More on Journalism In Digital Times

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

“It would be better to have a society with newspapers and no government, than one with government and no newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Robert McChesney and John Nichols are two people that have taught me alot about how the global media works and doesn’t work.  Their writing has accompanied me throughout my journey as the independent and admittedly unorthodox type of journalist that I try to be.  So when they talk, I take it seriously. Last week they were guests on Radio Open Source to talk about their vision of the future of journalism in a digital age. I’m now listening to this program for the third time, still trying to decide what they’re telling us and how I feel about that vision.

Ultimately I recommend anyone and everyone out there listen to the program so you get the details directly from them and not from me translating it the way I understand it.  But I’ll just go over the part I like best and I feel its close to the “third way” of funding journalism in the future, that I’ve been looking for.

According to McChesney and Nichols, the idea is that a free press will not just happen naturally, if there is no funding for citizen and community media, the government should take steps to make sure it can exist and compete with commercial or any other media.  To do so, they envision every citizen getting 200$ (in the US case) in federal money to put towards a non-profit non-commercial media outlet of their choosing, every year.

Thus if there’s a local radio station or newspaper doing work you appreciate and want to see continue, you put your annual money on them.  Say you live in a place, a community where you wish there was some kind of community project, you could pool money amongst the people of the neighborhood and start a new non profit media center.  In the case that you fund something one year and in that year it doesn’t do what you feel is a good job or ceases to produce anything of use, in the following year you can put your money somewhere else.

At first I thought this plan was an old plan that had been laid out and debunked long ago. But listening to it now, this might really be something. A chance to get around the profit motive that has choked out so much good reporting. It doesn’t mean there won’t be commercial media, those would continue to exist much in the way they do now. In fact McChesney points out that in the nations where the most money is given in subsidies to non-commercial media, the private sector is the most robust! Beyond that such a system would encourage philanthropists, including some people I know, to start new projects in non commercial media and gain support from the public.

Give the program a listen, after 3 listens I have finally recognized that this is not just the same old discussion about what will happen to media.. there are possible answers here.

Citizen Journalists Are Targets

by bicyclemark

I’m a citizen journalist.

Why?

Because I said so. It’s just about that easy.

That and… I always carry either a recorder or a camera on me for the express purpose of capturing events that unfold around me that I feel need reporting and I am comitted to doing that reporting myself. Sometime ago, about the time I started this blog, whether I even knew it or not, I stepped into a new role for the average joe. I went from guy with lots of opinions and who reads too many newspapers, to citizen journalist.
Clearly some days are more citizen reporter whereas other days are simply me giving my opinions or personal analysis on topics of my choice. Regardless of what I choose to do on a given day, I’m disseminating information on a mass scale. To you sitting in your office after a great vacation, or you sitting home thinking about how you don’t want to get another job and you’re going to enjoy this time off.

I’m stating what might be the obvious because the concept of citizen journalist is often abused, overlooked, ignored, or simply unkown to many people out there. They still see the big, well funded, household name media outlets as the official reference points for information and those are the only people who get the sacred title of “journalist”.

Those days are obviously on the way out. But there’ still much to be done.

Take the current situation with Josh who videoblogged the events that unfolded at a San Fran g8 demonstration earlier this year. I’ve taken some time to finally mention this because I’ve been so stunned and disappointed at how badly things have gone for him.

Briefly, the police discovered that Josh had videoblogged the demonstration and the clashes between police and protesters, they believed he had unpublished material containing evidence about who hit who. They demanded he hand it over. He refused citing the same rules that protect journalists from revealing sources or handing over material to authorities. As a videoblogger, he is, after all, a citizen journalist. But of course, a courtroom is the last place to expect modern thinking or knowledge of any concept like that. And even worse is the the federal government that is somehow persuing this case and rejects the idea that he is a journalist and deserves such protection.

That’s only a quick summary.. for more you can listen to the recent ON THE MEDIA which covers it well. Also there’s Josh’s blog which now seems to be run by his mom as he is now in jail. (yes.. its come to that point)

I’m watching this case and I’m horrified and glad to not be in the United States as an active citizen journalist. Actually the question comes to mind, could such a thing happen to me here in the Netherlands? I shamefully have no idea, my only strategy to this point is to stay the hell away from cops and give them as little information about my self as possible.

Dark days for the citizen reporter. But evil do-ers and governments beware… we’re out there.. we’re everywhere.. and when all is said and done, there are more of us then there are of you. I think.

Thanks Ryanne for reminding me that this issue needs to be blogged about.