Welcome Dan Gillmor, and Host Barry Eisler.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  - bev]


Barry Eisler, Host:

Hard to imagine FDL readers don’t already know all about today’s guest, Dan Gillmor, but for anyone who’s stopping by here for the first time, a few thoughts. Dan’s a journalist and blogger (a distinction that I believe has become more cultural than technological) and a professor of journalism with the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Dan does invaluable work in holding the media accountable (I feel confident NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen would describe him, along with Dan Froomkin, as an “accountability journalist”) and in analyzing the ways in which emerging technology enables an engaged citizenry to hold the media accountable, too. His latest book, Mediactive, is a guide intended to help news consumers become less passive and more active, and to enable news consumers to become news producers — what Dan calls “citizen journalism.”

Dan, with regard to how news consumers can become more active, Clay Shirky writes in his great foreword to the book, “Dan wants us to encourage media to supply better information by helping us learn to demand better information.” I love this concept and hope we’ll talk more about it today. To get that conversation started, could you tell us more about specific things news consumers can do to hold news providers to account? Any noteworthy recent examples of such behavior and its effects?

105 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Dan Gillmor, Mediactive”

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

It’s great to be here! Barry, thanks for moderating, and thanks to the FDL team for hosting.

While I believe we should push news and information providers — Big Media, bloggers and our friends — to act in trustworthy ways, we are above all responsible for ourselves. What I mean by this, in part, is that we have to be active users of the media instead of passive consumers.

So the most important thing we can do as consumers of news is to be skeptical — of everything. That doesn’t mean being equally skeptical of everything, however. For example, even though the New York Times screws up from time to time, I trust it vastly more than, say, the National Enquirer or Fox News. We should also go deeper on topics we care about: read, watch, listen to more than one source of information, and challenge our own assumptions and world views as well as understand how media are created and used to persuade (and manipulate).

But we can also be active by joining the conversation, or starting one, with information providers. Some won’t be willing to participate in that kind of conversation — they don’t want to hear from their audiences. They need to be held publicly to account anyway, via blogs, Tweets and other methods. But there are increasing numbers of journalists, bloggers, etc. who are open to being challenged and open to learning more about what they’re doing, and they are the ones who in the end will be seen as the most trustworthy. One important thing to remember: Like most people, journalists are thin-skinned. They respond poorly to being attacked. They respond better to polite communications.

We can also vote with our wallets. I try to support media organizations that have earned more trust, and to avoid the ones that have not. We can also go around traditional media, or simply do a better job on big stories, as FDL has done a number of times (e.g. the Scooter Libby trial coverage). The barrier to entry in digital media is low, verging on zero. That means we’ll have more competition in an expanding ecosystem.

dakine01 March 20th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Good afternoon Dan and welcome to FDL this afernoon and welcome back Barry!

Dan, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in it but I assume you at least address some of the media “critics” such as Hacktacular Howie Kurtz.

Do you offer any ways to overcome the noise of folks like Kurtz who have/had glaring conflicts of interest yet are allowed to pontificate on media and politics, no matter how conflicted?

BevW March 20th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Dan, Welcome to the Lake.

Barry, Thank you for returning and Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Welcome everyone — looking forward to a very interesting Q&A.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

I’m not so bothered by conflicts of interest as I am by lack of transparency about those conflicts. My recollection was that Kurtz and the Washington Post, where he worked for many years, were a bit casual about full and prominent disclosure.

Readers are pretty smart. They can make decisions on what to trust, or how much to trust it, if they know what a source’s world view (or stake in the outcome) is. Readers of the Guardian and Telegraph in London — one left of center and the other right of center, but both doing solid journalism — know the world views and can make good decisions for themselves.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Dan, I know traditional newspapers like The Wash Post have tried to make themselves more trustworthy by adding ombudsmen to their staff. How well is this working? What do you think the Post and company could do to improve their trustworthiness?

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I’ve just about given up on corp media. I call it pravdaganda.

I do sometimes buy a NYT bc I need the paper to light fires.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 6

Barry, it’s great to have ombudsmen and reader representatives (as the NY Times calls the job). When they do their jobs well, they call attention to journalistic practices and persuade the news staff to do a better job.

The first problem is that there aren’t very many of these people in such jobs. The second problem is that they are widely resented inside the newsroom — and they have no real authority.

The ombud-folk for the Washington Post and New York Times, for example, have railed repeatedly against the indiscriminate use of anonymous sources, a practice that violates internal rules at both papers. The use of these anonymous sources continues. That tells us a lot, unfortunately.

If the publishers and top editors don’t care to fix the bad stuff, it won’t get fixed, period.

dakine01 March 20th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 6

When Deborah Howell was the Post Omsbud, she continually seemed to diss the readers who complained as not knowing what they were talking about (and got her two year contract extended a year).

