October 15, 2010
The emerging power of new media and blogs
The new media on the internet provides a way to break free of the blinkered view that the traditional media provides. What the new media offers is a vast array of informed people who are willing to do the meticulous and painstaking work to get to the truth. The traditional media cannot or will not do this either because they want to go with the superficial and sensational in their search for ratings or because they are laying off their investigative reporters or because they do not want to offend powerful interests, because they themselves are part of the corporate elite
This year, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill received the second annual Izzy Award, named after the legendary investigative reporter I. F. "Izzy" Stone, and given for outstanding achievement in independent media. The first winners were Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and Glenn Greenwald. In an interview, Scahill talks about the potential of the new alternative media made possible by the internet.
I believe that the way independent journalists are most effectively able to conduct their work is by maintaining their independence from the powerful. I don't hob-nob with the powerful. I don't count among my friends executives or other powerful people. I think it's important for independent journalists to not be beholden to any special interests whatsoever.
I think we're at a moment where we have a lot of really good independent journalism that's being produced by bloggers and independent journalists, but we also need to not go far away from that tradition of peer review, editing and fact-checking.
We live in a very exciting time in independent media. Corporate journalists are less powerful now than they were 10 years ago, but their owners are much more powerful. Still, the journalists themselves -- they're no longer these sort of regal kings on a hill. Peggy Noonan represents a dying generation of people that pontificate from a golden palace somewhere, hoping the poor will never get through her gates.
The poor are now journalists around the world. The question is: how do we fund it? How do we keep it viable? How do we keep it credible? And that is our challenge right now.
Glenn Greenwald has a nice piece on the value of blogs that was displayed when the traditional media misrepresented Sonia Sotomayor when she was nominated to the US Supreme Court. The media used an original blog report as the source to present a distorted picture of her and it was the blogs that fought back to correct the record.
Another case where blogs forced a reporter to retract was when New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin indulged in some gratuitous union bashing in a TV interview, suggesting that unionized companies were all doomed to failure. The counter-examples came thick and fast and quick on the blogs, forcing him to recant. He is unlikely to make that mistake again. This kind of accountability and correction is unlikely to have happened in the pre-internet, pre-blog days.