable actions.

The Guardian wrote an article promising to uphold true journalism values so that the public will not be manipulated again.

“Now is the time to support journalism that is both fearless and free.”

Let’s hope mainstream media joins in on The Guardian’s mission instead of sensationalizing and normalizing hate.

Esprit de Corps

Noun

eˌsprē də ˈkôr/

Definition: A sense of unity and of common interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons closely associated in a task, cause, enterprise, etc.

Journalists, whether working for large mainstream media outlets or smaller independent publications, are all supposed to work towards the same goal: Truth. Journalists are supposed to have common interests and responsibilities like being the voice for the voiceless, fair in their reporting and serving the public to the best of their ability.

However, if there is such unity and supposed cooperation among all types of journalists, why are there instances where journalists attack each other?

In a time where cooperation and unity is needed the most, it seems that journalists are divided more than ever. For example, take Glenn Greenwald and Snowden. After Greenwald revealed the NSA surveillance debacle, other journalists, specifically Andrew Ross Sorkin, decided it was in his prerogative to accuse Greenwald of committing a crime and insinuating that he should be arrested. This blatant display of journalist v. journalist is exactly the kind of divide that is sending the press into a tailspin that’s heading for disaster.

Here is a video of Sorkin’s comments.

Sorkin seems to be assuming the role of the US Government, police officer and lawyer all at the same time when accusing Greenwald. Journalists are supposed to check the government, not operate for them. And because journalists are busy tearing other journalists down, MAJOR issues, like NSA surveillance and corruption is not adequately discussed in the mainstream press.

However, Sorkin is not the only journalist who acts in this way. David Gregory also questions the journalistic integrity of Greenwald and operates on the behalf of the government.

At 1:30, the exchange begins.

Cozying up with government officials and forgetting what it means to be a journalist is threatening the profession itself. It seems that journalists are often guided by money, prestige and power instead of the truth.

If journalists continue to belittle and degrade each other, the press is certainly doomed. What we need most is for journalists, regardless of employer, to cooperate with each other so that the highest-quality reporting and narratives can be developed for the public.

We need esprit de corps among journalists.

The Journalist’s Creed comes to mind:

“I belive in the profession of journalism. 

I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.

I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.

…”

Mainstream Media: The Two-Way Mirror

Mainstream media, also known as the corporate press, is under harsh criticism and skepticism by the public and independent media outlets. Corporate media is no longer completely trusted, which makes the public disregard the dominant news narrative.

How did America get to this point where big news is disregarded and hardly even trusted for basic event coverage?

The answer to this question is hardly black and white. However, one reason for the decline in the trustworthiness of the mainstream press could be their lack of transparency in the digital world. Nowadays, news stories are not taken at face value. They need hyperlinks and solid evidence embedded (as well as credentialed sources) within their articles to be considered accurate. When newspapers and mainstream outlets are not completely transparent, the public feels as though they are hiding something. Times are changing and, unlike the mainstream press, bloggers understand that transparency is the new objectivity.

According to blogger David Weinberger, “What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position.”

Therefore, bloggers let readers in to their biases and information gathering processes, which makes independent media sources seem more credible to the general public.

But the mainstream press hides behind outdated views of ‘objectivity’ to obscure the real stories from the public. They do not want the public to see what corruption is really happening within the government and corporate America because they are corporate America.  It just wouldn’t make sense to let the public see the truth like that. In this way, the mainstream press operates like a two-way mirror. The corporate press on one side – able to see and watch the public – and the public on the other side – not being able to see anything but a distorted (and inaccurate) view of the world around them, knowing that what they are looking at is falsified. And because of this disconnect, the trust in corporate media declines over time.

And when the public turns away from the mainstream media, the independent press is there with stories that are more representative of the American culture, struggle and success. And in this way indy media is like a window. There is an obvious barrier (bias, agendas) between the public and the truth but it is clearly displayed letting the readers decide what to believe more freely because the facts are all laid out in front of them, all they have to do is look through.

“Why should we trust what one person — with the best of intentions — insists is true when we instead could have a web of evidence, ideas, and argument?”

It’s high time that the public starts looking out windows instead of at discolored reflections of the truth.

 

 

YouTube as an Outlet for Independent Voices

Independent voices are finding success online by posting videos to YouTube.

By using the video sharing platform, independent voices are able to find their niche audience, post regularly, and grow their platform, which allows them to reach more people and, eventually, make money.

