TED Talk on Mainstream Media – Human Rights

I was clicking around YouTube looking at a TED talk to watch and I came across this interesting video.

In it, Harry Fear, an English broadcast journalist discusses the realities of the mainstream media. He says, “When we turn on the news, we are often presented by an image of reality that is lacking in depth, clarity and humanity.”

He discusses his transition from a “media critic” in his teenage years to a “media maker” in his twenties. He comments that in the mainstream media is lacking passionate journalists and that passionate newsmakers are necessary in the current media landscape.

Something that he said in the beginning of the talk has resonated with me:

“Journalists should be biased for human rights.”

The statement made me reflect on everything I have learned about independent media over the past several months. When media outlets slant in the direction of power, rather than in the direction of human beings, there is a problem.

For example, in situations of war, when a mainstream media outlet is reporting the war and is clearing slanting in favor of military action and civilian lives are not considered, the media is doing a disservice to the people.

Journalism was created in order to challenge authority on these issues, not to support them in favor of monetary gain. It was created to protect the rights of humans and somehow it is not doing that anymore.

Maybe that is the root of media problems today. Journalists are slanting away from human rights.

TED Talk on Mainstream Media – Human Rights

Potential for Ethical Misdoings in YouTube’s Partner Program

This 2008 New York Times article  discusses YouTube’s partner program, in which the most popular YouTubers have the opportunity to get paid by YouTube to produce content. This article uses celebrity gossip vlogger Michael Buckley as an example. He began making videos because it was something he enjoyed and his audience grew enough for him to begin making money from YouTube.

This pattern of successful content creators turning a hobby into a career initially seems like a win-win situation. YouTube gains a steady stream of traffic to their site and the YouTubers earn a living from doing what they love.

When analyzing the situation more deeply, however, several questions arise:

What if the views of the YouTuber clash with the views of Google (who owns YouTube)?

It is clear that higher quality cameras and equipment are necessary to make a nice-enough video to get noticed. So, don’t wealthy YouTubers have an advantage?

Do some people cater their content to become a YouTube partner rather than to get their voice heard?

Are paid video bloggers still considered “independent” if they are being payed by Google?

These questions sum up the potential for ethical misdoings in the partner program. Stories such as Michael Buckley’s, who started making YouTube videos because he enjoyed it and eventually gained money, are the stories we hear about the YouTube Partner Program. But they certainly do not all play out like that.

Technically, these YouTubers are small examples of independents who are now being payed by a large corporation. Like any independent outlet being bought up by a larger entity, they need to be viewed with skeptic eyes.

Overall, the YouTube partner program does have the potential to be positive. It is paying, mostly young, creatives who would like their voices to be heard. As the program continues, however, it is important to step back and be aware of potential ethical misdoings. As it stands with larger media, when money is involved, things can get sticky.

Potential for Ethical Misdoings in YouTube’s Partner Program

Opening Opportunities with New Media

Arianna Huffington wrote a commentary several years ago about the connecting power of new forms of digital media. She writes that blogs, social media and real-time communication via videos and photos are changing the way that we are able to witness events. This article was published in 2009, and the concepts hold even more truth today.

These forms of communication suddenly take the filtering power out of the hands of the media. Rather than seeing these events through the lens of the big media companies, we are able to see first-hand accounts and interpret the events ourselves.

This opportunity to interpret is extremely powerful. Raw footage does not have political leaning. It does not have buzzwords attached to it. With these primary accounts we gain an understanding for what is happening in it’s true form. Citizen journalism may be the future of journalism. And that is a very exciting concept.

Opening Opportunities with New Media

Tavi Gevinson – Independent Thinking, Independent Media

A friend of mine sent me this video recently and I found it very compelling. In the video, she discusses the beginning of her entrepreneurial career and the importance of human-driven media consumption. I have been following Tavi Gevinson for several years and have been inspired by her drive and creative mind.

Gevinson’s career began out of a classic, independent media mindset: she saw a gap in the current media available, and she filled this gap. Gevinson started her blog Style Rookie in 2008 and Rookie Magazine in 2011 after seeing a lack of media aimed at teenage girls.

From that point on, she launched a platform for teenage girls to have their voices heard and provided a platform for female, teenage interest pieces. Gevinson’s fearless, independent thinking brought on Rookie Mag’s success and opened up independent media to a new demographic.

Tavi Gevinson – Independent Thinking, Independent Media

Blogger-Reader Relationships Changing the Future of Investigative Reporting

This article by Will Bunch discusses the techniques used by the Polk Award winning Talking Points Memo in its muckraking journalism. Bunch discusses a specific case, when TPM blogger Justin Rood wrote a story in a San Diego newspaper in which a US Attorney was asked to step down for “failing to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority.” Rood was skeptical, so he teamed up with TPM founder Josh Marshall to uncover the truth.

With the growing popularity of the blogosphere, Rood and Marshall reached out to readers for tips on whether other US attorneys had been fired in a similar fashion. The investigation grew and made its way to the senate. After the senate speech, the following occurred:

“Paul Kiel, another TPM blogger, seized on a comment made by Feinstein and produced a bona fide scoop: Republicans had snuck a provision into the supposedly anti-terror USA Patriot Act to bypass the Senate on new U.S. attorney appointments. It seemed suspicious – prosecutors being fired for cracking down on Republican corruption, and provisions being slipped into a bill to bypass a Democrat-controlled Senate confirmation process.”

This investigation began and continued thanks to TPM’s initiative to reach out to readers. What does this mean for the future of investigative reporting?

The open relationship between a blogger and the readers creates a trust that does not exist through the wall of the mainstream reporter-reader relationship. There is commentary and transparency that does not exist elsewhere. The blogger builds credibility through sourcing and a transparent investigative process. The readers, once committed to visiting the blog site, capitalize on this trust by commenting, sharing and assisting the blogger in investigation. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Both parties have the opportunity to gain and produce information.

It will be interesting to see how bloggers as reporters develop in the future. As news consumers begin to put their trust in the hands of these independent bloggers and out of the hands of the mainstream media, we will likely see a complete change in reporting as we know it. The news environment will convert from a professional-controlled curation of information to a collaboration of humans on the web.

Blogger-Reader Relationships Changing the Future of Investigative Reporting