Veteran podcaster and new media pioneer Richard Bluestein joins me on the podcast today as we discuss staying free and making your podcast into a career.
Capitalism, at least the version that is commonly practiced in this era that we currently live in, has a long list of terrible drawbacks. The one I was thinking most about this evening, as I cruised the canals of Amsterdam, is the marriage of business and media.
Let us take a step back for a moment. While pure capitalism seems to push for a world where everything is a commodity and everything can be bought and sold. We know, in fact, that many things cannot and SHOULD NOT be for sale. Examples of this include matters of public safety, like the Fire Department. Many centuries ago they experimented with private fire brigades in the US, but of course houses that didn’t pay for service burned down and led to other houses catching fire. Clearly, fire protection was deemed something that cannot be a business.
Let us return to media, a far cry from the world of fires and fire protection. Media is widely operated around the world as a business. While there are numerous public media run from public funds, a majority of the world’s information comes from media companies that are private businesses. Why even in terms of language (english anyway) you hear this cultural norm in the term “the newspaper business”. Yup, when you talk about media, you’re almost always talking about business.
Yet everywhere you look there is evidence of what a terrible and detrimental marriage this is. News reports mixed with advertisements to the point you can’t tell which is which. Media companies buying other media companies and cutting staff and budgets in order to increase profit margins. News programs covering topics that will attract the most amount of people in order to attract the most amount of advertisers, appealing to people’s insecurities, fears, or dreams. Ignoring news that makes people uncomfortable about their lives, their government, or the companies they help fund. Firing or marginalizing reporters that dare to challenge this system, by direct or indirect orders of business managers or sponsors.
Over and over again, now of course, on the internet, we are told that media is a business and that is just how it has to be.
People ask me, “Maybe you could make a living out of your work on the site by having ads or a sponsor”, and I make some excuse about not being sure what to do. The truth is I am very sure it has been and would be a mistake. More than that, I disagree with the global norm, the widely accepted tradition that this is how media works and the world will be fine if this continues. It’s not fine. We are not ok, and one of the most basic reasons is the way our media system functions… the business of reporting the news.
And so I carry on without the sponsors. Without the money that journalists need to survive. Like many of my friends and fellow reporters on the internet, I try to formulate a better way. Or more often, sit here hoping that if I keep doing my work, that new day will finally come when media breaks free from business and finds a better way to exist. One where reporting about people and injustice gets the priority, and funding comes without the need to sell something or compromise the essential principles that make it possible to shed light on what has been left in the dark for much too long.
It feels like May, to me, when frisbee season is in full swing and I’m playing three times a week or more and I run and throw for hours without noticing. It also means that new people join the our league here in Amsterdam, and that inevitably means all those questions that I can never answer properly about what I do.
What do I do? “I’m an internet journalist.” “I’m a podcast journalist.” “I’m a freelancer.” “I do a little of everything.” “I’m under-employed.” Or my personal favorite “I drive a red boat around town.” No doubt it has scared away a potential date or two.
And so this evening I’m reading up a bit on the wonderful Portuguese blog written by Antonio Granado about journalism and the internet. Recently he pointed out some facts about the online application known as twitter. If you’ve no idea what twitter is, I can summarize what you’re missing – Potentially great, amazingly useless.
Why so bitter? It is like many things in this life and on these internets, the power to harness creative energy and people through revolutionary communication…. used to broadcast complete nothingness.
Picture it, you go on twitter and you have a small collection of friends, a common thing with all the internet applications these days. And whenever you easily and quickly type in a 2 line message, all your friends can see it in a real time chronological list. NOW, ideally, this could be used for say… a group of journalists… or say gardeners.. writing brief updates about a project, problem, or pressing issue that collectively, the group could certainly benefit from hearing about and responding to it. The same has always been said for how blogging or lots of different online applications could be used.
So I joined twitter many months ago, loaded it up with 20 or so of my favorite videobloggers, podcasters, and those I consider internet activists.. concerned about understanding the world around them. I purposely do not add another 40 to 60 people, most likely some very nice people who I suppose want to hear my little messages, but whose messages I just do not want to spend time reading.
But whether it is on my list, or someone else’s list, most of what is happening is simply garbage. Occasionally I find that even I join in and write some useless garbage like “trying to figure out where the socks get lost in the laundry process.” Just one more in the pile of messages about who is bored. Who is eating. Who is watching TV.
So much potential in the hands of we who somehow don’t take advantage…don’t manage to get passed ourselves and our provincial thoughts or activities. And then we hear about how twitter is growing and how amazing it is and wow what an application.
Amazing indeed. Some guy just announced he’s going to sleep while another one is about to watch the latest Sopranos. Rest easy world, today’s internet user is highly complex and concerned about the problems of this world.
A few seconds ago I heard on the twitter that Josh Wolf is being freed.
Josh Wolf has been in jail for 226 days.
Josh Wolf is a journalist and he does not work for a mainstream media corporation.
Josh Wolf doesn’t know me, but everyday he spent in jail made a difference in my life.
Josh Wolf is my colleague; a vlogger, a journalist, a critical independent voice.
Thank you Josh.