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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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October 16, 2003

What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?

These ten things, for starters. Got others? Hit the comment button.

People have been telling me I ought to write shorter posts. That’s what works, they say. That’s what web cruisers expect, they say. In general, I don’t listen to them. But here I am trying….

Ten Things Radical about the Weblog Form in Journalism:

1.) The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most (not all) of today’s journalism comes out of the market economy.

2.) Journalism had become the domain of professionals, and amateurs were sometimes welcomed into it— as with the op ed page. Whereas the weblog is the domain of amateurs and professionals are the ones being welcomed to it, as with this page.

3.) In journalism since the mid-ninetheenth century, barriers to entry have been high. With the weblog, barriers to entry are low: a computer, a Net connection, and a software program like Blogger or Movable Type gets you there. Most of the capital costs required for the weblog to “work” have been sunk into the Internet itself, the largest machine in the world (with the possible exception of the international phone system.)

4.) In the weblog world every reader is actually a writer, and you write not so much for “the reader” but for other writers. So every reader is a writer, yes, but every writer is also a reader of other weblog writers—or better be.

5.) Whereas an item of news in a newspaper or broadcast seeks to add itself to the public record, an entry posted in a weblog engages the public record, because it pulls bits and pieces from it through the device of linking. In journalism the regular way, we imagine the public record accumulating with each day’s news— becoming longer. In journalism the weblog way, we imagine the public record “tightening,” its web becoming stronger, as links promotes linking, which produces more links.

6.) A weblog can “work” journalistically—it can be sustainable, enjoyable, meaningful, valuable, worth doing, and worth it to other people —if it reaches 50 or 100 or 160 souls who like it, use it, and communicate through it. Whereas in journalism the traditional way, such a small response would be seen as a failure, in journalism the weblog way the intensity of a small response can spell success.

7.) A weblog is like a column in a newspaper or magazine, sort of, but whereas a column written by twelve people makes little sense and wouldn’t work, a weblog written by twelve people makes perfect sense and does work.

8.) In journalism prior to the weblog, the journalist had an editor and the editor represented the reader. In journalism after the weblog, the journalists has (writerly) readers, and the readers represent an editor.

9.) In journalism classically understood, information flows from the press to the public. In the weblog world as it is coming to be understood, information flows from the public to the press.

10.) Journalism traditionally assumes that democracy is what we have, information is what we seek. Whereas in the weblog world, information is what we have—it’s all around us—and democracy is what we seek.

Thanks to all who have continued the discussion in Comments.

Hypergene: Five more radical things about the weblog form in journalism.

in PressThink, (Oct. 17): Ten Things Conservative About the Weblog Form in Journalism

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 16, 2003 12:40 AM   Print


See my comment on your other post here: on the linking practices and referencing between blogs.

Also, I think that traditional journalism needs blogs, because it's lost point of view, vigor and perspective, in the name of objectivity, to the point of being irrelevant and boring for many people. Blogs give perspective and point of view, but need journalism for the information, credibility and anchor points to the editorial process. We need each other and I am beginning to think that the only way readers who aren't writers will stay (or get back to being) interested is with good, easy access to both. People want opinions, too, and even though many acknowledge how stupid Fox can be, at least it's authentic and has a view point. Now how about some other more reasonable, authentic, point of view perspectives....

Posted by: mary hodder at October 16, 2003 1:18 AM | Permalink

A classic. Thanks for putting this together.

Posted by: Dave Winer at October 16, 2003 8:46 AM | Permalink

Standing on a soap-box in the public square has a low barrier to entry too, comes out of the "gift enconomy", and the speaker may consider reaching a dozen people a success.

But that doesn't mean standing on a street-corner and ranting is a radical form of journalism.

Everyone can't have an audience of millions. The very few people who do, have enormous power.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 16, 2003 9:23 AM | Permalink

Very strong work. The barriers to entry in the "J" world is a topic that I think gets overlooked in the whole discussion.

The question remains whether someone can use a blog to show they have what it take to move from "j" to "J" if that's their goal.

Posted by: Steve MacLaughlin at October 16, 2003 9:35 AM | Permalink

I think by focusing on the relationship between weblogs and journalism you are misunderstanding the nature of weblogs. Weblogs are the discussions around the office water cooler, the arguments at the pub, the chatter at cocktail parties, the gossip at the coffee klatsch. Weblogs are at the intersection of the private and the public. Viewed this way, weblogs look a lot less radical and much more like other successful Internet technologies which have been virtual extensions of real-world phenomena.

