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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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October 4, 2003

On Location Notes at Big Conference on the Weblog Surge

Notes, scenes, and a few puzzles from Day One of Blogger.con, conference of webloggers, journalists, thinkers. Harvard University Law School, Oct. 4-5.

Curry’s Call Back
… So we heard Adam Curry on the basic “dishonesty of television,” which lies in “how television is made,” in the hyped up energy of “every cut, every scene, ever zoom” on MTV and the like. “We’re catching on to that.” (Would have loved to know which “we” that was, catching on.)… Outside on the steps Adam tells a small group about having to fly back to New York, from Europe, to re-tape an entire weekend of shows so that after every mention of Michael Jackson, VJ’s can say the words, “King of Pop,” (this being the price in hype the network was willing to pay to get Jackson to appear on an awards show.)

Death of the Gatekeeper
… Saturday afternoon, Jeff Jarvis actually forecast the death of the gatekeeper, by which I think he meant the gatekeeper model of a professionalized press. Why? Because the Internet, brought to people by cheap and plentiful weblogs, is “the first medium owned by the audience.” Jarvis is an effective radical. What radicalized him? September 11th, he was in New York City and felt it buckle. After, he had a radical need to communicate that could not be met by existing media. Then comes weblog. I think the gatekeeper died in him, and this is what gives his weblog buzz.

Human Nature Doesn’t Blog
… A realist’s note was sounded by Esther Dyson: Don’t get carried away with what the technology can do, or is doing for a few. When social “transformation,” technology-derived, runs up against human nature, nature holds. It isn’t easy to transform people, even if you do remake their information flow. True. And a linguistics professor I know says: People are bad enough without being improved all the time.

Now Appearing: People
… But David Weinberger turned human nature around in responding to Dyson. The weblog as a way of communicating “feels to me like human nature,” he said. The activity of writing (keeping) a weblog lays bare an instinct to connect—a need to speak one’s mind in a public way—that perhaps was always there, part of our nature. Now it is being developed because the software, distribution, and social forms exist… For Hannah Arendt readers, this is the desire to appear in public—to speak and act in the public realm—that modern life stripped away. But the weblog world is a space where many more can appear, in the sense that, say, Walter Shapiro appears in USA Today.

Monoculture Kept Us Down
… Then Dave Winer, conference host, meantioned the depressing effects of the “monoculture” we had grown used to, by which I think he meant the media complex and the world it shapes around us. The monoculture kept a lot of people undeveloped, he said. “Maybe weblogs won’t change human nature; but they might let more of it out.”

For the websites and weblogs of these people, see this page.

Unnatural insert: This is material removed from my first draft of this post, about the second BloggerCon, April 17, 2004.

By April 17, I want to have a list of twenty questions that people have actually thought about beforehand. But they will also be items on the floor at the “What is Journalism?” session. We’ll project them on screen as a common starting point. Between now and then they belong to discussion in Blogistan, like any post, but especially for those coming to the conference or planning to be there in spirit.

I want a list of twenty. I have ten. Your job should be obvious. Please use the comment section at this post. Or you can always email PressThink. What questions need to be added? How should they be framed? What are your nominations, and how would you phrase them if you wanted to extend my list?

After the questions, I offer one link—among the thousands one could supply—to go with the essay, and the questions. Absorb those three things and your homework is complete. Will I call on you? Yeah, I might.

1. Why do we say that weblogs have given the people the power of the printing press?

2. And if that’s true, how does the weblog alter the public’s dependence on “the press” and professional journalists?

3. What really distinguishes journalism as a practice and in what portions of the practice can citizen authors rightly, effectively share?

4. What makes the weblog a potent tool of journalism and what are its potential uses?

5. As a new platform for journalism, what does the World Wide Web offer the practitioner, the practice, the press?

6. What does a Web journalism competently done by citizens actually look like, where do we find it, and where can we imagine it going in the years ahead?

7. What lessons in excellence, competence and public service can the profession of journalism teach to citizens, amateurs, webloggers— and to us at BloggerCon?

8. What does it mean for a weblog with journalism in it, authored by a member of the public, to have a public and to serve a public good?

9. Which goods are worth serving for webloggers doing a kind of journalism?

10. How do we understand the independence of webloggers and their voices if these voices mainly comment (and thus depend) on news and other material originated by the major media? What’s so independent about that?

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 4, 2003 11:09 PM   Print

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