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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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January 10, 2004

Adopt a Campaign Journalist in 2004: The Drift of a Suggestion

Over the holidays, an idea gained some Net traction: webloggers "adopting" a campaign reporter. That means you monitor and collect all the reporter's work, and then... And then what? Follow the turns as the suggestion is taken up and debated.

Saturday Night, Jan. 10: Link flow and blog authority have been combining in the atmosphere. In sequence:

Dec. 23. At the Daily Kos, Vet 4 Dean reacts to discussion at Blog For America, the Dean campaign’s main gig:

Earlier today on DFA, there was a good bit of discussion of the latest piece of “journalism” committed by Ms. Jodi Wilgoren in the NY Times. Well, I decided it was time to lose my blogging virginity and created The Wilgoren Watch.

Dec. 23. And he does. The Wilgoren Watch: “Dedicated to deconstructing the New York Times coverage of Howard Dean’s campaign for the White House.” (The inaugural post.)

Dec. 28. At Steve Gilliard’s News Blog, Gilliard says he has had enough: Time to Take the Gloves Off:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them…

I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people’s reporting the way we track other services….

Keeping score of who’s right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.

Dec. 30. Reacting to Gilliard’s idea, Atrios gives it a second. Hardball: “We should have an ‘adopt a journalist’ program. As Steve suggets, people should choose a journalist, follow everything they write, archive all their work, and critique and contextualize it where appropriate.”

Dec. 30. Atrios returns to the subject, noting that the Wilgoren Watch already exists: “I’m not going to organize this but feel free to forward on links. I’ll set up a special blogroll section.” But he cautions:

…ideally whoever does this shouldn’t just be doing instant reaction. I’m thinking of archiving all of their work (on your hard drive - copyright and all), and really tracing through and providing context for all their work. This includes talking heads appearances, too.

Dec. 30. Ex Lion Tamer: “Gilliard’s Modest Proposal.”

Dec. 30. See Why? “Eschaton has a cool idea.”

Dec. 31. At Liberal Pride, an Adopt-a-Journalist Forum is created, “to facilitate the project that was conceived at Eschaton.”

Jan. 1. Shadow of the Hegemon: “I’d like to see two versions of it.”

The first is that it should be per-journalist. I think that makes sense, and will provide a real impetus to change when the journo figures out that the only way to get this guy off his back is to stop pandering to the right.

The other idea is a per-issue focus, where specific falsehoods like “Al Gore created the internet” are targeted.

I don’t think these two are incompatible. What would be most useful is if those who were focusing on specific falsehoods create “falsehood FAQs…”

Jan 3. PressThink on horse race journalism: “Meanwhile, the weblog world is starting to stir a bit with the idea of monitoring individual campaign reporters. (But for what?)…”

Jan. 5. Halley of Halley’s Comment in the comments at PressThink: “I especially liked the idea of bloggers tracking reporters (per Steve Gilliard) and anticipating what they will say. Their no-story reporting style is lamentably obsolete.”

Jan. 6. Pipeline: “Look for the way they use various labels for unnamed sources to insert their own ideas and biases into stories. David Brooks isn’t really a reporter, but I feel like I’m covering his columns every day they come out, so maybe I’ll adopt him.”

Jan 6. Reporter Alan Judd of the Atlanta Constitution emails PressThink: “The idea of ‘tracking’ individual campaign reporters—as on Wilgoren Watch—is absurd. The people behind such efforts would be satisified with nothing other than stories effusively praising Howard Dean and blasting Bush as the great satan. What they advocate isn’t press criticism, it’s stalking.”

Jan. 9. Wilogren Watch, “Welcome Ms. Wilogren: “…my little blog has attracted 16 ‘regulars’ who have signed up for the Yahoo Group! e-mail list to be notified of new posts. Including, it seems, one Ms. Jodi Wilgoren from the NYTimes. Welcome, Ms. Wilgoren.”

A Reference Point. The Charen Watch has been in existence since Jan. 17, 2003. Mission statement:

Mona Charen is a Media Whore.

What exactly is a media whore? A “journalist” in name only, perfectly willing without any hesitation to distort, obfuscate, exaggerate, skew, or hide the Truth to advance their personal views or agendas….

Charen Watch is a site devoted solely to critiquing Ms. Charen as her work is posted bi-weekly from the Creators Syndicate site.

I have ideas and questions about this, which may come later. (They did. Go here.) Meanwhile the bar is open, people. Hit the comment button and say what you think. (So 24 hours later…)

Sunday Night, Jan. 11 Discussion has picked up in Blogistan…

Ex Lion Tamer: Pressthink adopts a somewhat dismissive tone toward the ‘adopt a journalist’ meme— um, maybe because they’re journalists? Call me crazy…”

Dan Gillmor: “I like the idea that people are watching what I say and correcting me if I get things wrong — or challenging my conclusions, based on the same facts (or facts I hadn’t know about when I wrote the piece.) This is a piece of tomorrow’s journalism, and we in the business should welcome the feedback and assistance that, if we do it right, becomes part of a larger conversation. But if the idea is to create some kind of organized collection of Truth Squads, I’m less comfortable.” (Posted in comments here also.)

Jeff Jarvis: “When you know something or find out something that somebody in the press got wrong, shout it from the mountaintop and people will listen. When, instead, you keep harping that you can’t stand Dowd or Krugman or Dan or me, well, you’re only further spreading the Internet’s ill-deserved reputation for personal attack and innuendo.” (Also in comments here.)

Laurence at AmishTechSupport: “Adopt a Campaign Journalist for what amounts to stalking and fact-checking the press-credentialed lapdogs of each campaign.”

Matthew J. Stinson: “In the end it seems like the primary goal of the ‘watch’ blog folks is to force polarization and destroy nuance in the media rather than correct the record. I’m not disturbed by the notion that journalists should be fact-checked, but I find it more than a little troubling that some in the blogosphere think we need a Ministry of Truth.”

Tom Mangan in comments: “I’d have more optimism if any of the volunteer press watchdogs had an ounce of objectivity about them.”

Ex Lion Tamer in comments: “Mr. Mangan and his skeptical colleagues might be wary of appearing disingenuous here—after all, as a news editor he stands in the direct line of fire of we self-appointed pointy-eared blogger media watchdogs. Is there something disconcerting about being held to account by one’s readers? There’s not much difference between what we do and a letter to the editor, except that you don’t do the editing, we do.”

Jesse in comments: “For many of the ‘watchers,’ the goal is not to talk to the journalist, but instead to readers of their work, to not let falsehoods, whether real or perceived, stand. That’s part of the point of public debate, is it not?”

cat in comment thread at Atrios: “Rosen is viewing this movement with apparent alarm and ridicule, mentioning Atrios, Kos, Steve, et al. Most of his commenters are media/jounalism types who take a dim view of our out-of-the-mainstream efforts.”

Mary Hodder in comments: The Wilgoren Watch doesn’t have an About section, we don’t know who he is or what he does, and in the same way he wants to criticize other’s work, he’s left out information that would allow his audience to know his biases and experience, and take those into account when reading his work.”

And… they’re listening in Germany.

Atrios returns to the subject at Eschaton: “be in depth about it. Archive all of their work, look for inconsistencies across their own writing. It doesn’t have to be all nasty criticism. Criticism can be both good and bad - it’s important to remember that….mostly what I’m talking about are people covering the ‘04 campaign, and mostly what I’m talking about are straight journalists and not the pundits.”

