Digital Backyards Forum Time to be enraged: Seven demands at the end and new beginning of journalism

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  • Time to be enraged: Seven demands at the end and new beginning of journalism

    The burning question of the day is this: What has happened to journalism? Credibility, quality, independence, essentially everything that makes journalism what it is, is at stake. Berliner Gazette-publisher Krystian Woznicki has articulated seven demands, which have developed out of discussions that took place during the ‘Whatever Happened to Journalism?’ conference. The documentation of the conference can be found at: berlingazette.de/whtj.

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    Journalism is down for the count. The knock-out punch could be coming up in the next round. Mass media faces the threat of losing its watchdog role completely. The merger of the surveillance industry with social media and digital content providers creates what Konrad Becker calls the ‘Military-Entertainment Complex’, in which journalism is being abolished completely. No room is left for criticism, opposition or analysis, let alone the naked truth.

    Sounds like the gloomy future? The (post-)censorship regime in China is already demonstrating what this might actually look like in practice: The centralization of data streams enables the centralized control of those data streams. As stronger economic upheavals cause social order to be set in motion, the desire by the powerful elite to control both society and the flow of information grows stronger as well. According to Sonya Song, this mechanism cannot only be seen in China, but globally too. After the Snowden revelations the following holds true: while China becomes more like the West, the West is also becoming more like China.

    But what are the alternatives? High visibility platforms, free of user data tracking for example. Wikipedia and The Pirate Bay serve as best practise cases. But what about independent journalism? They aren’t windows for it yet. But that could change. One source of inspiration: In the authoritarian state of Belarus, there is a web service called prokopovi.ch, which is run by activists. As an independent exchange platform it has become one of the country’s most popular websites providing also “a window for uncensored journalism” (Stefan Candea ). Other high-visibility platforms, free of user data tracking and without centralized structures, could provide forums such as this.

    This necessitates the following demands:

    1) It is necessary to encourage grass-roots movements, both within the software developer scene as well as the media production sector: Hackers and (citizen) journalists should work closely together on common visions.

    2) The initiation of a new culture of collaboration is needed – one in which the collaborators look beyond the confines of their own circles of expertise, seeking new shortcuts. In this context, journalists should work more closely with non-journalists.

    3) Journalism needs to reemerge from the anger that we experience in view of rising inequalities and injustices.

    Be enraged in order to 4) once again give journalism a clear and audible voice of resistance against the imposition of the mounting Military-Entertainment Complex.

    Be enraged to 5) ensure that cultures of collaboration are not just limited to a purely harmonic realm of already agreed upon values and practises.

    Be enraged to 6) once again equip grassroots movements with a sharper edge when it comes to innovation as well as political influence.

    And finally:

    Be enraged in order to 7) not allow journalism to fall under the populist spell of a society dominated by the ‘like-button’.

    Find the German version of the text here.

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