By Patrick Brogan
Amongst trends changing the face of journalism today, media ownership and the rapid advancement of technology are the most influential factors.
On this website, we are prone to criticise Irish journalistic standards. However, there are many positives to take from the media in Ireland today. You just have to scratch the surface is all. A good case in point is the Garda whistleblower scandal. While many online commentators bemoaned the lack of coverage in the so-called mainstream media, Irish Examiner continuously covered the ongoing saga and this eventually culminated in a book about Maurice McCabe called A Force For Justice.
That said, the public is turning away from the traditional media in massive numbers. Part of this is due to the creation of new technologies, which we will go into a bit more later, but the fourth-pillar has also played its own role in this, too. Last week’s article was about Denis O’Brien and how his ownership of the Irish media is unhealthy for democracy. If everyone is on his payroll, who is there to hold him to account?
Indeed, this is not just a uniquely Irish problem. We see these media barons all over the world. Rupert Murdoch is an obvious example. He owns titles and broadcast networks all over the globe. And we know he has influenced British General Elections for those that will give him more favour. Silvio Berlusconi used his media ownership to gain power in Italy and a raft of media tycoons in Indonesia wrestled with each other in a presidential election there. This is nothing new. Media baron William Randolph Hearst created the conditions for the American-Spanish War in the late 19th Century.
As well as the worrying trend of media ownership, the way the press cover topics has also put people off. The overpowering sensationalist 24-hour news cycle has seen many viewers simply switch-off. This form of journalism is reminiscent of Axl Rose trapped in a chair unable to escape the various screens showing violent news images in the Welcome to the Jungle video. Is this what director Stanley Kubrick warned of when he said: “the new psychedelic fascism — the eye-popping, multimedia, quadrasonic”? This article does a great job of explaining why younger people are turning away from the media and the impact false reporting has on a country. Another overlooked factor is the press is beholden to the wishes of sponsors. If telling the truth upsets the advertising gravy train, they avoid doing so, further alienating the public.
Technology has literally put power at people’s fingertips. There are a number of reasons a company would choose online content over print. Firstly, there is the cost and speed. Everything is instantaneous. Google Analytics and the like make it easier to target an audience because you know who is viewing your products and their habits. You can’t go into that level of detail with print, you may not know who exactly is buying your papers and why. Links can also entice the readers to go on further. Video and audio can add a new dynamic to a story. There is a constant stream of stories, like a drip-drip effect. All of this is much more streamlined than big clunky newspapers that are impossible to read in any comfort. Articles on online trends and its benefits are available for further reading.
Why It Matters
Although the easily accessible and useable nature of the internet has led to a voice for extremist views being heard when otherwise they wouldn’t, it is still, possibly, the greatest repository of knowledge since the library in Alexandria.
So, are the examples of when independent online media made a difference? Of course. In the case of the next few examples, I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions, but the people behind them were definitely right to question what the public was being told. All were vindicated in some way.
This a sensitive topic and one that may send alarm bells ringing for some. 9/11 was an atrocious act to carry out on other human beings and this heightened the emotional response. Everyone was clear on what had to be done. Bomb the shit out of the bad guys. Something about the official narrative ever sat right with me, though. Added to this, many of the firefighters on the day disagree with the official line and so too do Nobel Laureate physicists. There are far too many holes in the 9/11 story. This video sums it up pretty well;
If this is something that interests you, have a view of this video, also by James Corbett;
Syrian chemical attacks are back en vogue in the news again after Bashir al-Assad allegedly attacked his own people. One would have to question why he would choose now to carry out such an attack when President Trump had said he was planning on moving the US military out of there and ISIS look to be defeated. Why not wait until the international community are no longer looking?
More importantly, there is a lack of evidence to suggest Syria was behind it. Independent media outlet We Are Change pointed out that the attack that took place in April of last year follows the same pattern. Even respected mainstream journalists like Robert Fisk have questioned the official narrative and the holes in the story. Eva Bartlett, the independent writer and activist, has travelled Syria extensively and has always said that the Western story about Syria is a work of fiction. Mainstream journalists blindly following the official line is worrying because it is their job to question it. We have seen this prejudicial blindness again in relation to Sergei and Yulia Skripal being attacked. The media have overwhelmingly claimed Russia was responsible even though the evidence is very suspect. Russia is always the bad guy. And, speaking of which…
A little caveat here, Julian Assange and any question of his objectivity was answered when Donald Trump Junior revealed correspondence he had with the Wikileaks founder. Assange was looking for a small amount of dirt on Trump to make it look like his site is a balanced source. However, it also must be pointed out that Assange may have feared for his life after comments Hillary Clinton may, or may not, have made.
The reason we bring him up here is that Wikileaks published clear examples of the DNC rigging their own election in Clinton’s favour, and this is something they never really denied, or at least not with any credibility. What did the media do with this story? Suggested it was Russian behind “the hack”. Again, very little evidence suggests it was a hack, and a lot suggests it was a leak, meaning it was somebody from within the DNC. We covered this in more detail last year.
We have numerous examples of strong independent journalism in Ireland. In the aforementioned previous article, we spoke about Gemma O’Doherty and her unfair dismissal at Irish Independent. Since then, she has made award-winning films focusing on corruption and collusion. We mention The Phoenix a fair bit on this site. It is still one of the best news sources on the island.
Maybe the best place to look is social media like Twitter. Many trending hashtags are generated by people with first-hand experience of what is being discussed. We are cutting out the middle-man. This is the result of the creation of the internet. We are no longer reliant on being told what is news by people with vested interests, we can go directly to the source.
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