Towards a New Journalism

Established journalism in Ireland is a depressing picture. Journalism, proper journalism has only one objective. Truth. Yet, this very objective is subjective. Which leads us to the fundamental problem of journalism especially the more respectable titles and their journalists and their commentators who cloak themselves in conventional respectability and from this invoke a seemingly objective authority. This objectivity is well versed. It speaks with a language that is just a few parameters away from the languidness of political speech. It is an objectivity that has to its disposal the fortification of  numbers and stats, the empiricism of which that holds ground even in the most stressful of social storms. It has the typeset, the tradition, the respectability of being read by your doctor, the solicitor and the college professor that nod their head in agreement each time their own seemingly subjective opinion is expressed in this most objective of institutions. It is time to read the implausibility of objectivity.

In constructing a new journalism we need to question the objectivity of truth. Is truth itself a myth? Or is truth a certain point on the axis that we fathom as the most pressing of concerns. Is truth like a shifting sand, ever unstable, a point at which we aim to take a stand before it crumbles once more beneath our feet? If each of us take a different position on the sand, how do we ever get to a stable point that we can agree on. How do we understand journalism if we cannot understand truth and the very subjectivity of it? Badiou who grapples with the inconstancy of truth states “there is no heaven of truth”. Truth is not stable. That is not to say though that it does not exist.

With no heaven of truth comes a fundamental problem for our perception of established journalism. Through their steering of an objectivity that establishes the acceptable position to take they succeed in our misconceptions of what journalism actually is. Established journalism becomes an echo chamber of power that establishes acceptable levels of discourse, a discourse that is both formed and justified by the commentators at its helm. It creates a truth that for power is self justifying and self fulfilling. It commentates on power’s game through the rules that power has set. And the standpoints that it take may so often be hypocritical but we ignore it, we forget yesterday’s position and think only of today for without them we would not know who said what when or the latest survey that has said of child poverty’s increase or the improvement on the social register. This daily clutter of information, sourced through reported statements, studies, surveys, and the latest information released by the CSO, RedSea polls is the constitution of established journalism. All silhouettes of objectivity.

We begin now to delve into the crisis of journalism, something that established journalism is incapable of comprehending. If the only way we can make a stab at truth is through the work of institutions that deliver information based on statistics then journalism’s search for truth is being outsourced. Instead of looking for truth it is being delivered truth. This is not a paranoid’s grappling of a conspiracy behind those that provide such objective truth. It is simply a criticism of the journalist, the truth seeker, that no longer seeks truth but has it wrapped up and delivered to him or her quarter annually.

So now instead of one problem we have two. The instability of truth and the duty of the journalist is the first problem. But the second is where the consensus lies in the validity of reporting something as truth. If objectivity has fallen by the wayside, established journalism is in tatters. Artists as well as philosophers have long known the fallacy of objectivity and it is time for any journalist hungry to change to follow suit. Journalists then have to search somewhere else for this consensus. The only way journalists (as opposed to artists) can reconcile these contradictions is to delve into where the actual consensus lies, where decisions that affect both all the human world and all the natural world occur. The space where power speaks to power openly and unobstructed.

To go back to Badiou for a moment, he speaks of a truth process as the ‘break’ that which “means nothing according to the prevailing language and established knowledge of the situation.” It is “heterogenous to the instituted knowledges of the situation.” If power establishes our everyday truths, i.e. commands the idealism that uphold our institutions, our media, our everyday conversations of how we conceive of ourselves in the social sphere, it is only in the moment of breakage where this truth (before power can reconstitute itself and swallow up this new truth through spin and those other means it has at its disposal) shines so brightly that even the blindest will momentarily glimpse it before it is swallowed up by power again.

It is in this brief window that journalism holds its only cards. For the new journalist intent on opening a window of transparency on power and its fictions it uses to mask everyday reality, it must expose power speaking to power. This new journalism then becomes less about the actual information it obtains (though this information is its TNT against objective established truth) but rather about the method of exposing this truth. Its uncompromising stance that it has a right to the actual decision making processes that are made behind the press releases and the surveys. It is here that it finds its own objective truth because if the subjectivity of power forms instituted objectivity, then this is the only space that it has at its disposal where the actual decisions and events that determine our existence exist.

In Metahaven’s Black Transparency: The Right To Know In The Age of Mass Surveillance they state of black transparency that it is the method that is “of divisive importance to transparency’s political impact”. Black transparency they state is “a disclosure of secrets that aim to embarrass and destabilise their keeper”. Power as the keeper of such secrets is where the new journalist finds his or her truth. It is the truth so much as it is power’s truth. It is here that we seek a break from established journalists.

There is no compromise. If they take our information we take theirs.

Luckily for us we have been given forefathers. Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Swiss Leaks, Edward Snowden, today’s Panama Papers, all provide an example of exposing how power speaks to power and the potency of this material is where the new journalism lies. The established journalism works with the deluge of information parcelled by seemingly objective sources, the new journalist works with the rawest of information unconcealed by spin.

Assange states in The WikiLeaks Files, “The study of empires has long been the study of their communications…by the 1950’s students of historical empires realized that somehow the communications medium was the empire. Its methods for organizing the inscription, transportation, indexing and storage of its communications, and for designating who was authorized to read and write them, in a real sense constituted the empire…The structured attempt at managing an extended cultural and economic system using communications is the hallmark of empire. And it is the records of these communications, never intended to be dissected, and so especially vulnerable to dissection, that forms the basis for understanding the nature of the world’s sole remaining “empire””.

The new journalist is a precariat. Having stuck two fingers firmly up at established journalism, she and he understands that a steady income is the price to pay for a fidelity to her and his profession. What we understand as the empire has aimed to establish that the only means by which we can materially exist is through a selling of our time, our labour in fruitless, worthless jobs that we possess the pitiful means to exist from one day to the next. What it has ignored is that existing within this soulless, fruitless zone has bequeathed us both an anger and an energy to use our marginalisation from the social order to analyse and destruct it. And as the trends of capital continue to show, we are being given all the time in the world to do so.

The new journalist has at its disposal the treasure trove of information unleashed by those martyrs of information, those in positions of authority that have put not only their livelihoods at risk but their very lives because they have adopted the ethical position of believing their lives are worth less than the carnage that the information they have witnessed is subjecting on the people at large. The new journalist, unlike the established journalists that have come before him or her, have so much information before them that the task is daunting. With the bulk release of information through Wikileaks and the like the task can seem like trawling the seabed in the hope of finding a golden tooth but the precariat unlike the established journalist feels vindicated in the challenge, as their role is a fidelity to life and not to a wage.

New Journalism recognises the artificiality of objective truth. New Journalism sees the skeleton of empire and shows it to all. New Journalism relies on power speaking to power and uses a language of vibrancy and of confidence as opposed to the reserved, hypochondriac language of traditional journalistism. Taking information as its matter, it expresses power’s deviances with whatever matter it seeks as best built to the task of appealing to its own audience in the medium it sees fit. Goodbye to the solemn declarations of traditional typeface. We say it anew.


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