Monday, 23 April 2012

Intelligence vs Journalism

So to give you guys an idea why intelligence can be better than journalism, basically it comes down to how the author explains any information they have. There’s really nothing to journalism, you only have to keep your ear to the ground and report events as they happen from the most neutral vantage possible.

The key is to make sure all differing positions are explored in order to report what really happened, or as close as you can get to the “truth” (which is always provisional).
As you might expect this approach doesn’t necessarily always work. A lot of the time the information is only partial and disparate events connect well after the event is over, and too long for any meaning to be gleaned from the initial reporting.

Consider journalism to be like a written photograph of events. In the same way you can never see outside the lens with a camera, it is very difficult to get a grip on the context of an event if you rely on journalism for meaning.  Very few journalists have the time or resources to follow a pattern long enough to report profound changes in the international community.

The approach of intelligence analysis to world events is markedly different. Here the context is everything. The analyst doesn’t just monitor the world for stories that might sell papers or drive readers to view their websites.

To them, the world is never just a series of events happening one after another as you might have come to expect it was if you read news. Instead the world is seen as a slowly shifting puzzle whose pieces can be made to fit only if the correct tools are used to dissect them. An analyst’s job is to fit these pieces together to make sense of them.

Geopolitics explains current affairs not in terms of personalities or ambiguous human events but instead as a rational, if constrained, chess board all countries constantly manipulate for their benefit.

George Friedman, for one, outlines the ‘love of one’s own people’ as being a significant factor behind many decisions and actions of governments. Protection of the homeland and her interests will dictate whether a country imposes tariffs, floats a navy, alters currency rules, or invades a country.

Any decision based on personal ideals or opinion is transient and ultimately doomed if the context of geopolitics is removed.
The process of intelligence strings together seemingly unconnected events and generates meaning out of perceived randomness. It tells the reader what will happen tomorrow, rather than just what happened yesterday.

A good intelligence report will find the patterns that journalist are unable to, either because of time constraints, access denials, or lack of information. An intelligence agency or company has many roles, some dedicated to the gathering process and others to the analysis of this information.

Raw intelligence, ranging from snippets of conversation on a train to a highly secret document, by itself means nothing; alone it is unconnected. But by a team of skilled analysts the intelligence is ground down to produce useful information.

Intelligence can tell you more about the world in 1000 words than 1000 articles from traditional, bottom-line journalism ever could. It isn’t so much a role as it is a mind-set, a process and toolkit a person uses when gathering their information. It’s a way of looking at the world to explain events rather than report them.

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