News

Dan Gillmor

Glenn Otis Brown, August 1st, 2005

You may have read this Featured Commoner’s technology columns in the San Jose Mercury Sun News or on Sillicon Valley.com. Dan Gillmor has been writing about technology, business, and policy for as long as such a beat has existed. His new book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, tells the shift of how grassroots journalism will dethrone the Big Media monopoly on news. The book is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license. The book is now in stores and available for download.

Creative Commons: There’s a nice quote early in your book that sums up much of your argument. “The news is what we make of it, in more ways than one.” Could you expand on that?

Dan Gillmor: There are various ways to “make the news,” but they’re starting to blend. In the traditional sense it works this way: You can make news by doing something extraordinary (or ordinary, if you’re a celebrity or politician), or by doing something evil or especially good. PR and marketing people help. We in the journalism business make the news every day, every hour, by reporting what we learn; newspapers are, in part, a manufacturing business. And “consumers” of news can make their own news reports by sifting through the growing variety of information now available to them.

Now, all of those news constituencies are starting to bleed into each other. The former audience is joining the journalism process, as is the Newsmaker who talks over our heads to the audience more directly via blogs and other new tools. The journalist has to pay much closer attention to it all, and must listen as much as lecture.

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CC: Your arguments about democratized media pivot on the role of technology, particularly the Internet and blogs. Given this, did you ever have second thoughts about making your argument in traditional book form? Are you or O’Reilly taking steps to make your book “Read-Write” as well?

DG: No second thoughts whatsoever. I love books, which have always been a crucial part of my life since I learned to read. I love the way they feel in my hands, and the places they take me. I hope this particular book will have some shelf life even though the topic is contemporary; and we’ll probably do another edition.

The read-write portion will be in the Safari part of O’Reilly’s business, where people can buy individual chapters and accompanying material. From a non-commercial point of view, moreover, I can’t wait to see the remixes that other people do online.

CC: Why did you decide to license We the Media under a Creative Commons license?

DG: It was an opportunity to live up to the things I’ve been preaching. Creative Commons is offering one of the only alternatives to the stifling and, I believe, dangerous ways of the copyright cartel that is trying to lock everything down.

CC: What was it like to get O’Reilly Media to agree to release the book under the license?

DG: There was not only no resistance, but Tim and his team were delighted to do it. You should ask them why.

CC: What do you expect will happen as a result that wouldn’t have under a traditional “all rights reserved” release?

DG: As noted, I’m looking forward to seeing things that surprise me. I do hope folks will put in the hyperlinks, something I don’t have time to do. And Niall Kennedy has posted an audio of the introduction; perhaps other folks will make audios of other chapters.

CC: Given the new publishing landscape, what advice would you give an aspiring journalist?

DG: This is a tough question, because the business is changing so quickly. I would encourage anyone who wants to be a journalist to be fluent with technology, of course. More importantly, I’d urge him or her to have an insatiable curiosity, an eagerness to listen, a powerful sense of fairness and honor, and a passion for helping people understand the world around them.

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