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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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October 3, 2003

Special to PressThink: Interview with Cole Campbell

"Journalists act as if the world exists in one form only, which they discover each day and duly record for others to discover," says Cole Campbell, the former editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, who often rejects standard press think.

I have sometimes called the American press “a herd of independent minds.” Cole Campbell has never been part of the herd, although he did run newsrooms as the top editor at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After 09/11, for example, he argued that journalists should “help citizens and communities, including political leaders, identify and respond to the most significant threats to well-being.” Campbell is is the co-editor with Roy Peter Clark of The Values and Craft of American Journalism (University Press of Florida, 2002). Here is our exchange:

PressThink: You have been an editor and writer in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri. You have seen how journalists operate in these towns. You have also reflected on how journalists in each place think about their community. So is press think different in different places? Does it have a local identity?

Cole Campbell: The Greensboro News & Record loves a well-written tale and has had many exceptional storytellers on its roster. The News & Observer in Raleigh finds its thrills in political intelligence and accountability, while The Chapel Hill News exults in the intelligence of its college-town readership, community contributors and staff. The Virginian-Pilot has a long tradition of overseas military coverage and in-depth explanatory journalism. And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which brought us Teapot Dome and a third helping of the Pentagon Papers, looks high and low for official malfeasance.

But these papers are not, in the main, idiosyncratic. They are highly professional, and highly professionalized. So key professional norms— autonomy, dramatizing stories through conflict, paying more attention to political front-runners in a crowded field of candidates, or presuming that newsmakers are authority figures rather than citizens—were evident in these newsrooms when I came to work in each. The Norfolk staff made a concerted effort to examine professional norms and developed a wider frame of reference than most newsrooms have.

Professional norms work well as day-in, day-out default positions. They are efficient means of organizing and executing deadline tasks. But when another idea might be called for, in such instances as covering a 133-candidate field in the California recall campaign, falling back on these norms can lead to press think en masse. The trick, I think, is to embrace professional norms as useful, but recognize that they are fallible and contingent and need to be reviewed and recast. That, by the way, is a great function for journalism schools to perform.

PressThink: You said that journalists in all the cities where you worked saw newsmakers as authority figures rather than citizens. What is the chain of reasoning that lies behind this pattern?

Cole Campbell: A team from the University of Missouri journalism school, led by Esther Thorson, conducted an audit of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the late ’90s. One interesting finding was that the person least likely to be pictured in the paper was a woman over 50 (I think I am remembering the age correctly). Editors at the paper saw nothing unusual about that, saying that women over 50 are least likely to be newsmakers — elected or appointed officials, powerful business executives or high-profile sports or entertainment figures.

By definition, then, news is not normally about people making their way through life, or working together to improve their communities, or acting as caregivers to others, or similar such activities in which citizens and neighbors take part. News is restricted to people with “power over” others rather than people who have “power with” others to get things done. I think this stems from the Enlightenment preoccupation with seeing power as dominance rather than seeing power also as capacity. And it’s a useful way to reduce who journalists must pay attention to — people with official or celebrity standing.

PressThink: Can you tell me about someone in Raleigh or Norfolk or St. Louis who needed to be treated like a citizen, but instead was presumed an authority?

Cole Campbell: Former Senator John Danforth is a key political, professional and civic figure in St. Louis. He has headed up a regional visioning process called St. Louis 2004. That is a civic initiative calling upon the St. Louis business and professional community to contribute to the civic sphere, but its primary engagement with ordinary citizens has been to seek buy-in for its plans. If we could have gotten Danforth to see himself as a citizen and his initiative as an opportunity for other citizens to work together and think through St. Louis’ immediate future, that would have been a major reframing that would have given citizens more control over their own destiny— which I think is the purpose of journalism. Many in the newsroom, however, viewed the 2004 initiative as just another special interest of the powers that be. They argued that if the paper paid too much attention to this initiative, we would be colluding with the power structure.

PressThink: You said, “if we could have gotten Danforth to see himself as a citizen…” Who is the “we” that is active here?

Cole Campbell: “We” refers to we the journalists engaging him. The best interviewers, I think, get their subjects to think about things in new ways, starting from new perspectives, so that the interviewees discover things about themselves or their situations or their tasks that they have not yet contemplated. If we had gotten Danforth to see himself as a citizen and talk about his work from that perspective, he might have discovered some truly interesting approaches. Or he might have offered some possibilities and dismissed them, for whatever reason. He would not lose control of his choices. We would only prompt him to offer more than reflexive responses.

PressThink: In your tour as newspaper editor, from North Carolina to Virginia to Missouri and around the profession, what is the one piece of press think you found hardest to counter, dislodge, or challenge?

Cole Campbell: Most of my answer comes out of my tour of the profession outside of my own newsroom — in conference rooms, seminar rooms and conventions. The most stubborn bit of press think is a myopic belief in realism as opposed to imagination. Journalists act as if the world exists in one form only, which they discover each day and duly record for others to discover.

