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Journalism and The Internet

modern journalism

Freelancing & Digital Media

We have lots of talk these days concerning ‘fake news’, the influence of social media on recent outcomes and the emergence of alternative media groups.

Hillary Clinton famously stated that we are amidst an ‘Information War’ and that she considered the then establishment to be losing this war. However I would suggest that Clinton’s perception of a propaganda war is actually the reality of a more pluralistic media; we have 20 years now to look back on, and the narratives have been expanded. 

The previous information ‘hegemony’ of mainstream media has been disrupted, we have gained a significant advance with the emergence of so-called ‘citizen journalism’ and a variety of other alternative media groups. 

We need to look closely at the foundations of journalism and revisit the values which gave the profession its ranking in our society. There are many who aspire to lofty ideals among the ranks of alternative media, we should not allow this ‘fake news’ meme to obscure this.

I have always admired the Australian journalist, and documentary maker John Pilger, his contributions to the values of journalism have been considerable over the years, and he has some very interesting things to say about digital media, and the responsibility of journalists in today’s world.

The field of ‘Freelancing’ itself contains the germ of potential independence from mainstream media, it is only one step more to the idea of building independent media companies, which arguably many blogs are in fact becoming; a political/news blog is no different to many of the newspapers which have sought to re-invent themselves in the digital sense.

20th Century Empires

I would argue that this is what we are seeing all over the world. The media empires which had their genesis in the 20th Century are no longer assured of their ranking, or their acceptance by the market. The forces which determine market share have been made more egalitarian by the tendency of the internet to act as a global ‘middleman’.

This is a perceptual leap. 

All kinds of middleman enterprise have been displaced by the internet. We have seen the outrage of different business areas, Taxi companies in every city have seen their dominance dwindle and give way to independent drivers who use social media, and the principle of free enterprise. It is not difficult to also see the market share of media advertising being eroded, television, newspapers and magazines are no longer the media of choice.

Journalism has become substantially about attention. 

The attention of the public used to be assured through the dominance of mainstream mass-media, this has been vastly displaced by a profusion of alternatives, boutique media groups, internet based media, podcasting, blogs, video programs on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and privately owned platforms.

Wikileaks, a powerful example of independent journalism, has been targeted as being ‘subversive’ and a source of great discomfort for the establishment groups of the west. The plight of Julian Assange as the chief architect of Wikileaks is a disturbing story.

It seems the values of true journalism are not supported by our society, as much as we like to think they are.

Julian Assange, now bailed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has been effectively silenced by a new regime in Ecuador which has buckled to political pressure from Washington, removing his access to the internet, and even his telephone access. 

So what actually is the problem with Mr Assange, why are they so intent on shutting him down, on persecuting him? We need to take a look at the story, objectively, and account for this situation.

What is at the core of this remarkable bullying by two giant states of the western world-The United States, and Great Britain no less? They must feel very threatened to devote so much attention to one little Aussie guy with a modest media company behind him?

You might point to that matter about Julian’s little trip to Sweden in 2010, where two women sought to request Julian take a test for STD’s following an alleged sexual encounter with him which was later described as ‘rape’ and ‘molestation’; a matter Julian denied vigorously-he admitted to having consensual sex with them, all of this had the hallmark of a ‘beat up’.

The arrest warrant for Mr Assange was dropped by the Swedish prosecutors. They seem very intent on getting to Julian, matters which in the normal sequence of events would be dismissed as trifling, tenuous at best are given the serious treatment; any thread of legal prosecution is being executed to the maximum extent possible by the U.K.

Because of Wikileaks you say? They, of course claim not.

What is it about Wikileaks that has the powers-that-be so triggered, so relentless in their quest to squash Julian Assange and extinguish his work?

We need to ask this basic question, because so much is riding on the answers, do we accept the official version of this matter, or is there more to it, can we learn something here?

From the perspective of ordinary people, for those of us who are not involved with public life, with politics, with journalism, with the macro events of global conflicts it all looks very strange; layers of intrigue, the classic ‘cloak & dagger’ story lines!

What have been the outcomes from Wikileaks presenting their materials? 

Is this betrayal which endangers the cause of our governments, and by derivation, our own cause, or is this simply damned good journalism which reveals the truth, and raises disturbing questions about those who profess to represent our will, and values?

This is the big question.

If we maintain that we are a democratic, and free society then this question is actually so big that we really need to discuss and process this. We can’t allow people who declare themselves to be representative of us all to get away with tyranny. If we do, we can say goodbye to our pretenses of being a free society.

I have been thinking about this situation, it surfaces intermittently through the mainstream news services, and there is something a bit odd about how it is presented. 

Each of the mainstream news organizations seem to use similar language, the same kind of headlines, the same overall attitude, and this is one of censure, implied guilt.

This is a topic which is central to the whole field of journalism, of News reporting. 

Why is it that there is so much similarity between the major media organizations of the world, it is almost as if each one is an affiliate, a member of a larger club?

We have become so used to the style and tone of our news organizations, each one servicing a different location but seeming to create the same cultural narratives, adopting a similar ‘voice’, and assuming similar audience targets.

This idea of building an audience ‘avatar’ is a familiar one to any who seek to create public relations, to pitch their message to a specific group of people.

Demographics and socio-economic data is employed by many:

 “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

Edward Bernays – from ‘Propaganda’ 1928

The Masses. Now there is a term for you, always used by political pundits and philosophers to refer to the macro personality of a country! Those who can influence and change opinions, and on a large scale are truly powerful.

We are being told that our opinions and tendencies to select particular outcomes have been the result of unseen influences, from ‘Russian Bots’ on Facebook, on YouTube and other internet media platforms!

