A mainstream journalist’s attack on Novara Media has totally backfired

Novara Media logo next to a picture of journalist James Ball
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The independent media outlet Novara Media has come under attack by a mainstream journalist challenging its business model. But Novara hit back, as did others, mounting a defence of its work on Twitter.

The attacker

The attack came from Buzzfeed and Guardian contributor, James Ball. Ball is best known for turning his back on the whistleblowing media organisation WikiLeaks. And he’s known, more recently, for showing support for the payday lending service, Wonga.

Ball took issue with Novara’s new fundraising model, tweeting that:

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He added that his criticism wasn’t personally aimed at Ash Sarkar, the senior editor of Novara, who posted the tweet he responded to:

But this didn’t go unnoticed by Sarkar herself, who responded:

A terrible argument

Ball’s criticism that voluntary journalism harms other professional journalists’ wages was challenged.

Novara co-founder Aaron Bastani claimed there’s a glaring hole in Ball’s argument. He argued that if independent media operated to Ball’s liking (in terms of wages), it would be funded by business or private wealth:

Journalist Abi Wilkinson also challenged Ball directly on this point:

Wilkinson added that:

Writer Richard Seymour also responded:

Ball getting his facts wrong?

Ball then changed tack. He shifting from debating the ethics of voluntary journalism and instead questioned Novara‘s legal standing, claiming it’s a company with shareholders:

But the Novara team quickly showed this to be incorrect:

Ball kept doling out the criticism though, which Novara continued to call out:

Jealously, fear, or a smear campaign?

These kind of attacks on independent media outlets by mainstream media figures tell a story. Independent media is gaining influence and holding the powerful, including the mainstream media, to account. This appears to be creating resentment with media gatekeepers.

But rather than spending time and energy attacking independent media outlets, the media should be challenging the powerful. That is, after all, what journalism is meant to be: holding power to account.

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