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“This morning I discovered other elements to this sinister imaginary cabal. At around eleven o'clock, after a walk around the area of downtown north of Tahrir, I got into a cab and headed toward the Nile. Three times I found the road blocked by armed men demanding to see my passport, and twice they let me through with the usual apology for having to waylay me. On the third of these, the man roared with delight at seeing my foreign passport and began flipping through it, his eyes drawn first to the stamps with Arabic script. He called over others, and within seconds at least a dozen men in plain clothes surrounded me, two locking my arms behind my back, another threading his fingers tightly through a beltloop, and all the rest hooting with delight at having caught a real Iranian spy. I have an Iranian stamp, a tourist visa from 2009. Like the United States, Iran includes a photo of the visa-holder on the visa itself. So they saw the visa, with all my biographical details and my photo and "Islamic Republic of Iran," and thought they were looking at the passport information page of an Iranian citizen. Pretty soon I was being dragged through the street like a deformed farm animal, and the people around me were yelling "Iranian! Iranian!" while I cried out in my best English in protest. We passed two cafés, and no one even bothered to take a shisha pipe out of his mouth to inquire about me.”—
Suspected of being an Iranian spy, The Atlantic correspondent Graeme Wood was dragged through the streets of Cairo by an Egyptian mob.
Read his latest dispatch from the revolution here.
The Audacity of Truth
There has been a surprising trend of outright calling a lie a lie when told by politicians in this leg of the campaign. Hopefully this trend continues as the DNC begins this week, as we’re sure to hear as many distortions, half-truths and outright lies coming from the other side of the aisle as well. That’s not false equivalence, that’s just based on several lies that SuperPACs have pushed from the Obama campaign, such as one that Mitt Romney was somehow responsible for someone’s death. The idea that somehow SuperPACs are anything but tangentially separate from the campaign is a laughable lie as well, but that’s another article for another day.
The sad truth is that politicians lie, and it is the duty of journalists to inform the public when they are lying.
Another trend that has developed is somewhat more expected. Journalists, in an attempt to try and appear “savvy” will try to explain why lies aren’t really lies and that they’re part of politics, or that we’re naive for bothering to point them out. They’ll say that while that may be untrue, it’s used to make a larger point.
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed has a post called “Pants on Fire Politics” which sub headline is “The Democrats’ attack on Republican honesty is a campaign ploy, not an argument.”
I realize Ben is using “democrats” as his scapegoat here, but throughout the article he’s either pointing to different journalists or blaming them for being duped by the party into bothering to check the facts. If these journalists fail to do the same thing with lies the Obama campaign tells, I would gladly agree with him.
”a casual read could mistake this for evidence about Ryan’s character. It is, in fact, something approaching the opposite”
What else is it but evidence about his character? What else are we to judge a candidate on other than what they do and what they say, and how they distort the facts about themselves and the people they hope to defeat on their way to public office?
The Democrats are hoping to do to Paul Ryan what Republicans so successfully did to Al Gore: To conflate stray real personal exaggerations; rhetorical simplifications; and actual policy differences into an unfair character attack.
The personal exaggeration refers to Ryan lying about his marathon time, which in isolation would be a forgivable white lie, but given how many other documented occurrences now where Ryan has willfully lied about easily refutable facts, it seems to fall into a pattern.
A “rhetorical simplification” is probably a great way to describe the explanation journalists like to use to help us poor dear readers understand why we shouldn’t make such a big deal about what politicians say in their speeches. Some journalists will have you believe that speeches are also rhetorical simplifications of facts used to drive home a larger point.
Aiding those rhetorical simplifications in Ryan’s RNC speech alone are clear lies. We can discuss policy difference if we both agree on the same set of facts. There are records and data and votes that have been cast, legislation that has been blocked and passed, actions that any journalist can easily point to. Instead we hear journalists, especially on cable news, where I’d generously refer to them as “pundits,” acting like they’re doing us some public service by explaining how politics works.
There are reasons why journalists may want to try and couch and contort themselves fearing they’ll lose access to politicians they call out for lying. They fear they’ll be iced out from joining the same 20 people listening to the same platitudes at the same press conference.
A real public service would be to clearly and continuously force politicians face their lies by calling them out to the public, as many have thankfully begun to do.
What we don’t need is more journalists wasting our time explaining to us why they’re lying.
We're All Journalists Now
The modern journalist today should be technologically savvy when it comes to social networking, be on the ball with new media platforms and above all remain on top of the news. But now more and more journalists are arguably put on the back bench and are reliant on citizen journalists.
But is the growth of citizen journalists a positive aspect for today’s media or is it hindering the way in which journalists work?
Chris Anderson in his book ‘The longer, long tail’ states: ‘Never underestimate the power of a million amateurs with keys to the factory.’ He makes a valid point here, most households in the UK are equipped with access to the internet, any individual can set up their own blog within the space of 10 minutes and be up and running for the world to see their opinions and their views on anything they desire.
What if that desire was news and content? This surprisingly in today’s modern society is more frequent than expected. Everyone has their own opinion on something that is happening, and now people seem to think they have become over night journalists when they have taken some raw footage.
Ed Walker, founder of Blog Preston had a lot to say on this topic and as to whether he feels citizen journalism indeed has a positive effect on the way journalism is conducted in today’s society. On whether or not Mr Walker believes that citizen journalism is having a big impact on the media he said; ‘not so much citizen journalism, as citizen content.’
