Would you trust “news” if it came from Ninjas? In fact, do you fully trust any news at all? As a TOK student, you no doubt have your antenna out when any media claim to provide you with “knowledge.” When such a claim comes from a group that call themselves the “Midia Ninja”, you might be doubly alert.
And yet, huge numbers of Brazilians are putting their faith in this source of information. Why? Well, these Ninjas aren’t like some of the ninjas you might be thinking about. In fact, the name is — in Portuguese, at least (the language spoken in Brazil)—an acronym for “independent narratives, journalism and action.” Not only that, but when you learn more about this group, you, like many Brazilians, may want to reassess critically the means by which media functions as a way of adding to the body of shared knowledge. Indeed, this group exists as a conscious, organized attempt to improve on the accuracy of mainstream media in reporting public incidents. With 2,000 members in more than 100 cities, Midia Ninja, armed with recording devices (often smart phones), attempts to make a record of street news, protests, police round ups and so on. They are particularly concerned both to record incidents that are ignored by mainstream media and to correct false impressions created by that media.
It is a well known phenomenon that private individuals, like the Midia Ninja, armed with recording devices, and through the vehicle of social networking, have already had a big impact on improving the quality of information about public incidents and providing alternative perspectives. In many cases, private videos have overturned official versions of protests, arrests, riots and the like.
In some ways, then, the Midia Ninja are taking a next logical step in providing this kind of shared knowledge. First, they are reducing the element of chance by purposefully sending members to record incidents. Second, they are increasing the range of perspectives by using many different “reporters.” Third, they are embracing a policy of “no cuts, no censorship.” Fourth, they often provide live coverage from within a crowd.
If you yourself have ever recorded a public event—whether one that was a positive or a negative one—how much do you think that sharing your recording on social network would contribute to shared knowledge of the event?
How much do you think a group like the Midia Ninja in your own country would provide a corrective to weaknesses in mainstream media? How close could such a group come to gaining “objectivity” in eliminating many of the pitfalls of media coverage? Does such “citizen journalism” seem to you necessarily better than traditional journalism?
- selectivity, bias and “cherry picking” (think about videos you have seen of public incidents where the impact was affected by camera angle, degree of zoom, clarity of image/sound, cuts in the recording and so on)
- bias in slanted language (if a commentary is provided)
- replacing verbal reporting with audio-visual recording
- omitting reporting whole public events
What would you add to this list?
If you and some friends with recording devices were to attend a public event, like a concert, rally, or demonstration, do you think, as a group, especially if you planned your recording protocols and the way you were going to present your recordings on a social network site, that you could provide a more accurate version of what really happened than a television audience would get by watching the evening news? What would you foresee as the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of citizen journalism?
Read more about the Midia Ninjas: