Saturday, September 12, 2009


When I started The Generalist i had certain ideas in mind - and a certain excitement, as if, at this stage in my writing life, i was finally going to to  be able to realise a kind of journalism that i had always glimpsed but it was impossible to realise with technologies we had at our disposal before the 90s. This Manifesto expresses some powerful thoughts which I feel perfectly in  tune with. It reaches to the heart of what the Generalist is  all about.

Internet Manifesto

How journalism works today. Seventeen declarations.

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1. The Internet is different.

It produces different public spheres, different terms of trade and different cultural skills. The media must adapt their work methods to today’s technological reality instead of ignoring or challenging it.  It is their duty to develop the best possible form of journalism based on the available technology. This includes new journalistic products and methods.

2. The Internet is a pocket-sized media empire.

The web rearranges existing media structures by transcending their former boundaries and oligopolies. The publication and dissemination of media contents are no longer tied to heavy investments. Journalism’s self-conception is—fortunately—being cured of its gatekeeping function. All that remains is the journalistic quality through which journalism distinguishes itself from mere publication.

3. The Internet is our society is the Internet.

Web-based platforms like social networks, Wikipedia or YouTube have become a part of everyday life for the majority of people in the western world. They are as accessible as the telephone or television. If media companies want to continue to exist, they must understand the lifeworld of today’s users and embrace their forms of communication. This includes basic forms of social communication: listening and responding, also known as dialog.

4. The freedom of the Internet is inviolable.

The Internet’s open architecture constitutes the basic IT law of a society which communicates digitally and, consequently, of journalism. It may not be modified for the sake of protecting the special commercial or political interests often hidden behind the pretense of public interest. Regardless of how it is done, blocking access to the Internet endangers the free flow of information and corrupts our fundamental right to a self-determined level of information.

5. The Internet is the victory of information.

Due to inadequate technology, media companies, research centers, public institutions and other organizations compiled and classified the world’s information up to now. Today every citizen can set up her own personal news filter while search engines tap into wealths of information of a magnitude never before known. Individuals can now inform themselves better than ever.

6. The Internet changes improves journalism.

Through the Internet, journalism can fulfill its social-educational role in a new way. This includes presenting information as an ever-changing, continual process; the forfeiture of print media’s inalterability is a benefit. Those who want to survive in this new world of information need a new idealism, new journalistic ideas and a sense of pleasure in exploiting this new potential.

7. The net requires networking.

Links are connections. We know each other through links. Those who do not use them exclude themselves from social discourse. This also holds for the websites of traditional media companies.

8. Links reward, citations adorn.

Search engines and aggregators facilitate quality journalism: they boost the findability of outstanding content over a long-term basis and are thus an integral part of the new, networked public sphere. References through links and citations—especially including those made without any consent or even remuneration of the originator—make the very culture of networked social discourse possible in the first place. They are by all means worthy of protection.

9. The Internet is the new venue for political discourse.

Democracy thrives on participation and freedom of information. Transferring the political discussion from traditional media to the Internet and expanding on this discussion by involving the active participation of the public is one of journalism’s new tasks.

10. Today’s freedom of the press means freedom of opinion.

Article 5 of the German Constitution does not comprise protective rights for professions or technically traditional business models. The Internet overrides the technological boundaries between the amateur and professional. This is why the privilege of freedom of the press must hold for anyone who can contribute to the fulfillment of journalistic duties. Qualitatively speaking, no differentiation should be made between paid and unpaid journalism, but rather, between good and poor journalism.

11. More is more – there is no such thing as too much information.

Once upon a time, institutions such as the church prioritized power over personal awareness and warned of an unsifted flood of information when the letterpress was invented. On the other hand were the pamphleteers, encyclopaedists and journalists who proved that more information leads to more freedom, both for the individual as well as society as a whole. To this day, nothing has changed in this respect.

12. Tradition is not a business model.

Money can be made on the Internet with journalistic content. There are many examples of this today already. Yet because the Internet is fiercely competitive, business models have to be adapted to the structure of the net. No one should try to abscond from this essential adaptation through policy-making geared to preserving the status quo. Journalism needs open competition for the best refinancing solutions on the net, along with the courage to invest in the multifaceted implementation of these solutions.

