Dan Gillmor on Civic Engagement in a Networked Society

When Dan Gillmor took the stage at Knight Foundation’s Media Learning Seminar, his message was one of digital literacy. “Distribution is no longer the problem (for news). The problem is now access. Our students will invent the future of news delivery.”

Gillmor, founding director of the Knight Center or Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, questions where the best reporting exists. In some cases it comes ftom “the media.” In others, activist groups lead. In still others, the man or woman on the street hppens to capture the news as its occurring. The news can no longer be either journalists or bloggers, but rather must incorporate both.

Guiding principles for a Networked Society:

  1. Using media, not Consuming Media: Readers must be able to determine the credibility of the information presented online.
  2. Participation: Content creation is a key component of literacy. Creators become contributors to the conversation.
  3. Focus on Velocity of News: We should treat slow news like slow food. Twitter, for example, is great news in the category of “Interesting if true.”

How can we support communities in a networked society?

  1. Inventory: Take stock of outlets for news in the area and provide resources for connection.
  2. Lead Conversations about the Community: current community conversations happen on editorial pages in the newspaper, but we need to moderate and promote these conversations.
  3. Find Natural Allies: Libraries, schools, and co-ops offer local networks primed for journalism.
  4. Encourage the Watchdog: The most important role of the watchdog is not to bite or bark, but to be present – to remind us that someone is watching.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail: “I own my successes,” says Gillmor, “but I’ve learned more from my failures.” Smart failures can teach us all.
  6. Persist: Our responsibility is to keep digital information accessible and free for citizens.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar in Miami Florida brought together leaders of community foundations, media professionals, technology entrepreneurs, researchers, educators, and foundation staff in the foundation’s quest for informed and engaged communities. I attended as a representative of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, a grantee of Knight Foundation. Read my articles on the conference here.

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