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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 25, 2003

Special to Press Think: Interview with Jeff Jarvis

Jeff Jarvis started Entertainment Weekly. Now he's a born again journalist who got religion about the Web. So how has his press thinking evolved?

Jeff Jarvis has been a TV critic, a columnist, an editor at a big newspaper (NY Daily News) and at national magazines. Now he holds court at his weblog, Buzzmachine. Here’s our exchange, part one:

PressThink: In your career as a writer and editor and journalist, pre-Web, did you ever think about empowering the audience? Indeed, did you think deeply, searchingly about the audience at all? And in your Net life, when did it occur to you that the people “out there” are gaining power relative to the journalist?

Jarvis: I’ve always liked the mass audience but I didn’t come to fully respect them until I became a TV critic and found that I was defending their taste and intelligence as I defended the shows they — no, we — liked to watch. Even so, I still didn’t much want to talk to the audience (their letters often came in Crayon script) until I went online. That is what made me a rabid populist. The Internet is the first medium to give its audience a voice. And when I started to listen, I was amazed. In forums, users have compelling opinions; they share news and information; they are eager to help each other. In weblogs, they put their names behind what they write and their links bring the cream to the top.

So now the audience has a printing press — history’s easiest publishing tool connected to history’s best distribution network — and the power that goes with it. They are using this to influence and judge media (reporters now read and quote them), government (there’s a reason Howard Dean is blogging), and each other. I believe that audience content is the most important, the most revolutionary development in media since broadcast. The foolish journalist will dismiss it; the wise one will embrace it.

PressThink: Now the audience has a printing press is a good way to put it. But my guess is that you thought you were in touch with the audience before the Net started changing things around, that you had a feel, kinda knew what people wanted, etc. This tells us that in journalism what counts as knowledge of the people “out there” reflects available technology for reaching those people — and for being reached by them.

But equally critical is the available vocabulary for picturing those people, the words we use for them. I note that even you, Jeff, the populist, used the term “mass audience” in talking about earlier eras in your editorial life. It’s an accurate way of putting the attitudes that reigned then. But today online, the image of “masses” out there has gone into anti-existence; it’s melting away. Why? Because now the audience has a printing press.

Jarvis: Busted. You’re right: “mass audience” is essentially a “we-they” way to see this when it should be all “we” But then, “audience” and “populist” carry their own baggage of disconnection. So what do we call this new relationship? That’s for the next Q&A exchange, First, let me ask you: What is the impact of audience content on journalism education? If the audience can report, write commentary, and exhibit their news judgment (via their links), does that diminish the priesthood of the journalist? Or is there a greater need to set standards and to learn fundamental skills (and which skills are they)?

PressThink: Well, it makes me wonder about J-schools: who needs them? Who else, I mean. I know the proprietor of a business called DV Dojo on the Bowery in New York. He’s Michael Rosenblum, who preaches the citizen revolution in TV and also makes it happen. Digital cameras and cheap, desktop editing systems have come within reach. Rosenblum attracts paying customers to workshops on how to shoot, edit, and prepare video documentaries, and he varies the course depth: four weeks, one week, just a weekend. He may be creating a new public for journalism education, the extension of our teaching to other audiences. Once people start acquiring knowledge of how to shoot, catalogue, and edit a piece of video, some are going to stumble into doing basic journalism, and we in the J-schools of America are supposed to know how to teach basic journalism.

I don’t know what this all means yet, (we may stumble) but Rosenblum teaches courses for us, so we’ll be able to find out. Is the press priesthood diminished when audience empowerment gets in gear? I would say no, not diminished or demolished, but the terms of its authority are changing, as I argued in CJR this month. By the way, were you ever part of the priesthood of journalism? And what do you think is happening to it?

Jarvis: The danger is thinking you are in a priesthood. As more and more people learn how to do this — or simply how it’s done — the only thing that will separate the media priests from the commoners will be their collars — that is, the press passes around their necks that give them access everyone can’t have. But I’ll bet we’ll see more bloggers on campaign busses and at the conventions. But more important, we’ll see bloggers covering town meetings newspapers can’t afford to cover. And that will be good. More information is good. Isn’t that what we believe? Will they be better bloggers — and their audiences better served — if we can teach them some of the skills and tricks of our trade? I think so. But that’s a bigger topic; that’s worth lunch. Last question today: How do you think the priests of high media should relate to weblogs? Should they just read them or do them and why?

PressThink: I never tell the priests of high media what they should do. They get grouchy if you try that. In fact, one of them just said so this week, Jack Shafer in Slate: “The journalistic priesthood abhors advice.” What a grouch. But I can tell you what my hopes are. I would hope they would keep a careful eye on this experiment in journalism that keeps happening online, and learn something from it. Elite journalism is very much needed in this country. After all, it’s a country with an elite. It’s not clear (yet) how the New York Times should deal with the weblog form, and I would not expect a rapid plunge. But this week, the Los Angeles Times had cause to report that it currently has no weblogs, in an article about the Sacramento Bee, which does. I found that intriguing… for the priesthood.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 25, 2003 8:29 PM   Print


With journalists of your calibre all is well in the modern democratic world...


PS::Every line we succeed in publishing today — no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it — is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.
— Walter Benjamin, 11 January 1940

Posted by: Jozef at September 29, 2003 6:05 AM | Permalink

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