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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 5, 2003

Times Web Editor Goes to Harvard in Search of Something

The Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times on the Web says he may be ready to try more weblogs, if he can figure out the right ones.

Cambridge, Mass: Oct. 5, 2003…. “I came here to get an idea of how we can do this,” said Len Apcar, Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times on the Web. The “this” was the form we’re gathered in now, the modern weblog. Like hundreds of others, Apcar had come to Blogger.con, a conference featuring leading webloggers, front line troops, and assorted apostles, put on by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. It ended today.

Apcar had asked himself a disciplined question; in fact, the type of question outsiders to the Times rarely know how to ask. Not, “what would be a cool weblog to see in the New York Times?” which is fun but too easy. Rather: which version of the emergent thing might actually work, even flourish, within the relatively cautious editorial environment and weighty decision machinery that Apcar contends with at the Times? Factor in all the talent one could tap…. but to do what? Plus all the competition that could be unleashed…but competition at what? Plus the subtle politics of moving into it. Plus the fact that the Times will take risks, but only up to a point. Have any ideas about that, head bloggers in heady times?

This isn’t what he said, literally. But it was the question on his mind, more or less. He didn’t ask the conference for its ideas, really. (I gave him some of mine anyway— from the audience.) He just indicated, in a very polite and open way… I’m trying to get a handle on this myself, so let’s talk. To me, this was a welcome move by Len Apcar. Good citizenship, intellectually speaking— a notion that has perhaps become more important at the New York Times after recent turmoil.

Apcar took his seat with two journalists already familiar with weblogs: the moderator, Scott Rosenberg, the managing editor of, who writes his Links and Comment there, plus James Taranto, who does the Best of the Web Today, “a column in weblog style,” as he put it, for Opinion Journal. That’s the Wall Street Journal’s online forum (and unlike the main site it’s free.) These two represented early adopters within Apcar’s tribe: experienced pros in the national press who were doing it.

The Times, he said, had only one weblog, Kristof Responds, by opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof. It was working because Kristof, a driven reporter, went to interesting places and found unusual stories, but had only 700 words for his column. He could thus file to the weblog from the road, and keep a reasonable flow going with material already gathered. Then for days, weeks he could not file. Which lets the comments fill up. When there’s time he reads them, replying to some and even correcting mistakes in his Times column— correcting them online, that is, after weblog readers who argued with him won Kristof over.

No correction in the print edition, though, which Apcar admitted was an unsolved glitch. An individual correcting himself in his weblog is not the same thing as the Times itself “making” a correction, a matter far more fraught. The weblog, it appears, is self-correcting for the author involved. This, I think, is one of the major arguments in its favor. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit , at another point in the conference, called this the collective truth-making feature of weblogs: readers are your editors. I’m not sure “collective” is a well chosen term, but he means a social mechanism for catching errors and improving or extending ideas, which is part of the weblog’s gift to journalism— distributed fact checking, for one.

Apcar said something I found insightful: “Kristof Reponds” was essentially a contract between him and Kristof, unwritten and based on a mutual sense of where the boundaries are. This is one answer to “everybody needs an editor.” Maybe everyone needs the right contract with an editor, setting terms for mutual oversight of the writer’s venture into the new. Such things (you-and-me understandings) are efficient, and they play a bigger role in editorial invention than we sometimes think. I bet they’re a major part of the Spokane Spokesman Review’s eleven weblogs. Click here for the newest, “Journey to Vatican III,” about change in the Catholic Church.

Apcar said six other things significant for the coterie at Harvard and for anyone curious about whether weblogs will make a difference for the better in journalism:

1.) He has followed with interest what the Dallas Morning News is doing with its group weblog among the editorial page staff. But he couldn’t quite figure out what it was, he said.
2.) The experience with Kristof had been good enough to make him consider doing more with the weblog form.
3.) It seemed safest to begin with writers who were already licensed as “critics” of some kind.
4.) He was hoping to use the events of the presidential campaign to launch new weblogs at the Times site.
5.) In thinking about how to do that, he remain impressed with what Timothy Crouse achieved in his 1972 classic, The Boys on the Bus— recently re-issued, as Apcar noted.
6.) He couldn’t imagine the Times doing a weblog that exposed its news judgment to daily scrutiny, by talking about why things made the front page or didn’t. Not appropriate, never happen. (I agreed with that.)