Michael Buckley started uploading celebrity commentary on his show called “What the Buck.” Eventually, Buckley began making enough revenue from his humorous channel to quit his day job because his YouTube career was supporting him financially. It seems unlikely that a corporate entity like YouTube would pay Buckley and other users like him to produce content. But through an economic program, ad revenue is split between YouTube and the content producers.

According to a New York Times article, “YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, places advertisements within and around the partner videos and splits the revenues with the creators.”

This relationship is exceptionally useful for independent media outlets because they do not need to be in corporate media to get their perspectives out. Growing an online audience full of people that actively seek out certain content is how independent media outlets thrive on YouTube and online, in general. YouTubers, like Buckley, maintain an active online presence, which helps them develop and make relationships with their audience. This strategy helps bring viewers back every week to watch more content and, in turn, increase ad revenue for the content producers.

YouTube personalities are not the only independent voices that found success on YouTube. The Young Turks, a critical and web-based news show, also found their audience on YouTube.

Although independent media always struggles economically, programs like the advertisement program from YouTube, allow reader traffic to financially benefit the independent outlet. This enables the independent media outlet to create better content for their consumers, creating a positive feedback loop that is good for everyone. Corporate entities, independent outlets and consumers all benefit.

Let’s just hope the onslaught of advertisements do not interfere with what content is created, similar to what is happening in the mainstream press.

Big Brother is Censoring

At first glance, Internet search engines, like Google, seem like a representative way to find tremendous amounts of information from all over the world. However, upon further inspection, Google is not as inclusive as it portrays itself to be. Google, and other search engines like it, allow governmental pressure to coerce them into censoring information. Particularly critical and newsworthy information. This seems unlikely since Google’s mission statement explicitly states how its service is aimed for leveling the distribution-of-information playing field.

According to its company site, Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

So why are they censoring the press?

Ask Matthew Lee, editor-in-chief for Inner City Press, an independent media outlet aimed to expose corruption in the U.N. At first, his stories were rightly shown in Google News but  one day, it was like Inner City Press had disappeared from the Internet. Readers could no longer find any stories from ICP on Google News.

It seemed Google had wiped Lee’s information from their search engine. It became clear that someone at the governmental agency had pressured Google to de-list him.

Lee said he felt certain that the Internet company and the international agency had now joined forces to make his work less accessible to the public.”

However, this is not an isolated incident. In China, Google suppressed a radical professor, Guo Quan for his writing in opposition to the Chinese government. Google said that they were only acting in accordance to the Internet standards set by the Chinese government. But Quan is not happy.

“‘They have violated my political rights. I am opposed to violence and dictatorship but these sites have blocked me,'” he said.

And Google? The supposed democratic company seems to be reenforcing the suppression.

Furthermore, to protect their business interests, Google agreed to China’s censorship demands. This means that all information that is considered ‘subversive’ is not available to consumers.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, at first, the company switched all users to Hong Kong, which has no censorship.

“Google said that was a proposed compromise to uphold the principle of free access to information while obeying Chinese law.”

However, the compromise did not stick and now users must manually switch to Hong Kong if they want to see uncensored information, proving that government completely controls information dissemination.

All over the world, government is controlling information. The sad part is that the public acknowledges this but refuses to act upon it. Google presents itself as fair and balanced and yet, their track record is not very promising.

The book 1984 by George Orwell speaks a lot to this issue.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Silenced Voices

In the developing online news landscape, many new forms of journalism are surfacing. Unlike the past, readers no longer need to rely on the weekly/daily paper, and evening newscast to learn about current events. Instead, there are hundreds of media streams, from social media, online publications, blogs, and videos constantly being updated and uploaded on the internet. This allows readers to have local, regional, national or global news at any time at the tips of their fingers. Since, the news environment has changed so drastically in such a short time, journalism, and what is required and expected from journalists, has changed with it.

Now, journalists are expected to be hyper-accurate online and produce a constant stream of content for the readers, among many other responsibilities. Journalists have adapted quickly for the digital age. However, that is not the case for political figures, especially in terms of what rights are awarded to journalists and all others who write, produce and distribute news.

In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein proved that political figures are not keeping up with the changing times when she attempted to exclude non-salaried reporters and some independent media sites, like Wikileaks, from her definition of ‘real journalism.’ That opinion made a federal law protecting reporters and their sources not pass. This shield law would allow journalists to protect confidential information from the government in order to protect their sources. Other political figures do understand that news is not the same as it used to be but that still isn’t enough to get a federal protection law.

