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

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.