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Hypergene MediaBlog » Which side is winning? Democracy.

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Thursday, 16 Sep 2004

Which side is winning? Democracy.

Christine Boese at CNN Headline News has written a review, Will cyber journalists turn the tables on big media?, of Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media and comments extensively on participatory journalism. Several of our colleagues, including J.D. Lascia and Steve Rubel, have offered up this key quote from the end of her review:

"Gillmor could be anticipating the power of citizen journalists, rather than noting their arrival. I believe we are still deep in the power struggle between top-down message control and interactive reader/journalists getting to know their political candidates the way kids get to know the backwoods.

“I’m still not sure which side is winning."

This was an enjoyable, well-written review. After perusing the writer’s nearly two-year-old weblog, you’ll see that she is obviously up on participatory journalism. But the word winning gives us pause. Perhaps it’s because we’ve heard it alot this week.

Several big and small media journalists have trumpeted Rathergate as a benchmark moment for weblogs and the bottom-up journalism movement. Indeed, “their version of ‘open source’ journalism is notable,” wrote Dan Gillmor yesterday, but “some of the self-congratulatory online chest-thumping is overdone.”

From an economic sense, Big Media is winning, and probably always will. And yes, Big Media are going through some growing pains in this new emerging media ecosystem. However, from an information perspective, participatory journalism benefits us all. And in that respect, democracy is winning.

We have to stop looking at this from a partisan “Top Down against Bottom Up” point of view. Participatory journalism is about emergent democracy and a symbiotic relationship with Big Media. Participatory journalism — including forums, weblogs, wikis and all of its other forms — did not arrive with the hopes of mounting a coup d’etat against mainstream media. It slowly developed out of a newfound empowerment, egalitarianism, necessity, and perhaps the basest coin of our collective intelligenceconversation.

As Douglas Rushkoff noted just a few days before Rathergate broke, “… the greatest power of the blog is not just its ability to distribute alternative information - a great power, indeed - but its power to demonstrate a mode of engagement that is not based on the profit principle.”

Christine knows this, and we’re picking on her. Her word choice is fine. Please, put her in the “gets it” category and thank her for getting a timely review of Dan’s book on CNN’s web site. In a week of interesting quotes, let’s end this little rant by pondering one of her best from the book review:

"Traditional journalism generates content, but it also acts as a gatekeeper, selecting which stories are blessed and visible, and which are cursed to invisibility.

“With participatory journalism, readers act as editors/explorers of the news landscape. They also can become producers, adding story content and becoming part of the larger conversation. True dialogue has the power to shape that conversation, possibly to frame issues differently than professional journalists would."

P.S. “Cursed to invisibility” is a wonderful turn of phrase. It reminds us of Steven Johnson’s The Mud-Slingers Denounce Mud from last week.

Posted on Sep 16, 2004 | 8:04 am EST
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