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Will a new media company launched by the man who published Snowden’s files finally bring the press up-to-date?
Comment by RAJA EL FANI
Whistleblowing has not only sent tremors through international diplomacy; it has de-stabilised the formal journalistic hierarchy of editors and news agencies.
The growing industry of leaking ‘confidential’ information, accelerated by the blogging phenomenon, now poses a serious threat to mainstream media.
Twitter, the real – falsely underestimated – news agency used by global journalism, hosted a debate this week about the National Security Agency intergovernmental spying scandal:
Gianni Riotta, former director of the Italian Financial Times ‘Sole24ore’, criticised the “questionable” journalistic ethics of Glenn Greenwald; the journalist who is leaving The Guardian after publishing whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA.
Riotta was particularly sceptical about the surprising partnership between eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Greenwald; whose departure from The Guardian follows the CIA order to destroy Snowden’s files.
Omidyar has seized the opportunity to expand into the profitable world of information; offering to back Greenwald’s exclusive news website.
It remains to be seen whether the site will be free from brand eBay, but it will certainly have fewer restrictions than a newspaper.
The increased media freedom proposed by Greenwald is precisely the point which angered Riotta, who believes the new site will undermine the accuracy and credibility underpinning good journalism.
Riotta is outraged on behalf of traditional journalism as a whole, questioning how these pseudo-journalists will think to check their sources?
But are these concerns for national security authentic? And what relevance does this precious “unfiltered raw information” (data) have today anyway?
Social media has made fact-check optional. Of course we must be wary of speculative assumptions masqued as qualified facts; but what matters is the consistency of a fact in the news, not the ‘quality’ of the information.
Once a news item appears, in the time it takes to activate fact-checks, it may have already taken a shape, a public form, or become socially-rooted. Such information can have more impact than any kind of official memorandum.
More testimonials, less evidence: this is the reversal imposed by new media.
What counts is the inherent ability of raw news to communicate, create debates, awaken public opinion and even help us conquer new rights.
This is what we expect from information: to shake the conscience; amid the latest scoop or buzz, survey or trend.
The impact of social media and smartphones in the Arab Spring showed us that the mainstream press can no longer stand alone on the throne of veracity. It is time to divide the work.
When will the dominant media organisations adapt to modernity?
It is not enough to simply update web design and offer digital subscriptions.
It’s depressing to see our tweets cited or stolen; their contents amalgamated into conventional journalistic forms when they belong to egalitarian civil participation.
The small nuggets of information found on Twitter offer valid analytical insights to which exclusivity is denied. But which newspaper would admit to plundering these ‘unauthorised’ sources?
The world of random information, now ubiquitous, has been welcomed but restricted to the margins of professional journalism – as an accessory.
It’s time to set out ethics and statutes to protect those free thoughts.
We need a new journalism; a news organisation that is not simply the online version of a newspaper, or a superblog seeking the industry authority which will undermine its public origins.
We need a forum that welcomes the liveliness of blogging, the rapidity of microblogging; a site which celebrates information in all forms – even in its most passive, unbearably automatic way – the “share”.
That is almost nothing, however embarrassing it is for professionals to admit.
Raja El Fani first published this post at http://supercivic.blog.lettera43.it/
The post was translated by Louisa Clarence-Smith
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