Al Giordano in comments here: “If there is any journalist out there who is afraid of this wave that is pounding upon our shores, it is time for him and her to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask: What have we become? And how did that happen? It happened because we only get scrutinized from inside our own clubhouse, and, then, only according to rules established to keep the lie alive.”

Doc Searls writes in with Watching the Detectives: “As members of The Press his last week at Macworld and CES, Dan [Gillmor] and I belonged to an exclusive club, with its own private rooms, free food, wi-fi Net connections, and other freebies, not to mention special treatment by vendors. We’re insiders. Yet many markets—politics and technology are just two—include a growing number of outsiders with online journals who are just as important to the market’s ecosystem as credentialed journalists.”

KHayes in comments here: “Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler writes excellent media criticism and has been doing it daily for four years. He’s been doing for multiple reporters what the blogosphere is suggesting for individuals. Bob earns his living at standup comedy. Horrors! He’s not a ‘pro’…”

William of Wilgoren Watch replies with Tsunami: “I hate the term ‘Media Whore’ because of its misogynistic implications, although I’m sure I’ve used it once or twice online, as it is pretty much part of the popular jargon in the blogosphere. I have nothing personal against Ms. Wilgoren and I have attempted to be nothing but respectful to her on this blog – I just want to make sure she and her editors know we are paying attention to how they portray our party and Gov. Dean.”

Monday morning, Jan. 12. Debate continues…

The Patricia Wilson Watch is founded. (Reuters reporter)

Jan. 12: Tom Mangan rethinks in Reporters For Adoption: “Bloggers adopting journalists could be the best thing that happens to journalism, because it creates a class of people who elevate the perceived importance of journalism. In the same way that sports coverage is as important as the games themselves, blog coverage of the news could actually reignite the attention of a public that, by and large, tunes out the press.”

Rogers Cadenhead: “As a former newspaper journalist, I’m amazed by some of the hysteria that journalists are exhibiting about a plan for webloggers to follow and critique specific political journalists during the 2004 presidential campaign.”

Halley Suitt of Halley’s Comment emails PressThink with this advice: “Has anyone offered to organize this? I will be happy to. I need you guys to give me a list of which journalists you think we should be adopting and then I’ll dole them out and keep track of it, make it easy to access. I’m new to politics and relatively unbiased (though an obvious Dean supporter). I think it’s a great idea.”

Nick Douglas of Broken Hammock in comments here: “Could the journalist-watching be done in a purposely mixed manner, rather than a negative bent only? I know I’d enjoy following a journalist and bragging about how accurate he’s been. Adopt-a-journalist can run both ways, rewarding the good as well as punishing the bad.”

Ex Lion Tamer refines in an updated post: “Think of bloggers as the ‘garage band’ model of journalism, if you will. the hectoring and lecturing tone of the paid and/or degreed professional journalists telling us we ought to pipe down and stop swearing and all that - man, does that get my goat, but it’s also ahistorical. All movements in media since Gutenberg have been tidal, not linear.”

Mike Adamick emails PressThink with his resource site for tracking political journalists: Poliwonks.

The Wilgoren Watch makes Howard Kurtz’s media column in the Washington Post: “She laughs about Wilgoren Watch (whose author remains anonymous), saying she and her fiance were among the few who signed up for updates. The fledgling site had 2,715 visitors as of last week. ‘I don’t think this is a big movement,’ Wilgoren says. ‘I get e-mail every day from Dean supporters who think I’m insane, and I get some very thoughtful reactions. This is a campaign filled with people on the Net voraciously communicating with each other.’”

Fact-esque, a watch weblog for AP reporter Calvin Woodward, is born. (DOB Jan. 11.)

Here is another, a second Woodward watch.

Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly “adopted.”

For part two of this discussion, See PressThink: Why I Love the Adopt-a-Reporter Scheme. Why I Dread It. (Jan. 14)

Listen to a segment about adopt-a-journalist on NPR’s “On the Media,” via WNYC, Jan. 24-25. With host Brooke Gladstone, and guests Jody Wilgoren of the New York Times, Jay Rosen, and the author of the Wilgoren Watch.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 10, 2004 6:10 PM   Print


I'd have more optimism if any of the volunteer press watchdogs had an ounce of objectivity about them.

First bloggers were happy being amateur pundits, now they want to be amateur spinmeisters. And amateur lobbyists, campaign managers, fundraisers ... everything but amateur holders of public office.

I don't mean to demean the heartfelt beliefs of dedicated individuals, but when bloggers start to adopt reporters I can't help thinking of the Saturday Night Live skit where William Shatner tells the dweebie trekkie kids in their Vulcan ears and Klingon distruptors to Get a Life.

Posted by: Tom Mangan at January 11, 2004 1:42 AM | Permalink

since my blog is mentioned here, i beg your indulgence for a moment. i will allow that mr. mangan's comment above is marginally witty, although somewhat cliche [tom tomorrow in his wonderful strip 'this modern world' has already famously skewered the idea of blog relevance]. however i also find it gratuitously dismissive, particularly of the facts.

for one thing, part of the double-edged humor of shatner's "get a life" skit for SNL is that there he is, still signing autographs at conventions for fans of a show he starred in half a lifetime ago. in other words it's something of a glass houses scenario - not only is it unclear what sort of life mr. shatner has "got", it is also abundantly clear that like it or not he is dependent upon the attention his followers afford him. secondly, we're not talking about a semiliterary form of celebrity stalking here, although that does occur in the blogosphere - we're talking about media criticism, which has been revolutionized by the internet in that one doesn't have to depend on insiders for media analysis anymore.

furthermore, mr. mangan and his skeptical colleagues might be wary of appearing disingenuous here - after all, as a news editor he stands in the direct line of fire of we self-appointed pointy-eared blogger media watchdogs. is there something disconcerting about being held to account by one's readers? there's not much difference between what we do and a letter to the editor, except that you don't do the editing, we do.

the other set of facts at issue here are the ones about which many a news editor seems curiously incurious in this day and age - for instance, that the wilgoren piece mentioned at the top of this page is about as partisan, dismissive, one-sided and acid as one can imagine anywhere off of an editorial/opinion page. yet rather than examine the merit of the message, you kill the messenger.

i think that your scorn more than anything else you might say is evidence that there may be something worthwhile to we amateurs deconstructing the "fair and balanced" news pieces the mainstream media currently has to offer.

Posted by: r@d@r at January 11, 2004 4:36 AM | Permalink

(Note: I also posted this on my own blog:

I like the idea that people are watching what I say and correcting me if I get things wrong -- or challenging my conclusions, based on the same facts (or facts I hadn't know about when I wrote the piece). This is a piece of tomorrow's journalism, and we in the business should welcome the feedback and assistance that, if we do it right, becomes part of a larger conversation.

But if the idea is to create some kind of organized collection of Truth Squads, I'm less comfortable. Here are just three of the many, many questions/issues that come immediately to mind:

1) Who's doing the watching? A self-appointed "watcher" is an antagonist in most cases, convinced before he/she starts posting criticisms that the journalist in question is getting thingsf wrong, whether due to incompetence or animosity. Journalists confronted with this kind of attitude don't respond well, and probably won't respond at all.