In fact, the world that unfolds every day is shaped by people both acknowledging what is— realism—and imagining what might be. We journalists tend to discount people’s efforts to envision what the world can become — until that vision is realized as an accomplished fact.

So we miss the opportunity to bear witness to the world becoming—or to help people guide more effectively what the world is becoming, rather than simply bemoan, begrudge or otherwise react to what the world has become. In the same way, we tend to see our professional practices — and mindsets – as the only practices and mindsets, rather than reflecting on (imagining) how they might be improved.

PressThink: You have been out of daily journalism for several years now, working at the Poynter Institute, studying for a PhD, reading books you once skimmed. Quite a change from the pressures of a newsroom. Distance is supposed to be an advantage, so…when you look at daily journalism today, what do you notice about it that was not so apparent when you were meeting deadlines?

Cole Campbell: My major epiphany may derive from being freed of deadlines, but I think it comes more from being freed of institutional identification with a particular source of news and information. I was aware of this as a working journalist, but I nonetheless discounted it in my daily routines.

My biggest realization has been how much people construct their own daily news reports, plucking from a variety of official news sources such as newspapers or broadcast programs as well as from a variety of Web sites (news-oriented and not-news-oriented) and especially from conversations, phone calls and e-mails.

At the Post-Dispatch and the Virginian-Pilot, I acted on the assumption that the newspaper was the average person’s sumptuous banquet of news and information. I knew people might pick up a taste of something else here and there from other sources, much the way a grocery shopper might stop at a gourmet shop for a specialty item not usually stocked at Kroger’s or Publix. And both newsrooms collaborated with broadcasters and published onlnie news. But we thought of our newspaper as clearly the main meal.

In my own news consumption now, I begin my day with news from the Web, which I check along with my e-mail before I’ve picked up the Chicago Tribune from my doorstep. Often the Tribune’s lead headline frames a topic I’ve read about 16 to 20 hours earlier on the Web in a way that suggests I surely must know nothing about it since I haven’t gotten the Tribune until just now. During the invasion of Iraq, I skated across cable news channels, which are clustered on adjoining channels by my cable provider, never developing a favorite one because I was interested less in what their reporters or commentators had to say than in their photojournalism and whether Donald Rumsfeld was doing his daily dance with the press.

I get a handful of e-mail publications on health and economics. I listen to WBEZ (public radio) when I’m in my car. I return to the Web when I want to find a particular fact such as a sports score or an update on a player or coach. I get personal e-mails with hotlinks to interesting articles from people who are helping me edit the world of news and information, just like my mother used to send me clipping from my hometown paper (the Winston-Salem Journal). I talk to colleagues and cousins for the inside skinny on a variety of topics. I scan magazine racks for in-depth treatments on topics that capture my fancy and buy specialty journals or literary-style magazines when I want to focus on a subject.

Some of this is a daily ritual, but it is not a sophisticated effort at constructing Web filters and creating a Daily Me. It’s much more like moving through the world and grazing at what this abundant infosphere offers, supplemented by very specific searches at very specific moments on very specific topics. I think newsrooms need to be thinking much more creatively about their place in an overall information ecology, rather than acting as though they are the information ecology.

I think newspapers might do well to reinvent themselves as print portals to a wide variety of news sources. The paper can position itself as a place to begin—or as a place to come back to—in seeing how all this news and information can be pieced together to create a coherent picture of the world. Right now, newspapers are an cacophonous assemblage of reports; they are not a coherent synthesis.

PressThink: Final question, Cole: recalling all the journalists you worked with as an editor, which book would you have them read to be better journalists, if you could have them all read and absorb the lessons of one book?

Cole Campbell: My first impulse was to name John Hersey’s Hiroshima, because it is a lovely fusion of craft and purpose. He uses a handful of Hiroshima survivors to weave multiple narratives on the aftermath of the atomic bombing. Beyond being a great read, the book is a classic of journalism as bearing witness, and it has an undeniably moral purpose — to help us know what happened and, by knowing, take some responsibility for it. My fear in recommending it is that it might be dismissed as the exception (I never get to write book-length journalism! I never cover historical events of this magnitude!) or admired only for its craft and not appreciated for its purpose.

So the book I’ll recommend instead is Daniel Yankelovich’s Coming to Public Judgment. It is not an example of journalism or about journalism (although Yankelovich writes about journalism in passing, and not fondly). It is about what David Mathews of the Kettering Foundation calls “public politics” — about how people work through what we journalists think of as issues in the news and how they come to public judgment about them (constrasted with the much more visible “public opinion”). If journalists read this book and work through its implications for their work, I think they could find ways to reinvigorate and transform journalism to make it of inestimable value to people struggling to understand, and shape, the world.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 3, 2003 9:19 AM   Print

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