Her replacement (Andy Alexander?) I don’t even think lasted the full two year contract and wrote a rather scathing column on his way out the door and has apparently only just gotten a replacement after being empty for a few months

msmolly March 20th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 8

Which means that the Ombudsfolk are simply there to put the proverbial lipstick on the proverbial pig.

Welcome, Dan. I plan to buy your book once I’ve worked my way through some of my backlog of “must read” items on my bedside shelf and my iPad. Glad you are here at the Lake!

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 7

I haven’t given up on corporate media, because there’s still quite a bit of good journalism being done — and some of it is vitally important. Example: For all its decline in the past several years, the Washington Post has done some outstanding work on the rampant culture of secrecy in Washington.

The Times, for all its flaws, remains the best newspaper in the U.S. I’d save the advertising circulars for starting fires, for the time being…

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 8

Which makes me wonder (as I mourn for my lost innocence) whether the Post and NYT deliberately created these positions as mere window dressing. Or could it be that they thought the creation of the position alone would lead to sounder journalism, a kind of cargo-cult thinking? Or is there another explanation?

dakine01 March 20th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 9

New Washington Post Omsbud Patrick Pexton (2 weeks on the job)

emptywheel March 20th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 8

Welcome Dan, Barry,

WRT the NYT ombud, it had been that it worked for a year, but after a year the ombud got extended and then started pulling punches.

That’s not true w/the WaPo, which has a worse record w/ombuds.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

On a more serious note, print biz is facing pretty awful economics. Dead tree readership is falling like a stone, and I think I’ve heard that online ads don’t generate the comparable income.

Cable news has reached the level of dreck. Or war porn.

Any ‘successful’ website will be bought by a corp & subsequently trashed. (Hufffpo/aol)

The only place to find factual real-time info is small websites that have proved trustworthy over time. But those are, by definition, small, so will inform only a tiny percent of the population.

Agree, disagree? Solutions?

As you answered part of this above, my response would be, yes, for now, there is still some good reporting being done, but that won’t last long.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to msmolly @ 10

I don’t think having these people around is an entirely cynical exercise, and I’m convinced there is a genuine intent to be more accountable. But the jobs are structured in a way that does little more than shine a light on issues. Again, if the top brass doesn’t see fit to fix the flaws, they’re making a visible decision.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 11

I think Priest and Arkin did a nice job of drawing attention to a huge danger to democracy, but as far as the original reporting goes, Tim Shorrock was there much earlier and more comprehensively. Which makes me wonder whether the primary value of corporate media today is more in getting a message out (when they choose to) rather than in developing the story in the first place?

Of course, the downside is when they get out the wrong story. Aluminum tubes, “harsh interrogation techniques,” etc.

Catherine March 20th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 8

I’m also interested in hearing more about your thoughts regarding Barry’s questions at the beginning of the discussion: are there “specific things news consumers can do to hold news providers to account? Any noteworthy recent examples of such behavior and its effects?”

Showing reader support for Ombudsmen and -women seems to be one thing news consumers can do. Are there any other practices you suggest, particularly when it comes to doing “”a better job on big stories”?

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 12

I don’t believe it was deliberate window-dressing. But it’s fair to say that even the best work by ombudsmen and women at various news orgs has led to limited change.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 19

I’d like to hear more about what we consumers can do to make journalism better. For example, to persuade corporate media not just to hire someone called an ombud, but to structure the position so that it works as advertised. I know this is a huge topic, and is in fact what makes Mediactive such a terrific and terrifically useful book, but a few highlights, for those who haven’t read it yet…?

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to Catherine @ 18

Ah, read your comment after sending mine…

masaccio March 20th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

You encourage us to do our own writing and reading, contributing to the discourse. What worries me is that there aren’t that many people who actually read on the internet. So how do average folk penetrate the fog of words spewing from the corporate media?

bmaz March 20th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Excellent points Dan, and welcome to FDL. I am very familiar with the Cronkite School and the excellent work they do there, it is a fantastic institution, especially for one so young. My question as a resident of the area is – speaking of accountability – how do you think the Arizona press has acquitted itself on all the, for lack of a better term, crazy politics that have characterized the last two plus years (I say that because the lid came off when Napolitano left)?

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 14

I wonder if ombuds are to corporate journalism as corporate journalism is to government — always in danger of being suborned. Interestingly, the blogosphere seems a powerful response to both problems.

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Hi Dan, so glad you’re here at FDL, and thanks to Barry for hosting (and to Bev, for… well, everything).

I was wondering, Dan, if you would comment on the distortion of veracity that comes with overt and covert meddling in the media process by government agencies. Whether we’re talking about the latest revelations that the Defense Department will be using sockpuppets at social media sites like Twitter (which are readily used as media sources these days), or Carl Bernstein’s classic revelations in Rolling Stone some years ago about CIA penetration of major U.S. newspapers and other news sources, this appears to be a major problem. I suppose I could add the use of DoD personnel as independent “experts” on military affairs at networks like Fox and CNN.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts on that, or anything in your book (which I embarrassingly admit I have not yet purchased, but will rectify when I’m done here).