Paul Krugman has a cadre of online critics who make my own look benign. Some of what they say is outrageously incorrect. Some of what they say is debaters' tricks: using straw men to shoot down things he didn't say, or saying something that may be true but is off point, etc.

2) Will journalists who do participate in the online discussion of their work -- and many will be forbidden to do so by their organizations, probably for legal reasons -- hit the law of diminishing returns?

I recall the quasi-religious debates over the OS/2 operating system back in the early and middle 1990s. I was a fan of OS/2 but not sufficiently infused with the religion. Once and a while I'd post a note in a Usenet discussion where something I'd written was either being misinterpreted or had been seriously twisted. I'd then get hammered by one of the more fervent OS/2 acolytes who'd deconstruct every sentence and ask further questions, few of which were actually relevant (in my view) to the issue. I quickly learned that I had time for correcting outright mistruths and not much else. (I also had defenders in the newsgroup, which helped.)

3) Why should anyone trust what critics say any more than what the journalist says? An assertion that a journalist has a fact wrong is not, in itself, true. It's just an assertion.

Do we need Truth Squads watching the Truth Squads. There are, amazingly, sites that deconstruct the anti-Krugman stuff. But you'll forgive a casual reader for ignoring almost all of it.

None of these issues means that Web watchers are a bad idea. But if the idea is to really make journalism better, I'm just not convinced this will work.

Posted by: Dan Gillmor at January 11, 2004 12:58 PM | Permalink

The thing is, you're not bringing up issues that haven't existed before and won't continue to exist in the future - Howard Kurtz alone is a media-criticism nightmare, for instance.

Why should anyone trust what critics say any more than what the journalist says? An assertion that a journalist has a fact wrong is not, in itself, true. It's just an assertion.

This is patently false, and in fact indicative of the attitude that has spurned on many of these "watchers". Much of the problem with the Krugman-watchers, for instance, is that they attempt to combat perceived faults of Krugman by using factually inaccurate data - and those facts can be corrected. If a journalist reports a fact wrong, and someone posts a valid correction of it, you're not simply talking about two competing assertions - you're talking about a mistake and a correction.

Who's doing the watching? A self-appointed "watcher" is an antagonist in most cases, convinced before he/she starts posting criticisms that the journalist in question is getting thingsf wrong, whether due to incompetence or animosity. Journalists confronted with this kind of attitude don't respond well, and probably won't respond at all.

For many of the "watchers", the goal is not to talk to the journalist, but instead to readers of their work, to not let falsehoods, whether real or perceived, stand. That's part of the point of public debate, is it not?

To Tom Managan:

First bloggers were happy being amateur pundits, now they want to be amateur spinmeisters. And amateur lobbyists, campaign managers, fundraisers ... everything but amateur holders of public office.

If you don't respect the opinions, you don't have to read them - better yet, you can make the effort to correct them, in whatever forum you have available. Many pundits are amateurs in their own right, albeit with flashier trappings - experts perhaps in one or two areas, but seeking to opine in every area of public life, no matter their relative expertise. Being paid for it doesn't necessarily make your opinion better or any more valid.

Posted by: jesse at January 11, 2004 1:17 PM | Permalink

The fact that media types are so dismissive of bloggers' efforts to track journalists, speaks to the merit of the idea. If they had nothing to worry about, they wouldn't bother to denounce it.

The days are over where we sheeple were expected to be passive receptacles for whatever garbage the mass media deigned to shovel down our gullets. It's a scary new world for media 'ho's and they don't like it.

news flash: some of us unwashed masses are a lot more savvy than you give us credit for. Some of us even have experience in the media world, and so to dismiss us all as being 'amateurs' is quite mistaken.

Will some adopt-a-ho bloggers engage in pure partisanship? Sure. Just as some so-called 'journalists' (Nedra Pickler) engage in pure partisanship. I trust the readers to be able to discern partisanship from criticism.

We're watching you, media ho's. And we have the ability to talk back. Be afraid and be on your toes, we'll be watching.

Posted by: renato at January 11, 2004 1:33 PM | Permalink

Thanks to Dan Gillmor for summing up my serious concerns (vs. the merely glib ones stated above) about these watchdogs.

Anybody who's seen my six years of online output will understand I'm not one of the media types dismissing blogging out of hand (the ones who are will get their asses handed to them soon enough). I do, however, make it a point to deflate whatever hype I come across, and try to encourage people to get over their breathless enthusiasm for each new Internet wonder.

As a news editor I don't mind people poring over the work I do and picking it to pieces. Everybody needs a hobby, and if yours makes me smarter, I'm all for it. What I don't like is the likelihood of volunteer pickers -- who have no financial stake in my profession and can quit at any time -- gumming up the works and making it harder for my colleagues to do their jobs.

See, all these watchers will attract the attention of the watchee, and the watchee will dedicate on-the-job time to addressing their concerns, and that will be time taken away from writing and reporting the news. It's not by default bad, provided the watcher understands the constraints and pressures most reporters work under. Criticism is helpful provided it is constructive.

But the bloggers who assume this "we're smarter than the media" attitude are alienating the people they most hope to influence -- the media people they wish were smarter. (Then again, bloggers can't want us to be *too much* smarter, because then they'd have nothing to blog about).

If your heart's set on adopting a reporter, please try to productive about it. That means pointing to links and stories and other means of widening the understanding of everybody who reads your blog -- the most avid of whom will be the reporter in question, most likely.

But I beg you: don't be partisan, nit-picking pains in the ass like the Krugman haters who've given him every reason to write off the lot of 'em.

Posted by: tom mangan at January 11, 2004 2:26 PM | Permalink

What bothers me about all these journalists. Why is there no outcry because we went to war on a (lots of lies) lie, a lie (lots of lies) from the President of the United States. Who do you think is responsible for the majority of people thinking Iraq had something to do with 9-11. You know, alot of peoples lives have been adversly affected by the lies and omissions by the present administration and the journalist that seem to cover for them. And the lies are still being covered up. I feel that when (IF) Bush and Co. has legal proplems over all this that the media should be included for "knowing but not reporting". How about the fact that Bechtel had to stop construction on a chemical factory they were building for Iraq in 1991 (only because of the first gulf war). And now they have no bid contracts to repair Iraq. Kind of win win for Bechtel, aint it? How many citizens have been informed of this? How many journalist knew? And, yea, we knew Iraq had WMD's, we sold them their starter kits. We condoned their use against the Iranians. And our "fair and balanced" media knows this too, but in their infinite wisdom they dont report, they omit.