So it qualified as news—I mean for the conference and its little world—that it had drawn to Cambridge at least one key player in the big presence the establishment press has online. Len Apcar was in a position to break ground and hire the first crew to chart a weblog course for the flagship newspaper. He could have said he was an expert in Times journalism, invited to tell us how it’s done at the Newspaper of Record. (This is the rhetorical situation 90 percent of the time with Times editors at conferences.) Instead he came as an inquirer.

The Bogger.con conference had organized itself in my mind around two alternatives written in boilerplate on its website. Is the weblog form “just good enough to make a difference, or the revolution so many say it is?” I don’t have the answer yet. But the appearance by the Times Web Editor convinced me it was an open question, there on the table, not of a Net coterie, but in the press culture at large.

There was one almost poignant moment during the question and answer period. Someone stood up and asked will the New York Times open its archive to free linking? (The original url’s expire after seven days for most articles, then you have to pay.) This appeared to catch Apcar off guard. Perhaps he had not fully understood the ethical universe he had traveled to, the Open Source Society, where naturally you link to everyone who enriches your account, building the social capital of the Web a tiny bit at a time. You take pains to make yourself linkable, too— that’s just good citizenship.

What the crowd was really saying, however, cut deeper: Don’t you understand? We want to link to you, mighty New York Times, and give everything you publish more and more Web life. For this, the Rule of Links, is the way of our tribe, said conference host Dave Winer, who wrote the rule. But because of your foolish and short-sighted archive policy, our efforts die after a week. Why, why are you causing all this needless link death?

This wasn’t entirely fair to Apcar, who isn’t a corporate head. He seemed puzzled by it.

Listen here to Chris Lydon’s audio interview with Len Apcar (or another one with yours truly.)

Hmmm. In the comments section Barry Parr says the total market for online archive information purchased the way the Times charges is a mere $15 million, which he calls insignificant revenue in the big picture. The source is here. Maybe this is a winnable battle down the road. Certainly we can say this: if the Times has a crew of webloggers, it will have people who grasp the principle of justice in the Rule of the Link.

Steve Outing of Poynter says if the Times adopts weblogs, this will be a significant boost for the form. See his Oct. 6 item here.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 5, 2003 4:52 PM   Print


The whole notion of the NYT or any of the mainstream press glomming off on blogging has the air about it of the Communist Party hacks in the old Soviet Union trying to figure out how they could take advantage of the the "capitalism thing." Turns out all the old hacks became owners of the privatized holdings and the system still reeks.

Posted by: Rivlax at October 6, 2003 10:05 AM | Permalink

What's amazing is that, according to the Online Publishers' Association, total sales of news & information under $5/item (which includes archives) is less than $15 million/year, and it's not growing very fast. (See

No doubt, the NYT has a huge share of it, but it's an insignificant market.

Posted by: Barry Parr at October 6, 2003 2:04 PM | Permalink

Len Apgar sounds like a decent guy and a solid journalist, but someone who needs deeper moorings in the Internet and weblog ethic (he was puzzled by the drawback of links to his site dying after a week?).

I do hope the Times takes a plunge into the weblog pool (though I suspect a toe-dip is more likely). And I hope they find a better model for their efforts than Kristoff Responds, which seems like nothing more than a glorified letters to the editor page (with responses) at times. How often does Kristoff link to other sites?

Over at E-Media Tidbits, Steve Outing today makes the case for a Times political reporter starting up a weblog on the 2004 political campaign trail. It's a logical first step.

Meantime, here's the answer to Apcar's question about a Times weblog: "to do what?" To bring readers into the news conversation -- letting us pose questions and post observations -- instead of the traditional media model of a one-way megaphone.

Posted by: JD Lasica at October 6, 2003 5:18 PM | Permalink

Thank you to the intrepid BloggerCon questioner who tried to get Len Apcar to understand how thoroughly ridiculous the Times web access policy is; and thank you, Jay for reporting on this much needed question.

I'm terribly sorry that Apcar didn't understand the question. And I think this goes to the heart of the question: if he doesn't understand how his site's misguided policies diminish the effectiveness of blogs who use the Times for their news sources, then how will he ever hope to create an internal Times culture that is friendly to blogging whether it be inside or outside the Times family?

