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PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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August 29, 2003

Test post: Screw You Sloganeering

Fox's Fair and Balanced is now the icon for newsiness

Used to be that when people wanted a newsy slogan they would adapt or parody the most famous newsy slogan ever, “All the News that’s Fit to Print,” from the New York Times. Thus, “All the News that Gives Me Fits,” from blogger Amygdala, a typical example. But this is no longer typical. Now the newsy slogan of choice is Fox’s ever-insidious, “Fair and Balanced”— a newsmaker in its own right after Fox decided to sue comedian Al Franken over rights to the words “fair” and “balanced” when combined by the popular term “and.”

The writer Neil Pollack’s clever call for “Fair and Balanced Friday” produced a huge list of blogs whose authors adapted, adopted or just appropriated the three magic words, in order to make a point about how stupid Fox was being— a bit of online cultural theatre that I found entertaining and intellectually sound.

For examples, see “Fair and Balanced” by Randy Rathbun, or the similar gambit from blogger Cobb; “Fair and Balanced Musings from the Middle Floor of the Ivory Tower” from Jeff Cooper; “The Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad Delong: Fair and Balanced Almost Every Day;” “A Fair and Balanced Weblog” from Mark Kleiman which is the same title used by Matthew Yglesisas; “Balanced Fare: We Report, Your Deride” (kinda clever) from The MinuteMan; “Fair and Balanced Coverage to Fight the Poison” from Anitodal; plus “ArchPundit, Fair and Balanced!” and this from Brett Oswego: “Sometimes I’m even ‘Fair and Balanced.’ The phrase is somewhat in disrepute nowadays, so don’t just take my word for it.”

My current favorite happens to be “The (fair and balanced) talking dog” site: “Sure, the dog can talk, but does he say anything interesting?”

Back in the days when people used to parody “All the News,” they were being ironic about a statement that was originally meant to be sincere— and became iconic. Those picking up on “Fair and Balanced” are being ironic about a slogan that was already ironic the day it was introduced, and is now iconic. The Fox News slogan has always been ironic because it is meant to say: “Ha! We’re the conservative network and yet more fair, more balanced than ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN, where they claim to have no ideology at all. So we’ll claim to have no ideology at all, too. That will drive them nuts.”

And it did. Until Fox went nuts itself and tried to sue, showing its First Amendment cluelessness and losing.

With the deliberately loaded “fair and balanced” to hack away at, the ironizers of irony are doing their job, and they can be quite funny in the telling. But this is a different job from, “All the news that’s fit to print, huh? Yeah right…” For Fox has somehow built the ‘yeah, right” into itself thorugh its style of screw you sloganeering. The New York Times never did that. Yes, the Franken episode was a loser for Fox, but the interesting thing to me is that, with all the winking and joking built into it, “Fair and Balanced” seems able to sustain such losses and keep on winking. It’s not a witless slogan, it never was. And it’s trying to out think you.


Posted by Jay Rosen at August 29, 2003 10:47 AM   Print


The recent use of the phrase "fair and balanced" on political weblogs isn't just an ironic play on Fox News's use of the phrase to characterize its anything-but broadcasts. It's also a response to Fox's trademark infringement suit against Al Franken, in which it claimed (frivolously, in my opinion and in the opinion of the district judge who heard the case) that the title of Franken's book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," infringed its trademark in the phrase, "fair and balanced." I changed the subtitle of my blog principally as a way of asserting my belief, later echoed by the district judge, that Fox's suit was "wholly without merit" (a phrase that Joe Conason suggests as a new tagline for Fox News).

Posted by: Jeff Cooper at September 1, 2003 1:45 PM | Permalink

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