Posted by: da lurker at January 11, 2004 2:29 PM | Permalink

I heartily second Dan Gillmor.
What we'll end up with is dueling truth squads. I know, for I've been witnessing that in the comments on my blog as self-appointed holders of the liberal flame claim I shouldn't use that label. It devolved into utter silliness with one blogger searching my words for the words "safety net" and because he couldn't find them he decreed that I couldn't possibly be liberal. To which I (childishly but gleefully) replied: "Safety net. Safety net. Safety net."
Here's what's wrong with this idea: It builds back up the journalistic cult of personality that the Web and weblogs tear down.
Don't make the writers the issue.
Make the issues the issue.
By creating single-man defense on reporters, you're only extending the lie that it matters who reads the news (from the media) or that a reporter starts the day repeating a secret agenda (from the anti-media) -- both shallow, naive, and ultimately wrong and unproductive notions.
I agree with Dan that fact-checking the ass of me, him and every other journalist is a great thing and is one of the great benefits of this citizens' media. But it should be done on merit (or demerit): When you know something or find out something that somebody in the press got wrong, shout it from the mountaintop and people will listen. When, instead, you keep harping that you can't stand Dowd or Krugman or Dan or me, well, you're only further spreading the Internet's ill-deserved reputation for personal attack and innuendo.
We say to establishment journalists the same thing we say to citizen journalists: Get it right and when you don't, well then get it right.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at January 11, 2004 2:44 PM | Permalink

I have experience in journalism but I do not blog. In high school I was the editor of the newspaper and after 3 issues, the administration closed down the newspaper and burned all the copies. 3 months later I was suspended on some phony transgression.

How many here have ever had a publication closed because on what they wrote?

The bloggers watch each other. For a blog to remain trusted it has to be honest. Admit mistakes, not be too extreme, etc. Blogging is an information economy and the coin of the realm is information. Particular instances of information derive their value based on scarcity and reliability. Lies and spin devalue the information. Scarcity comes in that blogs can distill the news to the actual unique fact or piece of information that a particular event or story contains.

Newspapers and especially TV news has very little value in this information economy because they are typically spun from corporate and government sources and are predictable. They are absolutley skewed toward maintaining the status quo a consumerist, corporate-based government.

Any dissenting opinions, if they are ever let on, are portrayed as being extreme or crackpots.

It is now up to journalists to demonstrate that they are not biased. After their performance during blowjob-gate, the 2000 election, especially Florida and the Supreme Court, Sept 11, the runup to the war and now with 2004, the emergence of blogging and journalism monitoring was inevitable. And then to ask in horror "who will watch the watchers?" It's almost funny.

You will be watching the watchers, as you die the death of a thousand papercuts.

Posted by: Experienced Journalist at January 11, 2004 3:37 PM | Permalink

It is definitely a *possibility* that the media watchers' agendas will cloud their coverage of the coverage. But the success of this phenomenon depends equally on the scale of the misrepresentation by the print journalists as it does on the percieved biases and "shrillness" of the watchdogs. With any luck, if the reporters really *are* screwing up (and they are-- you have only to read dailyhowler, spinsanity, or any nedra pickler article to see how disingenuous the journos and the talking heads are on a regular basis), the shrillness of the watchdogs will be overlooked for the merits of their cases. Think about it: who here really respects Matt Drudge? But how many people read his site anyways?

A (hopefully) more useful model is the site, where objective analysis is applied equally to both sides of the spectrum. If the watchdogs could, for instance, give a grade to *every* article/column/appearance from their subject, with annotation for both truthful and false statements, then the perception of their one-sidedness (and, in fact, the substance of it) would be substantially reduced.

I think if the culture of correction is enhanced and its profile raised, the watchdogs will have accomplished something substantial and the quality of the media's reportage will be improved.

Posted by: joshwa at January 11, 2004 4:03 PM | Permalink

I agree that man-marking individual journalists is probably not the best way to go - if you're focussed every day on taking a particular guy down, you're not looking for the really bad hack-work that needs attention. And the organisation involved in allocated minders for all the relevant journos out there? Doesn't sound terribly practical for the blogosphere as I know it!

Part of the resentment inspiring the movement is undoubtedly the newspapers' failure to admit that journalism is a proper subject for criticism: you get big operations at the big papers providing crits of art, books, movies, TV - but journalism? Nada.

The ombudsmen, on the whole, tend to deal with small-scale issues - which cartoon strips to run, tasteless photos, whether a story should have run on Page 1 - and they're just once a week. And most papers don't have them.

The message from the papers (as opposed to particular journo-bloggers who work for them) is, We know best, and need no assistance from amateurs. Yet there is a clear lack of collegiate quality control within the industry.

As, for example the extraordinary revelations of British hack Con Coughlin on Mohamed Atta (shot down in Newsweek) and the 'source' of the infamous (in Britain, at least!) 45 minute intelligence on WMD (merely stepped over by the rest of the media).

Or Robert Novak's claim of ballot-stuffing by South Dakota Indians on 'Crossfire' last week, which has been left to twist in the wind.

On the one hand, the press require us to parse their product like professionals; on the other, they pat us on the head. No wonder some bloggers get a little carried away...

Posted by: John Smith at January 11, 2004 4:15 PM | Permalink

I think Experienced Journalist hits on the main flaw with MR Mangan's assertion that bloggers/watchers will only focus on what they don't personally like about a particular journalist's views.

The blog world does not take much on simple say so. If you can't back up an argument with facts you will be torn to shreds.

I see nothing wrong with "regular" people keeping an eye on the press and calling them on their shit when need be. Of course some people will let their personal feelings override real facts but I don't think their opinions will be given much weight. (Unless their name is Andy Sullivan)

Most in the internet world will want facts (at least the left side of it)and will call them on it when they can't back it up. If the major media wasn't failing so greatly in presenting the news with some semblance to objectivity we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

If the pundits weren't so obviously whoring for their corporate masters and looking out for their own economic interests instead of at least trying to offer some kind of objectivity this wouldn't even be an issue.

I am obviously no journalist; hell, I don't even have a blog but I have a brain and I have an opinion and I don't like being lied to and I don't like elitist smarm attitudes so if I have a way to respond than that can only be a good thing.

I know that many jouralists and editors work very hard at their craft and do their best to do honest work but the internet is not going away and it provides a forum for the "rabble" as well as the "kewl kids". Deal with it.

Posted by: tom p at January 11, 2004 4:43 PM | Permalink

I like the idea of tracking writer's work because there is opportunity to understand and get context for their work over time, across subjects and even media outlets, to understand the implicit bias we all have, as well as to see how writers use the same sources, words, metaphors and arguments to discuss what they are reporting. Often these elements remain the same but over time, the story changes and for example, a writer's over-used-metaphor becomes destructive as it grows more and more out of sync with the situation described over various articles. It's also a way to understand reputation (and there is no getting around the fact that journalism publishes with bylines). Blogging and other kinds of participatory journalism allow for many different kinds of analysis of journalism; this kind can be useful, too.

But the other side of this exercise is that while people (bloggers or any others) criticize or point out problems with writer's work, they may also become what they despise, ending up committing the same acts of bias they are trying to point out. There is room in the blogosphere to see this meta-bias as well, and readers will choose what to read as the blogger/critic’s reputation is established.

One point regarding this: the first example above, The Wilgoren Watch, doesn't have an About section, we don't know who he is or what he does, and in the same way he wants to criticize other's work, he's left out information that would allow his audience to know his biases and experience, and take those into account when reading his work.

Creating rancor, yelling loudest (or even stalking as has been suggested above), in the name of fighting bias seems destructive and doesn't achieve the goal very well. It may lead to the tearing down of particular journalists who may be biased, but it might also lead to journalists, and the journalism business, becoming more bland and non-committal than it already is. So my question is, can you constructively analyze and discuss these issues and writers, and make readers aware, without ruining the good that exists in journalism? Can you do it in a way that builds up rather than tears down?

Posted by: mary hodder at January 11, 2004 5:47 PM | Permalink

I am most amused by the sight of professional journalists worrying about being treated unfairly by commentators.