“‘But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to,’ Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) said. ‘They should not be excluded from this bill.'”

Additionally, some of the most critical and important work is produced by bloggers but they are still struggling to be taken seriously by political figures. Bloggers often define their role as journalism critics and thought provokers. Still, in Oregon, bloggers might be excluded from attending executive sessions because they do not fit the state of Oregon’s definition of news media. Lake Oswego, Oregon’s definition of news media is below:

“Lake Oswego is considering defining media organizations as ‘institutionalized,’ ‘well-established’ and producing at least 25 percent news content.”

Clearly, this definition is exclusionary to many influential bloggers and independent media sites in Oregon and around the country.  Bloggers can influence the news environment drastically, take Glenn Greenwald for example. But, it seems that they are not gaining any traction politically, even if they are writing stories that the established press would never be daring enough to cover.

When should blog commentary be taken seriously and where should the line be drawn? Or are the politicians correct in their thinking that bloggers and other small publications should be left out from traditional journalists privileges?

In the words of I.F. Stone, the investigative journalist (and first in-print ‘blogger’) who inspired some of today’s best online voices:

“The fault I find with most American newspapers is not the absence of dissent. it is the absence of news. With a dozen or so honorable exceptions, most American newspapers carry very little news. Their main concern is advertising.”

 

How Money Controls the Press

Documentary filmaker Tia Lessin has made independent films most of her career. As the director and producer of Citizen Koch, she fully understands how money and billionaire backers can change the political environment. In a discussion she had with Jeff Cohen’s Independent Media class, she said that “money and power is corrupting.”

So if money and power corrupts corporations, politics and people, it must surely also corrupt the media. However idealistic media corporations believe themselves to be, they are not exempt from this idea. More and more frequently, corporate media publish stories that will not make their investors angry, which leads to watered-down articles that do not showcase risky or overly-critical perspectives. Unfortunately, self-censorship is not limited to corporate media. Independent media outlets are also held prisoner by high-dollar investors.

Jack Shafer wrote in “Nonprofit Journalism Comes at a Cost” that nonprofit news organizations are controlled by money and donors. He said “both nonprofit news and commercial news often find themselves constrained by the hidden agendas of their masters.” Therefore, independent media can be heavily but subtly influenced by the donors, thus changing the editorial direction of the publication.

However, independent media outlets have recognized this critical flaw in relying on big donors. Robert Greenwald, co-founder of Brave New Films, understands that democratizing the money process is a good way to decrease the editorial influence big donors have over independent and nonprofit media. The Washington Post wrote about Greenwald’s idea to activate his base in order to get money for his projects. He did this by asking his audience, or true fans, for money. Greenwald gained $267,892 in 10 days proving that democratizing the money-making process is a valid way for independent media to decrease their dependence on big donors. By building a community with its audience, independent media will have more success and freedom in their publications. The audience is a vital asset to the success of independent media.

The press is controlled by money but by altering the way in which independent media gets its monetary support completely changes what can be published. And in an era where the freedom of the press is constantly attempted to be suppressed (by corporate investors, government, philanthropists), democratizing the money-gathering process is a win for everyone. Independent media can publish critical information and the audience feels more connected to them because of their economic participation.

We Are All Khaled Said

Social Media and online communication played a large role in exposing police misconduct in Egypt. Khaled Said became the face of a movement after his death resulted in the creation of a Facebook page that exposes police brutality through the use of videos. Khaled was beat to death in a residential building by plainclothes officers because he had taken and published a video of other police officers using explicit drugs.

After the brutal murder of Said, the Facebook page grew exponentially. It gained over 130,000 ‘likes’ so that news of the political corruption could be shared nationally. Then, the rebellion against Egypt’s government came to its crescendo, with protestors carrying signs with Said’s face on them and shouting their discontent.

Online political activism was the main tactic for Egyptian protestors. YouTube and the Facebook Page gained a great following and videos of corruption surfaced. The success of the Egyptian rebellion is largely due to the influence of Independent Media. Citizens took to the streets, armed with their cell phones, to expose the police brutality aimed at the country’s youth. Citizens took advantage of the Internet to organize their protests and mobilize as one movement. Without Social Media, news of the corruption may not have spread as rapidly, which could have delayed action.

The Egyptian Revolution took advantage of its resources to expose government wrongdoings. Without access to Independent Media, like social media pages, it is likely that the overthrowing of the government would not have occurred. The revolution in Egypt exemplifies the importance of citizen engagement through online political activism in an attempt to expose and eradicate political corruption.