Expanding on the topic of blogging he stresses how much of an impact content from ‘ordinary’ people is having on the media: ‘It is now possible for people to be far more involved in the news production process than ever before. You only have to look at how many photos, videos and other content sent in to traditional media reports. It’s certainly having a big impact. It can help the media to tell the story faster and better with the contributions sent in by the audience.’
It’s an interesting concept when exploring how citizen journalists get their data across to people around the world whether it be other citizens or journalists themselves. Again Chris Anderson explores this in his book and makes an interesting point about blogging; ‘collectively blogs are proving more than an equal to mainstream media’
With the possibility that this could be true, it could be seen as a serious threat to the modern journalist; with blogs spreading the news at the click of a button sometimes before the stories are even broadcast or printed is this making journalism old news? If they are becoming a valued news source than maybe this is so.
However there is also the fact that news sources such as the BBC and mainstream newspapers are well respected and perhaps in most cases considered more reliable than what can be considered as opinion pieces regardless of raw footage or pictures.
But what the main source here seems to be is the spread of all things digital, as explored in ‘The Future Of Journalism In The Advanced Democracies’ ‘digital is now a common platform for all media (Kawamoto, 2003)’ so could the digital age be the key factor in the spread of blogging and ultimately the spread of citizen journalism?
Social networking is another significant factor which interlinks both with digital and with citizen journalism. More and more people are spreading their information on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to ensure they earn a larger readership whether it is for a blog about kittens or a blog about hard news. Ed Walker expressed his opinions on this and said; ‘. Journalists can lean, through Twitter and other social media, how to engage people in the storytelling process and get them helping to make the story.’
The social networking spectrum is like a hub for everyone across the world to engage in, so news therefore can be a jumble and Mr Walker also brought into account that it is the journalists job to find the ‘nuggets’ in that mess and therefore creating the story.
When Steve Jobs died a lot of people were discussing this and finding out on Facebook and Twitter before switching on the news or reading the newspaper. The pace as to how the news travelled is so fast that even with 24 hour rolling news social networking sites can still be one step ahead.
If we take into account the London riots of this year this was a citizen journalism gold mine, pictures taken from passersby were all over the newspapers and television stations.
Some of what was captured was outstanding footage and the pictures went viral across the internet. Again Ed Walker expands further on the aspects of citizen journalism in regards to big events such as the London riots and the affect this has on journalism today. He says; ‘with the spread of smart phones and digital cameras there’s an opportunity for many people to perform journalistic functions, but they can only do part of the story.’
He continues; ‘Citizen Journalism tends to focus on the here and now, not the long game, and that’s definitely a weakness of it. But its important media organisations are engaging their audience and making the most of the explosion of media creation which is happening by their readers.’
On that note what therefore defines a journalist? Looking again at ‘The Future of Journalism in the Advanced Democracies’ it states; ‘The use of ‘citizen journalism’ , in particular has provoked frequent semantic tussles about whether journalism is a practice or a profession and who deserves to be called a journalist (outing 2005; Bell, 2006)’
If an event such as the London riots can provoke such an interest in media through video, pictures, blogging etc. does that make everyone who decides to take part in these activities that day a journalist? No, but it incorporates journalism into their daily routine.
According to Stuart Allan and Einar Thorson in their book; ‘Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives,’ they expand on the photo sharing opportunities of such events online enabling citizen journalism to grow on a multimedia platform; ‘During times of crisis, some people feel compelled to take photos to document events as they unfold… today’s digital cameras and photo – sharing websites mean that the arena for sharing photographic-based information has expanded its reach to a remarkable extent.’
Darren Jenkinson help set up two of the first community radio stations in the UK and is now the community involvement worker for prescap, helping to run Preston FM.
The station is full of volunteers and what can very much be described as citizen journalists who gather their own information and broadcast to listeners. He had his own opinion on citizen journalism and believed that today’s journalist is not surprisingly worried about how big of an impact the citizen journalist is having; ‘Journalists potentially should be worried about citizen journalism, because it is doing what people originally in that sector would do, but what I think journalists need to do and what I certainly do is embrace that, and think let’s find a way of working together and benefit everybody rather than fearing these people who are doing their jobs for them.’
Certainly a different approach to Ed Walker, however Mr Jenkinson also believes that citizen journalism is a positive aspect too; ‘It’s becoming tougher and tougher to be a journalist, over the last 10-15 years it has changed and journalists are more office based and citizen journalism fills that gap in the middle, its people who have an interest who want to get those stories out because they’re passionate about their communities, I don’t think they’ll ever replace journalists because there’s a certain skill set…media is much more accessible and people can do it for themselves, they are much more able to dissect and reinterpret the information they get and also collect it from different sources.’
On asking Darren Jenkinson whether he believes citizen journalism will continue to have a vital impact on the media not just now but in the future he said; ‘I think it will be journalism in the future, otherwise it’s going to get to the point where all journalism will become is a regurgitation of press releases, I think having the people who actually live in the areas is the way that journalists will actually collate and redistribute the information.’
This is an interesting concept; if it wasn’t for citizen journalists would news really be that boring and repetitive?
Looking back at this past year there have been countless stories which have hit the headlines with footage and information often from citizen journalists, take for example the car that was pushed along the motorway by the lorry. The video which was broadcast all across the UK was from an amateur video, recorded on a mobile phone by what can well be described as a citizen journalist.
It seems to be a well-known fact that citizen journalism is here to stay, the growth of the expanding media platforms and the level as to which social networking is continuing to impact on news and content is making it so much easier to share data and information worldwide.
Journalists seem to be currently working alongside citizen journalists but whether this continues is yet to be seen.
Oprah Winfrey's Bodyguards Get Into Scuffle With Indian Journalists
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