The irony is palpable. Everyone else lives in a world where unless you are a major figure of some sort, there is no defense, no appeal, against the power of the media. Where, like a medieval serf, the only hope of protection against abuse from one member of the nobility, is perhaps to have patronage from another member of that class.

There is such fear that the mob, the rabble, might do unto them in the same way the commoners have been done unto, and make no distinction between the (assumedly) virtuous and the vice-prone sinners.

Honestly, I don't think this'll happen. But I do find the reactions to the fantasy very revealing.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 11, 2004 8:10 PM | Permalink

So for the benifit of folks who dont think this media watch is anything, lets look at this little snippit i got from the austin american statesman, here in the unelected frauds hometown. Ill admit in no reporter, ive been a carpenter, and roughneck most of my life. Lets just look at Rebecca Carr's little ditty below. Look at the title. Who did the US loose to? Well, belive it or not, the US has just lost to our judical system. Simple spin? orwelian? Rebeccas not aware of how the US works? Where was the editors when the only daily newspaper in the capital of texas printed this?

U.S. loses 2 rulings on terror detainees

Author: Rebecca Carr, WASHINGTON BUREAU Date: December 19, 2003 Publication: Austin American-Statesman (TX) Page Number: Word Count: 1021

WASHINGTON --Two federal appeals court rulings Thursday struck blows to the Bush administration's war against terrorists, challenging the way the government has detained
Americans and foreigners outside the criminal justice system.

In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that President Bush does not have the authority to hold American citizen Jose Padilla incommunicado even if he is suspected of planning a "dirty bomb" attack on behalf of al

(this is all of the artical i could get for free as im one of the benifactors in our recovering economy)

Posted by: da lurker at January 11, 2004 9:12 PM | Permalink

As a journalist, I support the adoption campaign, 100 percent, without hesitation, and I can't see how any truly spirited and honest journalist could have any problem with scrutiny, whether from amateurs or pros, biased bloggers or media critics, or even uncivil critics with axes to grind.

This is the most important thing our profession needs today: the mirror of scrutiny turned back upon us.

I hope that we all get "adopted" because the orphanages that have institutionalized us have turned us into modern-day Oliver Twists, with bosses no less Dickensian than Mr. Bumble and Mr. Sowerberry, cracking the whip upon our backs as we smile for the public pretending that nothing is wrong, that we really do have free speech, that we're "important" people and not mere wage slaves in cubicles... In telling the public we had press freedom, we told our first lie, thus started sliding down that slippery slope that has destroyed democracy as we knew it.

There is nothing more laughable than a fellow or sister journalist who doesn't want the same scrutiny we dish out daily.

I'm also for this - as I posted on my blog - - on New Year's Eve (documenting links available there: somehow I'm unable to imbed links on Jay's blog) - because this kind of scrutiny has already stopped great abuses, and as it snowballs, will stop more abuses. Here's a quote, minus the links, from that entry:

"I can testify that this kind of 'tough love' works. Narco News 'adopted' Sam Dillon, Mexico Bureau Chief of the NY Times - , and he left Mexico two years before his term was up. We 'adopted' AP's 18-year Bolivian Bureau Chief Peter McFarren , and he was gone within 18 days..."

It's a lot of work, though, so we need more hands on deck. The idea has already taken root. Now we need the troops. So what if people begin as novices? Didn't we all begin that way? And what is the nonsense about "objectivity" anyway? That's the second Big Lie we journalists have spouted for too long, and the jig is up. Give me a blogger who discloses his and her bias any day over a "journalist" who claims he and she have none.

I'm not saying this should be a one way street: there are bloggers, too, who deserve to be "adopted" and scrutinized in this same manner. There is far too little disclosure in the blogosphere, too. Like, where does Andrew Sullivan get his donations from, anyway? And why won't he disclose, say, contributors of a thousand dollars or more?

Take heart, bloggers, and be of good cheer. This is an idea whose time has come. Very soon, at Narco News we'll be involving the readers in adopting all the major media English-language correspondents in Latin America, to go over every claim they make with a fine tooth comb. And we'll open our own reports up to this kind of public fact-checking and comment.

If there is any journalist out there who is afraid of this wave that is pounding upon our shores, it is time for him and her to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask: What have we become? And how did that happen?

It happened because we only get scrutinized from inside our own clubhouse, and, then, only according to rules established to keep the lie alive. When you've published, as I have, more than a thousand news stories in commercial publications, and you can't admit that the game is rigged, that there is no press freedom, that the censorship comes not from government but from a State called the private sector, well, then you really need to be put up for adoption, because you've started lying to yourself too.

Al Giordano

P.S. Jay, it would be really great if we could comment here with html code, blockquotes, and italics, to be able to speak more clearly and document our claims.

Posted by: Al Giordano at January 11, 2004 9:32 PM | Permalink

It's Dan Gillmor, not Gillmour or Gillmore, etc.

Posted by: xian at January 11, 2004 9:43 PM | Permalink

I watched this spring up on the blogs you mentioned, and it's clear to me the motivation was simply to counter the outright lies and bias of some of the "elite" media reporters and pundits. They seem to consider that important in an election year.

Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler writes excellent media criticism and has been doing it daily for four years. He's been doing for multiple reporters what the blogosphere is suggesting for individuals. Bob earns his living at standup comedy. Horrors! He's not a "pro".

To the reporters - who are you writing for? The people who read your stories or the corporation that pays you? Which audience is more important to a functioning democracy?

Posted by: K Hayes at January 11, 2004 10:08 PM | Permalink

"K Hayes" - They're writing for whomever signs their check, no matter what else they say.

I'm serious - that's not snark. It's true.

The dominant factor is whether the check-signer is pleased, not whether they are accurate.

Not accurate, but pleased check-signer == continued employment.

Accurate, but displeased check-signer == lack of employment.

The counter-argument here is that the pleasure of the check-signer is related to accuracy. A simple reading of the day's stories will show this assertion is simply not true, that the correlation is tenuous at best (yes, there are extreme examples of connection, but these are almost exceptions proving the rule)

Of course, "fact-checkers" don't have any incentive to be accurate either. So no magic there.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 11, 2004 10:48 PM | Permalink

Did you ever feel like you were surfing on a little wave which suddenly got a lot bigger than you expected? Welcome to my tsunami.

I guess my cyber-ears should have been burning because my little baby blog has been mentioned once or twice here and at Atrios.

Listen folks, I’m not a journalist and never pretended to be. I’m just a guy (veterinarian by trade) living in Northern Virginia who supports Gov. Howard Dean in his run for the White House and happens to know a little about HTML. I’m not a “Deaniac” (I abhor that term because it implies a level of mental disease which my psychiatrist assures me I don’t possess) and I’m not a “Deanie-baby” (alas, I’m closer to 40 than 35). I just a citizen who has volunteered money and time to the campaign and hopes to be a delegate to the Democratic convention in Boston after Gov. Dean wins the nomination. I’m not a stalker and couldn’t care less what this blog “means” in the larger sense.

There is more at The Wilgoren Watch ( if you're interested. Check it out if you wish, any comments will be appreciated, and thanks to everyone for doing their part to keep us ALL honest.

