Book Review: Dan Gillmor – We The Media

On: October 4, 2006
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About Twan Eikelenboom
One of the first Masters of Media to crawl upon this blog (2006/2007)! Still following (and at times contributing) to this great project. Working at Dutch sectorinstitute for e-culture Virtueel Platform. Special interest in stories resulting from new media product use (think: sat nav gone wrong) and independent gaming. Also blogging at


wethemediaWe The Media (2004) is the book that launched Dan Gillmor’s career as an authority on journalism and blogging. In his first book Gillmor, once a former professional musician, lets us take a peek at the past, present and future of the two.

Starting off Gillmor sets the tone by reminding us of the roots of blogging. He traces it back to the days of Usenet, forums and Compuserve. But he doesn’t leave it at the companies and the media, he also traces back the audience who are now actually using the blogs. Radio talkshows, where listeners could phone in to let themselves be heard and participate in show, also stand at the roots of blogging.

What follows is the read/write web. A web that resembles the vision of HTML godfather Tim Berners-Lee. The audience doesn’t just read the static websites, but can now also write their own material: Blogs, Wiki’s, SMS, p2p, RSS and Internet broadcasting are some of the new possibilities of the audience to actually write the web. We should embrace and not fight this new reality The opportunities are big, and Gillmor also sees options for Public Relations departments and says they should not see blogging as a threat but as an opportunity.

With this new situation, Gillmor elaborates what the various groups can do and maybe should not do, and he pinpoints some political examples such as the Dean campaign which he sees as a learning ground for the future. But the biggest example of the power of blogs concentrates on September 11th.

A term that is used in We The Media is ‘Big Media’. The dinosaurs of journalism who are having trouble adjusting to the new ways in which information flows. And according to Gillmor it won’t “die off quietly. It will, with government’s help, try to control new media rather than see its business models eroded by it.” Besides that Gillmor also has critique on the cable and phone companies. The chapter The Empire Strikes Back is especially critical of the ways of distribution of cables and wires. It questions who gets the biggest share, and that we should not let this go by unnoticed.

Near the end of the book Gillmor is straightforward about the goal of his book:

“My goal in this book has been to persuade you that the collision of journalism and technology is having major consequences for three constituencies: journalists, newsmakers, and the audience. The evidence seems persuasive that something big is happening.”

He is the most critical about the newsmakers: “Newsmakers are not much further along in understanding what’s happening to them in this new world of communications.” But one point of critique might be that the Big Media and the newsmakers are the ones who have to adept the most to the newly risen situation.

Does this bias ruin the importance of the book? Not really. To make a solid point, a call for action, the best way is to radically state it to let the people hear you. And that is what Gillmor is doing, and that is what we should consider. Make our own news, take things in our own hands. No more top-down structures, but news from the grassroots.

Did I mention that you can also read this book entirely online at this webadress:
Why should you buy the book actually, if Gillmor published it online via a Creative Commons license and you can read it for free? Dan Gillmor is willing to take the chance. Besides that he also wonders in the last chapter of the book what people would do with this book. That part is now history, which leads us to my recommendation on what you should do with this book: Read it, and after that think for yoruself where the discussion is at now. It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right. We can be, or at least be a part of, the media. I’m convinced now.

For an audio presentation by Dan Gillmor from 2004 about We The Media at Accelerating Change 2004, check out this link:

(also posted on


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