We the Media

Here are my chapter reviews for Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media.

Chapter One: In the first chapter, Gillmor discusses the essential “history” of journalism, going from Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine to CNN and the internet. He discusses the forming of “new media” by tracing it through the importance of newspapers to the black stain of “yellow journalism” to radio, television, CNN and eventually blogs. The most interesting part to me was the section on talk radio and how it changed news and may have inspired blogs since for the first time regular people were able to comment on the issues of the day.

Chapter Two: This chapter deals with many of the news sources offered by the Internet. Gillmor writes about mail listings, blogs, SMS, RSS, and Wikis. He outlines what each function does and how people can use it to relay news to others. For the first time, he said, the Internet provides a “many-to-many” or “few-to-few” option. Instead of one person being solely responsible for providing news, it can be many people through comments and editing and such. I think what he’s getting at is that while this, in theory, is a cool, modern idea, it can easily be ruined if in the wrong hands.

Chapter Three: This chapter discusses how easily anyone can divulge news. Rules for newsmakers are changing because anyone can start news, whether it is true or not. Gillmor says how easy it is to publish anything you want to say – your opinions can be posted all over the Internet for anyone to read. Also, the Internet makes it able for people to learn about unauthorized items such as new features not mentioned by manufacturers or problems that arise with others. These things change not only the way news is spread, but how big companies must watch what they do constantly.

Chapter Four: I think this chapter is really talking to public relations and marketing people and telling them how to help their clients. Gillmor suggests the positives of a CEO or celebrity blog, and suggests being open and honest and straight forward about everything so that you don’t get tangled up in secrets and lies. Gillmor even has lists of rules of how to create a successful working blog, by linking to other (possibly better) items similar to yours, attracting a wide audience and being open about everything you’re doing.

Chapter Five: Blogs can also be used as a political source. People from local senators to presidential candidates can start blogs in order to connect with people and gain support. Forums, mailing lists and such can bring supporters of a politician closer together in order to find more support and figure out ways for the politician to get ahead. These government-based web systems also form a great place to get information and to help people. Such things like Earth 911 or Pets 911 can give information, and Amber Alerts to find missing children were based off of this idea as well.

Chapter Six: Blogs can also spark deeper conversation. Gillmor says he uses his to sometimes get people’s opinions on an upcoming column, or on any issue at hand. The conversations that can occur in forums or comments sections online are also useful because they can be global, not just limited to one area. Professional journalists are still hesitant about it, with some not even adding contact info to their online articles. Gillmor discusses the tools needed to create good online sites, including the addition of audio and visual aids, and how even though he’s skeptical about journalism schools, he sees how they could be useful.

Chapter Seven: While some people defy blogs as being “not real journalism,” they are still getting a lot of hits. Gillmor talks about the “citizen journalist” and how anyone can have their own blog. It may not be a bad thing. You can have blogs that interest a community or inform people first hand of events like protests. Gillmor also marvels at Wikipedia and how “everyone can do their part.” Gillmor’s optimism is inspiring – even something like Wikipedia gives him hope. He believes with the right editing and supervision Wikipedia could be a great resource. He truly believes the internet will be successful for journalism.

Chapter Eight: Gillmor is sure that the Internet will continue to surprise us and that technology is “unstoppable.” He writes about how technology is making everything faster and smaller and easier to use, but that the end feeling is the same – we still want to spread news as quick as possible. He mentions that even though the way we spread the news may change, journalists’ ideals of integrity should still remain true. Even though the actual way someone reports news may change, the real reason and truth behind why they want to won’t change.

Chapter Nine: Finally, Gillmor gets to why people view online news to be full of false information: it’s so easy to do! Anyone can copy and paste information and present it in another light. Photos and videos get doctored all the time, so one can never really be too sure what’s original and what isn’t. While Gillmor doesn’t find gossip moguls to be real journalists, he appreciates the fact that most sign their name. There are a lot of positives to anonymity, but it’s something that isn’t respectable – especially if you plan on attacking someone.

Chapter Ten: Even when publishing information online, people have to be careful of the legal consequences. Gillmor outlines such issues as libel and defamation as well as copyright, linking, jurisdiction, and liability for comments. Journalists should get insurance against libel and keep in mind that public figures that depend on public opinion are most likely to sue. It’s easier to correct libelous mistakes online than in print so it shouldn’t be too hard to protect yourself against it. You have to be careful though because anyone who publishes something online has to be responsible for  about 190 nations’ libel laws.

Chapter Eleven: This chapter is all about freedom. Thankfully, people in the U.S. are for the moment safe of having the state intervene too much into what it can and cannot publish. In other parts of the world, like China, this situation is different. News is limited to what the government wants the people to know. As journalists in America, this is a scary notion. What if the government started doing it more often in America? Big corporations are already doing it, leaving journalists to debate what is legal and what is not.

Chapter Twelve: “The Internet is the most important medium since the printing press,” Gillmor writes in his concluding chapter of this book. For the first time, feedback on news can be “global and nearly instantaneous.” Journalism mixing with technology has consequences for journalists, newsmakers and readers. Gillmor acknowledges the fact that while this new form of journalism has resulted in cries of skepticism of fairness and truth, he believes the community will be able to get over it and fully accept this new form of news telling.

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