Posted by: Wilgoren Watch at January 11, 2004 11:38 PM | Permalink

I feel like, if this happens, it should be linked together as a group blog. Only because tracking and reading 40 more blogs is relatively unlikely, especially in regards to "meme currency". IE, one centralized blog that can spawn links from hundreds of decentralized blogs is more potent than 40 scattered blogs spawning a few readers and few links.

Posted by: scout at January 12, 2004 2:17 AM | Permalink

I'm a college journalism professor and I have no problem with the concept of blogs keeping track of an "adopted" reporter. There's nothing ipso facto terrible about that.

But it's the execution that is crucial, and there I share some qualms. For such a blog to be really helpful, I think, the blogger would really need to be hoping for the reporter to do a good job and to reward the reporter when that's the case.

None of us would pay any attention to a film critic who loved (or hated) every movie. We'd learn quickly enough that nothing of value could come from relying on the critic's opinions.

So too with blogs that seek to criticize. There are some qualifications for being a successful critic:

1. Knowledge of the subject;
2. Knowledge of the creative process and its practical difficulties;
3. A sense of proportion;
4. The ability to put aside preconceptions'
5. The ability to praise as well as criticize.

If a purported critic isn't willing to take on those responsibilities of serious criticism, well, then he or she shouldn't be in the criticism business, imo, whether in print, on the air or in a blog.

Because absent those prerequisites, an opinion is just an opinion, no more worthy of attention than any other opinion.

Posted by: Roger Karraker at January 12, 2004 2:18 AM | Permalink

roger, i appreciate your open-mindedness, but i have some qualms about your qualms as stated. when you mention the responsibilities of serious criticism and who "should" be in the business, you are forgetting the time honored adage "everyone's a critic" [usually said with a cynical tone], and there just aren't any "shoulds" about it. lousy critics get paid all the time - the new york times is full of them. if you're a journalist you have, in essence, two masters: the advertisers who pay your salary, and the public trust. if you violate the public trust by twisting the facts to serve the agenda of master #1, you are not serving the agenda of master #2. and unless you believe in a pravda-style state-sponsored propaganda arm, then what's so bad about competing voices being out there, restricted by no other consideration than their own passion? you have to trust the public to use their own filters. if you're confident about your own adherence to your five [very well stated i might add] criteria, which suit journalists quite as well as they do their critics, then why should you fear the voices of gadflies? if what we say is dumb, then only dumb people will give us any credence. i see no reason why any professional journalist should be anxious about a growing diversity of voices in the media sphere. especially because professionally trained journalists get paid for it, and we don't. and finally, there are a whole lot of people out there who are a lot dumber than we are who are virtually ruling the airwaves who have most violently debased the public trust, and sometimes it just sticks in one's craw to hear them go almost completely unchallenged by their colleagues.

Posted by: r@d@r at January 12, 2004 4:38 AM | Permalink


Here was my original post on blogforamerica on the 23rd. I'd been talking about this for a while with my friend at work. i had no idea that by posting it, literally within hours, somebody would not only create the site and have it completely up and running by the afternoon, but that it would have a ripple effect. I've never created a blog, but seeing how this idea took off, I'll adopt one, too. I think we are doing something analogous with information and media to what Martin Luther did and the reformation of christianity in the 16th century. We are changing the model of information into more of a conversation. here was my post at blogforamerica on the morning of the 23rd:

I think one thing that might help with the daily "hit" jobs Dean takes from Wilgoren is to have some sort of "Wilgoren watch" blog...or perhaps a Daily Howler type format that just sets the record straight on a regular, even daily basis. it's obvious that she has contempt for the candidate and it blows me away that the Times selected her, though not really after the 2000 coverage Gore got. I think we should start early this time dissecting the coverage in a way that fairly and accurately discredits it, and keep these reporters accountable by creating concise critiques that show their work for its partisanship, pettiness and shoddiness. If all the papers send out henchmen/women to take down Dean, and lots of blogs started targeting the work of these reporters/papers, then their work should be under the spotlight for everyone to see in a more critical light. Otherwise they just might get away with it again. This is where the Internet tells old media that they cannot "tell us" what the story is anymore in a very specific way. To me, this is another area where we can change for good the politics of the past and the undemocratic framework of old media.

Nathan H

Posted by: Nathan H at January 12, 2004 8:35 AM | Permalink

I've had some time to reconcile myself to the idea of bloggers covering the coverers ... an excerpt from a post at my blog:

Bloggers adopting journalists could be the best thing that happens to journalism, because it creates a class of people who elevate the perceived importance of journalism. In the same way that sports coverage is as important as the games themselves, blog coverage of the news could actually reignite the attention of a public that, by and large, tunes out the press.

Mind you this will result in journalists talking in platitudes to the bloggers just like pro athletes and coaches do to the press, but even a press that regards bloggers as a necessary evil will nevertheless see them as necessary, which is a step up from where we are now.

Posted by: tom mangan at January 12, 2004 12:05 PM | Permalink

Could the journalist-watching be done in a purposely mixed manner, rather than a negative bent only? I know I'd enjoy following a journalist and bragging about how accurate he's been. Adopt-a-journalist can run both ways, rewarding the good as well as punishing the bad.

Tom Mangan worries journalists "will dedicate on-the-job time to addressing [wathchers'] concerns, and that will be time taken away from writing and reporting the news." But the watchers' concerns are truth and accuracy, which are also the concerns of the journalists. To please the watchers, the journalists will only have to do their job well.

Every watcher will find some mistake in his journalist. No journalist is perfect. But that's the point. The watchers are the informed public, and if the journalist cannot please the informed public, he deserves to lose his job.

Posted by: Nick Douglas at January 12, 2004 2:25 PM | Permalink

One of the factors behind this desire on the left to hold reporters' feet to the fire is a growing perception (especially on the left) that they are are uninformed, lazy and willing trade in gossip, half-truths and sensationalism to advance their careers. I think it's quite different from the right's charges against journalists, which center on ideological bias and agenda-setting.

Here's an interesting account of reporter at work by a campaign volunteer that made the rounds recently:

I can only think this kind of characterization will only grow, especially if reporters and editors respond by characterizing the critics as "stalkers." It's pretty amusing to see the same people who deconstruct campaign ads and rhetoric squeel at the prospect of their own work being put through the ringer.

I wonder if the press could build trust by being more transparent — explaining why it does what it does and how it goes about it, and opening up a dialogue. For example, compliment reporting with pieces written by candidate supporters (or blogger, if you're looking for writers versed in analysis) to give their take on campaign issues and events.

There are risks, of course. For every conscientious but concerned reader there is a genuine nutcase or a campaign official looking to spin the coverage.

But it can be done.

Heck, it might even help develop reader interest — especially those much prized young readers. A smart editor would take the lead on this phenomenon, developing a potential liability (or at least irritant) into an asset.

Posted by: Grant Dunham at January 12, 2004 6:20 PM | Permalink

The entire idea hinges on whether it could be done right -- bringing light instead of heat to the subject, with a goal of achieving truth and greater public awareness rather than descending into rancor by trying to score cheap political points.

Perhaps a lightly moderated self-organizing group weblog or discussion forum, a la Kuro5hin, might be in order. If the moderating became too heavy-handed, there would surely be cries of foul from whoever was muzzled, so a grassroots rating system (again in the Kuro5hin or Slashdot mold) could work here, especially given the high level of interest in the subject matter.

