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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 19, 2004

Dean, the Internet and the National Press: A PressThink Primer

Here are the most important posts from PressThink on the Howard Dean campaign, the way it's changing politics, and how those changes are eluding journalists. Taken together, the six posts tell a story. But of course the story is still unfolding.

I will be in Davos, Switzerland this week for the World Economic Forum, including a panel on the emerging signifcance of the weblog world, which I am chairing. (Click here, follow the links.) I hope to have a guest writer at PressThink, and also to post some observations from Davos.

But in the meantime, here are six longish, detailed posts on a single theme: how to understand the Dean movement and its challenge to orthodoxy in presidential politics, including recommendations for the press and an analysis of journalism’s ocassional cluelessness. PressThink does not endorse candidates. But intellectually, I do endorse what the Dean campaign has been about in the part of it that is reaching out through the Internet to find new connecting points between people and campaigns for president. That deserves serious attention from anyone who cares about democratic politics— pro, amateur, partisan, citizen.

Along the way, the movement for Dean is breaking with a variety of “communication conventions” that had governed presidential campaigns for too long. That makes it a story, but the nature of the story is to challenge the master narratives that mainstream journalism has relied on, as its conventions— and for too long. Which raises a question about the American press…

I intend to keep asking it, just because it’s my kind of question: How many journalists really believe in the horse race narrative (and its instrument, polling) plus the other rituals that have governed campagn reporting for most of the media age? (“Bill, what does Gephardt have to do tonight to come out a winner?”)

Dan Rather says the party conventions will probably be dropped by network news. Not a shocker. But how about other outmoded conventions that may exist… but in journalism? The following six posts are a PressThink primer for asking that kind of question. (Use the comments button to answer it.)

The comments to each post below may also interest some; and of course those comments are still open. Cheers.

1. Politics in a Different Key (Nov. 8. Comments: 17.) There’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Rove?… Mr. Rove? On how the emergence of the Dean movemet challenges the assumptions of the political class, the “pros,” on which journalists focus so much attention.

It is the K Street politics of the savvy class. Its members are the insiders. They are the pros. They are the pundits, handlers and funders, vultures and parrots who run and staff the campaign story, which is above all the inside story of how you get elected in this country. Its outstanding feature, Joan Didion wrote, is “remoteness from the actual life of the country.” They are the people of this remoteness. The people of the campaign bus, the war room, the press lounge. They surround the campaign, travel with it, come under its employ. They create the public narrative of politics, which is about the candidates but controlled by the pros.

Some live off politics, some live for it— but they are all in and out of the same hotels. The pros are realistic. Their job is to understand how things really work. But then they also tell you they understand because their class includes people who bring us news of politics, and talk on television about it. When Lydon writes about “a drastic subversion of a discredited game,” he means the whole game of Get Elected, starring the savvy class in ten different professions. And if there is anyone who is the big winner in that game right now it is Karl Rove, savviest of all, wizard to the White House, which is still winning big.

2. A Politics that is Dumber Than Spam. (Nov. 17. Comments: 50.) When 95 percent of the nation can be ignored by the operatives who run presidential politics, there is something wrong. Yet realism in the press says this is the way it is. Will that continue to be so?

Spammers pay no cost for annoying the 99,999 who do not buy the toner cartridge. It is a dim intelligence indeed that assumes this is so in politics. Via e-mail, the Lieberman campaign lost me as a listener, and he now has zero chance to change my mind. That’s a cost. After all, I am Jewish, blessedly undecided, a registered Democrat in New York, which is a Super Tuesday primary state, so I fit his profile. And I doubt the campaign knows or cares whether these costs are greater than the gain from sending “Liebernotes” out en masse.

Spam is a stupid medium, knows it’s stupid, does not care that it’s stupid, and knows you hate it for its stupidity. Lieberman’s spam (telling me of the “Joe-Vember to Remember outreach program”) is stupid, but does not know any of these things. So there’s another cost: advertising your own cluelessness, which the Lieberman web site also does in most every detail. On top of that, spam is not supposed to be solving the spam problem in Congress, but Lieberman is. And on top of that, he thinks I don’t notice that by using only his first name as much as possible he plays down his Jewish last name—as if that would fool anybody. The big story on his website today: “Joe Unveils New Ad.” You can watch it, you can read about it, and you can send money to keep it on the air.

Do we need a new pattern in presidential politics? Yes we do, because this kind of politics is dumber than spam.

3. Important if True: Online and Offline Meet Up to Change Politics. (Nov. 18. Cmments: 19) Writing in Baseline magazine, Journalist and weblogger Ed Cone explains exactly why Howard Dean’s “open style” of politics is a big deal—and a big story—whether he or not he wins. This will scramble the mind of the press if the press retains its master narrative: winning.

Without addressing them directly, Cone says: fellow journalists, the art and science of running a campaign are changing before our eyes. Whatever happens in the race, (which could go many ways) there’s the import of what Dean and Company are discovering about the Internet: now. They are showing us how tools developed online can generate action offline, and affect people’s lives— including the nation’s political life. “I’m obsessed with offline,” says Zephyr Teachout, the director of Internet organizing for the Howard Dean presidential campaign. (That’s a switch.)

