My life has been in media — music, newspapers, online, books, investing and education.
My primary gig involves the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s an experimental lab, which I co-founded in 2017, that collaborates with others to improve the information ecosystem. I also co-teach a course in digital media literacy for ASU Online. Please visit the News Co/Lab website for much more information about what we’re doing to help repair our poisoned discourse.
My ASU work stems from my 2009 book Mediactive. My goal with that project, and current goal, is to help turn passive media consumers into active users — as participants at every step of the process starting with what we read. In a fundamental way, the book is about digital media/news literacy. It’s been translated into a number of languages (including a just-released edition in Ukraine, which suffers from a grotesque misinformation problem). Funders of the Co/Lab include the Facebook Journalism Project; Rita Allen Foundation; Democracy Fund, and News Integrity Initiative.
I’m working on a new book and web project, tentatively entitled Permission Taken, about the increasing control that companies and governments are exerting over the way we use technology and communicate, and how we can take back some of that control. (My worries in this arena are one reason I’ve donated money to the presidential campaign of Elizabeth Warren; while I don’t agree with all of her policies (though I do on most), I strongly believe she is the best of the candidates running to end the catastrophe of the Trump presidency.)
I also write articles and commentary, including occasional paid online pieces for Slate Magazine’s Future Tense, Wired Magazine’s Backchannel, and Medium. I write for myself (and whoever’s interested) here (and post a lot on Twitter, too).
My first book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People (2004 and 2006; O’Reilly Media), is still on the market and still selling. The book has been translated into many foreign languages, most recently Korean and Arabic.
I’m also involved in several outside projects; have a number of media investments; and am on several media-related boards and advisory boards. These include:
- Investor, Wikia, a privately held consumer wiki company co-founded by my friend Jimmy Wales.
- Shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (owner of the Buffalo News and major shareholder in the Washington Post Co.), and Amazon.com.
- Board member, First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes free speech and open government.
- Board member, the Banyan Project, which is developing a co-op model for community news.
- Board member, the Signals Network, a nonprofit working to protect whistleblowers and connect them to journalism organizations.
- Co-founder, Dopplr, a travel site and “social atlas”. Nokia bought Dopplr in 2009.
- I’ve served on other nonprofit boards over the years.
I frequently speak at events, public and corporate, and have been paid on a number of occasions. In the past several years I’ve received compensation from organizations including (among many others): the National Federation of Advanced Information Services, Schibsted (Norway), ABC (Spain), TVN (Chile), Clarin (Argentina), Consumer Electronics Association (US), International Prepress Association, TIDE (Germany), Newspaper Association of America, Knight Center for Digital Media, National Association of Science Writers, New York Press Association, BlogBoat (Belgium), IGN (a unit of News Corp.) the University of Colorado, Washington & Lee University, Northeastern University, the University of Hong Kong, Louisiana State University, Columbia University and others. I’ve also gone to several countries including Russia, Colombia, Egypt and Croatia on behalf of the U.S. State Department, giving talks and workshops for journalists and new-media people and promoting the ideas behind citizen media.
I count the business failure of Bayosphere, a new-media startup that aimed to fuel local journalism in 2005, as one of my best learning experiences.
From 1994-2005 I was a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley’s daily newspaper, and wrote a blog for SiliconValley.com. The blog was one of the first by a journalist for a traditional media company. I joined the Mercury News after six years with the Detroit Free Press. Before that, I was with the Kansas City Times and several newspapers in Vermont. Over the years I’ve freelanced for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Economist, Financial Times and many other publications.
During the 1986-87 academic year I was a Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I studied history, political theory and economics.
The Wikipedia page about me is way out of date, so please do not rely on it.
Before becoming a journalist I played music for seven years.