Investigative journalism threatened by commercialization

I have noticed a greater tendency toward what I call copy-journalism. Facts aren’t checked, and people are taken at their word. Some time ago I wrote a post on another blog about a person whose self-presentation did not fit the facts. Yet her narrative was the one media used. Even though the case was small, it mattered a great deal to all parties involved. For the first time a post of mine was shared in large numbers.

This article is about freedom of the press and how commercialization and the powers that be are threatening it in the US. The US is not the only country where that is the case. Norwegian press is being influenced by the demands of clicks. We need a free press, a press that is willing and able to investigate and dig for information. If not, our future looks bleak.

‘If we can’t have faith in press, we’ve lost’: Snowden on failing journalism

Published time: 11 May, 2016 18:24

Former US intelligence contractor and whistle blower Edward Snowden. © Lotta Hardelin / Dagens Nyheter
Former US intelligence contractor and whistle blower Edward Snowden. © Lotta Hardelin / Dagens Nyheter / AFP

Journalism as a weapon has never been stronger, but has never been less willing to serve the public good, says whistleblower Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor has called for a reassessment of the public’s relationship to the media.

Journalism as a weapon has never been stronger, but has never been less willing to serve the public good, says whistleblower Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor has called for a reassessment of the public’s relationship to the media.

He outlines his views on the present state of journalism and the increasing role that those in power play in controlling it in an interview he gave to the Columbia Journalism Review.

One of the most challenging things about the changing nature of the public’s relationship to media and the government’s relationship to media is that media has never been stronger than it is now,” Snowden says. “At the same time, the press is less willing to use that sort of power and influence because of its increasing commercialization.

Part of the reason is capitalistic greed and the 24-hour news cycle, according to Snowden. There is a conveyor belt of information that is aimed more at competition and staying afloat than at questioning the official line or writing a story that would set a source apart from competing outlets.

One example of this is writing counter-narratives to somebody’s exclusive coverage instead of spreading a good story. When the reporting of facts takes a back seat, the media isn’t doing its only job.

Snowden specifically calls out the New York Times as an offender.The Intercept recently published The Drone Papers, which was an extraordinary act of public service on the part of a whistleblower within the government to get the public information that’s absolutely vital about things that we should have known more than a decade ago,” Snowden remembers. But the majors – specifically The New York Times – don’t actually run the story, they ignore it completely.

The former intelligence contractor now living in exile in Russia believes that in the post-9/11 world the media has increasingly drifted away from its primary purpose as a public service to becoming an instrument for the promotion of the government line and the strengthening of its elites.

If it involved the word ‘terrorism,’ these were facts that wouldn’t be challenged. If the government said, ‘Look, this is secret for a reason, this is classified for a reason,’ journalists would leave it at that,” Snowden said, referring to major US news outlets.

However, he also believes there’s no better time to strike back at this monopoly over information, especially with all the new technological tools we have at our disposal. Revelations such as the ones relating to NSA’s blanket-spying PRISM program deal a strong blow to the establishment.

When the government is shown in a most public way, particularly for a president who campaigned on the idea of curtailing this sort of activity, to have continued those policies, in many cases expanded them in ways contrary to what the public would expect, they have to come up with some defense, Snowden says.

The exiled whistleblower talks about media as both a threat to the hegemony of the surveillance state and as its strongest weapon.

The public’s relationship to it changed in the post-9/11 world. New models of journalistic delivery emerged, including the proliferation of social media as a formidable reporting instrument.

This is actually one of the ways that you’ve seen new media actors, and actually malicious actors, exploit what are perceived as new vulnerabilities in media control of the narrative, for example Donald Trump, Snowden warns.

An added danger of social media, according to Snowden, lies in people’s inherent trust that they’re getting a better deal than with established corporate media. And a further drawback shared by both social and corporate media is that he who has the loudest voice and the biggest viewership always has a bigger chance. Even a good, honest investigation can get smothered if only one source dares to report it.

The director of the FBI can make a false statement, or some kind of misleading claim in congressional testimony. I can fact-check and I can say this is inaccurate. Unless some entity with a larger audience, for example, an established institution of journalism, sees that themselves, the value of these sorts of statements is still fairly minimal, Snowden explains.

This has a flipside in the form of a large interplay and valuable interactions that are emerging from these new media self-publication Twitter-type services and the generation of stories and the journalist user base of Twitter, Snowden believes.

So, what has changed in the information sphere since the 2013 NSA leaks and was there really a loss of innocence for the public? Why was there such surprise at the revelations that the NSA was running a blanket-spying program? Snowden remembers past revelations, but sees a key difference. If before there was reasonable anger that specific far-reaching government capabilities existed, the NSA leaks of 2013 took that to the next level by claiming that this technology was actually being used.

…What happened in 2013 is we transformed the public debate from allegation to fact. The distance between allegation and fact, at times, makes all the difference in the world, Snowden says.

One markedly different thing now was that the US government had to start using lawfulness as a concept. If before it was protected by a veil of secrecy and could carry on with its activities unabated, [it] suddenly needed to make a case for lawfulness, and that meant the government had to disclose court orders that the journalists themselves did not have access to, that I did not have access to, that no one in the NSA at all had access to, because they were bounded in a completely different agency, in the Department of Justice, Snowden explains. …

You may read the rest of the article at RT Question More

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