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 15

The economic conditions for of traditional journalism are indeed dismal for the most part. Advertising, which has been the primary support, is moving to other places.

I’m not remotely ready to write off journalism, though. In several arenas, such as technology and politics, there’s never been more journalism. A lot of the new stuff is shallow and plainly driven by page views and other advertiser-related motives, but there’s more depth and breadth than ever. This is true of almost every niche topic you can name, moreover, including topics that never got serious coverage in traditional media. (And, again, I do believe there’s still a great deal of valuable journalism being done by traditional media.)

Sorting out the good stuff from the garbage is a big challenge, but I’m convinced we’re making progress. We need much better tools, which are in the works, to combine human and machine intelligence, so that individuals and communities (of geography and interest) will be able to help each other sort out the good from bad, trustworthy from untrustworthy, deep from shallow, etc.

Meanwhile, business models are evolving. We’re early in all this, but I’m pretty sure we’ll get to a better media ecosystem in the end.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 17

Big media have always piggybacked on other coverage — we all stand on each others’ shoulders in journalism, and we should always acknowledge the debt we have to others.

emptywheel March 20th, 2011 at 2:32 pm


With all that is positive about technology-driven “reporting” nationally and internationally, I think the slow death of Dead Tree has played an underexamined role in the assault on democracy at more local levels.

I’ve heard from people doing state campaigns that, particularly given the onslaught of $$ post-CU, and with the absence of real local (print) journalists to tell a story too, it is getting much harder to get a fair hearing.

Obviously, defunding NPR hits precisely these rural areas hardest.

And the problem is, while local blogs are easy to start, I think you need to hit a level of readership and some kind of funding to be sustainable. I was more optimistic about that happening in 2006 than I am now.

Any thoughts on that?

I mean, to some degree our media net has changed dramatically from the concentric circles it used to be (that is, it’s a global net rather than concentric broadcast circles). But our elections are still organized like those concentric circles.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I left the “lamestream” media a few years ago. I get all my information from the web which the occasional reference to a dead tree article from the shill for the elite paper of record is posted. Yes there are some good writers in dead tree journalism… but they ALSO appear on the web.

TV has virtually failed in its original mission to inform and educate. The drivel is unwatchable and what passes for new, commentary is so lopsided it’s a complete joke.

I now use RT, FDL the Automatic Earth, the Oil Drum, Glennzilla and a few other outlets online to understand the world.

The US media lamestream media is the LAST place I’d go for solid reporting and commentary.

How can Sarah Palin be newsworthy?… any more?

jjames492 March 20th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I agree that we consumers need to hold media responsible for what they put out there. My question is once we find out the truth about something ( i.e PFC Manning, the real reason behind Iraq War etc) what can those of us with no individual power do? Continue to talk about it on site like this, dont drop the story after one week but to get PFC Manning treated like a human, how do we change that??

Jane Hamsher March 20th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 1

Well AT&T told me today that less competition is going to be a good thing for me, so I know I’m feeling good today.

Thanks for being here Dan, and you too, Barry.

Dan, what kind of an impact do you think Wikileaks is having on the culture of journalism? I know journalists are skeptical, but they also don’t want to get left out in the cold. The NYT has a huge leg up on the Post because it has access to those documents.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

NPR reminds me of the Times… PR for the elite and from their perspective. It needs to be refounded not unfunded.

mzchief March 20th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 17

{ Welcome Dan and host Barry. G’day Fire pups and attendees. }

There’s now a name for this– “agnotologic capitalism”– and it was introduced to me in a recent interview of Michael Betancourt.

bmaz March 20th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Oops – and Hi Barry! – thanks for hosting.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to mzchief @ 33

The fourth estate seems to have no impact of the corruption that we have inside the beltway. Even when they report some outrage, which they do rarely and not objectively, TPTB simply calls them librul wingers and ignores them.

Each year we have less and less democracy and that includes a vital press… and less and less of our constitution and our precious rights. There should be mass outrage in the media and from the people.

I think they are simply experiencing mass cognitive dissonance and are paralyzed… and of course trusted government to be “theirs” and that their overloard’s.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Catherine @ 18

I’m falling behind on these great questions!

This is a very incomplete response, but I promise to blog more soon, and highlight parts of the book where I address it more fully.

There are lots of ways to influence media, and the smaller the organization is, the more influence an individual can have. Sometimes smaller journalisms orgs are more responsive because the people working at them actually know the people they’re covering. (This can also lead to bad effects for obvious reasons.)

You can also work with others to create a media criticism site for your community. Even journalists who don’t respond to critiques (except the ones at the very top of the food chain) do tend to read them.

