News Writing (EL 227)


14 Nov 2005

We the Media (Intro, Ch 1 & Ch 2)

Introduction:

Today, citizen journalism is mostly the province of what my friend and former newspaper editor Tom Stites calls “a rather narrow and very privileged slice of the polity—those who are educated enough to take part in the wired conversation, who have the technical skills, and who are affluent enough to have the time and equipment.” These are the very same people we’re leaving behind in
our Brave New Economy. They are everyday people, buffeted by change, and outside the conversation. (xvii-xviii)
Chapter 1:
Thomas Jefferson famously said that if given the choice of newspapers or government, he’d take the newspapers.
True, but Jefferson went on to say that every man would have to be able to read, and that every man would have to get a copy of the newspaper. Jefferson was speaking of the kind of educated, involved citizens that seek out news on their own. A common fear of the educated elite was, what the uneducated masses would do, if they were to fall under the spell of a charismatic but power-hungry leader?"The push for profits has crowded out depth" (6), as news organizations (which used to be the money-losing but respect-building core of broadcasting companies, but now that broadcasting companies are owned by entertainment and media companies, the bottom line is more important than serving the public trust, so news organizations have to compete for the attention of people who zone out if the news doesn't include explosions or sex (preferable both).

I like Gillmor's inegration of Usenet (discussion groups) and the desktop publication movement (how many of those horrible fan-fold banners did I create in PrintShop?).

Blogs are, of course, part of this change, but as Gillmor notes, the change wasn't sudden. (The orators of classical Greece were horrified at this new technology called writing, that gave people who were untrained as orators the ability to recite a long speech written by someone else. That seemed like cheating!)

On free, open-source software: I use The Gimp (a free replacement for Photoshop), Firefox (a free replacement for Internet Explorer), and while I use the school's installation of Microsoft Office at work, at home when I work on spreadsheets and slide shows, I use OpenOffice.org. Like the cable TV owners who don't let you choose the specific channels you want, the big software companies throw huge amounts of code at you, sometimes gumming up your system with "suggestions" that you upgrade. While MovableType is not open-source, it is engineered to encourage the development of third-party plugins, which really help expand the tool's usefulness.

I remember Tamim Ansary's essay, written a few days after the 9/11 attacks (21).

Gillmor's introduction to wikis (Chapter 2) is also worth examining, since Gillmor's career with traditional print journalism has conditioned him to see precisely how a wiki is different. I do introduce wikis in my "Writing for the Internet" class, and of course I regularly refer my students to Wikipedia for routine definitions and context.

The wiki is an interesting implementation of the read/write concept that undergirds the internet, but the idea of giving away your writing for others to edit and revise is a concept that many professional writers find difficult to comprehend. Plenty of people play sports or sing or act for free, simply because they want to. And plenty of coders program and debug for free, because they feel their contributions to the common good are worthwhile.

Gillmor's introduction of the "many-to-many" and "few-to-few" are useful ways to think of the liminal space between public thought and common domain, where new media forms of communication are emerging. Give people the tools to use your creations in a creative way, and who knows what they'll come up with.

On 26, Gillmor misues "comprised". He should have said "composed of" or "comprising," not "comprised of." A mistake so common it will probably be listed as acceptable use in another generation.

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Comments

Here's a link to my blog entry on this reading selection:

http://blogs.setonhill.edu/ChristopherUlicne//012775.html

Posted by: ChrisU at November 13, 2005 05:22 PM

can somebody tell me how much this book is? I'll have to hit my dad up for some moolah, haha. *shame*

Maybe I'll just stop in the bookstore before class.

Posted by: stormy knight at November 14, 2005 08:57 AM

okay...nevermind. I know I can download it now, haha. Okay everybody take their turn laughing at me. =)

Posted by: stormy at November 14, 2005 11:58 AM
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