13. Copyright becomes a civic duty on the Internet.

Copyright is a cornerstone of information organization on the Internet. Originators’ rights to decide on the type and scope of dissemination of their contents are also valid on the net. At the same time, copyright may not be abused as a lever to safeguard obsolete supply mechanisms and shut out new distribution models or license schemes. Ownership entails obligations.

14. The Internet has many currencies.

Journalistic online services financed through adverts offer content in exchange for a pull effect. A reader’s, viewer’s or listener’s time is valuable. In the industry of journalism, this correlation has always been one of the fundamental tenets of financing. Other forms of refinancing which are journalistically justifiable need to be forged and tested.

15. What’s on the net stays on the net.

The Internet is lifting journalism to a new qualitative level. Online, text, sound and images no longer have to be transient. They remain retrievable, thus building an archive of contemporary history. Journalism must take the development of information, its interpretation and errors into account, i.e., it must admit its mistakes and correct them in a transparent manner.

16. Quality remains the most important quality.

The Internet debunks homogenous bulk goods. Only those who are outstanding, credible and exceptional will gain a steady following in the long run. Users’ demands have increased. Journalism must fulfill them and abide by its own frequently formulated principles.

17. All for all.

The web constitutes an infrastructure for social exchange superior to that of 20th century mass media: When in doubt, the “generation Wikipedia” is capable of appraising the credibility of a source, tracking news back to its original source, researching it, checking it and assessing it—alone or as part of a group effort. Journalists who snub this and are unwilling to respect these skills are not taken seriously by these Internet users. Rightly so. The Internet makes it possible to communicate directly with those once known as recipients—readers, listeners and viewers—and to take advantage of their knowledge. Not the journalists who know it all are in demand, but those who communicate and investigate.

Internet, 07.09.2009

Translated from the German by Jenna L. Brinning

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Saturday, September 05, 2009



Opium poppies, Helmand province, Afghanistan.      Source: The Last Crusade, illustrating a story 'US Marines Protect Afghan's Poppy Harvest (7th July 2009) which begins: 'Hey, guys, don’t pick the poppies.That’s the order from the Obama Administration to the 4,000 Marines presently engaged in Operation Khanjar or “Strike of the Sword,” an invasion of the Taliban infested Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. '

The Generalist likes to be ahead of the national press. In the case of my last post it was 7 days. 

SimonJenkins-capd The article in question was by Simon Jenkins, a stalwart Guardian columnist, TV regular, Chairman of the National Trust etc. The article was entitled 'The war on drugs is immoral idiocy. We need the courage of Argentina.' Subtitle: 'While Latin American countries decriminalise narcotics, Britain persists in prohibition that causes vast human suffering'

Jenkins picked up on the shift in Latin America towards decriminalisation for personal possession of a wide range of drugs (see Previous Post) and added some useful things to my knowledge. For instance:

* In Ecuador, they have pardoned 1,500 "mules", mainly women, used by gangs to transport cocaine over international borders.

* The former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique 1246384004198 Cardoso has chaired a study report entitled Drugs and Democracy: Towards A Paradigm Shift: A statement by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy. Under the heading 'A Failed War' the statement begins:

'Violence and the organized crime associated with the narcotics trade are critical problems in Latin America today. Confronted with a situation that is growing worse by the day, it is imperative to rectify the “war on drugs” strategy pursued in the region over the past 30 years.

'Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs. '

Jenkins concludes; 'From the death of British troops in Helmand to the narco-terrorism of  Mexico and the mules cramming London's jails, the war on drugs can be seen only as a total failure, a vast self-imposed cost on western society. It is the greatest sweeping under the carpet of our age.'

UPDATE: This story also picked up yesterday by The Observer: SEE: 'Is America Ready to admit defeat on its 40-year war on drugs' Also Cardoso's statement: 'The war on drugs has failed. Now we need a more humane strategy.'

SEE: International Drug Policy/Animated Report 2009film2
'Produced by an Oscar-winning studio for the Global Drug Policy Program of the Open Society Institute, [an organisation founded by George Soros ] this video highlights some of the disastrous effects of drug policy in recent years and proposes solutions for a way forward. '


Today's Guardian carries a review of 'The Candy Machine by Tom Fieling which adds further fuel to the flames. The review by Dominic Streatfield [who is the author of 'Cocaine: An Unauthorised Biography' begins:

'It's hard to imagine a policy as comprehensive in its failure, as overwhelmingly counterproductive, as the war on drugs. Tom Feiling has the statistics. In the last 35 years, the US has spent $500bn attempting to reduce the availability and purity, and increase the price, of illicit drugs. Yet cocaine purity is up, the drug is as available as it ever was and its price dropped 50% in the decade up to 2003. Cocaine, formerly the preserve of the super-rich, has become democratised. The result has been an explosion in demand and a corresponding explosion in supply. Nothing, it seems, can stop the flow.'

