Saturday, February 21, 2009


Here was an interesting piece on investigative journalism I found on Tech News World. The author, Renay San Miguel of former CNN fame, discusses new digital media vs. old school investigative journalism. The subject of the article is a veteran news personality, Robert Riggs, who has been decorated with several awards for his investigative work. After being laid off from his last broadcast media gig, Mr. Riggs found a new home on the web, which the author claims is picking up where traditional investigative journalism left off with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle and superficial, pandering reporting.

Much like the first chapter in Groundswell where a vigilant boyfriend brings those who stole his girlfriends phone to justice, San Miguel and Robert Riggs claim that the new people-powered media has offered up a new way to find justice and expose/correct wrongdoings. He cites a couple examples of sites that accomplish this, such as (currently under construction). Though both point out that this new reality does have a potential dark side:
But how do you ensure that the oft-mentioned wisdom of the crowds doesn't morph into ugly mob rule? What about accuracy, balance, protections against extreme behavior? Riggs says there will be some safeguards, but acknowledges that personal responsibility will be key. "It's still going to be the wild west of the Internet. In this day and age it's up to the citizen. We're going to put up a way so people can red-flag something and people can self-police."
While this may certainly be an area of concern, it is clear that tools previously non-existent are giving ordinary citizens a way of pursuing justice and building (if I may, Ms. Li and Mr. Bernoff) a groundswell for social action. Much like a seemingly-boundless neighborhood watch community, these new media are providing some very real and effective ways of policing our society and exposing those who intend to do, or have done, harm.

Of course, as always, there are questions associated with this as well. An example of such a problem is the right to privacy of former convicts. The website Family Watch Dog tracks ex-offenders and exposes what and where these convicted criminals (who have done the time, mind you) look like and live. Not sure if this specific site is a net positive or negative. But one thing is for sure: these new media tools are certainly empowering regular persons like myself to become active participants in helping improve our world, and I would say that on the whole this is a very good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article. It's interesting how folks of different ages and professional experiences adapt to the new opportunities offered by digital media. Here an old school journo finds fulfillment applying traditional concepts to new media. Meanwhile, a few generations down, the "hackers and slackers" who have only known a networked world find less altruistic uses for technology:

    Or maybe it's just the definition of altruism that has changed.