Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor is a newspaper columnist and blogger and he's recently written 'We the Media' (reviewed below). Here we ask him a few questions about the emerging new world of journalism.

In the olden days people would have chosen a paper or news reader they trusted (and maybe confirmed their prejudices) until something happened to annoy them. While this is still true to at least some extent, do you think reader behaviour has actually made a big shift recently, or is it really a continuum with the web added as a wild card?

It depends, I think, on the age of the reader. Surveys show that younger people aren't reading newspapers much anymore. This has always been true to some extent, and they'd start reading papers as they got older. Now it's not clear that they will -- because they're going online.

So I think we're in a transition period. I still think print will survive, but I don't absolutely count on it.

One of the problems with so much commentary is knowing where to start. Do you have a method here ... something that cuts down on the initial size of what's there?

I rely on the advice of people I trust to start. Then I go out from there. The linking machine is an amazing resource.

But we need far better tools. I'd like to see recommendation systems that let me follow conversations among sites I trust, combined with sites they trust, and then see how it shapes up.

While Google indicates some degrees of implied trust in its rankings, do you think there's a future in trust metrics which are handled by the client application?

Yes, though Web services strike me as a more logical approach for this. Client apps will be useful, however, for helping users organize what they've found.

The planet is really crying out for a useful Supreme Court of some sort to deal with problems which don't know borders, including the sorts of publishing disputes you mention in your book. Would you argue that's a nonsense?

Not necessarily nonsense, but I don't wish to trust my future to some unaccountable group of people who may or may not believe in free speech. We can apply today's laws in many ways to tomorrow's media. Nonetheless, I'd like to see treaties that make clear some of the rules but which don't, in the process, diminish freedom.

Dan Gillmor, We the Media: grassroots journalism by the people for the people, O'Reilly

Dan Gillmor writes a column that frequently picks on the big guys. Some would call it a populist viewpoint and others would say it's just a commonsense reaction to feral capitalism and the erosion of civil liberties.

You wouldn't expect him to be getting on any journalistic high horses about amateur web journalists and he doesn't. He embrases the new media and the commentators and explains the whole thing very throroughly to those who don't know much about the subject.

While net-savy people will get something out of this, I suspect that would-be journalists and PR people will get more and I'd be surprised if it doesn't get on a few academic reading lists especially as far as looking at tools of the trade is concerned.

The worrying thing is reflected in an old statistic: the trend towards the correct answer rises as the population of the people asked rises. That doesn't mean that any kind of majority will get it right at any stage. The people who get whatever question it is right have presumably been educated and trained appropriately.

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