He concludes: 'What matters, however, is whether he is successful in making his case: that prohibition is "unworkable and counterproductive". I believe he is. Recent news reports from Argentina and Mexico indicate that their governments may be coming to the same conclusion: legalisation must, surely, be a less damaging route.'ALeqM5htXWJMDQsj3s2282GBbiAx2JeVbQ

In October last year (I have just discovered) , the Honduran  President Mauel Zelaya proposed legalizing drug use, which he said would free up Honduras's financial resources and defang international traffickers. (AFP)

I learnt his information from the site of Transform Drug Policy Foundation which claims to be the UK's leading centre of expertise on drug policy and law reform.

They have obviously had an effect on Simon Jenkin's thinking. They have published a report (downloadable) entitled:

After the War on Drugs - Options for Control  which, they claims, 'is a major new report examining the key themes in the drug policy reform debate, detailing how legal regulation of drug markets will operate, and providing a roadmap and time line for reform.' Underneath is the following quote:

“First Class'. Everyone knows that prohibition has failed, and this report sets out, for the first time, how we can replace it.”  -  Simon Jenkins, former editor The Times and Columnist in the Evening Standard, The Times and The Guardian

Their site contains an valuable time line:

A history of drug prohibition and a prediction for its abolition and replacement

A Comment to my Previous Post has tipped me off to the  prince-of-pot case of  Marc Emery which I was previously unaware of. The full story can be found on the site Criminal Justice, which has embedded YouTube video on the man they call 'The Prince of Pot'. In brief. Emery has a major marijuana seed business and publishes Cannabis Culture magazine which he has been sending to all Canadian MPs for the last 12 years. According to Criminal Justice:

- Marc Emery brought a capitalist approach to the marijuana legalization movement by starting "radical retail" outlets such as Hemp BC, and got politically involved by helping organize the Canadian Marijuana Party and creating the BC Marijuana Party, the latter which he still leads today.

- Marc Emery created his seed business with the purpose of using the profits to fund the cannabis movement worldwide. Through the sale of cannabis seeds, Marc was able to finance numerous drug law reform groups and events around the world, mostly in Canada and the United States. He funded global rally/march promotion, American and Canadian ballot initiatives, election campaigns, lobbying groups, conferences, drug rehab clinics, class action lawsuits, protests, patient bills and bail fees, and more. In total, over $4,000,000 was contributed to various activities and organizations.

'On July 29, 2005 his business in Canada was raided by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. He and co-defendants, Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey, were charged with "'Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana", "Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds" and "'Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering." Yet today there have been no charges ever filed against them in Canada.'

The US are seeking his extradition.

Here is yesterday's report from the  'New Times Broward Palm Beach News blog.

'If you don't know the back story, later this month in no prison for pot Seattle, Marc Emery, the so-called "Prince of Pot," is scheduled to be sentenced to five years in American prison for selling marijuana seeds through the mail. The Canadian - and publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine - claims to have sold more pot seeds than anyone else in the world. But what in Canada is a $250 fine, has led to a four-year court battle in which the Drug Enforcement Administration has sought Emery's extradition for federal prosecution.'

See: Fort Lauderdale Protest for the 'Prince of Pot by Michael J. Mooney/Crime.

Also yesterday saw publication of a story in SF Weekly, the San Francisco News Blog entitled 'Chronic City: The Expensive Farce of Marijuana 'Eradication' In California.' by Steve Elliott. The article reads in part:

camplogo-thumb-200x76 Every year since 1983, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has engaged in a quixotic quest to "eradicate marijuana" in California. And every single year -- all 26 of them -- it has failed miserably as marijuana became more and more available.

The waste, arrogance and abuse associated with the program -- which has unfortunately become the largest law enforcement task force in the United States, with more than 100 agencies participating -- have become legendary. Ordinary families have been terrorized by paramilitary units, peaceful homeowners have been buzzed by low-flying helicopters, and community relations between citizens and law enforcement have suffered almost everywhere CAMP has laid its heavy hand.