Posted by: John Cavnar-Johnson at October 16, 2003 9:40 AM | Permalink

The weblog/journalism dichotomy is a false one. At this stage of the game, it's starting to smack of reverse snobbery.

Weblogs are a technology. Journalism is a process. As the sidebar here demonstrates, the process of journalism can use the technology of weblogs to good effect.

So can other processes. But we shouldn't pretend that weblogs are the exclusive domain of amateurs. Attempts to define weblogs by the process used to create them are self-limiting and ultimately fruitless.

Posted by: Bryant at October 16, 2003 10:03 AM | Permalink

Weblogs aren't intrinsically anything but frequent writing. Many people write dairies and chit-chat, because that's easy, while good commentary and investigation can be hard and time-consuming.

Doing much writing for free is a path to being "discovered" by the Big Time. But it *is* still being discovered by the Big Time.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 16, 2003 10:06 AM | Permalink

Good start.
So far there hasn't been many comments on the "every writer is also a reader of other weblog writers". This, IMHO, is the main point that gets forgotten in the mechanics of weblogging.

The Two Way Web. Slap the persistency of the VOICE by recording it in a written form and you do have a completely new medium of expression where we Form ourselves; form the existence of our voices. It becomes an Expression of Community in Real Time. That's radical, no?

This point doesn't get covered too much and I think it's quite important. Every writer is a reader, every reader a writer. Covnersation; moving a coversation forward becomes the central point in blogging. Who happens to be speaking it - perhaps not as important. A Pig sitting up an Oak tree with a bowl of cherries can become relevant if it's willing to participate and contribute to a conversation that community is eagerly engaged in.

Just more thoughts. Thanks for allowing me to comment here.

Posted by: Marek J at October 16, 2003 11:31 AM | Permalink

John Markoff's comments in OJR speak to some current journalistic attitudes about blogs. I have a comment here.

As a teacher of rhetoric, I find the economic implications of the blog-journalism nexus rather interesting. Must writing lead to some economic reward to be worthwhile? Must the audience be "large." I say: clearly not. All that matters is authorial intention. Writing weblogs can be all kinds of things, but it surely is a waste of time only if the writer is failing to achieve his/her writerly intentions.

Posted by: acline at October 16, 2003 11:39 AM | Permalink

Hey, thanks for all these observations, everyone. John Cavnar-Johnson and Bryant: perhaps this is a small point, but I wasn't here trying to "define" weblogs in general or even discuss their essential nature. I speak only of that portion of the weblog world being put to uses more or less journalistic. I do not know enough to go beyond that.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 16, 2003 11:56 AM | Permalink

Point 5: "In journalism the regular way, we imagine the public record accumulating with each day’s news— becoming longer. In journalism the weblog way, we imagine the public record “tightening,” its web becoming stronger, as links promotes linking, which produces more links."

This is brilliant! While we welcome all voices, the culture does so in pursuit of clarity, not babble. By collectively reviewing, polishing and clarifying through links among the deliberators, we mimic the scientific processs and peer review.

I believe "tightening" is an origianal and important idea. Thanks

Posted by: Britt Blaser at October 16, 2003 1:17 PM | Permalink

"..while good commentary and investigation can be hard and time-consuming."

Why? Because typically journalists have to take time to talk to experts, get professional opinions, etc.

The weblog is a medium for the experts and folks with professional (or unprofessional) opinions to share their thoughts ... and it didn't have to traverse through a opinionated journalist's pen and an editor or two.

Posted by: James Robinson at October 16, 2003 2:29 PM | Permalink

My point is that weblogs aren't new and radical. They are merely a new way of conversing. Take your post and replace weblog with conversation. Every point is not only still true, but obvious and pedestrian. Even when a journalist blogs and his blogs look just like what he writes professionally, it's not really journalism, but a contribution to a conversation with his readers. The medium does, in fact, alter the meaning of the message.

What I find interesting about the intersection between blogging and journalism is that journalists become "mere" participants in the conversation about their work and its effects.

Posted by: John Cavnar-Johnson at October 16, 2003 2:54 PM | Permalink

... okay, people. But what's Number 11?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 16, 2003 4:01 PM | Permalink

jay... we've added 11-15 in this post:

Posted by: shayne at October 16, 2003 5:10 PM | Permalink

11.) Traditionally, Gutenberg press journalism relied on a localized 24-hour time delay. In today's digital age, journalism accelerated by electronic weblogs offers global, instantaneous reporting 24/7/365.

