Current State of Investigative Reporting

Newspapers across the nation are in serious trouble, pummeled by the recession, by declining revenue […]and readership, and by competition from round-the-clock online resources. Speaking at a reception marking the launch of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at BU, Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and an author, speaks about the current state of investigative reporting.Hosted by New England Center for Investigative Reporting on May 19, 2009.

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The Collapse of Journalism/ The Journalism of Collapse

by Robert Jensen

A version of this essay The Collapse of Journalism/The Journalism of Collapse: New Storytelling and a New Story was delivered as the Lawrence Dana Pinkham Memorial Lecture, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, India, March 18, 2010.

There is considerable attention paid in the United States to the collapse of journalism — both in terms of the demise of the business model for corporate commercial news media, and the evermore superficial, shallow, and senseless content that is inadequate for citizens concerned with self-governance. This collapse is part of larger crises in the political and economic spheres, crises rooted in the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism. New journalistic vehicles for storytelling are desperately needed.

There has been far less discussion of the need for a journalism of collapse — the challenge to tell the story of a world facing multiple crises in the realms of social justice and sustainability. This collapse of the basic political and economic systems of the modern world, with dramatic consequences on the human and ecological fronts, demands not only new storytelling vehicles but a new story.

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America’s nightly news: Watching us watching you

When the journalist David Barsamian asked Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy about her travels in the United States, she admitted that she was amazed how insular a nation America really was. “When you live outside it, and you come here, it’s almost shocking how insular it is. And how puzzled people are — and how curious, now I realize, about what other people think, because its just been blocked out.”

Thus, Roy may not be surprised that when the Tyndall Report broke down the nightly newscasts of the three main networks in the US (ABC, NBC, and CBS), the top Indian story was the appearance of two uninvited guests at the White House dinner for Manmohan Singh.

As the IPS noted this weekend, much can be learned about America’s news diet from the Tyndall Report’s review of 2009 which ranks the airtime given to various issues on the nation’s top three nightly half-hour news broadcasts.

So what were Americans watching? Health care reform and the H1N1 virus dominated the airwaves. Afghanistan received more coverage than Iraq for the first time since the invasion of Iraq (735 minutes to 169 minutes). The international focus was certainly on the Middle East as Israel and Palestine were given 132 minutes (102 of those during the siege of Gaza). Iran’s election and nuclear program was also a central international story with 194 minutes and Ethiopian piracy garnered a considerable amount of press with 112 minutes.
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An Interview with Joe Sacco

From the excellent Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption. An interview with Joe Sacco the acclaimed author, illustrator, journalist and historian. Sacco is the author of several award-winning works of graphic journalism, including Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, War Junkie, and The Fixer.

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Peace Camp Man – Profile of a Zionist Pacifist

It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's Peace Camp Man! (a.k.a Yaron London)

Today I was sent an op-ed, written by celebrated Israeli journalist, Yaron London, titled “The Victory of Cruelty”. In this op-ed, the man, who was apparently once known as the “peace camp man”, calls for another “disproportionate” blow to Gaza and disregard for ‘international public opinion“. The words ethics and morals aren’t mentioned once, the word law appears in regards to that wayward Islamic law (waywardness only implied, this is strictly my own syllogism). So how does it happen that Peace Camp Man stirs bloody violence and unethical criminality? I blame Zionism.

Peace Camp Man and Compassion

London seems to understand the problem and at the time of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war he had written:

Had we not driven out the Arabs who had settled in the Land of Israel, we would not have been able to build a stable country for the Jewish people, however, that’s how we created the Palestinian exile, which is the root cause of our problems.

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PULSE: 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009

After we published our list of 20 Top Global Thinkers, we thought we would be remiss if we did not also honor those who bring these voices to us in the first place. With the goal of recognizing those individuals and institutions responsible for exemplary reportage and awareness-raising in 2009, we asked our editors and writers to name their choices for the top 20 media figures, be they journalists, publications or publishers.  We aggregated these nominations into the following list. Like our 20 Top Global Thinkers, our criteria for choosing media figures included individuals/publications/publishers who have shown a commitment to challenging power, holding it to account, highlighting issues pertaining to social justice and producing output that bucks conventional wisdom and encourages critical thinking.