Advertiser pressure — that is, consumers putting pressure on advertisers — can have an effect, too. But I’m conflicted about this, because it’s a classic double-edged sword. Some advertisers cave in when anyone complains about anything, and that can lead to less serious journalism.

But nothing gets media orgs’ attention like actual competition. Tell your friends and colleagues about better coverage. Work with like-minded people to create your own.

bluewombat March 20th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t heard of you before, Mr. Gillmor, but you’re on my radar screen now. Welcome.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to bmaz @ 34

My pleasure, Bmaz, great to have you here.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to SanderO @ 32

I learned today, and ew refs it in 28, that it is the rural areas that will be most hurt by the demise of NPR. You in a major met area, which can support local bloggers, with high speed internet. A huge part of the geography of U.S. does not have those advantages.

PeasantParty March 20th, 2011 at 2:43 pm


Thank you for being here to share with us. I grew up with Cronkite on the tube every evening. Of course, I was encouraged to read the papers by both my parents and my teachers at school. We even correlated what the papers said and what Walter said back then. What, if anything, do you think we can do about the media news that is nothing but propaganda hits from an ideological view upon the masses? Is ther some way to enforce the no-propaganda laws?

Jane Hamsher March 20th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 36

I’m falling behind on these great questions!

Not to worry, you can pick & choose. There won’t be a test.


Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to masaccio @ 22

I try to offer a lot of tips in the book. There are lots of tools we can use to be more informed readers/users of media. Here’s a link to the chapter that describes a bunch of them.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to bmaz @ 23

I’m most familiar with the Arizona Republic and some of the TV stations in Phoenix. They’ve tended to reflect a center-right world view, from my perspective, though they’ve done some more-than-solid work on a number of topics. The organization that appears to work hardest to hold power accountable in AZ seems to be the alt-weekly in Phoenix, the New Times.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 39

Understood… and so I believe it needs to be re-founded not unfunded.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

What about low power FM licenses… Could this be like the internet in some way? Getting local!

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 36

That last one is huge, IMO. I’ve been a news junkie most of my adult life, and over time have found myself trusting bloggers like the FDL crew more and more, and trusting corporate media less and less. I know the bloggers have a better product: more insightful, better argued, and peer-reviewed. So it frustrates me that so many of my otherwise reasonably well-informed friends still cling to the notion of, for example, the NYT as the serious, objective, disinterested, trustworthy news source, while looking at bloggers as a bunch of DFHs. I’ve been trying in a variety of ways to correct this misapprehension, but branding and rebranding is a slow process. Still, you do what you can, and other things being equal, over time the better product should have a better chance of success.

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 25

Now that I’m looking at your excellent book, I can see that in relation to sockpuppets and the kinds of issues I raise, you put a primary emphasis on the issue of disclosure. Is there anything you can think of, since writing the book, that you can add to how we can make full disclosure for journalists, bloggers, and media organs more substantial, and a part of general cultural norms? I do agree that full disclosure is important.

One problem I came across lately in an article I wrote, was the lack of full disclosure by sources, and only by accident did I find that they had withheld disclosure, so diligence by all of us investigating or writing blog posts, might also be noted as important. As it is something we can do ourselves. A kind of new version of caveat emptor, but for the producer of alternative information as well.

gigi3 March 20th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Would you please address Jeff Kaye’s ? @ 25. This is something I am very interested in, especially with Cass Sunstein calling for cognitive infiltration of certain websites (primarily those critical of the government.)


Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 28

It’s a huge problem, and in the short term it’s going to get worse.

One of the most valuable roles local newspapers played — at least in the communities they actually covered, which was never comprehensive in the first place given the multitude of political jurisdictions in most areas — was the watchdog role. I don’t mean that as the investigative-reporting function, which also matters. I mean it in the true sense of the watchdog, where success means the dog never has to bark or bite because the bad guys stay away. Lots of bad acts have not happened in communities because the bad actors suspected that someone at a local newspaper might be paying attention or might find out about it. The decline of local newspapers has to mean more boldness on the bad guys’ part.

The other thing local media orgs could do, which bloggers still can’t do for the most part, was to generate a critical mass of knowledge about matters they considered important. They could put things on the public agenda. We need mechanisms to regain that critical mass, and at the moment we don’t have them in key ways. I’ve been looking hard at this problem and confess I’m not remotely sure how to solve it.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

What about low power licenses? How are those coming along?

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to gigi3 @ 48

Damn, you’re going to look like my sockpuppet ;-)

But seriously, thanks for adding in the Cass Sunstein business.

As for getting answered, I’m sure Dan is doing the best he can, especially as his answers seem crafted and sincere, real attempts to address reader concerns and questions.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 37

I’m pleased to be on your radar now, and you have no reason whatever to be embarrassed!

