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What would Orwell say? How the web is championing top quality journalism

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For all the scaremongering, hand-wringing and hair-pulling that has taken place over the last few years, the state of journalism is in fact alive and well and even aided by the internet revolution.

But anyone at Wednesday's Frontline event with three writers shortlisted for the Orwell Prize could see that great stories still can and are being told by those willing to dig the story out.

If you couldn't be with us for this event, you can watch the whole thing here:

Live TV by Ustream

Freelancer John Arlidge, who wrote the epic 10,000 word expose 'Inside the Goldmine' for the Sunday Times, based on a full 15 days behind the scenes at Goldman Sachs, revealed the corporate culture of infamous investment bank and recalled the workaholic regime:

Goldman Sachs is really good at what it does; you couldn't design a money making machine any better. They're not really of this world...Nobody knows how much holiday they all get because nobody ever takes it. If they do go on holiday, they stay in the shade.

Arlidge's tale became hot property - due in part to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein's ill-judged quote "We're doing God's work", so The Sunday Times craftily ensured Arlidge's story hit the internet to make maximum impact.  Within a week of going live it was viewed 1.2 million times, "literally going around the world in a heartbeat," Arlidge said.

"This is the most powerful means of communication there will ever be," he said, adding that if you've got a good idea and you develop it well, there's a very healthy market out there for it.

Guardian social affairs reporter Amelia Gentleman wrote a series of articles about the "extraordinarily unglamourous" realities of social work, poverty, and old age homes in British society.

"Social workers are some of the most hated people in the country, and they're leaving the profession in droves because they've been so vilified by the media," she said in relation to her article 'Life after Baby P'.

Gentleman added that despite the further vilification of social workers from anonymous online commenters, web readers can often help to develop the story further.

Here's what Gentleman told me about the relationship between investigative journalism and the Internet:


Peter Hitchens was not so positive about the prospects for journalism in the digital age. "I'm afraid I'm engaged in the 21st century's equivalent of hand loom weaving," he said. 

The Mail on Sunday writer, who was shortlisted for his 'What if the Berlin Wall didn't fall?' article among others, said that George Orwell would be dispirited with the crudeness of language used on the web.

Here's a selection of tweets from the night:

You can see all our other upcoming events at Frontlineclub.com/events and subscribe to our free podcast (via iTunes) by clicking on this link.

Find out more about the Orwell Prize here.


Philipa | May 13, 2010 1:21 PM

I read that Neil "Gaiman ended his journalism career in 1987 because British newspapers can "make up anything they want and publish it as fact" ". There seems to be more comment in newspapers nowadays than responsible and researched reporting. Hitchens is guilty of this and being a columnist is no excuse for groundless or poorly researched prejudice. The internet has allowed spurious truths to be challenged, which is good. It's also allowed the veneer of respectability to be pricked by the real experience of citizen journalism. Notably by Guido. And that's great.

But as a friend said recently "it's rotten when people make snide digs at others and get cheered on by a bunch of cowardly sidekicks, but most of us went through this in school about the same time we broke out in acne, and got over it by the time we were drinking and/or driving. Why does this adolescent behaviour pattern emerge so often in blogland? Is it something about the medium that brings out the school bully in people who are forced to act as adults in their offline lives?"

Matthew Parris said today that he'd spent the last 20 years in the business of sneering at people. I think it's time the 'citizen journalists' asked themselves if we are setting a better example or are wannabes subscribing to the worst behaviour the professionals display but can rise above when they choose?

Amelia Gentleman reports on important things in society. There is so much to say, so much to bring attention to. We should say it rather than play point-scoring.

Stephen Abbott | May 17, 2010 9:51 PM

Hi all,

I think the wrong UStream video is embedded at the top of this post. It seems to be the video of Dana Popa rather than the Orwell Prize night video.