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Celesta's Digital Literacy

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Who To Trust

It’s so unsettling to hear that people ruling our country, the individuals we elected to protect our rights and freedoms, lie. These lies are announced to media outlets that we established trust in, and eventually these lies become the only “truth” we know. What’s even worse is when those very media outlets that have published false information, neglect their duty to deliver the unbiased truth and refuse to replace that false information with corrected facts. With this deliberately compromised flow of information, society’s trust in democracy and media could continue to diminish

In my opinion, Glenn Greenwald embodies journalism. He is honest, aggressive, persistent and shrewd. His adversarial BBC interview was fun to watch as well as very eye opening in regards to the relationship between journalists and the government. Greenwald emphasizes in several of his responses how common it is that the government makes false statements to journalists and media in general. When asked about a police report that made some unreasonable claims about his partner, Greenwald reminded BBC host Kirsty Wark that simply because the government makes a claim, especially when they’re in the middle of a lawsuit while they’re being sued for violating the law, one should not go around assuming that claim to be factually true. Simply the fact in general of the government’s denial of mass surveillance even after Snowden’s reveal of NSA information, should trigger many people and make them question their trust to their very own government.

In his article for The Intercept, Greenwald builds on the topic of mistrust but this time focusing on the media outlets side which we instinctively expect to deliver the truth for us. Sometimes the facts initially presented could shortly after publication be proven false – it happens. In the words of Greenwald, “the minimal requirement for journalistic credibility and integrity is acknowledging and fixing mistakes.” (Greenwald) He refers directly to Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and Slate, some of the most credible and highly-recognized new outlets, for their blatant refusal to retract statements that have been disproven. Moreover, some of these outlets (intentionally) let the factually false information remain online and be recirculated for more people to see. This is “deliberate deceit, journalistic fraud.” (Greenwald) The acts of a few media institutions diminishes journalism’s credibility as a whole. Greenwald also touches on Trump’s Fake News debate that has proliferated over the last several months. Greenwald attributes the expansion of the idea of Fake News to the staggering level of existing distrust in the media, and that kind of makes sense.

“A vibrant and powerful fact-checking media is supposed to be one of the great safeguards against demagoguing authoritarians and assaults on democratic institutions. That only works if they earn the trust that they need to fulfill that function.” (Greenwald)

I have a newfound respect for journalism after learning about Glenn Greenwald and everything he has done to ensure that journalism serves its fundamental purpose as a check on the people in power. As a country that is founded on civil liberties, specifically freedom of press in this context, journalism is now more important than ever. Our country, our world in fact, is experiencing some crazy stuff right now and as an average citizen, learning that even media outlets (sources we rely on to tell us the lies of our government) can’t all be trusted either, makes me feel more uneasy than ever. In my opinion, we need more Glenn Greenwalds in this world ASAP.
(Disclaimer: I’m sure there are a plethora of amazing journalists out there that do with integrity their job of informing the democracy of what its government is doing – Glenn Greenwald is just the only one I’m somewhat familiar with.)

 

Works Cited

Glenn Greenwald Full Interview on Snowden, NSA, GCHQ and Spying – Newsnight. Perf. Kirsty Wark and Glenn Greenwald. BBC Newsnight. N.p., 3 Oct. 2013. Web.

Greenwald, Glenn. “Why Has Trust in Media Collapsed? Look at Actions of WSJ, Yahoo, Business Insider and Slate.” The Intercept. N.p., 30 Mar. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

To Filter or Not To Filter

Editing photographs to get a desired image is pretty cool with the various technologies available nowadays. Instagram with its plethora of filters can reveal to you that your bad side isn’t actually that bad if you apply the Valencia filter, tweak the saturation, readjust the shadows to -7, add a vignette, maximize the highlights to +100, and lower the warmth by 13. I failed to realize that editing photos in a similar manner was being performed way before the App Store became a thing. Paschalidis and Borges-Rey both note that though photo-altering has been around since the darkroom days, the innovative technologies of today and the future actually pose a huge threat to the very “authenticity” that photographs aim to capture.

We want to assume that a photograph tells more of the truth than a painting does because a camera will give us an objective and unbiased depiction of whatever we want to look at. The crisis of photojournalism in the 1980s, as described by Paschalidis in his “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds”, was when it became evident that photographs can be altered in a concealed way to change that truth that we are confident to find in a photograph rather than a painting. At the dawn of the personal computer era, photographs were beginning to be converted to electronic data files that anyone with a decent computer could take a shot at manipulating. Paschalidis quotes Fred Ritchin:

“The newly created potential for a computer-assisted seamless manipulation of photographs … would undermine photography’s long-established perception as a generally trustworthy unbiased transcriber of reality and shake public trust in the traditionally prized accuracy and veracity of journalistic and documentary photographs.”