I'm not sure what happened with Rusty Foster and Matt Haughey's plan to launch a participatory journalism site to allow amateurs to report on the 2004 electioin (I wrote about it briefly at the bottom of this OJR article). But if we can't pull together a grassroots site to report on the candidates, perhaps one should be launched to report on reporters' coverage of the candidates.

If such a site (or loose confederation of blogs) is not launched, perhaps the mainstream news media's takeaway from this episode should be: "Trust us" doesn't cut it anymore. Show us the evidence, scan in the documents, link to the original sources, don't fear scrutiny and transparency, hold off on the pontificating, and let us decide.

Posted by: JD Lasica at January 12, 2004 8:02 PM | Permalink

A significant portion of the blogosphere I'm familiar with is involved in preserving and archiving bits of creative work in the public sphere, where others can appreciate it and build off of it and link back to it.
Reporters who are too afraid of being tracked can always continue to generate faulty attack-work by fading back into the woodwork as the infamous editorial "anonymous", but since this kind of media ho' is usually capering at the command of the publisher anyway, it doesn't matter. If I was a Dean campaigner, for instance, I'd be much more worried about tracking higher-level editorial bias in those rags who are forever publishing without bylines. Who knows where that stuff came from--and once it's out there, everybody else picks it up and repeats it.

I'm not very concerned that the blogosphere may generate a ton of lousy criticism, because readers can't be bothered with a site that has only inaccurate flamewars in lousy writing. We're all pretty quick to recommend really good work to one another, and thereby reward it. Sites earn many more links by maintaining high-quality content.

Second point: Nobody seems to have noted that true criticism is a form of attention that can also preserve work, enhance its value, and associate it to related work that makes the entire collection more useful to scholars and researchers and history buffs.
The blogosphere has a *lot* of librarians who are well aware of all this, and know exactly what kind of content those folks are looking for.

Criticism done right gives context, explains local events which prompted a piece of work, and cites information that isn't either well-known or immediately obvious within the work itself.
Granted, not every story is going to deserve to live forever.
But this whole idea seems to me to be a rare chance to see dedicated volunteers collect important stories from major reporters, explain them, and preserve them.
IMHO, the risk seems remote that some reporter who's really trying to do their job will get fired by a media outlet that doesn't understand anything about computers (let alone blogging) and thereby over-reacts to the ravings of a lone weird stalker. And is a network mogul or a publisher going to fire some favorite mouthpiece who vents any lunatic views that they like hearing?
I didn't think so.

Posted by: Heather Gladney at January 13, 2004 4:08 AM | Permalink

I'm a working journalist, although not involved in covering the presidential campaign. I say if people want to do this, great, whether their goal is better coverage generally OR just more favorable coverage for a particular candidate. Honestly, as long as it's done well (i.e., fairly and accurately), I don't care about the motivation.

Posted by: Lex at January 13, 2004 11:42 AM | Permalink

I'm not sure what the fuss is about. The lack of feedback is a constant in the litany of journalistic gripes. We open up a vein and print it, we complain, and seldom hear anything from the reader in return. Well, the readers are responding. And they're not always appreciative.

Whether the feedback comes via blogs or simply from a screed fired off to Letters to the Editor, we're going to get the bad with the good. Some of it from those concerned about sloppy inattention to detail and fact. Others will bring in their own agendas. So what. At least they're paying attention.

Nor do I see the need that readers understand what's involved in journalism before complaining. This smacks too much of a litmus test for critics, a means to minimize complaints of bad journalism. "You wouldn't understand, it's a journalism thing."

Our job is to provide readers/viewers with events of the day honestly and fairly reported. If they tell we're not doing that, it might be good if we listened.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 13, 2004 2:32 PM | Permalink

Alan Judd of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution e-mailed this response:

My choice of the word "stalking" was deliberate. About four years ago, a person I mentioned in a story -- he publishes an online magazine for dog-fighting enthusiasts -- published my home telephone number, my address and a description of my house on his web site. He also announced plans to get in touch with subjects of future stories to encourage them to avail themselves of that information -- which our corporate security people and the police took as a threat. After a couple of threatening letters from the newspaper's lawyers, he finally took the material off his site. (Not that it mattered much: I think I was the only recipient of emails about updates to his site.)

The cyberstalking of Jodi Wilgoren and others isn't very different than this. The intent is not to critique the reporter's work. It is to intimidate him or her into writing stories that conform with the stalker's view of the world, whether it's presidential politics or dog fighting (or to stop writing altogether).

I don't know any competent reporter or editor who wouldn't welcome legitimate and reasoned criticism. Fanatical supporters of one presidential candidate or another are not going to provide that. --Alan Judd

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 13, 2004 6:58 PM | Permalink

Alan Judd cites a situation of harrassment involving his home and family, and then makes a leap that his own editors would not allow him to make in print... He claims:

"The cyberstalking of Jodi Wilgoren and others isn't very different than this."

Stalking is, in most states, a crime. I haven't seen the Wilgoren Watch blog publishing her home address or threatening the reporter. That's a very cheap shot coming from Judd, cynically worded to stay within the limits of libel law while still comparing legitimate use of the First Amendment by citizens as the moral equivalent of illegal acts.

(Memo to those who rail about "civility" in Internet discourse: What is more uncivil than comparing a legitimate critic with a stalker? Judd, though, uses "accepted format" to say what an outsider might say more openly, and so the "civility lobby" will never point the finger at someone like him, because he's been trained in "the code." Another reason why I think the "civility" debate in the blogosphere is just a bogus mask for the upper class side of the class war, but, ah, I digress...)

Folks, that's how my colleagues see most of you: Whether your complaint is legitimate doesn't matter. If you infringe upon the club, if you raise your own "press pass" guaranteed to all citizens (not merely to a commercially endowed press caste) by the First Amendment, you are seen as stalkers by those who imagine themselves as members of an elitist Press Freedom caste.

There's another reason why Commercial Media reporters fear this phenomenon: their hands are largely tied by their own employers in terms of being able to defend themselves. We've already seen cases where journalist blogs have been clipped or censored by their employers, even in cases where the blog was posted somewhere else online. Reporters for daily newspapers in the United States, in many ways, have less freedom of speech as citizens than most members of the public, because their employers are control freaks. The censorship, I repeat, comes from the private sector, not from the State.

This leaves them unarmed for the battle to come. They're frightened. In many ways, citizen blogging and scrutiny of specific journos does conjure boogeyman "stalker" images to Commercial Journalists, but the harm is caused by the company that employs him and her. Unable to come on line and defend themselves fully, to fight back in a fair fight like most of us can have on the Internet, they're going to be caught in a bind.

Does that mean it's unfair to whack 'em? Absolutely not! In fact, if any of these neutered and spayed wage slaves can look ahead like chess players instead of frightened eunuchs in corporate straightjackets, they can see that the seeds of their liberation are precisely in the very phenomenon they fear. At some point, the critical mass of critique will grow so pointed that their bosses will have to let them come out to defend and debate their behavior openly, or the "company brand" will be harmed more by the current arrogant non-response of silence and snobbery than it would be by setting reporters free to speak their truths both inside and outside the newsroom.

