Grassroots Journalism

The second half of Dan Gillmor’s We the Media covers the impact of blogs on our society; in particular, the news media.

Blogs have long been criticized for their inaccuracy. Google News does not scan blogs with its news search engine because Google defines news as being edited/fact checked and most blogs do neither. But blogs can bring many subjects into the limelight. Gillmor uses the example of a man in Iraq running a blog about the injustices he witnessed everyday. This man’s blog became very popular and told a story the rest of the world would have otherwise been unable to hear. This site inspired many news stories and gave the world insight into the daily lives of Iraqi citizens. Gillmor thinks this type of grassroots journalism will take off in the near future and steal away many patrons of traditional news.

Gillmor adds credence to his theory by explaining new communication tools. The advent of RSS technology has made collecting information even easier. Instead of checking a website everyday for new content, a person is sent a message telling them when something new has been added. All the person has to do to receive that message is sign up for the RSS feed. This is especially helpful for sites that are infrequently updated. People tend to stop visiting a site if there is no new content because there is nothing new to see. This systems lets them know when new material has been added. RSS feeds can be used for news, sports, blog, and just about anything imaginable on the web.

This tool helps people stay abreast of their favorite topics. RSS feeds can be instructed to look for keywords on the internet and collect this information in one location. If your interests were Ohio State Football, an RSS feed could be setup to capture all the new articles on OSU football found on Google News. This is a great way to find tidbits of information that would have otherwise been glossed over.

One of the things I found most interesting was the blogger that asked his readers to send him to Iraq to cover the news. I think this is amazing and I fully support this method of information gathering. It is like sending a trusted friend to get the scoop that might not be covered in a method you find agreeable. Sending the person you want to have covering the story ensures that the information reported back is what you were looking for.

Gillmor’s section on piracy and the sharing of trade secrets on the internet is completely accurate. The internet community is an irreverent bunch (myself included). They thumb their noses at what authority figures tell them not to do, knowing full well there is little that can be done to stop them. According to one source, 40% of internet traffic is the transfer of copyrighted material. It is almost impossible for legal action to occur because many countries perpetrating these crimes do not fall under the jurisdiction of the courts that uphold these laws.

Instead of fighting what I call the Internet’s version of Vietnam, copyright holders should come up with methods to embrace this new technology, because we know it is here to stay.

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