Sometimes describing what I do at Firedoglake to family, friends and people I encounter after speaking at events is a bit perplexing to people. This is not a more prominent news media organization like New York Times, Rolling Stone or Huffington Post. But I have found not being more prominent uniquely positions Firedoglake to pursue specific projects.
Perhaps, you’re curious about how I came to work for Firedoglake. I do not think I have told this story here before.
Beginning in 2007, I wrote posts daily for a progressive news website called OpEdNews.com. Editor-in-chief Rob Kall offered me the opportunity, as a very, very young journalist, to get my work in front of an audience. I used reports I had written to apply for an internship with The Nation magazine. In January 2011, I was granted one of the few internship positions available and worked for six months in a newsroom.
My time was an incredible experience that shaped me greatly. I assisted The Nation’s Greg Mitchell, who offered me several opportunities to excel. I helped him produce books on WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning. I assisted him with keeping up a WikiLeaks live blog, as the media organization continued to partner with news outlets around the world to cover the diplomatic cables. I posted to a website called WikiLeaks Central and a lot of what I posted ended up being featured in Mitchell’s live blog, as well as OpEdNews.com. And I also began to submit more of my writings to myFDL.
One of the posts I remember writing while I was working for The Nation was this post on what one of their own contributors, Melissa Harris-Perry, had said about Dr. Cornel West. She attacked West for being outraged at President Barack Obama and unfairly treated West as a pariah in her criticism.
I was sitting in my cubicle at The Nation while this post was being read and enjoyed. An associate publisher came by and told me he had seen what I wrote. He disagreed with the arguments I made but thought what I published was well-written. I recognized that I was criticizing a person highly respected at the magazine yet that did not diminish the fact that she needed to be taken to task for essentially discouraging dissent within the left because dissent might negatively affect President Barack Obama.
Fast forward to Netroots Nation in 2011. I attended the conference in Minneapolis with a Democracy for America scholarship. I received a phone call while I was at the conference. The person who called (and is no longer with the website) said Jane Hamsher wanted to meet and interview me for a possible position. I talked with her for at least a half hour and ended up being hired to write about national security and civil liberties stories for Firedoglake at The Dissenter. And, for three years, this section of Firedoglake has been a space for me to publish what I choose to cover each day.
How many American journalists get their own space where they have autonomy and can choose what they want to write about each day? According to a 2013 Indiana University survey of journalists, 33.6% of 1,080 US journalists surveyed said they enjoyed this privilege.
Next question: How many American journalists who enjoy this privilege actually use it to conduct adversarial journalism in the public interest? In the same survey, only 57.7% “endorsed” the “occasional use of ‘confidential business or government documents without authorization.’” That percentage drastically decreased between 2002 and 2013. It would seem a culture of access journalism, where reporters rely on their ability to get anonymous government officials to feed them information at a moment’s notice, has altered their willingness to publish documentation of government misconduct or wrongdoing.
At Firedoglake, nothing about the journalism we encourage includes “Let the Government Decide.” We are committed to pursuing stories larger media conglomerates won’t pursue, publishing what they may reject as “controversial,” “uninteresting” or taboo and giving voice to marginalized communities that are most vulnerable to government targeting especially when they dare to engage in dissent.
More significantly, we do not harbor the kind of elitism that other organizations have, where they reject the shift in society where more than just a privileged few in the profession can be a journalist now. We do not promote panic because anybody could publish previously secret government documents and force much needed transparency.
We embrace this revolution in media and believe in championing and protecting acts of journalism in the work we do each day. Please donate what you can.