4. Private Life, Public Happiness and the Howard Dean Connection. (Dec. 9. Comments: 10) With Dean, the campaign is somewhere… out there. It is not at headquarters any more, but it talks to headquarters. This is a de-stabilizing premise, and a reporting nightmare. But Samantha Shapiro of the New York Times magazine had a notion.

Jefferson, writes Arendt, “had at least a foreboding of how dangerous it might be to allow the people a share of public power without providing them at the same time with more public space than the ballot box and with more opportunity to make their voices heard in public than election day.” The wards were an idea he devised to “save the people from lethargy and inattention to public business.”

And maybe the weblogs of Dean (and Clark) are ways to the wards of Thomas Jefferson. Maybe what’s missing in people’s private lives is not only girlfriends and boyfriends, but something larger, “public happiness”— the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way and show the system a thing or two. Somehow the country remembers this tradition, despite long stretches where it is taken into eclipse. Recovering the claim we have on public happiness may help save the system from the “lethargy and inattention to public business” it had produced as byproduct to winning ways and ways of winning.

Campaign politics had gotten away from them, the professionals. It had become public misery on their watch. Now they have to find it again, and that may yet make for great political journalism in 2004.

5. Nine Story Lines in a New Campaign Narrative. (Dec. 17. Comments: 14) Dean’s success puts pressure on a campaign narrative inherited from the pre-Internet era. There are changes underway that are not the normal evolution from cycle to cycle. More original reporting is needed on the “open” style emerging in politics. Here are some routes in, new story lines journalists—or citizen journalist—might follow as events unfold.

Here are nine threads in a revised public narrative. Anyone can follow them to find vital stories that show us there is something happening in presidential politics, but not in the pattern we had grown to expect. And I do mean anyone willing to do such reporting, whether the title is citizen, student, weblogger, journalist, writer, linker, amateur, pro…

Nine Story Lines in a New Campaign Narrative

1.) The Control Revolution
2.) Donating Talent
3.) Distributed Ownership
4.) The Inactive Switch Sides
5.) Campaign as Curriculum
6.) The New Sociability in Politics
7.) The Discovery of Voice
8.) The Self Informing Citizenry
9.) It’s a Two Way World

So these nine items are not so much story ideas, as ideas for generating an arc of stories. You could call them points on a map of shifting terrain in politics. Maybe it is easiest to call them beats, as a newsroom would. But they are beats from beyond the standard master narrative, in which the baseline story of the campaign is winning the campaign.

6. Politically Significant Cluelessness. (Dec. 22. Comments: 10.) Frank Rich sent a “get a clue” letter to colleagues, members of a tone deaf political class. They don’t get Dean. Or the Net. And they don’t know what year it is out there.

If it’s true the press plays a vetting role in the campaign, then it must be true that the press is a player. Or to put it another way, political journalists have come to understand themselves as supplier of a service—vetting the field—that the body politic cannot handle itself, because of high information costs and low motivation to bear them. “Too many choices, too much information to present.”

But what happens when these costs shift, and new motivations spring up? Suddenly the supplier may be supplying something that people can make for themselves, or no longer want from that source— like, say, political proctology via the pens of Washington journalists. We know this show is still running because Ted Koppel decided to administer the exam in a recent candidate’s debate in New Hampshire. Part of his method involved setting off confrontations with Dean.

Authors are always greedy for feedback, so if any stout souls have read all or almost all of these posts, do let me know in comments what you think they’re “about.” Or quarrel with the posts, which is good too. Thanks.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 19, 2004 2:01 PM   Print


This is interesting, I am a Dean supporter. A Deaniac. I read and post on the DFA open forum. I came across this site and this piece because so many of us are appalled at the bashing we and Dean get in the press. We have so many posts and so much anger at the "media," I decided to do some research. We think it's a fix. The big three media is just not in our corner.

Now I'm thinking, yeah, it is a fix. A fix so obvious it hurts. Case in point: Dean on Meet The Press. Tim Russert reads an editorial by an Iowan concerned about Dean's character. Dean responds. Problem: The letter was written by the Minnesota State Director of the Kash and Kerry Kampaign. Russert NEVER apologizes or corrects himself. We are outraged and the public duped. One wonders accident? Yeah Right?

We want news, what happened on the campaign trail, how are the people responding to our candidate, but, what we get is the Press making the news.

We are heartbroken. Hey, that was our money, our time, our voice, our votes, our Democracy thrown down the toilet by some obese hack with an axe to grind, or worse, a contract to fulfill.

The worst is when the press in hindsight apologizes for itself. So smug. One wonders if they're not just gloating.

Total control. Reminds me of a story I read about an Italian President faced with social unrest, he said ... "with 30,000 armed civilians running in the streets, once again I am President of shit."

The press is a fickle old bitch. You can bet your Palm Pilot when the Donkey's lose to the GOP in November, they won't look to the mighty pen in anger. They'll blame all of us that voted Green.

Ted Friedman

Posted by: Ted Friedman at February 13, 2004 8:35 PM | Permalink

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