Posted by: Tammy Bokhari at October 16, 2003 5:37 PM | Permalink

James: How does the public find the experts? And determine which are honest experts instead of "astroturf" experts?

This implementation "detail" is one I see very frequently glossed-over in blog hype. It's just assumed to happen, while it's in fact one of the key problems.

The reason the journalists act as gatekeepers is because they act as summarizers. That need for summary does not go away.

And it doesn't matter how much you share your thoughts if nobody reads them.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 16, 2003 8:45 PM | Permalink

"How does the public find the experts? And determine which are honest experts instead of "astroturf" experts?"

The same way you find good journalists, and determine which media outlets are trustworthy (and which can be trusted on certain subjects but not others). This is not a problem that suddenly rears its head when "professional journalists" aren't there to guide the childlike populace, because the populace doesn't (and shouldn't) automatically trust journalists any more than it should automatically trust anyone who calls himself an expert.

(And of course if we want to go meta, how do journalists themselves figure these things out? A journalist is only very rarely an expert on a topic. They're in the same boat the rest of us are in when it comes to determining a source's credibility.)

Professional journalists occasionally betray the perception that the public does or should take their expertise, good faith, and impartiality for granted. This is a mistake.

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at October 16, 2003 9:50 PM | Permalink

"The same way ..." - that is, they select from one of a very few outlets that has the resources to market themselves (as e.g. "Fair And Balanced")?

I think you misunderstood my point. When I asked how, I meant that as a *descriptive* question, not a *prescriptive* one. That is, I meant
"What WILL/DOES happen?", versus "What SHOULD happen?"

I completely agree this isn't a new problem - that's in fact my point, in terms of implications of this not being a new problem.
I'm asking: Why will the solution to this problem be very different?

Every evangelistic answer I've seen, relies on ignoring mathematics (everyone can't have a million readers) and completely dismissing the extremely hard parts of the problem (determining who to trust).

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 16, 2003 10:41 PM | Permalink

I think that the sad part of the Weblog/journalism dichotomy is that editors don't appear to have thought the whole process through. Weblogs don't necessarily have to be about opinion, the point being that every publication should have a "blog policy" that they give out to reporters to follow.

I am not saying that reporters should be told what to say in their blogs. I am only saying that publications should make clear to their employees the forms of blogging that they feel comfortable with, and at the very least, they should encourage their staff to discuss the desire to blog and work out some sort of solution to the situation. Who knows, it might bring more readers and revive the journalistic form.

Posted by: Sarah at October 16, 2003 10:53 PM | Permalink

A weblog is also a new narrative form. It differs from the narrative forms used in other media -- newspapers, for example -- because the blog has a past and a future.

Every entry is related to a set of previous entry (even if it's "only" related by virtue of being on the same blog), and future entries.

Newspaper articles aren't (necessarily) like this. Newspaper articles are generally self contained. That's why Google News works -- it scrapes self-contained articles from lots of other sites, and each of them can be read and understood without any problem.

With a blog entry, however, an entry is best understood within the context (the "brand") of the blog.

See more of the ideas that Gerald Adams and I had on this topic at: (note that this is just a very sketchy outline of a proposal we're going to write, but it elaborates on what I've been saying here).

Posted by: Michael Heraghty -- Blogging Consultant at October 17, 2003 8:47 AM | Permalink

Interesting. I came here via I've been watching the rise of the blog since it was credited in the old journalism with bringing Trent Lott down. I have built up a library of blogs that I review almost every day. While blogs may not be relatively new, they’ve been around in one from or another since there was a net. It’s the current form of blogs dedicated to journalism and the blog world, the collective consciousness of all the active blogs, that is a new phenomenon. Maybe journalism blogging is the old water cooler discussion group gone to the net, or maybe it is something new, something that is evolving. To what, I don’t know, but watching is a pleasure, and you list does hit home to the radical concepts present in this phenomenon.

Daypop allows me to see what bloggers think is newsworthy. By linking to a site, a blogger votes on what he or she thinks is of note and Daypop tallies all the votes. There are other sites like Daypop. I’m looking for that groundswell I’ve read so much about in the old written, edited and published journalism.

Posted by: johnhooper at October 17, 2003 9:14 AM | Permalink

I'd note that weblogs often choose a different "voice" than journalism does, especially when a journalist keeps a blog. I write both a newsletter and a blog and one is more formal and somewhat edited (although mainly be me) and the other is definitely more informal, spontaneous, passionate, and unedited. I like that difference.

