26 March 2009

For Those Mourning the Demise of Corporate Media

... and supposing that, through their demise, so goes journalism (an association I've always questioned), comes this notable nugget.
According to an Ithaca-based expert on alternative media, the much advertised decline in print publications is being offset by the rise of a robust muckraking alternative. Jeff Cohen, a longtime media watchdog and director of Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media, believes that the alternative media has grown up to the point when it needs to officially recognize its leaders and champions.

The newly founded Park Center has announced the winners of its first annual Izzy Award, named for the iconoclastic muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, who died in 1989 after six decades of afflicting the comfortable with his prescient questioning and vivid prose. This year's winners are Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and Glenn Greenwald, an independent blogger whose work appears at Salon.com.

THIS is where some of the good journalists from the corporate media are fleeing. They are being joined by upcoming new journalists who, disgusted with the profiteering of the fourth estate, want to deliver the truly newsworthy to the public.
The Park Center studies media outlets "that create and distribute content outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations." According to Cohen, the center's founding director, "Our purpose is to bring attention to the growing sector of independent media. Independent media is breaking stories, and bringing down corrupt officials around the country. We needed an award and we couldn't think of anyone better to name it after than a guy who, in the depth of the anti-communist frenzy of the 1950s, started his own weekly newsletter."

Amid the gloom in the newspaper business, Cohen finds hope. "No doubt the Internet has caused upheaval and hardship in journalism," he said, "but it has helped independents to bring their work to a broader audience. The good news is that we had a tough decision because there is so much exciting work going on in alternative journalism."

Here Cohen makes an error. In the above, he appears to equate "journalism" with the work done by journalists to serve "traditional corporate systems and news organizations." But journalism is journalism, no matter where it is done or for whom. It is necessary to separate the task performed and those who perform it (journalism, journalists) from those for whom it is done (corporate, independent media, oneself).

Yes, the "upheaval and hardship" has been to journalists serving corporate news outlets and that has been unfortunate. But as this article makes clear, the corporate giants aren't the only game in town. There are independent media cropping up everywhere and if some good journalists don't quite see themselves fitting in with any of the existing independents, well they can do what the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman have done. Start up an independent venture of their own.

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