“Great journalism has always been exceptional, not the norm”

The quote in the title from Carl Bernstein neatly conceptualises why there is a space for new facilitators of information dissemination like Wikileaks. It doesn’t, however, acknowledge, why there is an absolute urgency for new forms of journalism to supplement the failings of the old media. It’s a well-worn debate, and not one I intend to contribute to in any meaningful sense lest I be bogged down in some banal discussion about resources and groupthink.

What is important to recognise is the proximity of old media to sites of power. Far from being merely unexceptional, the vast majority of journalism in the old, “respected” media is embedded and it is deficient. In this, I do not mean to argue that old media types and powerful journos are too close to government officials, party hacks and so forth. That would be completely missing the point.

Power in our society is diffuse and imparts itself upon others in many more sites than merely, da guvarment and da big corporations. The greater concern, for me, is the way that contemporary journalism merely reinforces power relationships in our society. Too little are we treated to investigative work that actively attempts to undermine, or at least expose, these received structures.

The video is another case in point of Al Jazeera promoting a depth and quality of discussion seldom seen in other media outlets. Journalists should stop asking whether Assange and others like him are “real” journalists or not (does it matter in any real sense?) and start asking themselves why there is more than a space, but a need for them to exist.


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