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It had been evident for some time before Snowden surfaced that best practices in investigative reporting and source protection needed to change—in large part, because of the migration of journalism (and so many other aspects of life) into digital channels. The third reporter Snowden supplied with National Security Agency files, Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, was well known in his newsroom as an early adopter of encryption. But it has been a difficult evolution, for a number of reasons. Reporters communicate copiously; encryption makes that habit more cumbersome. Most reporters don’t have the technical skills to make decisions on their own about what practices are effective and efficient. Training is improving (the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, at Columbia Journalism School, where I serve as dean, offers a useful place to start), but the same digital revolution that gave rise to surveillance and sources like Snowden also disrupted incumbent newspapers and undermined their business models. Training budgets shrank. In such an unstable economic and audience environment, source protection and the integrity of independent reporting fell on some newsrooms’ priority lists.

Good piece by Steve Coll on how CITIZENFOUR is as much about journalism as it is about surveillance.

How Edward Snowden Changed Journalism – The New Yorker

While many media projects have investigated the history, culture, and experiences of various American ethnic minorities, there has been much less examination of how white Americans think about and experience their whiteness and how white culture shapes our society. Most people take for granted that there is a “white” race in America, but rarely is the concept of whiteness itself investigated. What does it mean to be a “white”? Can it be genetically defined? Is it a cultural construct? A state of mind? How does one come to be deemed “white” in America and what privileges does being perceived as white bestow? The Whiteness Project is a multi-platform media project that examines both the concept of whiteness itself and how those who identify as “white” process their ethnic identity. The project’s goal is to engender debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encourage white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society.

Al Jazeera’s documentary series Viewfinder is a unique, long-term project showcasing independent filmmaking talent from around the globe. These films focus on the power of storytelling to provide a deeper insight into the impact of global events on local communities. These are stories brought to you through the experiences of those on the front lines of a rapidly changing world. Viewfinder endeavours to do what no other broadcaster has done before: develop regionally based filmmaking talent and bring those new perspectives to a worldwide audience. It speaks to the vitality and energy of local voices reaching a global audience.

“A cinema that will unfreeze that icy and now constant experience of being addressed only as a social construct for the benefit of the market; a cinema where the tension between a world that is being illustrated and a world that is being illuminated can make us live again in that dream-state so necessary to our very breathing; a cinema, therefore, that will hurl itself against that current order of things, a cinema that is not a calling card for a career but a cinema that will march straight past this present Praetorian guard of cultural and commercial administrators and by so doing will deliver once again that wonderful surprise – that which is still possible.” – Marc Karlin 1943-1999

I’ve been re-listening to Nat Segnit’s BBC radio series of superb spoof documentaries, Beautiful Dreamers. Apart from being tightly scripted, packed with allusion and barbs, and richly imagined, it’s also technically excellent radio and audio. It is, for me, on a par with some of Chris Morris’ work. Heartily recommended, if you can access it.

The episode that’s currently on iPlayer, for example, The Whalemen of Musungenyi, keeps unfolding, layer upon ever richer layer, from an uncanny premise, even managing to weave in, for example, an extended joke on children conceived from donor eggs.

I enjoyed, but didn’t love, Segnit’s comic novel, Pub Walks In Underhill Country (and I am yet to read his ippr report on media coverage of climate change, part of his work with Linguistic Landscapes). This looks fun, though.

Segnit’s wife Niki (mentioned in this interview) is a celebrated author in her own right – of a widely acclaimed (and ingenious) culinary book: The Flavour Thesaurus (which I did unconditionally love, and gift). More on that another time…