Seoul Man

Dan Gillmor, the former San Jose Mercury news columnist turned citizen journalist, defined particpatory news-gathering and outlined its guiding principle at the World Editors Forum conference that was held recently in Seoul.

I will excerpt portions of Gillmor’s speech below. But first let me note that South Korea is home to what may be the world’s most successful experiment in participatory media — Ohmynews. This is citizen-driven news operation that, some observers say, influenced the outcome of South Korea’s last presidential election. The World Editors Forum, a Eurocentric organization, published a special weblog from the conference, which will give you some of the who’s-who and what-was-said of the event.

Gillmor’s speech touches on themes he explored in his book, “We the Media” — part-reportage on the changes in media production and consumption, and part-manifesto in celebration of those changes.

Media, says Gillmor, are undergoing “an evolution from the lecture model, to which we in mass media have become accustomed in the past century, to something closer to a conversation … the former audience can now become part of the journalism process, whether by communicating with professional journalists or, increasingly, producing their own content … If we accept the idea that we are moving toward a more conversational system, then we must remember that the first rule in having a conversation is to listen.”

Gillmor notes that not all bloggers are journalists; some merely wish to create shared, personal diaries. But for those bloggers who wish to produce news, he urges four basic rules: be thorough (in reporting); be accurate (in making factual assertions); be fair (in presenting the complexity of events); and be transparent (in disclosing any bias or perspective that may influence your presentation).

“Money is not the major push behind citizen journalism,” says Gillmor. “It is the entirely human desire to tell each other our stories, to help each other navigate through this complex and often insane world.” But, he adds: “This doesn’t mean that citizen reporting should always be an exercise in volunteering. We must develop sound business models to support new media forms. They are coming.”

I look forward to seeing more as Gillmor puts some of his ideas into practice at Bayosphere, an evolving tech-based participatory journalism experiment in his home (and mine!) the San Francisco Bay area.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media,