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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 13, 2003

LA Times Editor is Defiant: Don't Like Our Investigations? Go Elsewhere.

John Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times, tries to level with readers about the Schwarzenegger groping story. But his own press think defeats him.

It is rare for the top editor of a major newspaper to write a Sunday column answering politically loaded charges about the paper’s reporting. But give credit to John Carroll, boss of the newsroom at the Los Angeles Times, for what he published on Sunday— a first-person public accounting of his decision to go with the story of women who were groped by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His commentary—entitled, “The Story Behind the Story“—has the virtues of classic newspaper journalism: Carroll speaks in a plain language, favors the direct form of address, (“I’d like to tell you how the Los Angeles Times decided to publish the stories of 16 women…”) and refuses to either back down from critics or baby his readership. In the long run, people will respect that more, he thinks. This is a very adult way of going about things.

Carroll knew the Times would get blasted by some—including of course the Schwarzenegger camp—for releasing the stories five days before the vote. He also knew that some of the high-profile blasters would come in with wild charges, which would spread instantly across the Internet, in talk radio, and in the huge echo chamber where we pretend to debate an incident that may (or may not) be newsroom malpractice. Carroll and company anticipated—correctly—that the chamber would react, not to the newspaper’s decisions in plain view, but to its intentions, said to be concealed from view. Thus, the Times itself, covering the controversy about its page one actions, quoted Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the California Republican Party: “The L.A. Times has become more of a political hit maker than a journalistic source.” The image there is hit men who do their work on the front page. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly: “There’s no question the Times used its vast resources to try and keep Gray Davis in office.”

I’d underline the “no question” part of O’Reilly’s statement, a signal that we’re in a realm of absolute certainty about intentions at the LA Times. This is the chamber’s most noxious sound: certainties bouncing off walls between camps. We know the Times had the story and sat on it, until the moment of maximum impact. We know the newspaper has a puppeteer in Sacramento, and it’s the Gray Davis machine. We know the story is dubious because four of the six woman quoted were off the record. Come on, we know what this is about (a favorite on-air phrase of O’Reilly’s). We know they’re at it again.

This phony certainty about how his newspaper operates (and what he, John S. Carroll, did and thought) is the real subject of his Sunday column. The title is “the story behind the story” because that is what Fleischman and O’Reilly and other voices in the chamber say they have: “come on, it’s a hit, an attempt to derail Republican victory by a liberal newspaper.” No, says Carroll to his readers, it works like this:

Schwarzenegger’s reputation with women—long the subject of Hollywood gossip leading to some (incomplete) reporting in Premiere magazine—cried out to be fully investigated as part of the Los Angeles Times’s continuing look at the major candidates, “covering their life histories, their stands on the issues, their personalities and their characters,” as Carroll put it. The investigation was begun soon after Arnold announced for governor. When the story was nailed down, vetted by lawyers, and solid enough to withstand the scrutiny, we published it. And we’d do that again—I would do it again, Carroll said—because the verified facts are relevant to voters before they vote. In the course of explaining all this, Carroll says something I found odd and revealing.

One of our goals is to do more investigative reporting. At the risk of offending still more readers, I’ll say that if you’re put off by investigative reporting, this probably won’t be the right newspaper for you in the years to come.

That is a rather gutsy—even risky—thing for a top editor to say. After all, the opposite claim is the one normally voiced by his newspaper: No matter who you are, how you vote, the Los Angeles Times is, is, is the right newspaper for you. So to kiss off subscribers who are “put off” by investigative reporting… that’s a strong statement. It’s also a weird thing to say to readers, though not to fellow journalists, who may have been the intended audience.

“Investigative reporting” is a clear cut category in press think, (and prominent in the Pulitzer Prizes) but it is not, to borrow an academic phrase, a term of reception. Readers upset at the Times, or just wondering in healthy fashion about its actions, don’t say to themselves, “there they go, it’s that investigative reporting thing again.” Normally, people react to the contents of the articles themselves— here, to the character policing going on, the eruption of private life into the news columns, and the ethics of all that, the right and wrong of sex and sexual harassment on the front page just before an election.

Maybe your circle is wider, but I’m not sure I know anyone who is “against” investigative reporting in principle, as a priority in newsrooms; and I doubt that the Times gets many letters saying: you stop that, you stop all that investigating right now. If I were an Angeleno, and a subscriber to the Times, I would not feel any need to be for or against, turned on or put off, by “more investigations” in the abstract. I’d want to know a bit more. What do you plan to investigate? Where are you going to direct your fire? If we need more investigations, it must be that we suffer from ills not being examined by other agencies, so what are they? Saying to readers, “get ready for more investigations,” absent any list of priorities or even a statement about the world we live in, is just confusing— an almost unreadable pledge.

