This is the introduction section of a commentary by Dan Gillmor on news reporting by the media and how it is changing over time.
We the Media
(1) We freeze some moments in time. Every culture has its frozen moments, events so important and personal that they transcend the normal flow of news.
(2) Americans of a certain age, for example, know precisely where they were and what they were doing when they learned that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Another generation has absolute clarity of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. And no one who was older than a baby on September 11, 2001, will ever forget hearing about, or seeing, airplanes exploding into skyscrapers.
(3) In 1945, people gathered around radios for the immediate news, and stayed with the radio to hear more about their fallen leader and about the man who took his place. Newspapers printed extra editions and filled their columns with detail for days and weeks afterward. Magazines stepped back from the breaking news and offered perspective.
(4) Something similar happened in 1963, but with a newer medium. The immediate news of Kennedy’s death came for most via television; I’m old enough to remember that heartbreaking moment when Walter Cronkite put on his hornrimmed glasses to glance at a message from Dallas and then, blinking back tears, told his viewers that their leader was gone. As in the earlier time, newspapers and magazines pulled out all the stops to add detail and context.
(5) September 11, 2001, followed a similarly grim pattern. We watched—again and again—the awful events. Consumers of news learned the what about the attacks, thanks to the television networks that showed the horror so graphically. Then we learned some of the how and why as print publications and thoughtful broadcasters worked to bring depth to events that defied mere words. Journalists did some of their finest work and made me proud to be one of them.
(6) But something else, something profound, was happening this time around: news was being produced by regular people who had something to say and show, and not solely by the “official” news organizations that had traditionally decided how the first draft of history would look. This time, the first draft of history was being written, in part, by the former audience. It was possible—it was inevitable—because of new publishing tools available on the Internet.
(7) Another kind of reporting emerged during those appalling hours and days. Via emails, mailing lists, chat groups, personal web journals—all nonstandard news sources—we received valuable context that the major American media couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide.
(8) We were witnessing—and in many cases were part of—the future of news.
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