Slate has a great article up about whether quality journalism is the best way to sustain democracy that is in line with some thoughts I’ve been having recently. The following is a collection of thoughts regarding journalism in an age of data abundance. (I’m reworking this into a longer article, feedback, thoughts and corrections are appreciated.)
Journalism and Data Abundance
Journalism’s base narrative has long been built around Watergate. It’s a highly romantic story, and one that changed politics in America: two plucky young reporters working with a secret informant to reveal dirty tricks by the US President, culminating in the only resignation of a US President in that nation’s history. Its strength still resonates in Western journalism, with Australian journalists regularly referring to minor political scandals as (scandal)-gate.
However, Watergate must be viewed as an artifact of its time. It happened in a period when freedom of information laws and governmental disclosure were far less formed. It happened in a time before widespread computerisation and data analysis, and it happened in a time before the rise of hyper-empowered politics . It also happened in a time when politicians felt beholden to the moral force of public opprobrium. By comparison, look at the way George Bush Jr reacted to worldwide condemnation of the Iraq War when his deceptions in its service were revealed.
The major difference between the 70s and today in journalistic practice – besides ratcheting up institutional pressure to produce large amounts of copy for less cost – is that information has gone from scarce to plentiful. The changes to FOI law in Australia and the widespread adoption of social media platforms promise to turn up the volume even further. How then do we deal with that?