Video Activist Handbook - Chapter 1
Hacking the media #
We live in a world where the technology to make media is available to almost everyone, but where people lack the techniques to use their smartphones, tablets and computers to best effect. But the gap between owning the technology and being able to create your own news is actually quite small. The step up from producing 10 minutes of unwatchable wobbly-cam on youtube to making a communicative news report is really just a few basic skills.
But why should you do this at all?
What's wrong with the traditional media? #
Why shouldn't you just pitch your actions and stories at the mainstream media, and let them use their skills and resources to tell the story?
What's great about the traditional media is that they already have popular newspapers and TV stations. This means you can reach a large number of people you couldn't get to otherwise. But there are quite a few drawbacks.
One is that you have to accept the agenda, the framing, of the traditional news organization. The world's print and television media is owned by a small number of very powerful and unaccountable corporations or is a state-owned vehicle for propaganda. Have you ever been present at an event covered by television or newspapers? Did they report it accurately, or would you have told it differently? The framing of the traditional news media is often guilty of what is called "confirmation bias". This means that journalists select from the stories out there to confirm their original views, or the views of their editor or proprietor. This means for instance that rioters will tend to be treated as merely criminals, or that the Olympics will be found to be utterly wonderful. This also leads to "sins of omission". At the recent London Olympics there were protests by Vietnamese women against the sponsorship by Dow Chemical, manufacturer of defoliant Agent Orange, which has an estimated 3 million victims from the Vietnam war. This protest appeared nowhere in the British mainstream media. It was the "wrong" story. See "Manufacturing Consent" for a great analysis of the institutional bias of the traditional media in the era before the internet.
As a "citizen journalist", you may be welcomed by the traditional media (as long as you don't want to be paid!). But they will want your raw shot material, not your edited version of it, so that they can get a “professional journalist”, in other words a journalist paid by them, to interpret it before it goes out.
Also, with the traditional media, you will always need to be exceptionally interesting and newsworthy. Even then, they may not carry your story. The traditional news has lots of standard, day-in-day-out stories (the stock markets, the weather, yesterday in Parliament), but they're not interested in yours. Although we should always be looking for the most exciting stories, by creating citizen media we are also re-defining what is standard news.
We're not at all saying that we shouldn't use the traditional media, just that we, the citizens of the world, seriously need our own media as well. Fortunately the internet makes this possible.
There's never been a better time to hack the media, to put it in the control of the majority. Don't just be citizen journalist fodder for the traditional media. This book will show you how to be a video activist.