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Checks & Balances: Who is holding Journalist’s accountable for their reporting in an era of likes and RT’s?

“Vietnam was the first TV war and Iraq is the first Internet war.”
“News is no longer treated as a public service. There must be a wall between the corporate money making division and the news making division.”
“The old order is dead – the new on is not yet in place and will be part of the interment.”

These are just a few of the many pearls of wisdom legendary journalist Dan Rather shared in today’s AOL Build’s series, The Newsmen at Advertising Week.

Roy Sekoff, President & Co-creator of HuffPo live sat down for a candid one on one interview with Mr. Rather to discuss the changing dynamics of media, tech and journalism. (Watch it here)

Due to a time shortage sucked up by two run of the mill questions (Who are your favorite news anchors and what do you think of the 24hr news cycle?) I wasn’t able to address Mr. Rather or Mr. Sekoff about the changing dynamics of Journalism, thankfully, we’re in the Internet age and I have Medium at my disposal.

Five days ago, Shane Smith, CEO of VICE published a Skype interview with Abu Usamah Somali, aka Farah Shirdon, 21, a Canadian citizen last seen alive in a widely distributed ISIS video showing him renounce his Canadian citizenship and pledge his alliance to ISIS, he was thought to be dead.

In my opinion the interview Smith conducted came off as a platform for Somali to spew hate rhetoric.

There was no formal interview, it was clear Somali was not interested in participating and made a mockery of the entire thing. Smith appeared stunned; the few questions Smith was able to ask went mostly unanswered.

At first I thought, wow what a crazy “get” and RT Smith’s post to my Twitter feed. I then thought, how irresponsible of me to RT this video, which essentially was ISIS propaganda not an interview, my tweet is aiding and abetting their message. I undid my RT and started thinking about the state of journalism and news media.

This Skype conversation did not add value to reporting on the growing instability in Iraq – Syria. It didn’t explain why young people are mobilizing to fight with ISIS. It answered no questions.

ISIS intends to get peoples attention, what other terrorist organization has a press department? And Somali used VICE to push his agenda. I found the posting of this interview to be irresponsible of VICE. If they had provided commentary at the top or bottom of the piece to bridge a full story together, I potentially would be less inclined to criticize them.

In full disclosure I will state that I read VICE, watch their HBO series and think what Smith has created is a great antidote to traditional broadcast news. I’ve even interviewed for a position there and pitched Smith my ideas. I’m not critiquing his brand of storytelling, I’m disappointed in their choice to air this interview in the manner in which they did.

A check and balance on my own accountability as a journo is what led to the questions I wanted to ask Dan Rather today:

Is there accountability and responsibility in digital journalism and citizen journalism or is it just about the “get” the “share” the instant gratification of attention seekers and companies whose market value is driven by online shares?
How does this influence the future of news reporting and how can we ensure responsible reporting continues to thrive in an over saturated market with a broken value system?

As Dan Rather stated this evening, news in America is no longer a public service.




Deaqon James
Deaqon James is a Commercial & Glamour photographer who also enjoys cars, sneakers and of course beautiful women. He founded High Speed Magazine in 2006.

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