The Power of One

Matthew Lee’s story about his publication, Inner City Press, struck a cord with me because it showed how much power one company could have over who sees content on the Internet. Even though Google just blocked Inner City Press from the news feature on its website, it was still prohibiting an option for readers to find that content. All of Inner City Press’s content was still on the Internet, but Google made it significantly more difficult for people to come by it. Lee was willing to speak up against Google, something the mainstream media was not doing, and he was punished for it. He was asking the questions that should have been asked, which mainstream reporters were to afraid to ask.

This is only one of the many disadvantages independent journalists face. They don’t have the protection of a big corporation, and they don’t have the resources to fight back against any injustice brought against them. It is important that other journalists showed support for Lee, even reporters in the mainstream field.

Regardless of capitalism and big corporation’s power, independent journalists and publications need to continue doing the work they have set out to do. It is inevitable that they are going to face obstacles and challenges, like those experienced by Inner City Press, but what is important is what they continue to do after those challenges are faced. There are enough independent journalists out there that can show support and band together to continue the important journalism that is being produced. Time and time again, it has been proven it is not an easy industry to be a part of, but it isn’t discouraging enough where these journalists don’t go back for more.


Lessons to be Learned from George Seldes

In Press Critic George Seldes Leaves a Legacy of Courage, Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon outlined what separated Georges Seldes from traditional mainstream reporters. Seldes frequently questioned stories the government was telling and went directly to the source, instead of relying on what other people were spewing. It would have been much easier for him to follow the path of the majority of reporters; he would have been guaranteed a job, he would have had built in readership, and the FBI wouldn’t have had a 5,000-page investigation on him. He did journalism the way he thought it should be done, despite the struggles and consequences.

Journalists today should look at the Seldes did and learn from it. It’s just as easy today to follow the mainstream media career path and not question authority and regurgitate information. However, today it is easier to do the work Seldes did because of our access to information on the Internet. He had to go out and uncover the stories he was telling that the mainstream media was ignoring. There are an endless amount of records and information that independent journalists can access and tell stories that are hidden or aren’t being told. Seldes saw the importance in telling the stories that were controversial and off the beaten path, and journalists today should take also see the same importance.

While Seldes approached his work from a national and international perspective, journalists should also consider replicating his work at a local and state level. Local and state governments are just as likely to be hiding stories as the national government, and local reporters are most likely still not telling the stories they should. There are different ways and to different degrees that Seldes’s style of journalism can be used. The point is to tell the important story, regardless of who doesn’t want it told.

Seldes’s work showed it wasn’t always easy work, but that should not stop journalists from following the standards he set. With more people doing the kind of journalism he did, the more likely corruption and wrongdoings will be exposed. Even if readership is low, his publication only reached a circulation of 176,000 copies, the right people may read the story to make it spread. The focus shouldn’t be on popularity or fame or money, these things were clearly not Seldes’s focus; the focus should be upholding journalistic ethics and integrity.


Bearing Witness to News

In Arianna Huffington’s blog post, “Bearing Witness 2.0: You Can’t Spin 10,000 Tweets and Camera Phone Uploads,” she addressed the issue of whether eyewitness reporting is always the best method for reporting the most accurate story. In theory, it would make sense that being on the ground witnessing the event would allow for the most accurate portrayal of events, but Huffington does not think that always produces the best story. This may have been the case before “new media,” like Facebook and Twitter, but we have emerged into a time where different resources need to be utilized to see the full picture and have a deeper understanding of the story.

When the Chinese government is personally walking journalists through an event giving them an eye witness account, how can it be argued that their story is more accurate than journalists using the stories people were telling who were involved with the event and had their accounts removed from the Internet by the Chinese government? The government has complete power in revealing what the journalists see and know, and the journalists can see and believe what they want instead of understanding the fuller picture. Journalists should consider all means of retrieving information to more accurately understand an event or story. It is more difficult to deny actual pictures on Twitter and videos on Youtube than an official statement from the government.

It is crucial that journalists understand that media is changing and the methods of obtaining a story are changing. Independent bloggers and journalists were quick to adopt using social media and “non-eyewitness” means of reporting to get their stories to their readers. It is possible to accurately cover a story and still get the atmosphere of the event without actually being on the ground covering it. There are people willing to share their experiences and their information and journalists should be looking to these people in their reporting.

As the Internet has proven time and time again, not everything on the Internet is true, so journalists still have the responsibility of fact checking their information and doing their best to use reliable information.  The potential that something may be wrong or need to be checked shouldn’t prohibit journalists from seeking new media as a way from telling a story. Talking to a police officer at an event could be just as misleading as someone’s tweet. Regardless of the source there always needs to be some skepticism.

One of Huffington’s final points that truly rings true is new media has given a whole new group of journalists the potential to report on different events because they no longer have to be at the event to cover it. This removes the cost and travel barrier that before only elite or mainstream journalists could overcome. New media has opened up the journalistic world for independent journalists to just as actively participate as mainstream and salaried journalists.