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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 17, 2003

When the Learned Rant at the Times

The New York Times gets beaten up a lot by people who know a lot, but not a lot about the Times. A brief investigation. Plus: reactions to John Markoff.

Everybody has a complaint about the New York Times. It’s the most complained about newspaper in the world. This is especially so for the chattering classes, in which I am member. But then so are you, citizen of the world.

The weblog (which is not my subject here) threatens to make everyone part of the chattering classes. Which in turn makes everyone more aware of the New York Times— and yes, its power. So the Times gets hit with the most complaints, and some of the most bitter, angry, unjust, occasionally paranoid ones, too. Plus dumb complaints, enough to fill dumpsters.

Intellectuals are the worst. As a professor of journalism, I have learned to dread moments when a colleague from another discipline says: “You’re in journalism, I have a question about the New York Times.” Note this way of stating the question. It’s a statement. There follows 15 minutes of thick description of something that appeared one day in the newspaper, with the colleague becoming more and more, um… animated— that’s the word. Red in the face sometimes too.

Of course, it’s a rant about how unbelievably stupid the people at the New York Times are because on some blessed topic the professor by his own admission knows a great deal about, “they got it all wrong.” Which means not incorrect, but wrong-headed, misled, wholly ignorant— and often a lot worse. People who scoff at conspiracy thinking in their own area of knowledge will indulge with pleasure when it’s a peeve about the Times. Often, these are extremely intelligent people of sound character and high opinion.

I noticed after a few of these rants how the Times reporters were rarely accused of making sophisticated errors in print— a tip off, I felt. Always the most basic ones. It wasn’t that the paper didn’t know the latest thing, which wouldn’t be a crime. No, the Times, according to my learned informants, doesn’t know the first thing about … “And I think that is a crime!” our professor even might shout.

More than once over a glass of wine, a spouse of the esteemed academic has chimed in. Visualize that: the same rant in stereo. Which the two of them know by heart from ranting at each other out on the patio about the New York Times. The first time I saw it, the Husband and Wife Tag Team Elite Journalism Smackdown, I was startled. Then I found it a fascinating glimpse into a marriage by way of its common newspaper. Both spouses can be obsessed with that newspaper; and part of this obsession is their occasional claim to despise it. I’m their occasion: a lucky journalism professor. Fortunately this tends to happen at cocktail parties where there is stuff to drink.

Now, informed of all this by a monologue that started as a colleague-to-colleague question, (“You’re in journalism….”) I learned to smile and sip and soak in the social comedy of it. For the one thing I know as certain is that my red-faced colleague will not be interrupted during the venting ritual. Not even Ted Koppel could find a space between syllables that he could really do anything with.

Who knows? Maybe one or two times in ten, the good man, the gentle lady has a point; the reporter screwed up, got it wrong, should have known better. But for the other eight times, we need to go to other explanations. Why do learned people behave this way about the New York Times? One possible answer: they “hate” it for the same reason that they would die with pride if their book were reviewed well in the New York Times. Journalism professors have to query these things.

This is all by way of saying that I have learned to rein in the rant impulse when I react to something in the Newspaper of Record. In OJR recentlly, Adam Clayton Powell asked John Markoff, longtime technology reporter for the Times, about “people who suddenly start creating content who don’t have the same standards as, well, The New York Times.” Still an issue? Or done being an issue after ten years of: but who are the gatekeepers? Oh, I think there will always be a need for gatekeepers. Markoff’s answer was: Yes, still an issue. No, ten years not enough for one problem.

He then decided also to make fun of the trend in weblogs, about which there is some modest industry buzz, wondering aloud whether the whole thing wasn’t just an improved version of CB radio, asking if in ten years would-be writers would still be writing their little online diaries, which, he implied, gets tiresome after a while. (Good chance he had this study in mind.)

And, you know, give it five or 10 years and see if any institutions emerge out of it. It’s possible that in the end there may be some small subset of people who find a livelihood out of it and that the rest of the people will find that, you know, keeping their diaries online is not the most useful thing to with their time. When I tell that to people … they get very angry with me. … I also like to tell them, when they (ask) when I’m going to start a blog, and then, “Oh, I already have a blog, it’s, don’t you read it?”

This was a clearly job for Jeff Jarvis and he did it: “the interview of the dinosaurs.” Scott Rosenberg of Salon took a more measured approach. Elizabeth Spiers sides with Jarvis. Perhaps the best reply is this Wired column from Larry Lessig (via Dave Weiner, whose summation of the interview is: “He’s not listening.”)

That leaves me free to say that I am a little puzzled by Markoff’s interview. (Although his point about institutions is a good one.) You would never know from listening to him that more people absorb the New York Times online edition than the on-paper version he seems to think he works for. (“I assume that there will still be a paper, that I’ll still be writing for paper and they’ll still be killing trees a decade from now.”) If the bulk of the reception is being done online, doesn’t that mean that we aren’t at all where we were ten years ago? Markoff, I am certain, knows this fact. I wonder what he makes of it.

On the question of where we are today, compare the depth of knowledge Markoff shows off in his OJR interview to this paragraph from Norbert Specker, a Swede who contributes to Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits column:

The First 10 Years in a Paragraph

What where the milestones of the first 10 years of online news? So asked Mark Glaser in Online Journalism Review a while back. Off the cuff, I’d say the defining element was the perception of the newspaper industry vs. the perception of the pundits. 1994: Curiousness vs. it’ll change everything; 1995: Nervousness vs. you HAVE to do something; 1996: Dabble your feet vs. go full out or you’ll be dead; 1997: Where is the meat vs. it takes time, and build communities; 1998: Still where is the meat vs. go multiplatform publishing; 1999: How do you play the stock market vs. you are in the content business; 2000: Who can we buy, merge, or partner with vs. whoa, is this ever taking off; 2001: It is not panning out vs. look closely where it does, imagine 9-11 without; 2002: Cut the weight vs. don’t stop believing; 2003: Not where our problems really are vs. you’ll never solve them without understanding it.

I don’t want to rant at Markoff. I want Specker to do it. Cheers.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 17, 2003 9:02 AM   Print



Posted by: Joseph Reagle at October 17, 2003 11:01 PM | Permalink

Jay, the above comment is geek for "I've noticed a typo in your article. Where you have 'webleg' I believe you really want 'weblog'."

Generally, typo corrections are best done by email where there's no chance they'll outlive the error in public. I send people free proofreading corrections all the time - part of that gift economy.

Posted by: xian at October 19, 2003 6:19 PM | Permalink

Xian. Thank you. This contribution you make to the gift economy, by way of typos... could you tell me more about it? Have a theory? I'd like to know what you think you're doing.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 19, 2003 9:43 PM | Permalink

I agree that the typo correction thing is worth studying. Geeks, I would say, tend to think of the information sphere as a commons, a public space. Fixing a typo is basically the equivalent of picking up a piece of litter. It only makes sense, though, if the correction is actually applied.

I'd have to add my voice to the NYT ranting crew. Several times, I've seen articles there that simply get the facts wrong. The most recent example was the "scoop" on SCOX that Markoff ran.

My wife's reaction was interesting - she told me that if the NYT _really_ got its facts so wrong, they should be amenable to a nice letter correcting them. I'm skeptical it will do much good (feels maybe like picking up a piece of litter when garbage scows are continually being air-dropped), but maybe I should try that next time, and see what happens.

Posted by: Raph Levien at October 21, 2003 11:56 PM | Permalink

From the Intro