|If you’re a creator of media, and most of us are these days in one way or another, what should I call you?
Why do I ask? I’m finishing up a new book, called “Mediactive,” to be published this fall. My primary goals are to persuade people to become much more active users, not passive consumers, of media. Part of this is what we’ve traditionally called “media literacy” — among other things, applying critical thinking to what we consume. And because we are all becoming creators in the Digital Age, it also means we need to apply some basic principles so people will trust what we say (assuming we want to be trusted).
One of my dilemmas has been what to call these new trusted media creators. In the era of scarcity, when there were relatively few outlets, many of them were called “journalists.”
This isn’t only my problem, and it’s more than just semantics. Asking the question in the right way has real-world impacts. So-called shield laws, for example, aim to protect whistle-blowers and the journalists whom they tell about government or corporate wrongdoing. Some states specify who counts as a journalist, which leaves out a huge range of people who effectively practice journalism nowadays; it also encourages a pernicious, back-door licensing of journalists. The right approach, if we need shield laws at all, is to protect acts of journalism.
As digital media become ubiquitous and more and more of us communicate and collaborate online, every person is capable of doing something that has journalistic value. Quite reasonably, relatively few of these folks imagine themselves as journalists, and they’d laugh if you called them one.
Suppose you spot a couple of items online that you want me and other people interested in, say, folk music to see. You forward the links, along with short excerpts and a brief comment explaining why these items are worthwhile, to a mail list. If I tell you, “That was an act of journalism: You curated, aggregated, wrote commentary and created meta-data,” your response, appropriately, will be, “Huh? I was just forwarding some links.”
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