Primary Source Journalism and the Rise of “Little Brother”

Big Brother has long been raised as a threat of tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment (and cer­tainly the National Secu­rity Agency has done its fair share of snoop­ing). But in real­ity, it is the encroach­ment of Lit­tle Brother that aver­age Amer­i­cans are more likely to feel in our day-to-day lives — that peo­ple around us carry dig­i­tal devices that can be pulled out for photo or videos, or they can eas­ily copy dig­i­tal files (com­pared to the months of covert pho­to­copy­ing that Ells­berg did for 7,000 pages) that oth­ers would rather not have shared with the world.

One notable strength of raw mate­r­ial: it has a nat­ural viral lift for two rea­sons — audi­ence engage­ment, and the way legacy media jas oper­ated with regard to sourc­ing and competition.

Social media is a three-legged stool: cre­ate, con­sume, and share con­tent. Because orig­i­nal mate­r­ial often feels more like an orig­i­nal dis­cov­ery, it is more appeal­ing to share. Doc­u­ments, videos and pho­tos are there for any­one to exam­ine and expe­ri­ence first­hand. The audi­ence can inter­pret, debate, com­ment as they choose, and they feel greater free­dom to re-upload and remix that mate­r­ial, espe­cially video. The Neda video was recon­fig­ured numer­ous times, with var­i­ous sound­tracks, intro­duc­tions and spliced pho­tos. At a cer­tain point nearly all of the top 20 YouTube videos in the news and pol­i­tics cat­e­gory were dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the Neda video. Many of these forms — par­tic­u­larly video and pho­tos — more eas­ily tran­scend inter­na­tional borders.

Fantastic article by my friend @jenny8lee on our post-Wikileaks world.