Dan Gillmor

Greeks Bearing Blogs, and Brickbats

Traditional journalists, and traditional journalism educators, remain pretty suspicious of blogging in lots of places. But if what I heard in two days of conferencing in Athens and Thessaloniki (the latter is Greece’s second-largest city) is an indication of the overall situation, there’s a larger-than-usual gulf between older and newer media in the land where inquiry and reason helped shape Western culture.

The problems people see with blogging and other conversational/social media were high on other speakers’ topic lists. In particular, worries about anonymous (or pseudonymous) online attacks came up again and again.

It’s a real issue. But it’s part of the larger issue of how we help consumers of news and information be better at separating what’s reliable and what isn’t. Here’s a slide I showed in my talk:

The point is that while anonymity is a vital tool to preserve, we should strongly encourage people to stand behind their own words. And, crucially, we should have a default position when we see anonymous speech: Don’t trust it.

In fact, when it comes to anonymous or pseudonymous personal attacks, the default position should be to actively disbelieve what we’ve read or heard. We should not give the cowards who post such things any slack at all. There are exceptions, but rare ones.

Like students everywhere, the ones I met at Aristotle University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication were bright and eager to figure out their future. They are heading into a journalism market dominated by what sounds to me like something of a cartel at the pro-journalism level. But Greece isn’t immune from economic realities, and it’s a reasonable bet that what’s happening to Greek media companies will look, in the end, like what’s happening in the U.S.

So, as I told them, I hope they’ll consider inventing their own jobs.

Craig Wherlock, a Brit teaching English in Greece, blogged about the day in Thessaloniki here. He points to other coverage, mostly in Greek:

Ανέκδοτο περί συνεδρίου συμμετοχικής δημοσιογραφίας
Όταν τα παραδοσιακά μέσα κάνουν έφοδο στα νέα…
Συνέδριο; Δημοσιογραφία;
Συμμετοχική Δημοσιογραφία: Blog και Νέα Μέσα
Δημοσιογραφία και πολίτες ΙI ή ένα συνέδριο γι’ αυτά
Livestreaming από τη διημερίδα
What is journalism?
Λα-λα Λόλα να ένα blog
New Media Conference συμπεράσματα
Social Media Tales: ένα συνέδριο κι η σφαγή των αμάχων
Οι δικές μου εντυπώσεις από τη “διημερίδα”

Off topic: I was lucky enough to visit the royal tombs in Vergina, not far from Thessaloniki. The director of the museum there gave several of us a private tour (including a look — no photos allowed — at Philip II’s bones) of a site that makes the word “history” come truly into focus.

I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit.