/ Journalism

A Decentralized Web Isn't Enough

"Just take a look around the world and you'll find that nearly all
Mass media are owned and controlled by a handful of conservative capitalists.
We must devise and implement alternative methods of distributing our news, our
Information, our ideas - people united worldwide working together to make a stand, to
Tell the truth!"
Underground Network, Anti-Flag

I never expected the lyrics from a band I discovered at 15 to be constantly present in my thoughts over a decade later. My previous post touched on the need to put the infrastructure that connects us to the web in the hands of community stakeholders.

Yesterday's news about the gutting of LA Weekly and today's story that Peter Thiel is seeking to buy Gawker.com (which includes its 14 year archive) are tragic reminders that it's not just the infrastructure for the web that needs to be rebuilt under the control of communities, it's every last component of the institutions we hold dear as well.

In the past year we've lost Gothamist, DNAInfo, LA Weekly, LAist, and others across the nation. Those outlets spent their resources reporting in the communities they serviced. When you look back at those archives on any of those websites and you'll come across stories where good, local journalism exposed abuses of power, profiled local artists, and covered stories of interest that a larger outlet may have never had the time or interest to report on.

We can't expect our major news outlets to cover these stories. Those news teams are often not located in the same community, managing a separate project entirely, won't have the resources dedicated to doing local stories well, and it is important to have outlets covering what's happening at the national level.

The rub of it all is that the shuttering of those outlets came at the hands of petty billionaires. To recap, Peter Theil sued Gawker into bankruptcy and Joe Ricketts shut down the organization after the Gothamist staff unionized. Vox had to be harassed into paying its journalists a living wage, ESPN just laid off 150 journalists, and Buzzfeed is slated to cut 100 positions after not hitting revenue targets. The rentier's war on journalism is not slated to end soon.

While I'm glad that Jeff Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post hasn't prevented the outlet from doing good work, our hopes for the future cannot be placed in benefactor billionaires, large organizations, or the thought that our national leaders will rise to the ocassion.

We're fortunate to live in an age where online platforms can quickly mobilize grassroots efforts. If, after a protracted legal battle, Ajit Pai is succesful at slaughtering the open internet, it won't be hard to clamp down on online organizing.

Every effort to preserve our most vital instutions must be taken on by us en masse. We need instutitions that are owned and operated within the communities they impact, none more important than free and independent news outlets.

I started this blog as project to organize my thoughts around tech and tech policy and to point out ways for end-users to re-assert rights over their data and the devices they own.

As part of that goal, every time I find something, I'll post the resources on how to extricate ourselves from our increasingly homogenized platforms. One of the first topics will be how to set up a low cost, open platform website. Even if you're not interested in having website, there's always the option to set it up and offer to voices in your community.

In the mean time, we should be hedging against the whims of a petty rentier. The Internet Archive is one of our best resources to prevent web pages from being sent down the memory hole.

How to donate to the Internet Archive.