Bellingcat key shifts citizen journalism

Bellingcat key shifts citizen journalism

Michael Taylor reviews a memorable documentary that questions the truth of headline news challenged by internet investigators

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post Truth World offers a fascinating insight into the world of citizen journalism, telling the story of the individual’s working for the titular Bellingcat investigative news website. Over the course of its 89 minute, Bellingcat goes into detail about the innovative methods that citizens can use to fact check the information that we are presented with on a daily basis. This is all derived from social media, Google Earth and other open source internet data.

The film is stylistically portrayed in a way which effectively reinforces the tone and messages of the film. In a post-truth world where many governments are manufacturing an altered version of events, and where freedom of the press is comes under increasing scrutiny, Bellingcat shows the difficulties that these journalists face in their efforts to bring the truth to light.

On the technical side, my only complaint would be the choice of font that the film uses for all of its titles. They chose to use a digital style font to fit the theme of the film, but the font itself appears to be rather low resolution, and so the titles can appear rather blurry. While certainly not illegible, a clearer font would have worked better. Thankfully this issue does not extend to the subtitles, which remain a clear and easy to read sans serif font, which is just as well since throughout the film several different languages are spoken.
One thing to bear in mind is that the film assumes a level of familiarity from the viewer with the events being discussed. Bellingcat details the methods used to uncover the truth behind the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014; it also looks at the “Unite the Right” protests in Charlottesville and the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in England. If you are unfamiliar with these events then you may find it difficult to follow along in some places. This being said, if you are a regular consumer of news stories, Bellingcat is a highly engrossing documentary that had me shocked and impressed at multiple points in the story, showing how events can be fabricated to dupe audiences worldwide. As one of the speakers memorably points out, “humans have an emotional relationship with information, not a rational one.”
Fake news is a serious problem which gets worse as time goes on. Bellingcat serves as a memorable documentary that personally inspired me to ask more questions the next time a major story emerges in the headlines. It serves as a call to action for the war of information that we find ourselves in, where citizen journalism is the key to shifting the monopoly on information.

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