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to SanderO @ 45

Sorry. I typed mine before reading yours. Whatcher beverage?

spocko March 20th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

In an excerpt from you book in Salon you wrote this under the heading “Open your Mind and challenge your assumptions”

This means seeking out the people who will make your blood boil. Rush Limbaugh frequently infuriates me — not because of what he believes, but because he takes such enormous liberties with the truth and uses language that seems designed to inflame, not enlighten. Even so, I regularly read and listen to what Limbaugh and his allies say, because sometimes they make good points, and I can learn something useful.

The part of this quote that saddens me the most is your listening to Rush Limbaugh.
By not taking his “enormous liberties with the truth” seriously you are giving him serious power and credibility. Each time you hear Rush lie do you write him and demand a correction? Why not? Why does Rush get a pass on the truth from journalists? Is it because you feel it is not your job? Is it anyone’s job?
He says he is an entertainer, does this mean that any lie is fine as long as it is either entertaining or serves his ideological purpose? People say they are entertainers so they won’t be held up to any standard but entertainment. Yet that is not the only way he is perceived by millions. Why don’t journalists hold Rush to the bare minimum standards of truth that human’s are expected to provide in common social settings?

The media never expose the continuing lies of these people. Because of it the way to “win the day” is to call yourself a entertainer while you lie or call yourself “fair and balanced” and lie.

Rush is “useful”‘to mainstream media so they use him. This allows him to set the agenda for the MSM. I think suggesting people listen to him for his “good points” is a huge problem. They should work to discredit him and demand he run corrections every day and stop repeating lies even after he “corrects” them.

Why? Because for millions Fox, Rush, Beck and Hannity ARE journalists they trust yet real journalists let them sit in the front row at the White House press briefing, and lie daily to their millions. Please stop listening to Rush and telling people he provides so good points. He is a cancer on the Nation’s brain which infects our brains via the ear.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 47

Sock puppets, by def, hide disclosure.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 40

The last thing we need is laws that regulate speech, IMO. As the saying goes, the best answer to bad speech is better speech.

bmaz March 20th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Dan, from your work, you seem to occupy a unique piece of ground with only a few others, Jay Rosen for instance, where you stand at the cross-section of digital media, print media and a major university chock full of young people.

Say a blog, or group of bloggers, wanted to try to really leverage the youth vote – especially from the college and recently post college age groups of 18-30 or so – to effect profound change in executive branch policies, how would you suggest going about it?

Catherine March 20th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 36

Thank you, Dan. I will check out your book, as well, but your overview is a useful starting point.

In this discussion, media competition for consumer attention and consumer skepticism stand out to me as key ingredients for creating more meaningful dialogue with both like- and non-like-minded people.

(By the way, thanks, Barry, for pointing your fans to this discussion and Dan’s book.)

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to SanderO @ 45

I’m not an expert on low-power radio, but I’m optimistic that it can be a big help. The more diverse we can make media creation and access, the better.

gigi3 March 20th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 51


I’m one of those people who pay attention to what is not there. My major complaint about MSM is lies of omission.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Catherine @ 58

My pleasure, Catherine — always glad to see some of my efforts to draw more attention to real journalists and real journalism paying off!

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 55

But maybe that’s a way to discredit sockpuppetry sources, in that someone who doesn’t or rarely make disclosure is not to be trusted. Dan has his own disclosures on his About Me page, http://dangillmor.com/about/

For instance, he notes, that he is a “Shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (owner of the Buffalo News and major shareholder in the Washington Post Co.), and Amazon.com”. That distant link to the Washington Post can be used by readers in assessing his comments, for instance, in relation to that institution. I happen to believe he is not affected by it. But such disclosures make what he says more trustworthy, and empowers the readers of his work, which is exactly a big part of what he appears to be writing about.

How often have I read something by someone, only to do my own research and discover they are covering tracks to some important influential connection. When you put it right out there, it doesn’t guarantee the lack of such influence, but it keeps the writer/journalist and the reader honest.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to spocko @ 54

Even so, I regularly read and listen to what Limbaugh and his allies say, because sometimes they make good points, and I can learn something useful.

More succinctly, is that the most productive use of your time, which has an opportunity cost?

In economics, my field, I don’t need to listen to any more neolibruls to understand what they are all about. Their talking points are all the same, and repetition is the technique they use to bang in their created reality. If I spend any time on economics, it is in trying to correct their false info, not in listening to them, which is a fool’s errand.

In addition, if you address them on their own terms, you are allowing them to shape the agenda on their terms, which are always false. The terms of the agenda must be reoriented to actual, rather than created reality.

Which is why I rarely address trolls on FDL, unless I’m feeling particularly perverted. They never add any light, always dragging richy rich red herrings across the path to distract.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 31

WikiLeaks is one of the most important developments in recent times. I didn’t include it in the current edition of the book, but it’ll be an important element in Version 2, later this year. Other folks including Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and Personal Democracy Forum’s Micah Sifry, have written brilliantly about the meaning and value of WikiLeaks and the emerging culture of transparency (and the enemies of both).

