The trend of people and companies getting connected on a global level is undeniable. This process of globalisation had a huge influence on our world and especially the modern media industry. Technological developments as well as economic changes in international markets opened possibilities and posed new challenges. Investigative Journalism as an important monitoring instance in democracies was not spared from the influence of this global phenomenon. A discussion on globalisation, the media industry and if investigative journalism as a genre was able to stay irrepressible and viable.
Globalisation and its Influence on the Media Industry
Since there is no historical reference to make, it is relatively difficult to define globalisation. However, there are certain characteristics which can be linked to the phenomenon. The intensification of connection is the base on which globalisation was able to arise (Reese, 2010). It is a global phenomenon which is hugely caused due to the technological revolution and offers the possibility of a worldwide marketplace. Competition has risen towards horizontal as well as vertical concentration of companies and institutions which were not able to overcome the challenges a global market proposes are not able to play a significant role in mentioned (Kaul, 2011). In America, only 6 companies produce 90% of the media content consumed. This number fell from 50 companies in 1983. Additionally, the new technologies, especially the internet, challenge national borders and reduce the influence and control of political powers.
Globalisation has hugely impacted the media industry. While the trend is surely connected to the increased sharing of information, this industry is probably the main reason for the fast expansion of global interconnectedness. Globalisation itself would not be possible without the media (Kaul, 2011). However, the process of globalisation bears favours as well as risks. Concerning the media industry, the risks were especially economical nature. For a presence in the international market, large media groups were created which put the distribution of plural contents at risk. Legal barriers betweenPage Break
countries are disappearing which is mostly due to the development of international agreements on free trade. The new media technologies are also presenting a challenge to these national limits. However, it is difficult to define when exactly media is global and what makes a Journalist a global one. The term “Global media” usually describes those institutions that have a global influence or are owned by transnational corporations (Hermann & McChesney, 2001). Global media gatekeepers influence the flow of news and information significantly (Reese, 2010) and Opinion leading news media like The New York Times, The Guardian or CNN and BBC have an even bigger influence on news distribution and framing than ever before.
Journalism today cannot be fully understood apart from globalisation anymore (Reese, 2010). It contributes to the experience of the world as one place and is a key component in the media’s influence on social transformations. While most media in the past were defined by geography – local newspapers growing to national networks – today’s media keeps up with the interconnectedness of the world. While it took days and weeks for news to travel before trains, mail and not to mention the internet, due to today’s technology the public can be informed about an issue in a matter of seconds. But not only the time news take to reach the public shortened, the availability of information increased too. The possibilities to research about an event and to investigate an issue further have grown immensely. Additionally, the global connectedness and especially social media platforms provided the audiences with the possibility to directly contribute to the content they experience (La Porte Alfaro & Sabada, 2001). Through this, differences between content producers and consumers become blurred.
Since the world is more and more connected by networks of international elites, social networks and more, the international awareness of national events is much higher than ever before. While audiences primarily stick to their national news and most journalists focus on national events, the process of globalisation in the media caused the formation of overlapping networks of communication (Reese, 2010). While Journalists and the frameworks of news media worked around the national values and Page Break
expectations of the country they were reporting in, through globalisation these borders have been softened (Reese, 2010). International opinions on national events are no rarity anymore and through social networks, like Twitter, every individual has the opportunity to voice an opinion. Interests as well as values from corporations, journalists and the public all influence a debate on a topic which years ago would have been discussed on a national level. These discussions concern entertainment just as much as important topics like the environment or governments and politics.
Investigative Journalism in the face of Globalisation
The importance of the role of Journalism, investigative journalism in particular in democracies is undeniable. “The media should monitor the full range of state activity, and fearlessly expose abuses of official authority (Curran, 2005).” Due to this, the media has to be independent of the government. Globalisation with its global market forces seemed to be a serious threat to the watchdog perspective since the potential for corruption enormously increased with the deregulation of the media. Additionally, through advertising the free market generates information-rich media for elites while generating information-poor media for the public (Curran, 2005). It is not that the audience is missing or lack of interest in new information, but the changes in the global market led to a new orientation of many companies based on easier advertising strategies. To reach customers, advertisers today have more responsive possibilities like social networks and don’t rely on classic sources as much anymore (Harding, 2014). However, the global networks forming due to the technological advances of the last decades also gave investigative journalists new material to work with and the genre is able to act as a watchdog for democracies on a different level. As for example, the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who formerly worked for the US Intelligence Community, revealed documents on the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. These were operating outside the limits of the US Constitution and without any public oversight (von Solms & van Heerden, 2015). The information and investigation started global discussions concerning surveillance and state secret services.Page Break
Since it is usually legally risky, time-consuming and linked to high costs, countries with a weaker economy provide a weaker position for investigative journalism (Stetka & Örnebring, 2013). Investigative Journalism only functions if it is autonomous and accompanied by well-functioning accountability institutions, which is why in countries with a more stable media landscape and stronger public service broadcasting, the development of this required journalistic autonomy was more likely. This, for example, is the case in Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic more than in Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (Stetka & Örnebring, 2013) which are all countries that are legally implemented in the “Western World” but are all post-authoritarian democracies. Also problematic in countries who, even before the globalisation, had relatively resource-weak news organizations due to the lack of advertising markets and a lack of interest in their audiences, is that the rise of global media corporations like BBC or CNN make it even more difficult to sustain investigative journalism.