Amy Goodman

A media institution in her own right, Amy Goodman has shown the true potential of independent media over the past 12 years by turning Democracy Now! into the largest public media collaboration in the US and around the world. Free of corporate sponsorship, DN’s hard-hitting daily broadcast rejects the soundbite format of mainstream media to provide in-depth coverage of the world’s most important issues. Unlike the MSM, Democracy Now! gives less emphasis to official voices than to those affected by the abuses of their offices. Goodman relentlessly pursues her stories, and often follows them long after the mainstream media has moved on to chase new headlines. Iraq and Afghanistan have therefore remained part of DN’s coverage for all the years that they were absent in the MSM. Policy-makers may have lost interest in the story, but for Goodman, the people on the receiving end continue to live the story. Her interviewees include voices that the MSM frequently excludes, including scholars, activists, heads of states out of favor with the United States, opposition leaders, and organizers. Through her journalism, writings and lectures, Goodman continues to set the bar for what every journalist should be aspiring to.

Sherine Tadros/Ayman Mohyeldin

Al Jazeera has long set the bar for war reporting; Sherine Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin have raised it even higher with their coverage of the conflict in Gaza in 2008- 2009. Tadros and Mohyeldin were the only two journalists working for an international English-language television network reporting from inside Gaza. They braved the dangers of Israel’s indiscriminate assault to bring hour-by-hour reporting the tragedy as it unfolded. Their courage was matched by the quality of their journalism. In 2009, Tadros continued to report from the region, covering the creeping ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestine.  Mohyeldin, likewise, continues to report on issues such as the network of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza which are vital for the transfer of food, medicine and fuel supplies into Gaza.

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Recovering Reality: A case for the ‘truth’?

Call them what you will for it, romantics, perhaps even naive in this regard, but Gramsci and Marx describe the ‘intellectual’ as one who possesses a  heightened sense of consciousness  – a sense that enables the intellectual to extract or recover reality from a world made purposefully hazy. For these thinkers, the mystical gift of acumen also comes with its burdens. The role of the intellectual is not simply to seek, collect and retain knowledge, but also to unveil and act in relation to these carefully hidden ‘truths’.

To this end, the aspiration of good journalism is not so different.  The ethical role of the journalist is often expressed in terms of “reporting the facts”. In this formulation, ‘reporting facts’ is tantamount to ‘good journalism’ when ‘reporting’ is synonymous with ‘truth telling.’

We also know that ‘truth seeking’ maintains a centrality in our everyday experiences, both present in our most ardent and public socio-political concerns as well as our most private existential and interpersonal questions about life. But why does the notion of ‘truth’ matter to us? What purpose does such a concept have and for what reasons should it be retained?

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Reinterpreting War

Chris Hedges discusses war and writing on NPR’s On the Media.

Chris Hedges

Vasily Grossman covered the Eastern Front of WWII for the Soviet Union and fictionalized his reporting as the novel “Life and Fate.” Curzio Malaparte covered the Eastern Front for the Axis Powers and fictionalized his reporting as the novel “Kaputt.” Veteran correspondent Chris Hedges talks about the two books and why he thinks fiction is the better way to capture the full scope of war.

The womb-like psychological warmth that is submission to power

Medialens is an absolutely indispensable resource for intellectual self-defense and unmasking the ‘necessary illusions’ within which power envelops itself. Here is their latest media alert, focusing on UK media coverage of Iran, Gaza and the MPs’ expenses scandal. (You can pre-order their new book Newspeak in the 21st Century here.)

In a recent alert, we described how the modern corporation is an inherently predatory, even psychopathic, entity. We noted that business managers are legally obliged to subordinate human and environmental welfare to profit.

Inevitably, then, corporations do not restrict themselves merely to the arena of economics. Rather, as John Dewey observed, “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business”. Over decades, corporations have worked together to ensure that the choices offered by ‘representative democracy’ all represent their greed for maximised profits.

This is a sensitive task. We do not live in a totalitarian society – the public potentially has enormous power to interfere. The goal, then, is to persuade the public that corporate-sponsored political choice is meaningful, that it makes a difference. The task of politicians at all points of the supposed ’spectrum’ is to appear passionately principled while participating in what is essentially a charade.

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