WikiLeaks’ impact on journalism has been fascinating to watch. Its semi-partners — NY Times, Guardian, etc. — are conflicted beyond belief about the organizations’ role as source and colleague, but most establishment-oriented journalists have come to recognize that WikiLeaks is a) a media organization; b) doing work that is journalistic in nature, even if not precisely the kind of work they would call journalism as they practice it; and c) vital to protect from government fury, as they’re ultimately protecting themselves.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 47

I wish there was an easy way to make it happen. You can advocate and persuade journalists to be more transparent. If they refuse, you can look elsewhere for information — and try to persuade others not to trust the opaque organizations.

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 62

So now you’re expecting peeps holding 4 jobs/HH just to meet their budgets to be alert to the dog that didn’t bark? Get real.

My big problem with this whole discussion is not that FDL readers can’t cope, but what is the real ordinary American, who is barely hanging on, to do.

PeasantParty March 20th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 66

That is why I am so against the propaganda. When at the very end of the day two people try to watch the news to find out what is happening in the world, they are already fried from giving all to the Borge, they can’t view the news as what is missing in this story. They accept that they are being given the REAL news.

Margaret March 20th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I’m just stopping by to say thanks for what you do Dan. For profit news soon becomes for profit narrative and without people like you and sites like FDL, their stranglehold on information would be complete. I guess even Orwell never thought of the internet though so that’s lucky for us. I know brilliant, well educated people who look askance at bloggers and citizen journalists because they have been conditioned to. Sometimes I can make some inroads with them and sometimes their minds are closed. Thank you for writing this book. It gives us a new tool with which to attempt to pry open closed minds.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to spocko @ 54

I don’t think I’m giving Limbaugh any extra credibility by saying I occasionally listen to him. I start from the point of view, when I do listen, that he’s probably either making it up or distorting reality. But there are two things I gain from listening:

1. I know what his community — and it’s huge — are saying and believing. I need to know, as someone who follows media persuasion/manipulation and politics in general.

2. He’s capable of making a good point. The Left has its own blind spots and flights of illogic, not to mention outright inventions, and people on the Right point out such things. I’m not making an equivalency argument here, by the way. From my perspective, the lies and distortions from the Right vastly outweigh the ones from the Left.

Again, I think it’s vital for everyone to pay attention to people whose words are guaranteed to make our blood boil.

Anthony Noel March 20th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for being here, Dan. I regret being so late to the discussion but nonetheheless would appreciate your take on the recent demise of the Minnesota News Council, and if you see value in a national body doing similar work.

spocko March 20th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 63

Mega dittos eCHANomics! (that smilie thingy that shows *i* am being intentionally ironic) -edited

Excellent point about agenda shaping.

mzchief March 20th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 63

Concur (I don’t wish to troll bait myself).

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 66

So now you’re expecting peeps holding 4 jobs/HH just to meet their budgets to be alert to the dog that didn’t bark? Get real.

I agree that the average American has no time for these kinds of things, but I think can be educated, over time, to pass over media that doesn’t meet some kind of standard for disclosure. But with the educational level of this country falling lower and lower, that may be a pipe dream. Therefore it is incumbent on any of us who are trying to provide an alternative to in fact be “alert to the dog that didn’t bark.” I know I don’t trust about anything or anyone anymore, until I look more into it myself. Even those with a good track record have at times slipped up, usually inadvertently.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 25

The entire sock-puppetry game is despicable, and it’s probably worst when government does it. Yet I’m totally unsurprised to learn each time when it happens. The flood of anonymous money from wealthy and powerful interests into political advertising is poisoning our system, meanwhile.

Citizens United and the like have convinced me that voters should assume that all assertions in political ads are lies, period. What else can we do about it? WE can encourage (and support) efforts to expose it, and vote for more honest politicians, if we can find any.

Catherine March 20th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 26

On that note (above discussion regarding the general public’s news consumption), I’m curious about the “tools” you mentioned in #26. Do you have an example of what’s in the works?

“We need much better tools, which are in the works, to combine human and machine intelligence, so that individuals and communities (of geography and interest) will be able to help each other sort out the good from bad, trustworthy from untrustworthy, deep from shallow, etc.”

I’m imagining an application that would cross-check news stories for references, funding sources, disclosures, etc. — is that what you mean? (Is this all in the book? ;-)

eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 64

WikiLeaks’ impact on journalism has been fascinating to watch. Its semi-partners — NY Times, Guardian, etc. — are conflicted beyond belief

Like duh. Who coulda anticipated.

Corp media admit to allowing PTB to “edit” their publication. Why would you ever believe a word they print?