Posted by: Amy Wohl at October 17, 2003 11:56 AM | Permalink

This is a nice foundation for an economic model.

Posted by: Dann Sheridan at October 17, 2003 12:13 PM | Permalink

Radical departure #11: Blogs, through their blogrolls and cross-linking, create new networks that both disperse information and embody new social interactions. You read the newspaper alone; you read/write blogs as part of a community.

Radical departure #12: Blogs are written by passionate people, not corporate cogs; you can be friends with a blogger but not with the New York Times.

Radical departure #13: Blogs let journalists and advertisers bypass the expensive publishing infrastructure that has traditionally skimmed 90% of information economy revenues.

More bullet-pointed theorizing on the benefits of blogs for readers and writers in these posts from spring '02:

Posted by: henrycopeland at October 17, 2003 12:15 PM | Permalink

I have watched the steady development of "amateur" journalism as a force for change (in affirmation of all ten of your observations) out in Portland Oregon, where b!X at has the independence and freedom to pursue local political and government issues and bring them to the public in ways that the "paid" journalists don't and can't. Of course, it would be great if there were a way for him to get paid -- especially since, as his mom, I provide some of the support for his valuable blog efforts. His site, however, is a perfect example of how an ethical, informed, and talented "amateur" journalist can successfully use weblog technology to provide information for the purpose of empowering people to seek and create democracy. (Yes, of course I'm biased.)

Posted by: Elaine of Kalilily at October 17, 2003 1:25 PM | Permalink

Although you say "Weblog form of journalism" at the start, your list and some of the comments blur the distinction between weblogs and journalism. Many blogs are no different from sharing information and exoperiences around the water cooler or in a bar. The Hutchins Commission Report, more than 50 years old and still as relevant as the day it was issued, says good journalism has a high social purpose. So does the SPJ Code of Ethics. Weblogs share one of mainstream journalism's biggest problems -- how to encourage quality. How are readers, viewers -- or reader/writers -- supposed to sort through all the opinionated crap to find the nuggets of valuable insight and information that serve those higher purposes? All the good things about the Weblog form can be used to misinform, mislead and dumb down just as easily as to enlighten.

Posted by: Austin Long-Scott at October 17, 2003 2:58 PM | Permalink

"How are ... supposed to sort" - EXACTLY! This is the ugly fact that slays the beautiful theory of blog triumphalism.

In practice, people delegate this sorting function to someone else. And these sorters, err, "reporters", who do it as a job, develop expertise in getting accepted, and institutions develop where they work together ("newspapers" or "networks"!), and on and on.
Blogs haven't changed this process, just provided yet another venue where it can play out.

When that's pointed out, often there's a reply of "Well, it's someone's right to delegate - are they child-like?". Which is a deflection of the point that this is what *does* happen, blogotopian dreams to the contrary.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 17, 2003 10:03 PM | Permalink

Seth: A few questions... where is this "blog triumphalism" you wish to dispel? Where are you finding the "blogtopian dreams" you wish to counter? And why is it so important to show that blogs haven't changed things, just provided another arena for unchanged things to play out?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 18, 2003 12:20 AM | Permalink

Jay: Maybe I've been reading too many blogs/BloggerCon/etc. I see the same sort of bubble-ideas I saw many years ago, when the Internet itself first became popular. Maybe I shouldn't argue about it, no point. Having lived through "Animal Farm" once, I'm very skeptical when I hear of the great advances in collective agriculture.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 18, 2003 1:47 AM | Permalink

This is a very interesting, thought provoking blog entry. I can by this link via photoncourier's blog . . . because I blog and read other people's blogs. One point about blogs that I value and that is represented in my blog is that blogs can provide social commentary or criticism directly. Blogs can be anonymous, but, more than that, many bloggers make points that no newspaper editor or television producer would dare, often in creative ways that really peak people's interest and spice things up a bit! Often bloggers have inside information that they share about events, places, and issues. I also agree with you . . . blogs are democratic.

Posted by: Academy Girl at October 18, 2003 1:55 PM | Permalink

I think there's another angle to be considered: that there is an emerging culture of blogging--new norms about the interplay between the personal and the private, new real and virtual relationships cropping up around the act of blogging, and so on. So perhaps it's helpful to take another cut at this, not just from a journalistic and tech perspective, but also from a cultural anthroplogy perspective.

Posted by: John Windmueller at October 18, 2003 5:38 PM | Permalink

Some common themes after 33 very concise and interesting posts:

The weblog is not intrinsically anything-- it's a technology, with a certain effectiveness. Journalism is not a technology: it's a way to process information for the public, and can be done many ways. And there are many uses--other than journalism--to which the weblog and Internet at large can be put.

