Did you know that in the first 6 months of this year, 536 people in the US had died in tornadoes? Or that this was more than the entire previous decade? Don’t bother checking News Corp for that factoid.
Rupert Murdoch has been found wanting, his imperial power over pollies now mocked amid calls for him to step down and let his son get on with the business of taking journalism into the 21st century.
In the developing world, this still means print. For online readers, mutations are abundant, and we love clicking on a video clip about whatever tickles our fancy. Convergence makes our media habits more promiscuous, and social media allows us to become producers as well as consumers of news.
All this is well-established now, and I commend the Economist’s survey of the changing landscape of news production and consumption (July 9th) for a broad overview on how this is taking public discourse back to the age of the coffee house and pamphleteer.
They quote a technology commentator, David Weinburger, as the source of the insight ‘transparency is the new objectivity’. It is not feasible to even try to pretend to total objectivity, but being honest and open about sources and perspectives gives the audience a fair go at holding writers and their publishers to account. For example, a public speaker who either does not know or is not telling who funded their speaking tour falls somewhere on the spectrum from disingenuous to clown.
New media business models reflect this new reality, looking for ways to encourage alternative reporting and not just commentary. Good commentary, of course, also triangulates sources of information, assembling it in ways that contribute to public discourse.
It is harder to support real reporting and research, but some new media, such as the California Bay Citizen, are doing this through a mix of grants, donations, corporate sponsorship and, importantly, syndication of their content. All tried and true, and part of the world of e-commerce, as described by my much missed friend the late Paul Bambury in this article on types of internet commerce:
Of course, even philanthropy has social (and therefore political) objectives.
And if content, dialogue and trust are drifting away from mass media, does this mean that the public is becoming more informed, or that the global polity is also becoming more mature and responsible?
Not so fast. The problems of the democratic deficit will remain difficult as long as big corporate interests have their fingers in politicians’ pockets, and on their throats. That is the real lesson of the Murdoch scandal, which the UK, and perhaps sleepy Australia, will gradually set to rights.
Back home at Online Opinion, I continue to ride my particular hobby horse. I believe that the lies we were told about weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq were mere peccadilloes compared with the irresponsible gloss being given to the evidence on climate change.
Real world evidence, after all, should take precedence over models.
A valuable source of my new media is FAIR, or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. This analysis by Neil deMause details how the media down-plays the likely impacts of climate change:
I’m writing this from Berlin, no escape here from layers of lessons about lies and distorted media. Would it have mattered if Hitler had Twitter?