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to bmaz @ 57

I’d frame that differently. My interest isn’t so much leveraging anyone to do what I want, but rather finding allies to accomplish what we mutually want. (I suspect that’s what you meant, but I wanted to be clear.) And I’d also be encouraging young voters to understand what the stakes of federal, state and local policies are for them — people are always more motivated when their own interests are affected.

If I were trying to get young people to change any federal policy, it would be to recognize and deal with the way my generation has borrowed unsustainably from their future income and environment.

spocko March 20th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 69

Do you know that your response is almost exactly what Brian Williams says about Rush? I’d be ashamed if the same could be said about me.

I get your point one, it’s sort of your job, but that is the line lots of people use to cover for listening.
“I want to hear both sides”
So you listen, but you don’t DO anything about it. Saying “I’ll smoke this cigarette because it gives mean a boost,” is fine but you are ignoring it’s giving you cancer. The companies/hosts design their product to make your “blood boil” because men (not women) on the left use listening to right wing hosts like Rush as caffeine. (recent study of FMRI brain scans proved this)

Your short cut to knowing what Rush’s audience is thinking gives greater power to rush than to the actual audience who are often NOT as extreme. You focus, as many journalists do, on the extremes because that is where the drama lies.
And the right is all about cooking up drama for the Media to consume.

Jeff Kaye March 20th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 74

I agree, the system is poisoned. I think it affects the big news outlets the worst, but I think more attention will be paid to smaller outlets as time goes by. That’s why a blog like FDL, and its associated individuals, have only our reputations to protect us, and we must do our best to deserve such reputations. I’m proud to say that I think that is the culture here.

But really, I find the poisoning of such discourse quite frightening, and I do my best to not fall into Orwellian despair.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to Margaret @ 68

I’m not worried about anyone getting a stranglehold on information at this point, except the telecom cartel that wants to prevent anything resembling Network Neutrality from becoming policy. We’re moving in the wrong direction on that, and everyone should be worried.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to themalcontent @ 70

The News Councils were more valuable (if rare) when the gatekeepers were so few. Blogs and other competitive media are performing some of this function now.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
In response to Catherine @ 75

The tools I’m talking about will combine a bunch of things, such as popularity (recommendations) and quality (reputation). They are not remotely well developed yet, but I’m hopeful.

PeasantParty March 20th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 79

With that I have to add that FDL and its writers always scoop the MSM. It has become more than funny, but sad that they cannot see it. I see the scoop zoon daily and FDL has excellent writers that give real information that is backed up with facts and sources.

bmaz March 20th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 77

Yes, but there is a difference between getting them to understand that (which from what I can discern they really already understand much better than other demographics) and actually finding a way to bring them to bear to do something about it through electoral leverage. That is what I am interested in, and how new media can more effectively do just that.

SanderO March 20th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

FDL get’s it! And it is the go to place on the web for fact based intelligent journalism and analysis.

gigi3 March 20th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 74

There are many honest people who have sought public office. The problem is they don’t get much, if any, media coverage, except when they begin to gain real grassroots support. Then the media goes on the attack; and no, I’m not speaking of the Sharron Angle types. Those who do get coverage are the people the corporate owners of the media want in office. That’s how we end up with “the lesser of two evils.”

Anthony Noel March 20th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 81

Agree, but to what broader effect, vis a vis making examples of poor journalism practitioners? A national “court” of journalistic judgment, with broad powers to “try” and make examples of such hacks, would seem to me a strong measure in making hacks think twice, no? I mean, the SPJ’s Code of Ethics is a pretty piece of paper, but is meaningless without career-threatening accountability attached to it, IMO.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Dan, we have less than 15 minutes remaining, so selfishly I wanted to sneak in one more question. As I mention in my intro, Mediactive isn’t just about encouraging more active consumption of the news; it’s also a manifesto for citizen-journalists. I love this concept and wonder if you could share what you consider to be a premier example or two of recent citizen journalism? If you have time.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to bmaz @ 84

Agree. It also seems to me that people should find local issues to address collaboratively, not just national ones — and they’re more likely to make headway at the local level in any case. The new-media tools are enormously useful for organizing, as you point out.

Knox March 20th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Success certainly has its disadvantages.

HuffPost got bought out.

DailyKos appears to be flooded with operatives (probably paid) whose sole job. imo, is to drown out real concerns over what this president, who calls himself a Democrat, is doing. Same was true of Congress, just before Democrats lost it.

I want FDL to succeed. But I don’t want trolls to drown out my voice here or to see it change as a result of success.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to themalcontent @ 87

I can’t agree that we need a national tribunal of this kind. There’s no way that it would be viewed as fully neutral in any case, so the influence would be limited even if it could be created.

Accountability rests with the individual news orgs in any case — and in the end the only enforcement is their sense that bad journalism is bad business. I wish I had a better answer.

kspopulist March 20th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

this is such a big topic! thanx fer coming and sharing!!
So many great posts and questions!

