Dan Gillmor's Mediactive: masterclass in 21st century journalism demands a net-native news-media

By Cory Doctorow

Dan "We, the Media" Gillmor's latest book, Mediactive is a master-class in media literacy for the 21st century. Gillmor, a former star reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, serial entrepreneur, and journalism professor, has produced an extraordinary text that disrupts the current poor-me narrative of failing journalistic business models and counters it with a set of sensible, entrepreneurial proposals for an Internet era news-media that invites broad participation without surrendering critical thinking and healthy skepticism.

Mediactive is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the dismal state of current media -- partisan and bickering, financially troubled, insufficiently critical of power and overly sensitive to Internet upstarts. Gillmor explains how reporters can (and sometimes do) use online media to get their stories straight, and in so doing, explains how you can do the same, and become a smarter consumer of, participant in, and maker of news. This is a crash-course in being a better consumer of the news, asking active questions about how the news you see and hear and read is constructed.

Part two is an information age journalism program encapsulated in a swiftly moving section on using tools and systems to make better news. Even if you're not planning on starting up your own blog, wiki, mailing list, or even a newspaper, this section should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand how smart use of the right tool can put the news in the service to its community, structured around the values of truth, humility, and honor.

Part three is a big-think piece on the way that institutions -- from j-schools to the FTC and Congress -- can and should change the way they do things to clear the way for journalism that works with the net, not against it. Covering issues from pedagogy to DRM law, from comment moderation to Network Neutrality, Gillmor moves into the macro-scale with the same deftness that he brings to the details in part two.

The overall book left me feeling smarter and more doubtful about the things I think I know about media, which is a heady combination. But it's not an unusual one for my interactions with Dan Gillmor, who is truly a journalist's journalist for the modern age, unparalleled for thoughtfulness, critical thinking, and technical savvy. His entrepreneurial, can-do approach to creating a sustainable networked press is a refreshing change from the Cold War rhetoric about parasitic bloggers and MSM dinosaurs.

Mediactive (which features a great foreword by Clay Shirky) is available as a free, CC-licensed download (also in PDF and a print-on-demand book from Lulu.com. Gillmor's Mediactive site contains further resources and conversations on the book.

Published 7:39 am Mon, Dec 13, 2010

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

5 Responses to “Dan Gillmor's Mediactive: masterclass in 21st century journalism demands a net-native news-media”

  1. turn_self_off says:

    should be a interesting read.

  2. Quiet Wyatt says:

    Logo composition:

    Microsoft
    Ebay
    wireD
    Ibm
    fAcebook
    Cnn
    Time
    Ipod
    Verizon
    googlE

    That took me less than 30 seconds. Frightening!

  3. Kosmoid says:

    Here are his “next steps”:

    Create community-based networks of trust, using reputation as an essential component. [As long as I don’t have to pay for it.]

    Improve the tools of discovery and context, via aggregation and curation. [Ctrl C, Ctrl V]

    Make the topic the primary focus of reporting, with dynamic “articles” that advance understanding through successive iterations as new information becomes available. [Zombie-inspired sex toys]

    Find and catalog the best ideas, techniques and tools, and then connect them with people who can bring them to a wider public.
    Get policy right on copyright and broadband. [LOL Cats]

    Eliminate subsidies, direct and indirect, that favor one type of media business over another. [Then no one makes any money.]

    Develop payment systems that reward creators in all parts of the new media ecosystem. [Not in a freemium economy]

    Make critical thinking and media literacy part of education’s core curriculum. [Folks will still be conned by advertising and special interest groups.]

    Do away with almost all journalism prizes, and bring the ones we want to keep into the 21st century. [I’m way under appreciated, too.]

    Work toward a national consensus on identity and accountability that encourages people to stand behind their words and to cut each other slack for past foolish acts and remarks. [No fun in that.]

    Continue the conversations. [Not all at once.]

    I think all of these are deluded ideas because the Web is a freemium economy just about entirely dependent on advertising–it’s all about getting more eyeballs and commenters (euphemistically called “community”) who are not about to pay for your content.

    HuffingtonPost is the future of the Web. Have you seen the Miley Cyrus bong video? Yeah, and they have the Putin video and the Buzz Lightyear sippy cup like so many other Web sites.

    • EH says:

      Jeez, are you a real estate agent or something? Why so pessimistic?

    • ManOutOfTime says:

      Much as I love the romance and idealism of the post-Web2.0 vision, your biting, snarky critique is much appreciated. Serious thinkers on the subject should have serious answers to your [points] — and entrepreneurs ignore them at their peril.

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