It's misleading, therefore, to speak about an "essence" of the weblog form, or speculate on its "intrisnic" nature. The weblog is not an intrinsically radical force in journalism-- or in anything, and lisiting "radical" features doesn't meant it will be used that way. And it doesn't mean those features will win out, or even register when the weblog becomes media convention.

Another view says that what's radical is not the technology, which of course has a million uses, many of them mundane. It's the community setting in which the experiment is taking place, which is live discussion. But not only that. It's a voluntary thing for the most part. The expectation is not economic reward; it's to become a speaker in the public square. This is drawing people toward a kind of journalism, but not as professionals in news.

You cannot isolate "a" weblog and its users from the larger web of talking blogs and the people who are devoting a lot of time to this. Miss the conversation going on among them, and you have missed the point. It's the dialogue among separate sources of information that's radically new. We haven't had a very "conversational" journalism from big providers-- and people are finding out it's excitingly different.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 19, 2003 2:00 AM | Permalink

"How does the public find the experts? And determine which are honest experts instead of "astroturf" experts?"

Dunno if this has been covered, but to me it seems that blogs have a sort of market force applied to them, where the better ones gain many more readers through popularity. In other words, the cream rises to the top — through linkage or otherwise. For example, if you are looking for a blog about CSS, you will probably be pointed to – a high quality and popular choice. Compare this to traditional journalism, where a Rupert Murdoch can leverage his millions to start Fox News, which is frankly not really journalism at all.

What I most like is the conversation and community aspect of blogging - its not always PhD level writing or fact-checked thoroughly, but the dialogue aspect helps to naturally work out the errors and opinion — once a blog reaches a certain level of readership, of course, and before that it doesn't matter.

Posted by: Michael Pick at October 19, 2003 1:52 PM | Permalink

Excellent post...this helps me frame some of the thoughts I've had about weblogs since I first started teaching them in journalism classes a few years ago.

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at October 19, 2003 2:13 PM | Permalink

Very good article, and many thoughtful comments, too.

I see another difference between journalism and blogging. While bloggers are amateur writers, typically, they are also professional *something else*. There are lawyers, geeks, healthcare professionals, scientists, soldiers, etc, etc out blogging. They are often able to provide valuable insights into favourite subjects that escapes journalists who, more often than not, don't have a deep background in anything but journalistic worl.

Posted by: Jan Haugland at October 19, 2003 2:46 PM | Permalink

Weblogs have rent the shroud of the net to invite in more interesting people who have much to contribute to our total library of things known and suspected. A couple years ago the web was alive but stagnant, as many of the older sites were not maintained and link after link went dead. It looked like commerce would dominate the tenor of what we could access.

Blogging changes that with fresh material, new projects, continued threads and all those other good signs that show people are not only learning, but building on what they discover. The people are not replacing professional journalists or their unique access rights, premium sources and equipment, and contract salaries. We are just becoming local ombudsmen to try to clarify and balance subjective news reports to relate to what we see from the other side.

Posted by: Mary Martin at October 20, 2003 9:50 AM | Permalink

What a lot of you guys are forgetting is that blogging is still a very 'web-centric' phenomenon. As much as we netizens think that the world revolves around the internet and the machinations that we devise, the bulk of the rest of the developed world are still trailing behind us, and will be for quite some time yet. Go ahead and ask your uncle Glen or your older sister Steph if they've ever heard of blogs or blogging, and all you'll get is the blank expression of someone hearing a new word for the first time.

I'm not saying that blogging is not important, it is, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. There may be an upheaval or a journalistic revolution but these things always take much longer that the revolutionaries want. So until the masses (and I do mean masses) start reading and participating in the blogging world it will never be more than a netizen clique, a minority of one bunch of preachers trying to convert their polar opposites and vice versa.

Posted by: ChefQuix at October 20, 2003 3:48 PM | Permalink

Think about this rule of thumb in public librarianship: consider adopting a technology for your library once you read about it in Time or Newsweek, or your mother knows about it. We've now seen "blog" mentioned in major papers and used by candidates for a national election, and while my sister did recently ask me what "globs" are and why I kept talking about them, blogs are clearly right on the tipping point of absorption into the mainstream.

