Shortly after finally completing his Twitter purchase, billionaire Elon Musk began a tweet frenzy Twitter bluewhich he claims is a way “democratize journalism and strengthen the voice of the people.”
Ending Twitter’s “lords and pearants system” approach and making the blue tick available to everyone (anyone who can pay $8 a month) should “empower citizen journalists,” according to Musk. He then warned that while his platform pursues this goal, “the media elite will try everything to prevent it.”
It’s like Musk suddenly woke up and thought he’d found something new. But he’s late for the party. Citizen journalism has been around for decades – since the days when platforms like Blogspot and WordPress were still the newcomers. Facebook has also moved toward providing support to individual content creators and journalists, independent of newsrooms and media groups. Recently, Facebook introduced Professional Mode for profiles, marketed as a way for professionals to monetize their content. Originally available in the US, this has just been launched in the Philippines.
Musk doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Musk’s saying that collecting blue checks would “democratize” journalism shows his surface knowledge of what journalists do, which is, as articulated by the American Press Institute, “to provide citizens with the information they need, to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies and their governments.”
What Musk needs to know
What will sustain journalism? Certainly not Big Tech.
Let’s face it, platforms have never delivered enough revenue for professional journalists (to distinguish them from vloggers) or newsrooms. Making a decent income on platforms like Facebook Professional Mode or Twitter Blue requires a commitment that takes journalists away from their basic job of collecting and writing stories.
What will democratize journalism? Certainly not the divide-and-conquer method advocated by technocrats like Musk. Do not fragment or isolate journalists.
They are communities and collaborations.
This is especially true at pivotal moments, when journalists expose and violate power through their stories. At the end of the day, the powerful don’t want to be accused of corruption, insults, lies.
Support systems allow journalists to assert themselves and continue reporting uncomfortable truths and facts that the public needs to know in order to make informed decisions.
Newsrooms and media groups so mocked in Mr. Musk’s posts make sure that happens by caring about the company’s bottom line. Yes, even freelancers rely on newsrooms and media groups to pay them for content.
The newsroom remains the most sustainable support system for journalists.
But with today’s complex problems, the newsroom is no longer an adequate support system. When you’re dealing with powerful individuals who have access to the government’s power, funding, and other resources, even individual newsrooms and media groups don’t stand a chance of going it alone. In the Philippines, a broadcasting giant lost its franchise rights under the brunt of a powerful authoritarian government backed by disinformation networks and continues to crumble before our eyes.
In reality, media conglomerates collapse when bottom line and business continuity are compromised. But that’s the point Musk doesn’t get: would individual citizen journalists, isolated and alone, fare better?
Let me share with you what we’ve learned working with #FactsFirstPH.
Anticipating a rise in disinformation in cyberspace ahead of the 2022 Philippine elections, 143 groups joined this collaborative effort, including the following newsrooms: ABS-CBN News, Altermidya, Baguio Chronicle, Daily Guardian, Interaksyon, Mindanao Gold Star, News5 Digital, OneNewsPH, PressOne, Rappler and Davao Today.
Beyond news organizations, #FactsFirstPH also mobilized academics, civil society groups, church groups, schools, legal and human rights groups: a whole-of-society approach in which democratic forces work together to create an environment that allows independent, critical journalism, and facts to thrive .
Together, this collaboration bolstered efforts to combat disinformation by fostering collaboration between newsrooms. It expanded and diversified the reach of fact checks by creating derivative translations and creative executions targeting different platforms, niche audiences and communities. It created a mesh distribution network on social media that reinforced fact and fact-checking.
#FactsFirstPH also facilitated collaboration and solidarity between newsrooms by establishing secure lines of communication through which they could discuss and address common challenges and threats together.
These channels were used, for example, to organize countermeasures against the increase in intensive DDoS attacks on newsrooms. Rappler worked with experts from the Sweden-based digital forensics non-profit organization Qurium Media to investigate and track down the actors behind the attacks. The #FactsFirstPH partner editorial offices also published stories to draw attention to these attacks. The collaboration also jointly issued statements calling for action against the attacks.
In newsrooms exposed to attacks and other challenges, collaboration also served as a legal and psychological support system. For example, in a session moderated by Meedan, fact-checkers discussed together how online attacks have affected them emotionally. The legal level, in turn, provided legal advice services to help editors resolve concerns related to their fact-checking work.
This network also supported multidisciplinary research to uncover disinformation narratives and networks, and initiated efforts to end impunity for abusive actors online by facilitating collaboration between lawyers, journalists and civil rights groups.
With or without Musk’s blue checks, these community projects continue as a safeguard against platform tyranny. courage up. – Rappler.com