We the Media

We the Media by Dan Gillmore

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: From Tom Paine to Blogs and Beyond

In this chapter, Gillmor tackles the term “new media”, arguing that personal journalism is not a new phenomenon at all.  He compares blogging to the early pamphleteers like Thomas Paine who actively shared their beliefs, opinions and outrage with anyone they could through their leaflets.  However, personal journalism was somewhat halted during a period of news commercialization where money was more important than the journalistic quality itself.  And then in what seems like an instant, everything changed with the invention of the internet and personal computers.  Average people suddenly had access to vast amounts of information and could communicate with others from around the world.  The internet, especially open sources like Wikis and blogs, allow for a new kind of journalism that is almost conversation-like.  It has the possibility of being reviewed, debated, and altered at any time from many different authors.

Chapter 2: The Read-Write Web

 While the internet revolutionized many aspects of journalism and everyday life, it wasn’t until blogs came into existence that the web truly became a read/write forum.  Suddenly, everyone could be a journalist.  Gillmore says blogs are basically online journals that are displayed in reverse chronological order.  However, they are very interactive and allow readers to comment and give feedback.  They can come from a single source or from a larger group, and can be about any topic you can think of.  Another interactive tool that has added to the read/write Web is the Wiki, which is a website server that can be altered and edited by any users.  Other forms of open communication on the web include Rss feeds, smartphones, and file-sharing websites.

Chapter 3: The Gates Come Down

This chapter focuses on the effects the web and bloggers have had on public figures and journalists.  Newsmakers can’t control the flow of information like they used to and now all information is free game and can be spread quickly.  Businesses and  government offices criticize online journalism because it  hinders their corporate ability to hide information from the public so easily.  On the other hand, blogs and online communities can be used to their advantage to promote products, politicians, etc.

Journalists also claim that the increase in bloggers and wikis make it hard for the public to separate truth from opinion.  They fear the idea that any individual has a personal press at their fingertips.  Gillmore argues that journalists should embrace this online revolution because, if anything, it keeps the profession of journalism more transparent.  Now, journalists are being watched and critiqued by the entire world, forcing them to be honest and diligent in their reporting.  It also allows for constant corrections and improvement in publications, taking reader feedback and comments into consideration.

Chapter 4: Newsmakers Turn the Tables

Chapter 4 discusses the transforming role of a reader from simply a consumer of news to an intricate part of the news conversation.  As previously stated, newsmakers fear this change because they can no longer control what becomes public knowledge.  However, companies, corporation, and politicians can use this open forum of information to their advantage if they are willing to adapt.  First, they must be willing to engage in this online conversation by being truthful about their product/platform and open to hearing critiques from users.  Companies can utilize blogs as a means of public relations, creating a more intimate, transparent relationship with their audience.  Today, many CEOs and celebrities have their own blogs so they can express both business related issues and personal commentary.

Chapter 5: The Consent of the Governed

One of the most positive aspects of blogs and new media is its ability to “transform political life into a virtuous feedback loop among leaders and the governed” (89).  Average citizens can now actively participate in political discussion and activity regardless of their financial status thanks to blogs, political websites, and listservs.  They also allow a wider range of political candidates to spread their message and raise money through online fundraising.  Lastly, open source politics, as Gillmore refers to it, can benefit journalism.  Politics and presidential campaigns are far too complex to be completely and accurately covered by big news conglomerates.  Political blogs, on the other hand, allow for individuals to tackle smaller issues or specific party platforms.  This creates a nice balance of niche political journalism, as well as more general news coverage.  Gillmore, while hopeful for the future of bottom-up politics, admits it will still take a long time for our democratic voting system to be more than a media circus full of propaganda.

Chapter 6: Professional Journalists Join the Conversation

This chapter talks about how professional journalists can benefit from this new media concept.  Rather than rejecting the direction journalism is moving in, journalists should embrace it.  This requires acknowledging the terms of online journalism.  First, the audience is a critical part of the news process and can contribute valuable experiences and insight.  This promotes better journalism, challenging journalists to engage in more in-depth reporting and to be able effectively communicate information the audience wants.  Journalists can incorporate blogging into their careers if their employers allow it.  Blogging can allow for more up-to-date reporting and journalists can link other related articles/media to their posts.  Readers appreciate blogs that include multimedia, such as newsfeeds, hyperlinks, video, and twitter updates because it allows for a more interactive and fulfilling consumer experience than traditional print/broadcast journalism.  Today, it is a must for online journalism and new media techniques to be taught in journalism classrooms in order to provide future journalists with the skills to survive in the industry.

Stephanie Bousquet

We the Media

Chapter7: The Former Audience Joins the Party

This chapter discusses the reader audience has been the ability to be a consumer of news, as well as a producer. GIlmore says people are turning to blogs and online sources for the latest coverage of many news events that larger outlets overlook or prohibited from attending. He claims that there is no more validity in saying “The Media” aren’t allowed to attend an event, because news is coming in high volume from non-journalists.

Chapter 8: Next Steps

Gilmore tries to make some predictions about the future of journalism based on his belief in the founding principles of journalism and the unstoppable nature of technology. He explains that each year information is multiplying at a rapid rate, yet continues to take up less and less space thanks to technological advancements. This makes the opportunity for increased information and communication seem limitless. One obstacle technology should attempt to tackle is sorting reliable, accurate information from lies and opinion.

Chapter 9: Trolls, Spins, and the Boundaries of Trust

This chapter examines the problem of deception coming from online sources. Major problems include plagiarism, altering photographs and videos, and phony websites and press releases. Gilmore offers a solution of forcing online sources to include a digital signature guaranteeing the information they produce is accurate, although he realizes it is unpractical. He thinks the best solution is for consumers to be fact-checkers and watchdogs individually in this interactive media relationship.

Chapter 10: Here Come the Judges (and Lawyers)

Gilmore emphasizes that while the internet does allow more freedom to citizen journalists, the law still applies to anything online. This includes the law of label, meaning bloggers, for example, cannot write defamatory comments about people and not expect consequences. Another major problem online is cheating, especially since there are many grey areas. Gilmore says to air on the side of caution and attribute any idea or statement to the original author. There are even more problems when it comes to copyrights, linking, logos, and branding. The solution to these problems lies in the hands of technology, according to Gilmore.

Chapter 11: The Empire Strikes Back

Every day more and more restrictions are being placed on online content and new media. The same people that fought to attain these freedoms are going to have to fight to keep them, says Gilmore. While we have more access than ever to information and documents, online users are being tracked more heavily than ever. This is especially true when it comes to file-sharing and online downloading. The entertainment industry has put a great deal of pressure of the government to regulate and stop peer-to-peer sharing of audio, video, electronic files. If entertainment companies are successful in winning this online debate, there may be more cases of government regulation over the transfer of information between online users.

Chapter 12: Making Our Own News

Gilmore compares the invention of the internet to the invention of the printing press. Both have changed journalism forever. Gilmore sees this as just the beginning for the power of the internet.

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