August 21, 2020•1,390 words
Welcome to my new website.
Incredibly, despite a quarter century online, this is the first time I have had my own website functioning on my own domain.
The reasons for that aren't as important as the reason I have decided to make a change in 2020: I am utterly dissatisfied, and intermittently horrified, by the mainstream services that many people use to maintain a presence online, and to perform sensitive work.
My discomfort arises from a mounting concern for the privacy and security of myself and the people I communicate with—especially the sources who take risks to pass on information to me.
The dominant companies offering social media platforms, email, or professional networking platforms cannot guarantee the privacy of their users. For the most part they don’t even pretend to.
Their businesses are either wholly or partly based on harvesting and selling our data to third parties. In addition, reporting (including some of mine) has shown how freely those companies will hand over user data to state agencies.
I cannot think of any reason why I should trust them, or those companies on lower tiers of the industry who are hoping to emulate them. I'd rather go with organizations that don't ask for or expect my trust.
There are other considerations. Among them:
- I do not believe that the platforms many of us use every day are economically, socially, technologically, or ecologically sustainable.
- I want as much control as I can manage to attain over my online interactions, my work, and the face I present to the world.
- As a journalist and a human being, I no longer want to be confined to someone else’s proprietary ecosystem. At the moment, I am in the middle of a long overdue breakup with Apple, Inc., but it would be a waste to make that effort only to lurch into the arms of, say, Google. I'd like to get rid of Google, too. I don't want to be at the mercy of platform owners.
Like many people, I have nursed these misgivings for a long time. Only relatively recently have I begun taking decisive action with one goal in mind: ensuring that my whole workflow is only visible to me, and parts of it only to those people I explicitly choose to share it with.
Moving to this site is part of an experiment in becoming an “independent journalist” in a sense that is much deeper and more thoroughgoing than “someone who doesn't have a staff job”.
Independence means owning one’s practice, which in turn means limiting dependence on anyone else’s technological, institutional, or commercial ecosystem.
I've been discovering that it's never been easier, or cheaper, to put together an independent infrastructure.
This site, then, has two main purposes.
First, the permanent pages linked to at the top of the site give you what you need to get in touch with me, whether you want to pass on tips or hire me.
For everybody who might need it, my contact information is on this site.
Second, I'll use the blog at the front of the site as a venue for thinking through an ethos and a practice of independence in a time of overlapping crises and enormous opportunities.
Here's where I at in those thoughts right now.
The public interest demands journalism investigating the multiple, interlinked crises that are currrently convulsing the world. But newsrooms, staff jobs, and the whole structure of what used to be the news business are all disappearing, in many cases forever.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that all is not lost—far from it. The schematics of a model for sustainable, independent journalism have never been clearer.
- The barriers to entry into the practice of gathering and publishing news have never been lower. We can make them even lower through the considered and intelligent use of technology.
- Destabilized media institutions are often less concerned with professional hierarchies and gatekeeping, and more open to contributions from independent journalists.
- It is easier than ever for journalists to establish direct relationships with their readers, including relationships of reader support.
- Free and open source software—from computer operating systems, to text and audiovisual editing programs, to tools which allow deep investigation using digital methods—can support a low cost, adaptable, sustainable, and exceptionally effective model of investigative practice for any independent journalists who apply themselves to learning their use.
- The democratization of encryption means that independents can operate with a higher degree of security than ever before.
On this blog i will start filling those outlines in. the list above encompasses the topics you're likely to read about here.
How does this fit in with my other activities?
I am primarily a working journalist. The clips show work on topics like right wing extremism, conservative media, policing and the security state, contentious street protests, and some more general news, features, and commentary.
They also show a long and pretty close relationship with The Guardian.
I am not staff there, but I hope to continue to publish there as often as they will have me.
But I publish in other outlets as well, and I am also involved in another experiment in independent journalism with my friend, Corey Pein. (More details about all of this is on my About page.)
This blog sits alongside all of that work. It is, perhaps, a slight return to my past as a journalism and communications educator in Australian universities.
I'll write more on this soon, but as long as a decade ago, I was dissatisfied with a model of journalism education which was, in my view, little more than outsourced newsroom training for an industry which was already looking wobbly. We shouldn't have focused so much on newsroom training in 2010. In 2020 it looks like a species of madness.
I promise never to assume here that there is a home awaiting any of us in a newsroom.
The site as it is hosted by the Listed blogging platform offered with Standard Notes, a very fine program which is at the heart of my writing system.1
You’ll notice the site is pretty bare bones. There is in fact no “back end” - the site in its entirety is generated from a number of plain text files written in the Markdown protocol. What you see is pretty much what you get.
There are no images, no hotlinks, no files. That is because it is designed to last. Standard Notes’s commitment to longevity is itselt encouraging, but if they fell over tomorrow I could easily migrate everything to another host, or a very lightweight self-hosted site.
Most importsntly, though, Standard Notes doesn't ask me to trust them. The service is premised on offering users a service where "all your data... is encrypted anywhere you don't control".
There are many ways to keep up with what’s happening here, should you wish to.
If you like newsletters, Listed allows you to subscribe to this site via email. You'll only ever get an email when I post. I won't make promises about cadence, but it will not be frequent enough to feel like spam. I won't share your email address with anyone, ever.
You can also get an RSS feed on the subscription page, and I will post links to new posts her on my Twitter feed.
The commenting system here is not of the familiar, instantaneous kind. Listed has a "Guestbook" where you can submit comments that are private by default, and which I can later make public on the Guestbook page. We'll see how this goes.
EDIT Decided against the guestbook, just @ me
Lots of journalists are currently trying to get income streams through newsletters. That's fine, and I am happy that it is working for some people. But I will not be doing that here. All content on the site will be free. I may adapt some of it for commercial purposes later, but you can ignore the solicitation for donations at the Guest Book. Here, I am off the clock.
I will explain this odd term in an imminent post ↩