In our community, blogs are quickly becoming a form of nanojournalism. This isn't the professional, balanced journalism of the big newspapers (and I am winking a bit as I say this), but it is having a transforming effect on local communications and information-sharing. Due to local blogging, local government activities are observed, discussed, and acted on much more quickly. It absolutely does help that government Web sites post information, but when they don't, residents find it, scan it, and upload it anyway.

Just today, a retired lawyer who has a blog reported the untimely death of a local resident (full disclosure: I GAVE him a blog when I realized his NIMBYesque comments looked out of place on mine). This is the kind of news that might slowly trickle from home to home, but is now linked from several sites within hours. Locally, those who can, will read it online, and someone will print it out and post it in a local window or phone pole. (We still have a lot of "utility-pole blogging" in this area, and I say the more information formats, the better!)

Still, there is an element of blogging that feels like literary barebacking. I like editors; they have a way of saving me from myself--and the other bloggers (all from writing or legal backgrounds) have a similar point of view. We're talking about forming a loose editorial collective where we can vet one another's posts as need be. But then--if we lose the immediacy, is it still a blog?

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at October 20, 2003 6:48 PM | Permalink

Urmm.. all this talk about what blogs could be, or might be, seems to ignore the crushing reality - The vast majority of blogs are inane, boring, and are created by people with absolutely no writing talent and with nothing useful to contribute.

Even the so-called "superior" blogs have not been a significant threat to the traditional newspapers. In terms of journalistic value, I would rate them somewhere between a tabloid newspaper story and a very opinionated column in a small daily.

Sure, the Internet allows everyone to be a publisher, but do you really want to read what everyone writes?

Posted by: Chan Lee Meng at October 21, 2003 1:52 AM | Permalink

Chan Lee; that's funny. My feelings exactly. About newspapers. Journalists, columnists. The lot.

I've often maintained that although a newspaper's circulation may be, say, 1 million, very few people actually read more than the headlines. In fact I'd suggest that probably no more than one or two hundred out of a million read more than one full article or half a column. If that. People seek out the ads in a newspaper before they do the writers. They're big fat flyers.

Watch the way people read the paper.

Blogging and journalism are closer in numbers than anyone could imagine.

Posted by: bmo at October 21, 2003 3:36 PM | Permalink

Posted by: Brad at October 28, 2003 11:33 AM | Permalink


While I think the concept of the "blog" is hyped, they are fine vehicles and are certainly part of what I hope is a trend in journalism driven by the Internet in general.

I hope and believe that the web, over time, will kill off the "generalist Journalist." This is the species that goes to college, majors in English, writes the story about which fraternity is on probation for the college newspaper, graduates, lands a job at some publication and then gets sent out into the world at age 23 to interpret the world for us. Has anyone ever stopped to think about how insane that is? We depend on people who know nothing about any particular discipline who get paid very little to give us our information. Where do you think Blair and Glass came from? Can they write? You bet. Did they know anything? No. These two are natural products of this broken system and the web is extinguishing them. Blair got caught, for example, because a reporter in Texas was able to instantly see that her work had been ripped off. Anyone not think the web made that possible?

With the web, we can find and hear from experts that have proven themselves. Over time, the publications that make money will have to find people that know something, perhaps even having had prior careers, and then hire them to do real reporting based on expertise. Such people should probably learn to write better, but learning to write is a hell of a lot easier than, say, getting a degree in molecular genetics, which might actually qualify someone to be a science writer for a publication read by hundreds of thousands.

Blogs are one place they might find such people, but it is the access to better information that will finally, thankfully, kill off the generalist journalist. How many business writers - even at places like the WSJ - do you think have CPAs, MBAs, law degrees, engineering degrees, i.e. the base knowledge to even understand what they are reporting? Answer- very, very few.

So blog on. Yes, the big companies that make money publishing will still exist. They will not be ruined. But the Internet, and blogs, are and will force them to dramtically raise the bar.

Posted by: Joel Rothstein at November 6, 2003 9:02 AM | Permalink

I am new to the internet and I am surfing here and this is very interesting reading. I did a search in the search engines on "company blog" and I found your web blog.
I am a Lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and thus my interest in searching for a company blog on the WWW.
I just wanted to see how the rest of the world thinks and see what trends and technology are happening in the world. I also was interested in a blog for myself which might possibly lead to a blob for my law firm, you never know, that is if I can understand the technology of operating a blog. The different things discussed on a website found by searching for "company blog" in the search engine is very amusing reading to this Halifax Lawyer.

Respectfully yours
B. J. Stephens, LL.B.

Posted by: A Halifax Lawyer at February 7, 2004 1:34 AM | Permalink

From the Intro