Journalism, the basic act of providing content to an interested public, is evolving. Traditionally viewed as a practice performed by members of an institutional organization, journalism is beginning to encompass many more individuals than those simply under the employment of a “news” gathering agency. Classically speaking, journalism has welcomed individuals from various walks of life and upbringings, but a traditional characteristic of journalists regardless of background is objective reporting and cataloging of matters of public interest.
Individuals such as Glenn Greenwald are beginning to change the landscape, one story at a time. Moreover, Greenwald is also altering the characteristics of a journalist by taking on a more subjective and idealistic view of an open and free society where information is shared freely (Keller, 2013). In addition to the more pointed and subjective reporting from individuals such as Greenwald, there is a growing number of writers who have taken to the internet in order to disseminate information. The utilization of blogs to produce and share organic information continues to grow. While a majority of blogs do not contain information that would be classified as newsworthy, there are those individuals with strong passions for subjects that provide timely, well researched, interesting content that draws the attention of the public, in both objective and subjective reporting perspectives.
As more individuals utilize emerging technologies, specifically blogs, to disseminate information without affiliation to a news gathering entity, the level of legal protections afforded such individuals will also need to be considered. Following a decision by a New Jerseay Superior Court Judge, a blogger from that state may be entitled to the same protection under the state’s shield law (Atkins, 2013). Granted, protection is dependent on the elements of the individual case. For example, one blogger may receive protection while another blogger may not due to a blogger’s failure to offer all parties involved to comment or respond. However, shield law protections are not – yet – federal protections, and more importantly, states differ on the level of protections offered.
Protecting an individual’s ability to share crucial information regarding public policy or corporate decisions without the fear of legal prosecution or requiring the person to share sources can only serve to improve the role of journalists in fostering an informed public that is aware of the world around them. Additionally, an individual’s ability to write and cover public interest newsworthy content that large or medium sized news organizations are not spotlighting can be diminished greatly due to a real or perceived risk of legal action. This risk can serve as an inhibiting factor that reduces the range and depth of an otherwise smart and capable individual to exercise his form of “journalism,” which can have a drastic impact on sharing information that otherwise would not be known to the public.
The likes of Glenn Greenwald, and to a certain extent Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, are spotlighting a new form of journalism that has its roots in the gonzo style journalism made famous by Hunter S. Thompson. Gonzo journalism’s leading characteristics state that the reporter is a participant of the story, objectivity is put aside for subjectivity, and the reporter’s opinions regarding the subject matter are shared.
For Greenwald, the story of Edward Snowden reflects an internal acknowledgement that the largest American newsgathering entities could not be trusted to share the revelations that Snowden released. Similar to that of Daniel Ellsberg, famed leaker of The Pentagon Papers, Greenwald’s personal opinion regarding large media conglomerates is playing a major role in his philosophy of new journalism. While Ellsberg was an independent contractor at the time and Greenwald assisted Snowden, an independent contractor, Greenwald and Ellsberg share an idealistic view of not allowing governments to operate in an ever growing veil of secrecy.
In regards to a nationalistic approach within traditional journalism in America, Greenwald remarks, “One can, I guess, argue that this is how it should be. But whatever that mindset is, it is…not ‘objective.’ It is nationalistic, subjective, and activist, which is my primary point: all journalism is subjective and a form of activism even if an attempt is made to pretend that it isn’t so” (Keller, 2013). Greenwald refuses take part in journalism’s classical paradigm, instead he chooses to plot a new course forward. Assisted by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald will help develop and grow a new media venture that is fueled by Omidyar’s concern “…about press freedoms in the United States and around the world.” (Rusher, 2013).
Omidyar and Greenwald’s venture will potentially change the media landscape in a significant, and meaningful way. Citizens across the world are becoming more concerned with the actions of their governments and the perceived reduction in unhindered access to the press. Further, the increase in citizen journalists highlights the need for comprehensive and clear legal protections for independent journalists operating outside of the media conglomerate umbrella.
Only when this need is achieved may journalists of all types and professional affiliations enjoy a true freedom to inform an attentive public.
Atkins, L. (2013, August 13). Federal media shield law should extend to unpaid bloggers and citizen journalists. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-atkins/federal-media-shield-law_b_3744539.html
Keller, B. (2013, October 27). Is Glenn Greenwald the future of news? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/28/opinion/a-conversation-in-lieu-of-a-column.html
Rushe, D. (2013, October 16). Pierre Omidyar commits $250m to new media venture with Gleen Greenwald. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/oct/16/pierre-omidyar-ebay-glenn-greenwald