The outcomes from 2016 in the USA & UK respectively have been continuously challenged by an outraged establishment, a significant and powerful group who have been grooming western society for changes over the past 30 years. They are not accepting these outcomes easily.

It seems user data has been ‘improperly’ used to stack the odds, to give both Trump and Brexit an unfair advantage, to literally enable masses of people to be ‘brainwashed’.

There we have it, the masses are not supposed to be able to think for themselves, they acted out of line with the program! Those choices were there as a default alternative, a cosmetic concession to ‘fair play’, we were not supposed to have favored them.

Julian Assange The Current State of Play

This is the environment in which Julian Assange finds himself. The UK has spent in excess of 14 million pounds sterling* funding a 24 hour police presence, installing sophisticated surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the Ecuadorian embassy,  all to ensure Julian Assange is apprehended the moment he steps onto the pavement outside the embassy, which has granted Julian political asylum; effectively an incarceration.

 Julian faces extradition to the USA, and here he would face an uncertain future, to put it mildly.

Wikileaks published 33,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server just prior to the 2016 election, these detailed the direct funding of ISIS by Saudi Arabia, Morocco, they detailed the behind the scenes lead up to the destruction of Libya and Qaddafi, and Clinton’s use of this appalling project to burnish her political aspirations for the presidency. It was not a pretty picture, and for many analysts these emails basically blew the chances Clinton had of being elected.

The fact that Wikileaks has released many other covert communications from Russia, from many other countries seems to be ignored; and the fact that Wikileaks seeks no favor from any quarter, it simply reveals data which many find inconvenient and embarrassing seems to have made Assange universally unpopular with all kinds of powerful people.

True journalism, effective freedom of speech does not appear to be quite so vigorously valued in the circles of actual power!

Independent journalism is a difficult path if you manage to gain attention. We still have a global club, an affiliate network of ideological, and economic relationships which strives to dominate the narratives; their assured hegemony is no longer absolute, and Wikileaks is a strong contender for the alternative media.

We have several other alternative media groups, and a profusion of independent bloggers which also have the potential to grow their audiences, and build influence and leverage; freelancing might be on-trend as mode of work, but it also represents the vast resources of an alternative media presence.

The push-back from the established media groups among the mainstream clubs has been to attempt to discredit social media, and build distrust and discord among the public consumers. The recent ‘Cambridge Analytica’ so called data breach of Facebook is an an example of this.

User data is compiled from user profiles when they sign up for accounts on Facebook. This demographics and life-style data is then sold off to bidders who can then target different groups, the user community is effectively a ‘product’. So the implication is being put forward that somehow this marketing data allows political campaign strategists to gain some kind of an advantage.

Yes, right.

Alternative Media & Freelancing

The nature of alternative media was not even taken seriously prior to 2016 by many among the ‘old media’. You might have noticed that podcasting and blogging is now being enthusiastically embraced by the mainstream media groups in the hope of diverting this rush away from their consumer audiences.

Whichever way you look at it, journalism, media and influence have changed forever. We are witnessing unprecedented times where we can present our media to the market, and this then decides if you are credible, if you are to be trusted and respected.

The dominance of media narratives by 20th Century established groups is no longer real. This is an exciting, turbulent era and one that has yet to be played out. The power struggle between ideologies and the mechanism of influence is an ongoing tension.

You can be certain that the opportunity to publish, and to gain a foothold in today’s digital world is one that many new citizen journalists and alternative analysts will pursue, I believe this is moving towards a more egalitarian and pluralistic media; I solemnly hope Julian Assange can find resolution and win back his freedom, articles such as this one can help by spreading the message, and building digital media into a powerful force for good. If you are encouraged to publish your own media, and even build your own media company, I admire your spirit.

You might think, well what is the point, it is just too noisy, too crowded for anyone’s voice to be heard! 

I know it can seem just too difficult. However, I also know that persistence, and the truth can be very powerful, social media is also very powerful.

Why do you think we have this push back against Facebook, this program of building distrust and doubt concerning internet media? This suggestion that social media abuses its power, what a hypocritical joke that is!

Mainstream media, and the restricted club of media empires has always abused its power, in ways which vastly exceed a little sharing of demographic market data has done.

There are many out there among the mass media titans who are incensed their influence and authority has been diminished and displaced. Make no mistake, there is a war on, an information war, a media war.

The power and influence of digital media is growing, steadily, with compound interest. If you are a communicator, writer, journalist you need to focus on digital media and build your voice.

I noticed something quite interesting recently here in Australia, the established mainstream mass media groups are putting up ‘pay walls’ to fence off their production. By so doing they seek to demonstrate that their journalism is exclusive, only the discerning consumer will be motivated to pay for their higher grade of journalistic prose, their authority and quality is assured.

Well, too bad guys, what you are essentially doing is restricting the views of your production. I recently put this search query into Google: ‘The power of digital media’.

The results of this query?

The Australian has this story about Silicone Valley giants ‘abusing their power’, and if you want to read it, you have to subscribe to the pay wall!

The search engine optimized article is closed off from being viewed by the ‘great unwashed’.

I am not really sure what The Australian hopes to gain by this. Only those readers who buy into the bullshit of superior journalism, what, the exclusive clubs of media companies who snap to the heels of their corporate masters, the covert investor driven little pockets of snobs and wealthy punters?

The great power of digital media is that it produces an open market. This open market determines the value of your presentations, it is definitely more egalitarian, closer to the original principles of good journalism!

If you are digitally literate, and you understand your audience you can reach them, and build your narratives, respond to the two-way communications dynamic digital media enables.

Putting up pay walls is not going to save you!


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