Pls. take a look at my posts on this subject at My original title was "New York Times to Bloggers: Drop Dead" but I thought that a bit incendiary so I softened it a tad.

Posted by: Richard Silverstein at October 7, 2003 1:31 AM | Permalink

I'm going to throw my own small heft as one of the original bloggers into this, only to point out that before I started blogging I had no idea what it was; before AOL I had no idea what the Internet was. Today I devote a huge amount of my life to both. There's nothing saying the Times or anybody else can't learn it as well. They haven't so far because they haven't been properly motivated. Everybody is clueless till they get clued in.

Posted by: tom at October 7, 2003 10:23 AM | Permalink

I blog regularly for my clients, but limit access to materials by requiring a password. It's only important to me to make feeds publicly available for syndication sites and those who regularly read my materials-- but requiring a fee to review archived materials helps pay the bills.

While it is important to encourage direct linking-- I actually allow partner sites access to content when they link directly-- it's part of my business model to generate some revenue from the hours I spend researching materials.

Readers often forget the amount of effort required even to produce blog entries. Who's going to pay for this time? Should the costs be passed along to current customers or distributed over the reader base?

I'm sure at one time people though newspapers should be FREE-- while the costs of electronic publishing is less, it still costs to produce quality materials.

To the rest of your points, I feel you are right on the mark. Hopefully blog software will implement a 2-step editorial process, the second set of eyes would certainly improve my own writing. *smile*


Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

Posted by: Justin Hitt at October 7, 2003 11:51 AM | Permalink

Newspapers only charged for the paper so they could have hard numbers for the circulation audits that determine who'll buy the ads that make the real money. For instance, national ads won't buy if circulation in under 100,000.

Archive revenues are dropping, have been for three years.

Posted by: anon at October 7, 2003 4:38 PM | Permalink

"Steve Outing of Poynter says if the Times adopts weblogs, this will be a significant boost for the form."

The last thing blogs need is a "boost" from the Times. Nothing the Times does will take blogging anywhere but away from the qualities that make it intriguing. At its craziest, Times blogging might resemble the Sunday morning chat shows. For that matter, Bloggercon smacks a bit of the institutionalization of an anarchic form, an anointing of a new priesthood. Blogging is and ought to remain more than punditry by another name.

Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at October 7, 2003 9:44 PM | Permalink

The Times will enthusiastically adopt blogging as soon as it figures out how to sell out-of-date blog matter.

This posture stands in some tension with the intrinsic nature of the mode, which seems quite comfortable with an understanding of human speech as free, ephemeral, and hardly meriting conservation.

Posted by: tom matrullo at October 7, 2003 11:32 PM | Permalink

"...ephemeral, and hardly meriting conservation."

Exactly -- what makes blogs exciting is not an archive or their searchability -- it's the ongoing conversation. Their ephemerality is what saves them from being simple vanity presses, storing the words of self-declared wise men for eternity. Blogs aren't meritocratic punditocracy, nor are they a Borgesian library; they're cacophony in the public square, a relief from the monotonous harmony of pressthink (the mindset, not this interesting blog).

Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at October 8, 2003 12:51 PM | Permalink

The "cacophony" is further fractionated in comments sections, where interesting discussions occur no longer quite in full view of the public square, but off in corners, possible to trace, but even more elusive. Of course it is possible to even fetishize that.

Posted by: tom matrullo at October 8, 2003 11:10 PM | Permalink

jeff, i think you are right that the conversation of weblogs is key, but i have been surprised at the value of archived weblogs, too. not every post is timeless, but searchable blog archives turn up lots of good stuff. at my own site, i was surprised to see how much traffic i get from searches that link to older posts. not an either/or to your point on conversations, but an also.

Posted by: ed cone at October 9, 2003 1:58 PM | Permalink

Actually, PressThink has shown that to be true, as well, Ed. There are things that get read well because they are "now," or responsive to other current blogs; and then there are things that get read more slowly as reference or background. The links that bring people in the first catgeory are different than the links in the second. Both types are examples of the "conversation of weblogs," but different conversations, with different time machines implied.

Thanks for these intelligent posts, everyone.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 10, 2003 2:34 AM | Permalink

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