The media are revolting

· The Power of Many

Should have blogged this when it first appeared. David Neiwert, the freelance journalist and author behind the extraordinary Orcinus weblog published a manifesto for a media revolt earlier this month.
He first explains why he thinks such a call to action is needed:

As the conglomeration and consolidation of the mass media has proceeded apace through the past two decades unchecked, that independence has largely vanished or become effectively strangled, and with it a responsible treatment of the public interest by the nation’s press. The traditional media filters have instead become bottlenecks, preventing information that is in fact vital for the public well-being from ever reaching them — oftentimes for reasons that are trivial and puerile, not to mention geared toward the manipulation of the media in the service of corporate powers and their agenda.
The blogosphere is a direct result of those bottlenecks. Information is now flowing around them through the networks of dissemination that blogs have become.
Blogs represent, in fact, the real democratization of journalism, which traditionally has always been about the work of keeping the public duly and properly informed. Stories and vital facts now no longer need go through the New York Times and NBC News in order to gain wide distribution. Blogs can effectively reach as many people as several large city dailies combined. And the network of their combined efforts represents a massive shift of data around the traditional media filters.
Blogs can also be terrific means for organizing, particularly for putting together a concerted response to political and media atrocities. One need only survey the ability of blogs to affect real-world politics — their role in bringing about the fall of Trent Lott was just a start — to understand that their power can readily extend to reshaping the media, since they represent in themselves a kind of citizens’ solution to needed reforms in the media.
To bring that about, two things are needed: 1) A recognition that this power exists, and 2) Organizing in a thoughtful and effective fashion to wield it.

Then he puts his keyboard where his mouth is and sketches out a ten-point program. I will summarize here but the entire entry at Orcinus should be required reading for anyone interested in blogs, disintermediation of news and information, and participatory journalism (note that Neiwert is a former Republican and an unabashed anti-Bush partisan):

  1. The well-being of American democracy ultimately depends on a well-informed electorate. As such, the role of the media in keeping the public properly informed is not merely vital, it is sacred.
  2. Over the past 20 years, American media have been in a state of serious decline insofar is it lives up to the responsibilities of this role.
  3. The nature of these declines produced a string of travesties in the past decade and more
  4. This degradation of the media, and its concomitant failure to keep Americans adequately informed, culminated in the attacks on American soil by Al Qaeda terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001…. The media, to no one’s great surprise, have never even begun to confront their own culpability in this disaster.
  5. When George W. Bush sidetracked the resulting “war on terror” into an invasion of Iraq — a nation that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks — by waving evidence of weapons of mass destruction in the public’s face and suggesting that any dissent was akin to treason, the media utterly failed in its responsibility to examine the claims seriously and to treat them skeptically.
  6. Coverage of the 2004 election has already begun to resemble the travesty of 2000, focusing on trivial (and mostly concocted) personality traits.
  7. Americans have had enough. Like Howard Beale, they’re mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. Unlike Beale, however, their revolt against the media Powers That Be will be neither manic nor futile. It will be organized, rational, factually sound, unintimidated and, in the end, constructive rather than destructive.
  8. This revolt will be organized strategically around two realities: 1) Previous tactics in the efforts to reform the nation’s media have largely failed or faltered…. 2) Though this is a revolution against an evolved status quo, the spirit it represents beckons to a return to civic-minded journalism that enshrines the diversity of voices in American media; it is, in fact, more traditionalist in orientation than radical.
  9. The Internet — and in particular, blogs — will be the cornerstone of the strategy this media revolution will follow, though of course all means are important participants. Indeed, the reforms are intended to reach every facet of American mass media: newspapers large and small, television, film, radio, books, and of course the Internet…. Blogs are, above all, uniquely democratic in nature. Anyone can blog…. Blogs are also uniquely self-correcting in a way that eludes most other media; if false information is disseminated, it doesn’t take long before it’s eviscerated by other bloggers.
  10. There should be no naïvete about the nature of what we are up against. This is a revolt against a national discourse that has degraded into a puerile swamp of innuendo, smear, and dishonest reportage…. When they natter about “character” or “likeability,” we should talk plainly about policy and what happens in the real world…. It’s fair (if a concession to diversionary tactics) to fight back with facts, but never fair to resort to twisting or omitting: that’s what they do. Cutting corners just to score political points is a Pyrrhic victory. If this is a revolt about integrity, then it will fail if it does not embody integrity itself….

    Undertaking this task means hard work. But it has become clear to us as citizens, in an age when fear and terror rule our body politic, that what is at stake here is the soul of democracy itself. To save it, no labor should seem too great.

(via JD Lasica)