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The Author's Privilege

I’ve just read the galleys of a book that will be published in a few weeks. It discusses the rise of edge-in, democratized media in distinctly unflattering ways. That, of course, is the author’s privilege.

But is it his right to misrepresent reality to “prove” his point?

The part of the book about which I know most — citizen journalism — contains some startling claims and analysis. It mischaracterizes my own work and beliefs. It gets some key facts dead wrong. It trivializes the genre, in part through the misuse of selective quotes.

I’ve exchanged several emails with the author. He didn’t address my specific issues except in one case, and his response there was no less misguided, from my point of view, than the material from the book. When I called him on this, he explained that the book is a “polemic” designed to spark debate, as if that gives him license to misrepresent things.

This is disappointing, to say the least. I’d been looking forward to this book, because I do believe we (all of us) need to have a deeper conversation about the effects of democratized media and peer-to-peer production.

But I was looking forward to a book that has more integrity than the one I’ve seen. Perhaps it will, in the final version.

If not, such a lost opportunity…

7 Comments on “The Author's Privilege”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Dan, if you can’t do it now, I hope you can give us the details later on… (it’s just impossible to comment without knowing what did he do, exactly…) D.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 9:22 am

    For the sake of fairness, I’m waiting for the book’s final release before providing, um, chapter and verse.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Dan, as someone who has been around for this whole debate, AND the previous one pre-WWW (yes, there was an Internet pre-WWW), let me offer some sad wisdom:


    If someone tries to have a deep conversation, a few things will happen:

    1) they’ll be ignored
    2) the demagogues will smear them.

    Thus, the *only* people who will be participating in the pontification, are those who can:

    1) get heard
    2) fight off the demagogues

    And that selects for polemics, not thoughtfulness.

    This might tell you something about where we are going … 🙁

  4. #4 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Seth, we disagree on this. I’m alway up for a genuine conversation. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the issues, but I try to do it in an honest way. And I think there are lots of folks who are happy to join it.

  5. #5 Glenn Chapman
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    I believe I encountered the author at a media summit last week and have leafed through the soon-to-be-released book. Of, at least I’m figuring there is a good chance this is the same work to which you make reference. I’m writing a story on citizen journalism for Agence France-Presse wire service and would welcome a chance to get your perspective. How can I arrange that?

  6. #6 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 20th, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    Yes Dan, you’re a nice guy. But that doesn’t refute what I said. I think you misread what I meant by “they’ll be ignored”. I didn’t mean “Nobody will deign to reply”. I meant “Their book/article/post will not be widely read”.
    And other people are not so nice. So it’s really necessarily to have some sort of political base, for sheer self-protection. Hence the negative incentives.

  7. #7 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 21st, 2007 at 6:19 am

    Glenn, you can reach me via my contact page here.

    Seth, my own sense is that a well-done post can make its way around much more widely and does so much more often than you believe, no matter who wrote it. Yes, we disagree on this — and it’s a topic that needs serious research.