When I was a kid I wanted to be a private detective. I liked the idea of solving the puzzle; figuring out a complex world from shadowy outlines, wading through muddy waters to find what’s hidden below the waterline. But just as important: I hated for the bad guys to get away - especially the powerful ones.
But realities dawned: fiction was fiction, and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed trying to catch cheating spouses, nor hack celebrities’ phones. What I did enjoy was writing, and so journalism was the logical conclusion. I studied in London, before returning to my native Oslo to work in radio, television and writing. A series of events last year brought me into contact with Anthony Barnett, founder of openDemocracy, and eventually led to me being offered the position of Editor-in-Chief. With a deep bow to those who have created this important space, I accepted.
I’m not one to view the past with the rosy tint of nostalgia, but comparatively journalism is in an era of great challenges. As the resources available for intensive activities such as fact checking or investigative journalism have dwindled, the resources and effectiveness of those who want to influence the news agenda and media narratives for their own purposes are greater than ever. Too much news is thinly veiled entertainment, some is pure propaganda, and these are by no means mutually exclusive.
While the amount of information available to us is increasing exponentially, accountability in how it is gained and used is lacking. Those who start wars of aggression based on lies, wreak havoc on our economy with blind greed, seed hate and division to further their own agenda or put stumbling blocks in the way of action on climate change, live comfortably and needn’t fear repercussions.
If we want a functioning democracy and to understand what goes on behind the scenes we need places like openDemocracy, where in-depth analysis, informed commentary and sharp debate challenge our assumptions and widen our horizons.
openDemocracy was born in the online world, unburdened by printing presses and ink – however romantic those sound today. We must continue in the great tradition of the last decade (an aeon in internet time), with high quality content professionally edited by dedicated editors like Rosemary Bechler and David Hayes, but we will also look for ways to widen our reach. We will do that through social media, more video and continuing innovation. That task will be made easier by the fact that Tony Curzon Price, whose shoes I’ll be trying to grow into, is staying on as Associate Editor and Technical Director.
While creating this platform was a great deed, it would be nothing without the thousands of contributors who have dedicated their time and minds to help the world get to grips with thorny issues and see the world from fresh angles.
openDemocracy is like a room full of wise people; listening to them talk is great, overhearing them argue even better, but nothing beats joining the conversation.
And there is rent to pay. openDemocracy will always be free for all to read, but running it is not - although it’s a lean and effective organisation. Support from those who understand the importance of our project is necessary for our existence. We don’t only want to keep doing what we do, but to do it better, extend our influence and become an important platform and resource for many more. I hope you’ll consider contributing what you can spare, and spread the word to others. You can do so here.