Archive

Tag Archives: Investigative journalism

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

Advertisements

This groundbreaking new book presents the most important examples of world-changing journalism, spanning one hundred years of history and every continent. Carefully curated by prominent international journalists working in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, Global Muckraking includes Ken Saro-Wiwa’s defense of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta; Horacio Verbitsky’s uncovering of the gruesome disappearance of political detainees in Argentina; Gareth Jones’s coverage of the Ukraine famine of 1932–33; missionary newspapers’ coverage of Chinese foot binding in the nineteenth century; Dwarkanath Ganguli’s exposé of the British “coolie” trade in nineteenth-century Assam, India; and many others.

The right to freedom of expression and media freedom enable the free flow of information in order for the public to hold their governments to account. While the protection of national security can be a legitimate ground for restricting the right under international law, such restrictions are narrowly defined. Governments must show that a restriction is necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose and must be proportionate to the aim pursued. The presumption in favour of freedom of expression requires governments to demonstrate that the expression will actually harm national security; it is not sufficient to simply say that it will. National security should never be used to justify preventing disclosures of illegalities or wrongdoing, no matter how embarrassing such disclosures may be to the UK or other governments. In the case of Snowden and the Guardian, the disclosures have facilitated a much-needed public debate about mass surveillance in a democracy, and exposed the possible violation of the fundamental human rights of millions of people worldwide. As such, no liability should be incurred as the benefit to the public outweighs the demonstrable harm to national security.

Q: Do you think that serious journalism can pay?

A: I think on its own, probably not. Certainly the learning from our site in Hawaii shows how difficult it is. Advertisers don’t want to put their ads next to the investigative story; it’s extremely difficult to do that. And very few people today actually read those serious news stories on the Web now. The audience for the most important stories can be depressingly small. There will always be a core of readers willing to support that work, but it is a tiny, tiny percentage of broader society. That’s part of the reason we are doing a general-interest site, to work on how we get a general-interest audience to become engaged citizens.

I.F. Stone Award Open for Applications