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Is Fast Food Style New Journalism Hazardous to Your Health?

The continued eating of fast food notoriously creates health problems. Here is a rather old report from the National Institutes of Health in the US:  Eating at Fast-food Restaurants More than Twice Per Week is Associated with Weight Gain.

Why do I mention fast food? Because I am going to suggest that the new journalism is the journalistic equivalent of fast food. Before we do so, allow me to digress for a moment.

In preparing for the present article, look at what I found. Wikileaks? More like Wikihole. At the present rate of digging we shall reach New Zealand around noon. Those of you who have been following my Wikileak posts will know that I have been pursuing the question of who Wikileaks gave access to in advance of the general release date of the Iraqi War Logs. I was researching the present article and did not expect to uncover more on the Wikileaks story.

You will see from the title of the following piece from Télé what I was actually looking for, and we will get to that later:

How OWNI and the French Helped Wikileaks Run the Iraqi War Logs.

In the paragraph after the introduction we have this sentence: “A dozen newspapers on five continents (including Le Monde), who received a preview of these documents, published excerpts.”

The French journalist’s (Antoine Mairé)  math is impressive. Beats the “several newspapers” of the English language sources I have explored so far. But I am missing three continents. Later in the article Mairé refers to the famous twelve again: “…and for the more traditional outets, the twelve newspapers, as previously mentioned, …”

A quick search of two of the usual suspects was conducted. A search of the site of the newspaper Japan Times reveals only the standard stories carried elsewhere at the final release of the Iraqi War Logs (October 22-23, 2010). The Times of India also does not appear to be one of the twelve. Its announcement of the release is a wireline report.

WikiLeaks releases 400,000 Iraq war logs, AP, Oct 23, 2010, 09.56am IST.

The report of the newspapers given prior access to the Iraqi War Logs is the same as we have seen elsewhere: “WikiLeaks said it provided unredacted versions of the reports weeks ahead of time to several news organizations, including the New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. It gave The Associated Press and several other news organizations access to a searchable, redacted database hours before its general release on Friday.”

To return to our main topic, there are a number of ways to refer to the kind of journalism I am speaking of: new journalism, online journalism, digital journalism. I want to contrast the new journalism with the old.

The new journalism has a distinct style which can be readily seen in the example from the BBC (The lead US story 11/19/2010  from the BBC website).

The story has an introductory paragraph which summarizes the whole story.  The story is then expanded in single sentences, each on a line of its own.

Each sentence is standalone. That is to say, the reader can break off at any point. Each sentence is a topic sentence and no subsequent sentence expands on a previous sentence. The story is told through essentially a series of bulleted item points.

Contrast this with a traditional newspaper’s, even in its online presence, handling of a story (Lead story 11/19/2010 from the New York Times online edition ). The differences are pronounced.

There is no story summary by way of introduction. Instead the story is properly introduced in the opening paragraph. The story is fully developed in a series of six or seven paragraphs, or more. Subsequent paragraphs have topic sentences followed by sentences which then expand on the topic.

Notice that the BBC web page is designed to fit into a single view on the computer screen. The NYT article. despite being on the web requires a scroll down to view the lower half of the story. The story is then continued on a second page, which in turn requires a scroll down to complete the reading of the article.  The NYT is aware of the posibilities of the web, since a sidebar multimediaon the story is offered.

My contention is this: just as fast food is dangerous for the body, is the new fast food journalism dangerous for the mind? Just as fast food may lead to overweight or fat bodies, will fast food journalism lead to skinny minds, to an inability to develop ideas.

The problem with the single sentence paragraph is that ideas are not developed. Context is lacking and background is reduced to a simple statement.

The new journalism reports in terms of sketches. Traditional journalism gives a fuller more developed picture. Often, in the traditional sources, there will be analysis and comment on particular stories so that  the impact of the story can be more thoughtfully be developed. The new journalism is totally lacking in these.

Filed under: Current Events, , , , ,

So Who Else Had Prior Access to Wikileaks’ Iraqi War Data?

Never ending trail this. I suppose there is a definitive source somewhere that lists all of the entities that Wkileaks gave prior access to the Iraqi War Logs.

I refer of course to my post of November 3, 2010: Who Had Prior Access to Wikileaks’ Iraqi War Data?

Thumbing through I guess what is a favourite news source, the Guardian of London (now that the BBC have dumbed down their news pages), I idly clicked on their Wikileaks button. Scanning their list of stories, one datelined Thursday 28 October 2010, caught my eye:

Iraq war logs: media reaction around the world – How the media around the globe have been covering the WikiLeaks revelations, and which parts they are focusing on

It was not the headline in particular that caught my attention, but the reporting team: Martin Chulov in Baghdad, Chris McGreal in Washington, Lars Eriksen in Copenhagen and Tom Kington in Rome.

Rome, Baghdad, Washington looked innocuous enough. But Copenhagen. Copenhagen! Scanning through the article, I reach a section headed Denmark.

Ah. What have we here? Nestled three paragraphs into the article, we have:

“The newspaper (Dagbladet ) is one of a small number of media organisations, including the Guardian, which were given access to almost 400,000 secret US army reports released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.”

We are back to journalistic arithmetic: “small number of media organisations.” Let’s not count Iraq Body Count, let’s not include OWNI. So we have NYT, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Dagbladet, BBC, Swedish Television, Channel 4, and Al Jazeera in English.  Oh and BFIJ. I count 9.

Let’s have a look now at the Wikileaks site and see if we can find anything there. There are two areas devoted to the Iraqi War Logs: Diary Dig and War Logs. OWNI designed the War Logs software. Personally, I don’t much care for the interface. The interface suggests online war games and that may be deliberate. It seems to me to depersonalize the tragedy associated with the whole set of Iraq war reports.

Diary Dig I am not familiar with. We may take  a look it later. Digging through the Wikileak web pages, we find  Press Release. Took a few pages to find it for it is not on the menu of every page. The release is long and densely written.  I am going to print it off because it is too long for web viewing.

It is quite unlike any press release I have seen. Six paragraphs of closely typed text followed by about 40 answers to what they refer to as FAQ. I think they mean: “Answers to questions we anticipate being asked.” Let’s skip all of it and go to the bit we are interested in.

The press release in fact mentions only three newspapers. Neither Le Monde or Dagbladet are there, nor is there mention of any of the television stations. Here is the paragraph is full:

“Iraq Body Count –  Public Interest Lawyers  –  Bureau of Investigative Journalism –  The Guardian  Der Spiegel  The New York Times –”

One new name: Public Interest Lawyers cannot be considered a media outlet and their role is mentioned in the previous paragraph to one quoted above.

The next question to ask is this:

How will the release of both the Afghan and Iraqi War documents affect the future conduct of war by the likes of the Americans and their allies?

And an inevitable sister question that has me sick in my stomach to ask:

What addional steps will governments (US and others) take to control the release (and holding of) war zone information?

Filed under: Current Events, , , , , , , ,

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