Principles at the Core of Using Media

A few months ago I published a paper as part of the Media Re:public project at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. These principles are at the heart of this project. Unlike the tactics and techniques and technologies involved in media use, which change all the time, the principles are a bedrock.


For Media “Consumers”

Even those of us who are creating a variety of media are still–and always will be–more consumers than creators. For all of us in this category, the principles come mostly from common sense. They include skepticism, judgment, reporting, expanding one’s own vision and understanding how it all works. More specifically:

1. Be skeptical of absolutely everything.

2. Don’t be equally skeptical of everything.

3. Go outside your personal comfort zone.

4. Ask more questions.

5. Understand and learn media techniques.


For Media Creators

All of the principles for consumers are part of the toolkit of every responsible journalist or information provider. So are the following. The first four — thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and independence — are standard for journalists of all kinds, and are widely accepted inside of traditional news organizations. The fifth — transparency — is somewhat new and considerably more controversial, and even more critical in a distributed media age.

1. Do your homework, and then do some more.

2. Get it right, every time.

3. Be fair to everyone.

4. Think independently, especially of your own biases.

5. Practice and demand transparency.