If you've every complained to a reporter, in person, about a boneheaded error, he'll often tell you, "yeah, I know, friggin story editor chopped up my piece beyond recognition." Thus, the gag order when it comes to defending their work in public forum. The moment that gag order lifts, it will create a much healthier dynamic in which editors will cease putting words on reporters' bylines. The editors will then, too, have to come out from behind the curtain.

It's going to be rough. A lot of my colleagues wince when I say it, but I say it, often, anyway: We are entering Journalism's Civil War. And it is absolutely necessary to free the slaves.

Posted by: Al Giordano at January 13, 2004 10:21 PM | Permalink

Mr. Judd writes:

“ The cyberstalking of Jodi Wilgoren and others isn't very different than this. The intent is not to critique the reporter's work. It is to intimidate him or her into writing stories that conform with the stalker's view of the world, whether it's presidential politics or dog fighting (or to stop writing altogether).

I don't know any competent reporter or editor who wouldn't welcome legitimate and reasoned criticism. Fanatical supporters of one presidential candidate or another are not going to provide that.”

With all due respect (ya just know a zinger’s gonna follow that, don’t ya?) – what a load of palaver.

Unless he has a crystal ball, Mr. Judd has no way of divining my “intent” in starting TWW and I’ve never attempted to intimidate anyone into doing anything – in real life or online. I believe his description of me as a “fanatical supporter” is more than a little colored by his own personal experiences. The fact that he can’t delineate between “The Wilgoren Watch” and his unfortunate experience with his dog-fighting “stalker” says infinitely more about him than it does about what I’m trying to do.

Posted by: Wilgoren Watch at January 14, 2004 12:34 AM | Permalink

Memo to Da Lurker re the post about the AP story on the court rulings:

First, writers generally don't write their own headlines, at the AP and at most newspapers.

Second, "U.S." in this headline doesn't mean the country or the people; it's a term of art meaning the federal government or a specific subsection thereof (often the Justice Department, which argues the government's case in federal court).

In other words, the headline isn't an editorial judgment about the welfare of the country, it's a factual statement regarding how the government's case fared in court.

This is the kind of thing people in the bidness know and assume that readers also know, when readers often don't.

Posted by: Lex at January 14, 2004 9:19 AM | Permalink

Interesting comments on watching.

I'll sure bear them in mind as I continue to watch Patricia Wilson of Reuters.

I'm not sure my anonymity is different from that of Patricia Wilson or Nedra Pickler to the reader of a smaller market paper that gets everything but its local news from AP and/or Reuters.

Granted, I embarked on this effort hastily without any particular plan, but with some very clear observation. First, amazing things were coming out of AP and Reuters (Pickler and Wilson) that just didn't fit any standard definition of news. Mangled, twisted paragraphs that could have been written by the RNC. Secondly, pack journalism was developing and repeating stories that were at genuine odds with my personal observations. Dean anger and pessimism? I've met the man and watched him.

Not only that, but the wire service manglers weren't generating the outrage of what might be said on the DrudgeReport, Instapundit, or the O'Reilley show, even though these might be reaching far more people on a daily basis.

I've been an active follower of print jounalism and particularly of political journalism, fascinated by the process and style of TIME in the late 50's and early 60's, heavily influenced by IF Stone, Dr. Hunter S Thompson, the NY Times, Bernstein and Woodward in the late 60's and early 70's, a reader of the daily LA Times, New York Times, and Orange County Register now, contributor to my local NPR station (KCRW the best radio station in the country) I've written for the print media, been quoted and misquoted, and continue to be active in local politics. My life has been much improved since I stopped watching TV news several years ago.

Politically, I haven't been registered as a Democrat since the 70's, moving from independent to Libertarian, Republican, Reform, Republican.
I've contributed heavily to Howard Dean, who I see as a very pragmatic, honest leader who is poltically somewhere around Richard Nixon, although ethically way ahead.

I know about headline writers, editors, and how local editors trim the wire service news to fill the space available or reflect their own local market.

By education, experience, and intelligence, I think I'm perfectly qualified to critique a specific journalist.

I'll try to use equal part of civility and sarcasm, and frame the reporters in the same way that they frame their subjects.

Posted by: Aeolus at January 14, 2004 6:11 PM | Permalink

I'm going to shamelessly self-promote my Dan Balz (WaPo) blog, BalzBlog. Come watch me not stalk him. Honest.

Posted by: Eric at January 16, 2004 12:42 AM | Permalink

Idea by John McWhorter, as seen in "Arrogance" by Bernard Golberg. pg 278.

Although I think that is a much more dignified URL than B.G.'s suggestion.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at January 18, 2004 10:33 PM | Permalink

If the adopt-a-journalist movement is going to gain any traction, I think it is going to need to more than blogs and email blitzes on newsrooms with flacking letters of complaint.

For news organizations to truly respond to constructive criticism, those letters need to be posted and archived somewhere, so that the rest of the world can see what is getting written.

At many papers, I fear that the Letters and Public editors are like the wardens of a graveyard. While many great letters get published, these are only the tip of a very large iceberg. And unless there is more general awareness of how much a given story or writer is getting flacked, it's easy for this criticism to get buried -- and go nowhere.

There is an opportunity here, I think, for someone to develop a potentially popular user-driven website, based on little more than a few scripts and some server space.

Say you had a site to which people (of any ideology) could post messages they've sent to newspapers. Other users could vote on their favorite letters, which would be automatically highlighted on the site. And counters could thereby keep track of which papers, reporters and pundits are generating the most heat, and least light. Such a site could also help sort out the spurious complaints from the important ones.

(If I had the technical expertise, I'd set it up myself -- tomorrow -- but I don't. So steal this idea.)

My point is -- even if the above idea isn't quite on the mark -- is that the adopt-a-journalist movement could be a good step toward greater accountability among the media, but I think it needs to be done both with intellectual rigor by individual Media Avengers, and also with some form of populist backing to really make journalists sit up and take notice.

Posted by: Sam Pratt at January 26, 2004 9:51 AM | Permalink

I saw an idea mentioned in a comment by "kevin lyda" at the GetDonkey site referenced earlier: Interview the press. His idea was a little more modest (when volunteers drive journalists around, interview them as well), but here are some more sweeping proposals.

(1) Have some kind of initiatory event to introduce the world to the idea that the blogging world has some well-founded criticism of the media to offer. Invite a bunch of journalists, editors, and publishers to an event run by some excellent unpaid bloggers, preferably who have experience with the media. Hold panel discussions. Try to be neither antagonistic nor fawning. Present the media participants with specific egregious examples of what has appeared in print and try to determine the path by which it happened. Of course, this event would take a lot of planning and publicity and some combination of pulling and pushing in order to get some media people to participate, but there are some advantages for them (publicity for their particular newspaper, a chance to promote their own opinion).

(2) Taking advantage of the publicity generated by item (1), follow up by instituting some kind of small group of expert bloggers who commit to subjecting each other's articles to peer review before they are posted (not just afterwards via comments). We want to counter the claim that the print media are superior to blogs by taking all the good points of their organizations (such as review) and doing them one better (peer review rather than "advertiser review").

Posted by: AlanF at January 26, 2004 10:12 AM | Permalink

Did you see the website that Bernard Goldberg mentioned in his book I love the site!! It blows away Jon Stewart.

Posted by: Scott Michael at February 8, 2004 6:04 PM | Permalink

From the Intro