At this point, it seems the question for any independent journalist that has already achieved personal success––The Greenwalds, and Poitras’ and Scahills––is how can a journalistic institution be built with the power to challenge corporate structures but the ability to inspire personal conviction in specific areas and the backing of certain ideals?
Those three are putting their efforts behind a model, and if anybody can manage the pressures of a large organization with the fierce backing of certain values, it’s them. But they’ll still be prone to the same pitfalls of any structure that size, and they’ll have to come up with ways to work within certain aspects of convention while allowing total freedom in others.
Unfortunately, I do think there’s some credence in an aspect of Bill Keller’s email exchange with Greenwald that was printed in the New York Times. Once you have publicly declared your “subjective assumptions and political values,” Keller says “it’s human nature to want to defend them, and it becomes tempting to omit or minimize facts, or frame the argument, in ways that support your declared viewpoint.” Greenwald is still correct, however, that reporters who hide their opinions won’t be “less tempted by human nature to manipulate their reporting than those who are honest about their opinions,” but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t fall prey to the same temptations of any large-scale operation.
If Greenwald’s new venture is massively influential, and trumpets a specific agenda (even if it’s disclosed, unlike the “Fair and Balanced” Fox News model), that can still have a degrading effect on a democracy by being one of a few distinct yet homogenous voices (That’s the current state of American Media, right? It’s easy to see Greenwald’s outlet just becoming a more critical version of something that still fits the old model. I’m not saying it’s what will happen, I’m saying it easily could if he’s not careful to maintain control).
The problem then, is not that any opinion that is presented has slant or bias, but that any opinion that is presented as straight fact is distributed on a mass scale. The problem, is that we live in a society which allows for, and at this point nearly asks itself to be held under the thumb of dominant corporate monopolies.
Democracy thrives––and fixes itself––from the ground up. Challenging the dominant structure by building your own can only be so successful. The public must reject corporate news more and more, and turn to truly localized, citizen-funded efforts to build a grassroots network of independent voices from all areas of the political spectrum.