For some time, much has been made about the murky line separating fact from fiction on the Internet. But when it comes to online journalism, might the boundary between the reporter and his or her audience also be breaking down? Journalist/Blogger Dan Gillmor thinks so. He talks with Brooke about the advent of what he calls “we journalism.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're joined now by the blogger and professional journalist he mentioned, Dan Gilmor. Gilmor is making a study of the relationship between professional journalists and those who are driven through conviction or mischief or whatever to report from their PC's and cell phone cameras to the world. He says their efforts are already seeping into the mainstream and that some day their work will be part of all of our media diets. Dan, welcome to the show!
DAN GILMOR: Glad to be with you!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you are a technology columnist for the Mercury News as well as a blogger. You're also a proponent of what I guess you've termed "We Journalism." How do you define that?
DAN GILMOR: Well I define it in basically one way which is the notion that my readers know more than I do, and I'd like to capture that knowledge in the best sense of the word for our mutual advantage. I like to have them as part of a conversation.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:And not just a casual conversation, I guess, because you're working on a book called Making the News. You have the outline on the web. It's fascinating by the way. You're asking readers to participate in every single chapter! Tell me what Making the News is about.
DAN GILMOR: It's about this intersection of journalism and technology and what happens to journalism in the largest sense of the word as a result. You have I think three constituencies -- one being of course the journalists. But you also have the people we call "newsmakers" - the people and institutions we write about - and then finally you have what I've been calling the former audience -- and I say former because I think they're now part of the process if they want to be.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I wonder if you wouldn't mind speculating about the great opportunity that web journalists have ahead of them in the upcoming election!
DAN GILMOR: I'm intrigued beyond belief at what Howard Dean is doing with the web. I think there's a breakthrough going on there, but I have to do a lot more reporting before I'm sure I understand exactly what it is. But they have this fundamental belief in the Dean campaign that the decentralized nature of the internet is going to work for them in a very big way, and I think that we're going to see journalists popping up, following individual campaigns or individual subjects, and they may be total amateur webloggers or professionals but who want to drill in, in some niche part of the process and bring us more than we ever wanted to know [LAUGHS] in some cases about some angle on the thing. I think that's where the real value of weblogs shows up, and I hope we see a lot of that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:With regard to the many, many bloggers who may be covering the election, there is an interesting chapter title in the book that you put on line or the outline called "Can We Believe Any of This?"
DAN GILMOR: [LAUGHS] Well the answer is yes, we can believe some of it. One of the things webloggers do is kind of fact-check each other. Ken Lane who's a wonderful weblogger and, and newspaper guy wrote "We can fact-check your ass." [LAUGHTER] I thought that was a great line, and it was very true, and it's important that people correct the things they get wrong, but if they don't, they lose credibility among the people who will otherwise point at them. We, we do need to re-calibrate at some level our sense of skepticism, because any web page can look at good as any other web page, and look at authoritative. The audience is going to have to actually start thinking a little bit the way reporters think, which is to remember that just because they saw it somewhere doesn't mean it's true!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much.
DAN GILMOR: Glad to be with you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Journalist, author and blogger Dan Gilmor's web site can be found at SiliconValley.com. He spoke to us from Stanford University. [MUSIC]
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR, PRI and American Public Media, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.