As a newbie to blogs and the technical aspects of the digital world, I have found myself quite intimidated by this class. However, I found the first half of Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media” refreshingly digestible and interesting. He starts with a cursory look at how we have arrived at this interconnected digital period in journalism’s history. By first discussing the once-distinct line between the newsmaker, the news distributor, and the news consumer and then describing how the line has blurred, Gillmor cements his point that we have experienced a true “evolution” in journalism.
Gillmor is not shy in his belief that the field of journalism has benefited from increased competition from who he calls the “former audience,” but he seems to waver on defining them as journalists. He states, “…[L]ike mail lists, blogs, Wikis, SMS, and the other tools of our journalistic future, they are only tools. They must not be confused with journalism itself. Certain values must remain: fairness, accuracy, and thoroughness” (pg42). Despite the blurry line between news distributors and news consumer with the advent of these tools, Gillmor seems uncomfortable defining the former audience as journalists. While I find this to be a tricky line to walk, I too would find discomfort in this. As I stated, I am very new to the world of blogs and am, therefore, still trying to understand the systems that are in place, if any, to regulate them. Gillmor asserts that fairness, accuracy, and thoroughness must continue to guide the work of the former audience. But, are these values the only regulation that can be placed on blogs? How will this new era of “many-to-many” communication continue to evolve, and will we all be considered journalists one day?
In addition to the news-exchange aspects, the tools on the internet are now available are changing how we relate to and are marketed by the biggest forces in our society, politics and business. From Ron Paul and Barack Obama being on Facebook to being able to blog about Hillary Clinton on her website, political campaigns have had to adopt new tactics online in order to campaign effectively. As Gillmor mentioned, we saw the power of the internet in campaigns for the first time during Howard Dean’s bid in 2004. Then it was so revolutionary that it seemed almost odd; now it is expected and socially mandatory to have a strong online presence. A blog on blogherald.com noted that Hillary Clinton recently discussed how she would promote a transparent government via government bloggers. As the blogger mentioned, blogging isn’t quite a perfect solution to a transparent government. Propaganda can come in all forms, including that of a blog or internet posting, as exemplified by the Kenyan government’s website. This posting shows the negative effects the internet can have, including inciting violence in a volatile country.
While Cory Doctorow’s, et. al “Essential Blogging” (chapter 1) was full of very useful information regarding blogs, Doctorow does note that blogs can be very self-indulgent. He also notes that there isn’t the same sense of needing to be careful about conflicts of interest. As the posting by the Kenyan government shows, conflict of interest isn’t always adhered to on the internet. Doctorow’s musings on the ability to write about any topic in any manner struck me as contradictory to Gillmor’s “fairness, accuracy, and thoroughness” plea.
Both readings provide a sense that there is a lot still unknown about the new tools available to us and how to navigate them—both digitally and responsibly—but that regardless of how we manage this, we will do it as an interconnected community.