The need for info filter, winnowing out chaff from quality is a hard thing for a group to do, nearly impossible a single person. getting a ‘Total Transparency’ news source/ engine to merely document all the bits – who writes or sources or posts it – is necessary but not all agree and some would even be hostile to that kind of transparency. From the Coca Cola recipe or Goldman-Sachs shenanigans to Xe contract privacy disclosures …
or health care totals in some people’s claims even.
But with the idea that ‘the better will win out over the quick in the long run’, even the gentle NPR-model that says ‘we’ll give them the truth in a way we think they best can hear it’, is currently under attack. So much sophistry that seems to complicate those used to simple clarity of ‘this or that’.
It’s not easy to talk down a mob unless you first give them want they want. And that can be a pretty morally hazardous situation.

BevW March 20th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Dan, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the new media.

Barry, Thank you very much for Hosting today’s great Book Salon.

Everyone if you would like more information:

Dan’s website and book

Barry’s website and books

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

bmaz March 20th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thank you Dan and Barry for a most excellent discussion today.

Anthony Noel March 20th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 91

That’s the elephant in the room with media accountability, Dan – no good answers! Thanks for your take.

Barry Eisler March 20th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thanks everyone for your questions and Dan, for all your thoughtful responses. And Bev, for making it all happen as always! For anyone who hasn’t read Mediactive yet, don’t miss it — it’s a terrific book, going broader and deeper on all the topics we touched on today.

Anthony Noel March 20th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to bmaz @ 94


eCAHNomics March 20th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to Dan Gillmor @ 91

In economics, it is either competition or regulation that can create a ‘market’ that might be fair to consumers, rather than producers, who have the information advantage. And if it is regulation, be aware that the regulated capture the regulators, particularly obvious in the recent financial meltdown.

So when you consider the possibilities, try to craft them in terms of competition rather than regulation.

spocko March 20th, 2011 at 4:01 pm
In response to kspopulist @ 92

Be sure to check out Source watch from the Center for Media and Democracy.
They revealed the Koches behind the tea party before anyone else.
I’m a supporting member and they are a great help for journalists who want to know who is behind front groups.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to Barry Eisler @ 88

What I’m trying to do in that section of the book is to persuade people that they’re not fully literate in a modern world unless that participate in media, not just consume it (no matter how actively they consume). We all have something to contribute to some conversations, and we need to recognize that doing it in trustworthy ways is better for us and our various communities.

The citizen media we’re seeing from the Middle East, North Africa and Japan should be putting to rest any notion that this phenomenon is minor. It’s become an essential part of the overall media ecosystem that still very much includes Big Media (which still often does a useful job). But we would not remotely understand these events as well were it not for what average people, who are in the right (or wrong) place at the moment of truth, are telling the rest of us.

The number of interesting experiments in citizen-based media is just mind-boggling. An obvious one is the developing Twitter ecosystem, which is an early-warning and tips system of real power. People are telling each other about what they’re seeing and pointing to things they want others to see. It’s chaotic and messy and uncertain and valuable. It’s also, in its own way, a choke point; I’d be happier if we had an alternative micro-blog service that didn’t “own” everything we put into it.

As I said before, we are incredibly early in this evolution. Unless governments and corporations block us (and they’re trying) I’m absolutely convinced we’ll emerge from the increasingly messy and uncertain near future with a broad-based, diverse media ecosystem that will be more useful for more people than the one we’re leaving behind.

Margaret March 20th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Thank you Dan and Barry.

Dan Gillmor March 20th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I want to thank Barry Eisler for moderating this conversation, and the FDL team for hosting it.

And I especially want to thank all of you for your great questions and comments. You’ve made me think harder about what I do, and where I need to put more of my time.

It’s been a privilege — cheers to all.

PeasantParty March 20th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Dan thank you so much for your insight and sharing. I take it we will have to call the media out and then boycott certain papers, channels, programs in order to get the attention. Like any other corporate entity, we have to show them their product is inferior!

kspopulist March 20th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
In response to spocko @ 99

yeah spocko! they do great work! What a problem though is that while you and I say they are great, the red-faced right won’t even look at it. Sniff test it as liberal whine or shakedown politics and move on.

In order to become a trusted source, all sides need to come to respect it. And in our partisan enviro, wikipedia has a competitor, conservapedia. Much maligned and I call irresponsible in their denial of reality but … as they say, the truth *is* out there ;)

in any event, great discussion here all!

[un]Common Sense March 20th, 2011 at 7:14 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 9

That’s been my impression as well. When responding to media watchdogs like FAIR, the Times ombudsmen (ombudspersons?) were downright hostile, often attempting to characterize media watchdogs as conspiracy theorists. Even when admitting mistakes, it’s often done backhandedly.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post