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Does Digital Journalism Still Lack Legitimacy In The Eyes of Traditional Media?

By Isabelle Walker

With the increasing use of social media, online publications, and blogs, more traditional media outlets need to review their approaches to appreciating and acknowledging genuine journalism, otherwise important stories will be missed and authors wrongly credited.

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In the last 24 hours a disturbing yet intriguing story has emerged from the controversial Manus Island detention centre, which is in damage control. 

In the last week stories from the remote Papua New Guinea (PNG) Manus Island – where many asylum seekers are sent after being intercepted travelling by boat to Australia – have flowed thick and fast. While many Australians have their own opinions on offshore processing and the consequences it leads to, this story has appeared to have shocked everyone it has reached. 

There has been confirmation a former Sri Lankan military officer has been employed at the Manus Island detention centre as the Acting Operations Manager. This has huge human rights implications, as many refugees who are at Manus Island are in fact persecuted Sri Lankan Tamils, who opposed the Sri Lankan Army during the country’s devastating 26-year civil war. To have a military official oversee the detention of his former enemies is a poor oversight on the part of the G4S (the company formerly in charge of running the centre), especially given the spate of violent occurrences at Manus in the last week. 

This is clearly a huge story, but it’s not the only one. 

The second story originated from the fierce journalism of The Guardian contributor and ‘information activist’, Asher Wolf. 

After making the initial discovery of Mr Dinesh Perera’s previous employment in the Sri Lankan Army, Wolf did some further digging, trawling through “100s of Sri Lankan government journals to ensure [she] had the right person”(@Asher_Wolf on twitter). 

She contacted the ABC and Jeff Waters, a senior ABC reporter, to run the story and give it the highest level of coverage it could get. Gain coverage it did, however Wolf was only credited as a ‘tip off’. Waters has since explained that he fought hard to get Ms Wolf the by-line and credit she deserved for her thorough research.

One can understand that a reputable news outlet like the ABC would be extremely diligent with whom and what it publishes, however Wolf is a regular contributor to The Guardian Australia and has in excess of 30K twitter followers – I’d have thought that would be credible enough. 

With the increasing use of social media, online publications, and blogs, more traditional media outlets need to review their approaches to appreciating and acknowledging genuine journalism, otherwise important stories will be missed and authors wrongly credited. 

Whether it is column inches on the front page of The Australian or a 140-character breaking news grab, if it is well researched, informative and important, it is journalism and deserves to be considered as such. 

Asher Wolf’s brand of journalism is fast becoming the most accessible and sought after in this day and age and she should be rewarded for her hard work.