OLD Media Moves

The evolution of open-source journalism

December 2, 2019

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Nick Waters, left, and Eliot Higgins, right

Leaked documents and whistle-blowers have also been a part of investigative journalism. Now, with the rise of digital media, open-source journalism has also evolved. This involves gathering facts from the data available online.

“You can be on your couch in front of your computer and solve a mystery of a missile system downing a plane,” said Aliaume Leroy, a journalist who is part of the BBC’s Africa Eye team.

Blogger, Eliot Higgins made headlines early in the decade by covering the war in Syria from a laptop in his apartment in Leicester, England. In 2014, he founded Bellingcat, an open-source news outlet that has grown to include roughly a dozen staff members.

“It’s imagination and perseverance,” he said. “You look at a problem and say, ‘I know I need to do this thing. I know I have this range of tools I can apply to this.’”

“It’s what humans do,” said Nick Waters, a Bellingcat investigator. “They are gregarious. They are addicted to social media, because social media platforms are designed to be addictive. And they like sharing their experiences.”

The site made a name for itself with its investigation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Now, Bellingcat alumni have found jobs at news organizations including The New York Times and BBC. Also, Bellingcat journalists are making themselves known by spreading word about their techniques in seminars attended by journalists and law-enforcement officials.

Open-source journalism often takes the form of the authors showing their work. However, it still has some of the restrictions of traditional journalism.

“You can show people how much information you know and how you know it,” Rawan Shaif, Bellingcat project journalist said, “and they can make their own decisions.”

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