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Blogging Is Here to Stay; So Just Get Over It

By Heather Somers

The days of news being delivered as a one-way, top-down information flow are about over, says one of mainstream journalisms best-known bloggers.

Dan Gillmor, a San Jose Mercury News business and technology columnist—and blogger—told Western Knight Center seminar participants that blogging was a “grass roots phenomenon” needed “for the sake of ourselves and our readers.”

Noting the ease of obtaining cheap, easy-to-use blogging software, Gillmor said all varieties of newsmakers were using the Web to post their views and information, and a variety to government agencies and other organizations are posting information directly to their Web sites. They don’t need the news media to get their story out, and that means a lot more information is becoming available online, for everyone—including journalists.

For example, Gillmor said that when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gives a speech, a transcript of it appears immediately on the Department of Defense’s Web site. The ability to so easily and quickly access information that was previously difficult to acquire—if not inaccessible—creates a timely and important challenge for journalists, Gillmor said.

He chided fellow reporters for not taking better advantage of information that is available online, including tips from e-mail lists and blogs. As an example of how “participatory journalism” can achieve change, he cited the controversy that erupted after blogs played a major role in drawing national attention to racist comments attributed to Sen. Trent Lott (http://slate.msn.com/?id=2075151).

Not only should journalists pay closer attention to the blogosphere, Gillmor suggested, they should appreciate the value of allowing readers into the editorial process.

“Journalism becomes a conversation [with blogs],” he said. “My foundation principle is that my readers know more than I do.”

On another front, Gillmor urged newspaper sites to use more video and audio and make more use of technological advancements. He noted that digital cameras, text messaging on cell phones, blogs, mailing lists and digital audio have all made the flow of news and information faster and brought more people into the news-making process.

He also urged news sites to allow readers to post their own pictures and blogs.

The advantage of having hundreds of civilian journalists providing the paper with pictures and reports of events would greatly expand the coverage, Gillmor said, noting the important role blogs and moblogs played in keeping the public informed during the space shuttle disaster and the East Coast blackout.

“We have to expand our vision about what journalism is. We have to allow stuff in from out at the edges,” Gillmor said.

For starters, he suggests allowing newspaper readers to blog. “People are dying to tell their stories,” he said. “If we just ask them, I think they’ll respond.”

He admitted that there are risks, such as spam or offensive material getting into open areas of the site. But those risks aren’t big enough, he said, adding: “We need to start offering ideas of how to bring people into this global conversation.”
Resources

View the video of Dan Gillmor's speech

View Dan's PowerPoint presentation

Other resources:

Dan Gillmor's Blog

We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People
Dan's new book will be published in August, 2004, by O'Reilly Publishing

Blurted Out Conviction of the Week: Trent Lott (Slate)

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