I recently read Dan Gillmor’s new book “We the Media,” and it really struck a chord with me. As I mentioned in a recent post, my first encounter with the Web was as a cartoonist, and I was fascinated by the powerful self-publishing opportunities made available by this new medium. So much so, that every application I’ve written has been the result of the initial thrill I felt at circumventing traditional publishing.
As Gillmor points out, blogs are fulfilling many of the early promises of the Web, especially in regards to the democratization of media. While the mainstream media tends to focus on blogs as places where lost souls talk about their cats, the reality is that many people – including myself – find blogs to be a better source of information than newspapers and (especially) TV. This really hit home with me during a recent computer-free long weekend which forced me to rely on the mainstream media for news. The wealth of viewpoints offered on the Web was narrowed down to a few sounds bites about a handful of “important” stories, interspersed with garbage news about pop culture icons. I felt that I was getting only part of the story – and missing many stories entirely.
Yes, there’s a lot of nonsense in blogs, but there’s also an awful lot of first-rate publishing going on. Witness John Robb’s Global Guerillas, Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo or Jay Rosen’s PressThink. Mainstream media may provide the headlines, but I rely on blogs such as these to provide the in-depth (and behind-the-scenes) stories.
Of course, Gillmor talks about much more than blogs in his book, and it’s a must read for anyone remotely interested in how technology is wrestling with Big Media for the future of journalism. After I read it again, I’ll find a spot for it next to The Cluetrain Manifesto on my bookshelf.