Mediactive a useful digital media teaching tool

Mediactive, the latest book by Dan Gillmor, is a valuable guidebook for journalism advisers and students who are navigating the complexities of the new media landscape. The book and its companion web site encourage traditionally passive media consumers to participate in the creation of journalism – in other words, to be Mediactive. These days all it takes is a mobile phone to enable someone to commit what Gillmor refers to as “occasional acts of journalism.” The book guides those media consumers through the process of committing such acts in a way that is honest, honorable and useful.

Mediactive offers guidelines for filtering out unreliable noise on the Internet to create more savvy media consumers. But Gillmor contends that such enlightenment is hard to achieve without also contributing to the collective dialogue of a community: “In a participatory culture, none of us is fully literate until we are creating, not just consuming.” Gillmor’s tips for media creation will look familiar to experienced advisers and students, but they serve as a reminder of the importance of journalistic integrity. And those who are new to online media creation will find helpful pointers on how to build on an online brand.

The true value of Mediactive is that it’s a living document. The book is available for purchase in print and electronic editions, and as a free PDF download under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. The companion website provides additional commentary, current examples and links to more resources. Used together, the book and the site make a dynamic and timely teaching tool.

Gillmor has worn many hats in the media business, including journalist and media entrepreneur. He is currently director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, a program I was fortunate to be a part of as a graduate student. Mediactive allows media enthusiasts everywhere to benefit from Gillmor’s vast industry knowledge and experience, even if they can’t take his class. Gillmor has an optimistic view of the future of media and the impact entrepreneurs will have on this future. His excitement can be infectious; I highlighted many key passages as I read, not only to share with my students but also to use in my own media creation.

Not every student who participates in high school journalism will go on to have a career in the media, but chances are they will all have some sort of online presence, whether it be through social networking profiles, or personal or professional blogs. It is more important than ever for journalism advisers to keep up with the changes in the industry and properly prepare students to engage in the media process – because whether they do it professionally or simply as a hobby, these students will go on to produce media. Mediactive addresses the key issues to help make sense of it all and ensure it’s done right.

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