Mainstream Media Guilty; Citizen Journalism Innocent
The Amanda Knox trial and appeal highlights the importance of citizen journalism to a global democracy. Once the mainstream media decides on how a story will be marketed, then dissenting voices are drowned out. Early on, the mainstream media decided that Amanda Knox should be guilty and took the prosecution’s version of the events at face value; probably because kinky sex, pretty girls and murder attract more eyeballs and advertising dollars than a crime committed by a drifter. The innocent face of a girl labeled Foxy Knoxy who is accused of the ultimate evil was sure to sell more copies of Newsweek than a truly objective treatment of the topic.
GroundReport, on the other hand, strives to give all non-violent and non-exploitative perspectives and points of view ‘voice’. Note that GroundReport has no staff writers and all of its content is user generated. GroundReport does not re-post or multiple-post articles to drive search engine ranking or attract eyeballs.
When Bruce Fisher started posting on Amanda Knox’ innocence on GroundReport, he had already been kicked off a number of other ‘open content’ web sites controlled by the for-profit media. His crime was challenging the mainstream journalists who had embellished on the prosecution’s sensationalist version of the events surrounding the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher. GroundReport received direct threats from these journalists whose online reputations were being tarnished for irresponsibility stating, “I am a professional journalist who has covered Italy since 1997 and I plan to contact my lawyer about having this article removed (or at least the libelous accusations against me removed).” Apparently, other citizen journalism outlets had caved under the pressure and “Many [outlets] have removed his libelous content.”
GroundReport gave Bruce Fisher a recognition award.
Libel is a serious accusation and GroundReport takes libel seriously. Not just because a well-funded nuisance lawsuit could bankrupt the site, but because some aggrieved parties have threatened the editors with violence.
A few years ago when an oligarch threatened GroundReport’s editors with violence if the site didn’t take down certain articles accusing him of corruption, we took the articles down out of fear. There is a big difference between a lawsuit by a journalist and a threat of violence by a billionaire.
While we can’t protect ourselves from such threats, we can protect the authors of such articles if they use the Anonymous Post feature.
GroundReport’s response to an accusation of libel or defamation of character is to encourage the aggrieved party to write a rebuttal. In the Amanda Knox case, we did not get a single ‘anti-Knox’ post. Perhaps the mainstream journalist’s editors would not allow them to post on a ‘competing’ not-for-profit media outlet. GroundReport also enables readers to submit unedited and anonymous comments to every article posted; the community monitors comments for ‘Abuse’ and every comment associated with an abuse alert is screened by the volunteer editors for profanity, obscenity, commercial exploitation or the encouragement of violence. The comment features allows every perspective on the substance and style of the article to be vetted.
The final escalation of pressure on GroundReport to stop posting articles on Amanda Knox that were embarrassing the Italian legal system and accusing the mainstream media of incompetence and gross negligence came from an anti-Amanda Knox blog site. This blogger again threatened the site’s editors with a ‘devastating’ libel suit and identified the lawyer who had been engaged to serve the lawsuit.
Luckily, we were able to secure the pro bono services of one of New York City’s most prominent defense lawyers. Through legal channels, our legal counsel was able to ascertain that the blogger’s lawsuit was a hoax.
In the Amanda Knox case, we hope that justice was served, but determining the innocence or guilt of a person is not the job of the media, that is the job of the judicial system, the job of citizen journalism is to let the truth emerge from a cacophony of fact and opinion.
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GroundReport is a not-for-profit citizen journalism web site run by volunteers. It lives from contributions from our benefactors (as well as advertising and text link revenue). Right now, we need $10,000 to bring the page layout and editing tools up to the ‘iPhone’ standard.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.