Sunday, 9 November 2008

Who is behind Facebook?

I meant to place this link on the blog some time ago and clean forgot until now.

Back in January 2008 the journalist Tom Hodgkinson wrote a highly critical article about Facebook, detailing the allegedly dodgy dealings of the supposed right wing neo-conservative American venture capitalists who have bought up large stakes in the world's best-known social networking site.

The article raises many questions about the dangers posed by using personal data as a currency for online popularity. However, it also raises questions about why we see so little hard-hitting investigative journalism in the UK these days.

Are journalists so in thrall to the corporations and PR companies that they fear the consequences of publishing unflattering copy? Have the skills of investigation and analysis been lost? There are many fine training institutions offering such skills, such as the schools of journalism at Cardiff and City Universities. So, what is stifling debate in the British press? Indeed, I find it sad that Panorama, once the major BBC flagship hard news documentary programme, has been reduced from a 60 minute to a 30 minute popular documentary strand, taking a populist approach to difficult stories. Not all of the world is itching to succumb to the lowest common denominator, and in keeping true to the aims of Public Service Broadcasting, surely there's space for programmes that dig deep, ask the awkward questions to the unwilling, and are prepared to make a stand?

Certainly, I remember being struck by how unusual Tom's article was, and thinking that despite not knowing what Tom's hidden agenda, if any, might be, nonetheless I was impressed to see someone in a national newspaper writing a polemical piece. 

Personally, I think there is a greater need now than ever for investigative journalism, to cut through the gargantuan amount of information with which we are bombarded every day.

As the Guardian's own motto says, 'Comment is Free but Facts are Sacred.'

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