Mediactive by Dan Gillmor (Shane's book 39, 2010)

Dan Gillmor is a journalist, journalism teacher, technology investor and one of the key people to read if you're interested in how new tools are changing journalism and the media. In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that Dan sent me a copy. It's also available for nothing from his website.

[amtap book:isbn=0557789427]

Mediactive is a guidebook for navigating today's fragmented media world, both as a consumer and as a producer. Within a couple of decades we've gone from a world in which being a media producer required enormous effort and investment to one in which it required only a little technical knowhow and an internet connection to today's world, in which hundreds of millions of people have become media producers - on a tiny scale - without even thinking about it.

If you've ever posted a link to Facebook or left a comment on a blogpost then you've contributed the modern media environment. It's not likely that you think of this as 'media production' and there are plenty of grumpy old school journalists who would agree with you. However, if your link or comment makes claims about our world then you are adding to the noise that surrounds us all. How do we make sense of it?

The brilliance of Gillmor's book is that his response is measured and practical. We cannot uninvent the internet, as some of the curmudgeons would have us do, nor can we go back to a world in which all of our media consumption is controlled by gatekeepers. Nevertheless, we can't ignore the problems of this new media landscape - the circulation of erroneous or deliberately misleading material, for example. It's no good pretending that this new world is a utopia.

The answer is for us to become active media users and Gillmor offers tips on how to do that, from assessing the trustworthiness of a source to how to be trusted yourself. There is practical advice on media creation, the importance of owning your own profile and even a guide to entrepreneurship, which Gillmor argues is the future of journalism.

Mediactive the book is just the beginning. Gillmor plans for the whole project to continue and to expand on the website, putting into practice what he preaches in the book. The resource guides already to be found there are exceptional, though understandably US-focused.

When Dan sent the book over to me he told me that I would already know most of it - after all, this subject has been a key part of my work as a journalist for several years now. He was right but the book was still a delight to read because the ideas are all so clearly expressed. I found myself nodding along almost incessantly. I must have looked like a nodding dog to my fellow commuters.

Everyone who uses or contributes to the media should read this book. It's a welcome injection of sanity.