Paschalidis also notes that many other commentators talked about fearing how future photo-altering technologies will change the entire experience of capturing photos.

In a section of “News Images on Instagram”, Borges-Rey discusses that shoot-and-share technologies like Instagram change the entire photographic experience because of the multitude of editing capabilities it offers. When capturing an image, the photo-taking apparatus is what wields the power in the situation. Technologies like Instagram introduce ways that can “give power back” to the photographer to alter the shot into what they desire – whether what they desire is indeed a depiction of the truth or their own interpretation, we’ll probably never know. Instagram gives users the opportunity to play around with lighting and color and sharpness and other small tweaking capabilities that can evoke a completely new feeling from the audience. Advanced photo-editing technologies that are held in a higher regard like Photoshop allows users to go way beyond any subtle filters Instagram offers. Independent images, after being run through numerous edits, can be merged into one single entity that now presents a completely fabricated scene that to an average person’s eye looks very realistic and plausible.

I agree with Borges-Rey and Paschalidis on that photo-altering, whether it be a subtle Insta filter or a drastic part-reorganization by Photoshop, threatens the authenticity of the subject matter of a photograph. In an ideal world, photographers should disclose any changes made to the original piece being viewed, but this isn’t an ideal world and we all like to add filters to our selfies without having to explain why. As an informed audience, we should just be more cognizant of the existing various photo-editing tools out there and their powers if we want to be able to find the truth out for ourselves.

 

References

Borges-Rey, E. (2015). News Images on Instagram. Digital Journalism,3(4), 571-593. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034526

Paschalidis, G. (2015). Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds. Digital Journalism,3(4), 634-652. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034529

Citizen Journalism – By the People, For the People

The journalism world was originally divided into passive consumers and powerful distributors. But then the internet happened and that world became much more complicated. Clay Shirky argues that with the emergence of technology comes the dissolvement of boundaries separating professional journalists and amateurs, changing the norms associated with journalistic privilege. Dan Gillmor also speaks to the growth of the internet and related technologies, and claims that the audience is no longer the “passive consumer” – they now have the tools to challenge traditional media and create media for themselves. So who can now be a journalist? What are the new limitations or constraints? Which tools are needed?

Dan Gillmor listed the many ways the technology of today has allowed us to be writers via the powerful Internet. We are able to actively participate in discussion of the news through blogs, forums, chat groups, and email. He believes in the capability of people to make news today because current technology has encouraged and welcomed our participation. The internet has become a powerful media tool by facilitating the exchange of information between people.

“For people who simply want to be better informed, the Internet itself is the key. We have access to a broader set of variety of current information than ever before, and we can use it with increasing sophistication. For those who want to join the process, the Web is where we merely start” (Gillmor 25).

We the Media was interesting to me because I had never thought of us, the citizens, as “writers” in Gillmor’s terminology. Technology has encouraged innovation and expression in a way that includes the broad public. All participants are able to express themselves via words thus allowing for an active and informed community which also aids in the promotion of democracy.

Shirky gives interesting examples of how amateurs are changing the notions of “who is a journalist”. He shows how the gatekeeper role of journalists has been undermined by the growth in amateur publishing through the example of Senator Trent Lott’s comments about Strom Thurmond and the way the story developed online before it made its way onto the front pages of mainstream media outlets. It’s an example of how traditional publisher’s say in deciding what’s newsworthy is getting weaker. Instead the mass public is increasingly able to make their own determinations about newsworthiness by repeating and editorializing and spreading information around about stories they deem worth reading on their own. I found it interesting, though, that the initial few reports about Lott’s speech that sparked the blogosphere’s initial interest in the story were published by traditional news outlets, not blogs. I assume that these outlets didn’t realize the significance of the Senator’s comments in time and didn’t follow up with further research. This example, according to Shirky, confirms that amateur publishing tends to “rely on corrective argument more than traditional media do” (Shirky 65).

I am personally very intrigued by how newspapers and other organisations will come to deal with this news-dissemination evolution. What’s happening is so significant, so complex and so unfinished that simple three-step plans are neither welcome nor useful. But anyone plotting the future for a media organisation – or any organisation that deals with the media – should definitely start by reading Gillmor’s and Shirky’s works.

 

Works Cited

Gillmor, Dan. We The Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People. Sebastoppol: O’Reilly, 2004. Print.

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Books, 2009. Print.

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