Besides the big news corporations who have salaried Journalists, being paid for their investigative work, freelancers are now able to pursue topics which are funded by projects like FIRE, formerly Project Word, who raise funding through contributions from individual donors, or through support from a variety of foundations. Even some companies known for rather feature-like Journalism or simple entertainment are investing in high-quality investigative journalism. Buzzfeed for example, a website which is usually known for clickbait titles and viral videos, built an investigative team of journalists. Articles like the report on Arlena Lindley, a mother being sent to prison for 45 years based on her failure to protect her child from her abusive boyfriend, showed Buzzfeed’s serious and successful attempts to fund high-quality investigative journalism.
The genre was just as much influenced by new technologies and the global connectedness following the globalisation. An especially important role for Investigative reporting, however, play leaking websites like Cryptome, The Memory Hole or Wikileaks. The possibility to safely leak a secret document through an untraceable service made it easier for whistle-blower or leakers to bring their Page Break
concerns to the public. For many investigative Journalists, the website has become a valuable source of information which would usually be inaccessible. The page Wikileaks publishes “without regard for political impact, violation of privacy or breach of copyright law (Lynch, 2010).” Problematic is, however, that Wikileaks certainly is a challenge to investigative journalistic practices. Without any editorial control, the website is under no control of the negative and maybe even dangerous impact a document can have on the public. As for example was the website critiqued for heavily violating the personal privacy of individuals with its content (Satter & Michael, 2016). Wikileaks published private medical information as well as social security and credit card numbers. The documents which the website leaks are not always information on governmental missteps, cooperation’s tax evasion or illegal spying activities by certain countries. However, the page was, for example, able to provide governments with important information on economy-damaging practices on tax saving by big companies. After the leaking of the Paradise Papers, a mass data leak of over 13 million secret electronic documents, investigative Journalists were reporting on the papers which burden companies like Apple Inc. with avoiding billions of taxes through offshore accounts. Sixteen countries were able to collect a total of €554.5 million in penalties and unpaid taxes so far (Fitzgibbon & Starkman, 2017).
Hunter and van Wassenhove claimed that “the decline of the news industry is rooted in a vicious circle of financial leveraging leading to capacity cuts, and then to declines in quality of content, credibility, audiences and revenue streams (2010). However, investigative Journalism proves to be an important check on wrongdoings by individuals as well as governments. It has proven to decline and rise in cycles (Feldstein, 2006), which was independent of the phenomenon of globalisation. Still, globalisation hugely influenced the media and news industry. Through technological developments and the formation of global communication and information sharing networks, Journalism today cannot be understood apart from the phenomenon. Due to economic shifts in the market and media Page Break
corporations expanding on a global level, the position of investigative journalism is slightly different today and was weakened in certain countries was weakened. Especially post-authoritarian democracies, which would be in need of high-quality investigative work as a watchdog for the democracy, suffer under the pressure of global news corporations. However, globalisation also provides investigative journalists with new possibilities and sources. Especially projects like FIRE who fund freelancing investigative Journalists guarantee the independence from governments as well as from advertising as far as possible.
While globalisation certainly proposed a set of challenges to Investigative Journalism, the genre was able to sustain and proved itself as resilient and viable. Page Break
Curran, J., 2005. Mediations of Democracy. s.l.:Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Feldstein, M., 2006. A Muckraking Model – Investigative Reporting Cycles in American History. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 1 April, pp. 105-120.
Fitzgibbon, W. & Starkman, D., 2017. The “Paradise Papers” and the long twilight struggle against offshore secrecy. [Online]
Available at: https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/paradise-papers-long-twilight-struggle-offshore-secrecy/ [Accessed 29 April 2018].
Harding, J., 2014. James Harding: Journalism Today. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/speeches/2014/james-harding-wt-stead.html
[Accessed 20 January 2014].
Hermann, E. & McChesney, R. W., 2001. Global Media: The new missionaries of global capitalism. Foreign Policy Journal, 1 January.
Hunter, M. L. & van Wassenhove, L. N., 2010. Disruptive News Technologies: Stakeholder Media and the Future of Watchdog Journalism Business Models. s.l.:INSEAD: Technology & Operations Management.
Kaul, V., 2011. Globalisation and Media. Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism, 23 December.
La Porte Alfaro, D. M. T. & Sabada, D. T., 2001. Globalisation of the media industry and possible threats to cultural diversity. s.l.:European Parliament.
Lynch, L., 2010. “We’re going to crack the world open” – Wikileaks and the future of investigative reporting. s.l.:Taylor & Francis.
Reese, S. D., 2010. Journalism and Globalization. Sociology Compass, 04 June, pp. 344-353.
Satter, R. & Michael, M., 2016. Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets. [Online]
Available at: https://apnews.com/b70da83fd111496dbdf015acbb7987fb/private-lives-are-exposed-wikileaks-spills-its-secrets [Accessed 30 April 2018].
Stetka, V. & Örnebring, H., 2013. Investigative Journalism in Central and Eastern Europe: Autonomy, Business Models, and Democratic Roles. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 29 July, Issue 18 (4), pp. 413-435.
von Solms, S. & van Heerden, R., 2015. The Consequences of Edward Snowden NSA Related Information Disclosures. s.l., 10th International Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security.