Even stranger is that Carroll calls it a goal to do more such reporting. A goal? How does that work? Civilians are not likely to understand that a certain kind of journalism has become an end in itself, a public goal of their newspaper. And yet the editor is defiant: don’t like it, go elsewhere! The head of a hospital doesn’t say, “our goal is to do more surgery.” The candidate for state comptroller doesn’t say, “I promise more audits, that’s my general policy.” The police chief doesn’t say “more under cover teams is our goal.” He says crime-fighting is the goal, and undercover officers are a means to an end that police and public share: safer streets. That’s the common ground for discussion. It’s also common sense.

Carroll, in a column that levels with readers, is eager to defend the genre of investigative reporting—a trade category that is not common ground—but in all of 1,700 words he does not try to explain why “character” is a fit subject for public probing by a powerful newspaper. (He just assumes it.) He does not tell us how journalists come to know what good character is, such that they can document cases of bad. These are matters of moral judgment. They make for hot button issues. They light up the phone lines at talk shows. But they also raise profound questions of right conduct, as well as “character” as it stands in the press. And they are far more likely to concern readers of the Sunday Los Angeles Times, more likely to generate discussion too.

I think Carroll is a man of integrity and principle and his column shows that. But it also shows the dangerous insularity of standard press think in cases like this. The echo chamber, where instant charges of conspiracy and ill-will bounce around, is by definition an insular world. And come on, we know what this is about is as likely to come from Noam Chomsky as it is from Bill O’Reilly. Proposing that a hit was ordered at the Los Angeles Times, that the Democrats were behind it, is to John Carroll a kind of obscenity, with the same prurient appeal:

The electronic revolution has brought us many blessings, but it has also blindsided us with a tidal wave of pornography. In similar fashion, we are now getting a faceful of rotten journalism — journalistic pornography, actually — in which ratings are everything and truth is nothing.

He’s not wrong about that. And he is right to stick up for his reporters—including one Pulitzer winner, Gary Cohn—when their work is attacked in angry, know-nothing fashion. But most readers, civilians in this political war with the press, are not angry know-nothings. Nor are they educated to the newsroom’s internal categories. They understand the newspaper as a civic and moral actor, and it is not necessarily comforting when a moral actor with great power and illegible priorities has no doubts. True, the echo chamber only pretends to debate the practice of journalism; but on the biggest questions Carroll only pretends to defend it.

David Shaw, the LA Times press reporter, on Schwarzenegger’s domination of the news media.

Columnist Jill Stewart, former LA Times person and now a Carroll critic, fires back at his column.

Hugh Hewitt is not impressed with Carroll’s defense. Lengthy analysis from a critic about what other responsible critics are saying.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 13, 2003 7:36 AM   Print


Interesting take. I agree that there is an echo chamber out there, but I think Carroll is also ignoring a lot of valid criticism. The internet had valid (and influential) criticisms of Howell Raines, and I think it also has valid criticisms here.

For what it's worth, I have posted a critique of Carroll's defense at this link: My post has internal links to a number of other posts that have analyzed the coverage since the groping allegations were first made public. My basic point is that Carroll's defense responds to a number of strawman arguments that I haven't seen actually voiced anywhere, while failing to respond to the specifics of the most valid criticisms. I hope you find it interesting.

Posted by: Patterico at October 14, 2003 2:03 AM | Permalink

One for your "what's really happening" file: we're seeing a return to the partisan press of previous eras -- Fox News being the most obvious example. Talk radio has become the de facto voice of the GOP, with a few exceptions. The right, of course, accuses us (meaning, the mainstream press and the TV networks) of being the de facto voice of the left, which they know to be untrue but it's a useful lie that provides them an ideological rival and an excuse when their ideas can't get traction. Somehow the non-partisan press needs to find a way through this new maze, and the last 50 years haven't provided many clues on where to go, what to do, in this new era of partisan media.

Posted by: tom at October 14, 2003 10:25 AM | Permalink

What new era of partisan reporting. Journalists are only kidding themselves that they are impartial. I truly believe that journalists make more than an honest effort to be balanced in their reports.

That is not the issue. The issue is in what is reported and what is not reported. That is where the 'partisan' journalist thrives. For example, we have seen many reports about a particular family suffering because of some government program not big enough or not in place to help them.

How many stories do we see about businesses failing because of their inability to pay the employers portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes?

Do they not exist? or just not get reported?

Posted by: Tim Gannon at October 14, 2003 12:06 PM | Permalink

From the Intro