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PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

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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September 16, 2003

Special to PressThink: Interview with Todd Gitlin

The critic Todd Gitlin discusses John Ashcroft's contempt for the press and the weak solidarity among journalists.

The Attorney General is touring the country, giving speeches about the urgency of renewing the Patriot Act, much in the style of a political campaign. At these stops he has said things like: “Their murderous vision of an America in flames has united this nation,” speaking of course about terrorists, the enemy, the perpetrators of 9/11. At several stops he agrees to be questioned by television reporters only.

In Buffalo and Philadelphia, Secret Service agents have stopped “print” reporters from reaching John Ashcroft. At a stop in North Carolina, aides prevented direct questioning by Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times. “Eric, we’re going to talk to local reporters first,” an aide says. This is from Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post:

Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock says her boss, with few exceptions, is only granting short interviews to local TV stations as a way of “explaining key facts directly to the American people and not having as much of a filter from people who are already invested in having a different view of it.” Comstock indicated unhappiness with some print reporters who have raised civil liberties concerns about the expanded police powers provided by the 2001 law: “In some cases we can look at a local newspaper and some people have reported on it over and over and it hasn’t been very accurate. Some news writers on this tend to be a little more editorial than news.”

Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, and the author of many works of media cricitism and political analysis. I interviewed him about what’s going on with Ashcroft and the press. He had this to say:

PressThink: In this move to divide the press, what form of politics is the Attorney General practicing?

Todd Gitlin: Ashcroft is practicing sheer demagoguery. He knows that, with niftily chosen sound bites, he can dominate local television, which harbors few practitioners of anything that can be called journalism. Since most local TV journalists are little more than stenographers, he can safely stay “on message,” rally his partisans, and keep annoying critics at bay. This is the politics of no-politics, the politics of l’etat-c’est-moi.

PressThink: But what does John Ashcroft know about the American press that perhaps the press does not know about itself?

Todd Gitlin: He knows that TV reporters can be relied upon not to show solidarity with their repelled print colleagues. Just as reporters at Bush’s last press conference refused to bridle when he acknowledged—take that, minions!—that he was calling on them from a script, he knows that the press corps is no corps at all, but a band of competitors more committed to seeking advantage over rivals than protecting the public’s right to know.

PressThink: The Attorney General travels with “press” people and if it’s anyone’s job to herd reporters around, it’s theirs. So it’s extra creepy when Secret Service guys begin protecting Ashcroft from the likes of the New York Times and City Paper. We cannot say it’s illegal, (I don’t think) but we can say it’s a sign. How do you read that sign?

Todd Gitlin: Let’s face it: This administration has utter contempt for the press and the public. They lie inveterately. (Consider the EPA lies, the Iraq lies, the Niger lies, the Houston school lies, the “death tax” lies, the tax refund lies.) They deny and censor. (Global warming.) Their idea of truth is faith-based. They live in a bunker. It would be astounding if Ashcroft opened himself to serious questioning. Which administration official does that?

PressThink: You say that TV reporters are showing zero solidarity with their colleagues stranded behind the ropes. I agree. But I can hear them saying, “what are we supposed to do…walk away, go on strike, leave Ashcroft unquestioned?” What are the honorable options for a journalist of conscience who happens to be in the favored group of reporters allowed to question the Attorney General? How would you imagine “press solidarity” working in a case like this?

Todd Gitlin: At the minimum, television reporters should include in their reports the fact that Ashcroft won’t take questions from print reporters. That’s news.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 16, 2003 9:08 AM   Print


No one that reads is surprised by this.

Television news reporting has now become an oxy moron.

Just look at the Happy Talk Personality News Format followed CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, & NBC.

Posted by: Joe Galliani at September 16, 2003 1:46 PM | Permalink

This is what happens when ideology trumps discourse. Fundmentalists will not consider alternative opinions. Ashcroft is no better than those from whom he claims to be protecting us.

Posted by: Joe Boone at September 17, 2003 3:56 PM | Permalink

So, why aren't the press screaming for John Ashcroft's head on page one? It's not like they're powerless to fight back.

Ashcroft's taxpayer-paid thugs are stiff-arming the press during a time of national crisis and no one is making an issue of it, except journalists talking to one another.

The press is complicit in this, just as they have been complicit in the suppression of civil liberties since 9/11. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Posted by: Barry Parr at September 18, 2003 3:00 AM | Permalink

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