Why we’re living in the golden age of investigative journalism – Salon.com

Following on both your introductions to yourselves and our discussion in class about how the memes of journalism’s technology and practice will define how law and justice evolve, consider this article in Salon: Why we’re living in the golden age of investigative journalism – Salon.com.

Consider that everyone of the stories outlined would have highly complex legal considerations. If we are indeed living in the golden age of investigative journalism, todays talk suggests that a golden age of legal redefinition will occur to accommodate (just not quickly enough).



8 responses to “Why we’re living in the golden age of investigative journalism – Salon.com”

  1. Konstantine

    While legal redefinition will occur to accommodate the boom in investigative articles dealing with privacy, security and access to information it is arguable that it will happen fast enough. The beauty of the internet and social media is that there is relatively less fear among journalists with regards to publishing risky material that may fall under questionable legal definitions.

    Law in and of itself is slow and journalism is fast. To react fully and to work it’s way through the courts requires a vast amount of time so unless something is outrageously false or slanderous, I do think that the law will almost always fall on the side of the journalists heading up this vanguard of ‘new’ reporting and shape the laws and precedents for the future of journalism.

    Finally, even if things go completely south with regards to law, the anonymous nature of the internet will continue to allow for groups and organizations to post and produce work that holds little regard for international law. This is seen with various groups such as Anonymous.

  2. Jon Festinger

    Konstantine, that is a very thoughtful comment. Law seems slow. Journalism is fast. And the internet accelerates journalism. The internet has also made other forms of “justice” some of which are just forms of vigilantism, propaganda and revenge to thrive. To take two examples, the legal system and the courts have had to digest, understand and deal with both bullying of children (particularly in a LGBT context), revenge porn and other issues. They are clearly up to the task though when those issues and their societal damage first became clear, most everyone was pretty stunned.

    From my perspective the internet is not good or bad. It is another storytelling tool…as was the printing press and the camera. As technology evolves so does accountability it seems. In the end that will be a good thing and indeed might make us less legalistic. I would cite as an example the spate of corporate officers and others who have been forced to resign or back out of deals because how they treated women got out. There may be court cases in a couple of years but the issues themselves have been aired and brought to light.

    Of course there may may be inaccuracies in perception that will come out in court but that too will have its airing on the net. Some will talk about the great miscarriages of justice that can occur. From my perspective those are extremely rare. A good test case of these tensions will be the case of Furlong v. Robinson. The circumstances of the case are described here http://www.straight.com/news/597601/john-furlong-admits-he-has-no-actual-knowledge-laura-robinson-ever-filing-police-report (and in many other sources as well).

    For what it is worth, I tend to be of the “information is good, more information is better” school. From that perspective the internet is a truly great thing for information, and ultimately for journalism. Not without hiccups of course.


  3. Emily

    An important aspect of journalism is to keep the public informed and give them a platform to discuss issues. Through the increased use of social media and other technologies people are able to access information faster and easier. As a result there is increased awareness and an expectation by the public that they should have access to more information. There also appears to be a trend of increased support for social justice, transparency, and accountability. Some examples that come to mind are the public reaction to the events in Ferguson, or to the Ray Rice video.

    This public opinion will have a strong impact on changes in law. Public curiosity and support for transparency will put pressure on policy makers to allow access to information and freedom of investigative work.

    Public interest in celebrity culture has already seen an increase in paparazzi activity and a decrease in celebrity privacy with photos and leaked information being sold for high profits. However, I predict laws shifting towards increased privacy in this area. This is based on the recent reaction to hacked celebrity photos and the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal. There is also public criticism of the paparazzi by celebrities, including the dangers that they pose while driving.

    Public opinion and readership has a huge impact on what journalists are reporting on and how they are reporting it. It also greatly affects what happens after information is released. Public opinion seems to self-regulate in terms of support for privacy vs. access to information.

  4. Jon Festinger

    Quite right Emily. There is a fascinating loop between public opinion and journalism. That loop is probably enhanced by the members of the public acting as “citizen journalists”. More stories, more coverage, more accountability and almost certainly, more legal problems.


  5. Peter Mothe

    After listening to the lectures and doing the class readings, it appears obvious law is, by nature, reactionary. This poses many questions for journalists in the 21st century, but one stands out to me: How will lawmakers react to an ever-growing gap between Law and technology?

    Law is always at least one step behind technological advances. The problem is that journalists, citizen journalists, and activists are adapting to a very fast changing web scenario (I’m thinking here of the Deep Web). This is creating a growing gap between law and technology, and potentially between law and journalistic practices. So what’s next? Will lawmakers adapt to this by pushing tougher regulations on the internet? Are they already doing this with, for example, the destruction of Net Neutrality in the US? Where will they stop?

  6. Jon Festinger

    You’ll forgive me if I prefer the word “reactive” to “reactionary”. Peter, you are right – it does seem that all law can do is react. Law is not “creative” in that sense, and that is probably not unreasonable. Though it can lead to frustration. Journalism is “creative” in many different senses. Its value is to witness, uncover and illuminate the truth of our humanness and all the places (both good and bad) that takes us. As such, in my view, it is an absolutely essential beacon for legislators as they try to move society forward – all the more so as the internet and digital tools allows the democratization of journalism itself. You are quite right that if this digital progress (differing opinions on this, I know) is feared or misunderstood, obstacles can be placed firmly in the way of journalists and journalism as is the case in repressive regimes. Am optimistic, but vigilant. The Snowden revelations and the tone-deaf reaction of law enforcement and many government officials in the U.S. may not bode well, but…


  7. Peter Mothe

    Thanks for the quick response!

    I’ll correct my last comment: I did mean to say reactive, and not reactionary.

    One of my main concerns about the future of law and journalism is whether or not law will switch from reactive to reactionary in the context of the growing gap between policy and technology that I mentioned earlier.

  8. Jon Festinger

    Thought you probably meant “reactive”, though you clearly do understand the risk if things go “reactionary”. Will only add that being reactionary is something elected legislatures are no doubt fully capable of, as they can be driven by the political whims of the moment. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but judges and courts in free and democratic societies tend IMHO to be “mildly progressive”, and less moved by fear, reactiveness or popularity then are governments.


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