The first thing you do in a war is take out and control your enemy's communication system. Our news has been taken over by entertainment, propaganda and massive corporations. Huffington Post is one alternative to this. But we need to look at news overall, internationally, and how journalism will move forward in the years ahead. Otherwise we risk not having any real news at all.
This is not a new story but it is an extremely important and urgent one. Friends and acquaintances of mine who have been working as salaried journalists and as independents are becoming more disturbed by the reality of what is happening in journalism today. These journalists are, for the most part, working in the West, in Europe and the U.S, as foreign correspondents are virtually disappearing. The result is little or no news coming in from many parts of the world. We saw it with embedded journalists in Iraq, and the rest of the so-called war correspondents holed up in hotel rooms, with no permission to leave protected Green Zones. We see it with the budget cuts and the fact that journalists are now re-edited and controlled in order to fit the advertising revenue (or lack thereof) instead of the truth.
Much news is now made in offices: phone calls are made, other people's information is repackaged and resold, but no real reporting is taking place. These are now places where workers, not journalists, cut and paste information found on the internet. Very few people travel to the site of where the news is taking place anymore.
Yet, there are still small pockets of resistance where hard work and real reporting to be found. There are indeed those who are spending often their own time and money to bring us serious journalism. At the Amsterdam Documentary Festival last week, I saw several important films about Latin America and political change there, as well as about the Middle East, with several hour discussions to follow. But who will see these films? They are made on shoe-string budgets by dedicated professionals who feel a true responsibility to providing us with facts, yet it is harder and harder to make and sell these works.
At the festival, there were also fantastic docs such as the one on Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, and I, Psychopath, which force us to question whether our society is becoming a sick place where fear and narcissism and the control of information, power and money, are changing our worldview. We are simply being manipulated by media and images. The cinemas at the festival were mostly full. But how are these docs being distributed and who is watching them? And, even more so, who is acting on the information received from watching them? They are showing us a truth we are not seeing on the nightly news. In other words, why are we not protesting about how we are being manipulated by the media?
There has always good news and bad news. But when propaganda, on either side, be it positive or negative, is used to try to sway public opinion, something has to be done. If the citizens are not receiving the truth about a negative situation, how can they hope to come up with real and sustainable solutions? It simply becomes a cover-up, with false answers We have to dig deep and to do so takes time and good journalism takes money. You cannot run a news organization by paying journalists so badly they cannot support their families. New models for covering news are being created, but they need responsible investors to back them.
One way to improve and revive investigative journalism is the foundation support model, instead of relying on advertising. But these foundations must be dedicated to making sure there is no infiltration by monies that mean to sway opinion. News needs to be objective and honest, otherwise it becomes propaganda. Corporations back our Public Broadcasting through foundations. This also needs to be looked into and kept in check by Public agencies. Public private partnerships can be both good and bed. Self-censorship can be an unwanted result.
Another model is one like the independent citizen photojournalism site, Demotix, which encourages both professional and citizen journalists to contribute, and it pays when it sells and has a true profit-sharing model. Huffington Post is partnering with foundations to provide investigative journalism. But we need more people on the ground, local journalists who are trained to report; to verify facts; to go to where the news is being made. Twitter also helps, but this too can be manipulated. And journalists on the ground in many places need to be protected -- at times even post anonymously -- yet facts must be checked by responsible individuals and organizations.
I believe in real journalism. I know that when one is on the ground -- living in places with the people who every day are experiencing injustice, poverty and hardship -- that many solutions and uplifting stories can also be found. But first we need to see the truth. It is a moral duty to make sure people all around the world have access to information. Let's make sure technology for the bottom billions also includes serious content, news and education. Let's bring back real reporting. Let's stop censorship and self-censorship, which kill true reporting. Let's not buckle to corporate advertising money in pursuit of the truth.
People know when they are being lied to, but if fear is being used to sell false information, people do not know where to turn for real information that can help them live better and make wise decision for themselves and their communities. We need to continue to take back the media. No one owns the truth. The Truth belongs to all of us.
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