Dan Gillmor, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, has written a book called We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. The title is fairly self-explanatory. Bloggers are among the grassroots journalists covered. And (here the title of this post becomes relevant) Patterico is among the bloggers mentioned.
Gillmor has announced that he has made the entire book available on the Web in .pdf format. You can download a chapter at a time, at this page. Your obedient servant is mentioned in Chapter 6, at pages 119-120. (And the endnotes have my web address at notes 166-167.)
Here is Gillmor’s account of my dealings with the Los Angeles Times over their treatment of Justice Scalia. You can see that Gillmor disagrees with one of the points I made about the Times‘s coverage:
A right-leaning blogger who calls himself “Patterico” has made it one of his missions to critique The Los Angeles Times for what he sees as an assortment of left-leaning sins. In early 2004 he took the Times, which he calls the “Dog Trainer,” to task for its coverage of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s conflicts of interest, including the judge’s hunting vacation with Vice President Dick Cheney, an old friend, when the court was hearing a pivotal case involving Cheney’s Energy Task Force. Patterico observed that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also had a conflict of note, a connection to the National Organization for Women (NOW). His correspondence with the Times got results. On March 11, 2004, he wrote, proudly: “On the one hand, I have to hand it to The Los Angeles Times. They have run a front-page story about Justice Ginsburg’s speech to the NOW Legal Defense Fund. On the other hand, why did I have to be the one to tell them about it?”
For me, this follow-on complaint doesn’t hold up. Journalists find out much of what we print and broadcast from people who tell us things — people like Patterico, who helped make the news.
I understand Gillmor’s point, in the abstract. Newspapers rely on sources to help them come up with stories to put in a newspaper. My complaint — that The Times had not developed the Ginsburg story on its own — failed to fully take that fact into account.
At the same time, I think my point was largely a fair one — when read in the context of the paper’s coverage of Justice Scalia all year long. As I have documented in several posts (all accessible here), the problem is not simply that The Times has reported on controversies regarding Justice Scalia, but rather that The Times taken several cheap shots at Justice Scalia, including printing numerous factually incorrect assertions about the Justice — many of which the paper refused to correct even after being told they were wrong. When you look at the big picture, it gives you a slightly different perspective on why the paper printed several (increasingly petty) stories about Justice Scalia, while missing the identical Ginsburg story until a “right-leaning blogger” stuck the story in their face.
At the same time, Gillmor has a fair point, and I respect his point of view.
In any event, this is a fairly minor quibble. Taking a step back from my own tiny role in grassroots journalism, and looking at the big picture as explained in Gillmor’s book, it seems to me that Gillmor really Gets It. Take, for example, this quote of his, from page 111 (also in Chapter 6):
In an emerging era of multidirectional, digital communications, the audience can be an integral part of the process — and it’s becoming clear that they must be.
It boils down to something simple: readers (or viewers or listeners) collectively know more than media professionals do. This is true by definition: they are many, and we are often just one. We need to recognize and, in the best sense of the word, use their knowledge. If we don’t, our former audience will bolt when they realize they don’t have to settle for half-baked coverage; they can come into the kitchen themselves.
Amen! I couldn’t have put it better. This is a refreshing statement to read anywhere. It’s even more impressive coming from someone in mainstream journalism.
I am putting in my order for Gillmor’s book today. I suggest you get it too.
UPDATE: Thanks to Gillmor for the link.