Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dan Gillmor: Be skeptical of everything, but not equally skeptical of everything

Oracles don't have to be mystics, or sport white beards, or live in Greece. They can be clean shaven, courtly and live in Arizona.

To the oldest of the inane questions, "Is blogging journalism?," Dan Gillmor, the veritable oracle of citizen journalism, responds:
"Oh, God, I can't wait for the day when that question disappears from the world, because it's just such the wrong question," he says. "Some blogging is journalism, most is not. Let's move on to something more interesting." . . .

"The question we should be asking is, what is journalism?"

In Gillmor's view, journalism is defined by certain principles. Among them: skepticism, accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, transparency, independence and keeping an open mind. He believes we should replace the old, impossible notion of "objectivity" with informed, critical judgment. And journalists should treat the process as a conversation, not a lecture. That means listening to more than the official sources.
How to enhance the quality of journalism? Mr. Gillmor places the onus on news consumers.

We've got the supply side pretty well covered. There are all kinds of media being created. Certainly there are lots of problems, but lots of opportunities, and it's pretty exciting what's going on.

One of the places we're really lagging is the demand side. All the supply in the world won't matter if people don't demand something better than they're getting. People who've been consumers of media have to become activists in their consumption. They can't just be passive consumers, because the result is the generally crappy state of journalism that we have today in all respects. . . .

I haven't stopped caring about helping people do good journalism, whether it's traditional or citizen or whatever you want to call it. But if we don't turn the consumers of media into active or activist-type consumers, which means in part taking actual responsibility for what we read as opposed to just letting it show up and not being satisfied, people will be missing something that citizenship should include, which is to be active in how you get your information.

Mr. Gillmor pulls no punches.

Check out the good interview with Fiona Morgan of the Independent, published from North Carolina's Triangle.

Image courtesy of Jeff Risley

Also see: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists
And: Citizen journalism welcome but must be edited, says Scripps publisher
A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

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