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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 25, 2004

Notes and Comment From the World Economic Forum, 2004

Sketch book of a journalism professor and first time participant at Davos.

Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 20-25. This event, the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, is a sprawling thing, with 2,000 attendees rushing from place to place and level to level. Over the course of five days I found it impossible to get any sort of overview of the activity here. By general agreement, no big theme emerged. From the headlines in newspapers, from the big public events, and from the informal chatter in lounges, corridors and bars, one could find no weighty narrative hanging over or lurking under the dialogue and non-stop networking.

Two years ago, when the Forum was pointedly shifted to New York, the “weighty narrative” cohered in the event, a response in the aftermath of September 11th. Last year, 2003, the looming war in Iraq and U.S. actions in advance of it framed much of the discussion. This year… it’s a multipolar world, lots of problems to solve, lots of business to do, many directions the news might take. This themelessness was fine with me, as I was struggling to understand Davos anyway—what is it, really?—and the narrative confusion fit well with the general disorientation of a first time attendee.

The City of Davos

On my third day, I made a discovery that helped. It had to do with the inner geography of events here. Davos, Switzerland is a town, a ski resort in the Alps. Inside the town (this week) there is a city, also called “Davos” by the cognoscenti who populate it. This city is the Forum itself, most of it contained within the vast Congress Center, where the big events are held and hundreds of smaller sessions go on.

Davos the city state flies dignitaries in and out (Dick Cheyney, Bill Clinton, the head of the World Trade Organization, the presidents of Pakistan and Iran, the Prime Minister of Canada, Bill Gates, Charlie Rose, etc.) In press accounts I saw it described as a “bunker,” due to the heavy security inside and out. The city of Davos also exports a lot of news during its week on the world stage, and then imports its own importance, as it were, when the newspapers are picked up at breakfast the next day, featuring multiple headlines from the WEF.

Inside the temporary City of Davos, set inside the resort town of Davos, there is the globe. Symbolically, rhetorically, and of course officially, the globe is supposed to be the matter of priority, the ultimate subject of concern, the common object in front of us, and in a sense the common cause— the centrum. Thus, the stated theme of this year’s Forum: “Partnering for Security and Prosperity.” In the degree that Davos is defined from without, by critics and protest movements, it is likewise “about” the globe.

When I visualized it this way, the event made a little more sense. In the town of Davos, the sensibility is provincial. Within the City of Davos, it’s cosmopolitan. And at the symbolic center, Davos the gathering aspires to a global sensibility, just as it welcomes the globe-striding elite. I was surprised, then, that none of the Congress Center’s public spaces has a globe sculpture in it, an actual sphere to gather around. As in… “Meet me at the globe in 20 minutes.” “Oh, I saw him, he was hanging around the globe a while ago.” “The prime minister will be holding a press briefing in front of the globe at 14:00.”

Inside the town, a world city. Inside the world city, a focus on the globe. But outside the town and surrounding everything here are the mountains, the Alps, nature—and nature’s winter—with its huge indifference to “worldly” events. Walking through the town, on my way to the city, for reflections on the globe, I tried to keep my eyes fixed on those mountains. They, in fact, made the most sense.


The one clear role I had here was ambassador for the weblog form. Experts at this are Joi Ito and Loic Le Meur, both of whom joined me on the blogging panel. Joi even told me at last night’s closing party that he would like to take a year off from everything and just blog, by which he also meant spread the word. (Find Joi’s account of the panel here, Le Meur’s here, and a PDF summary here. For another blogger’s account of the mood at Davos see Whiskey Bar here and also here, Davos Man Gets the Blues.)

After several days of discussions, I realized how hard it was to describe for people in the established news media the significance of the weblog form. For the question they seem more interested in is: will weblogs “take over” the territory of the news media— in other words, are they a threat to the news franchise? And are webloggers somehow outdoing journalists? (Or, as the official program in Davos had it, will the media co-opt the weblog?)

Not surprisingly, established journalists feel the answers are NO. And what many of them mean by a “discussion” of weblogs is simply the opportunity to ask and answer their own question: Weblogs a threat? I’m not worried about losing out to them! It matters not whether anyone has argued that amateur weblogs are “taking over” from professionals or “doing journalism better than journalists” (points I do not make.) The question is there—at least, it is for journalists—and the answer will be given. And given again.


Operating here is a cramped view of amateurs, professionals and the types of interaction among them. The webog makes it possible for amateur writers—citizen journalists—to both publish and distribute their work, as text, image, audio and soon enough video. Not just the voices in the media, but any citizen can (in theory, let us say) submit reports and reflections to the world’s attention. This is a significant new fact, and certainly one that journalists should contemplate, but not by asking whether their franchise is threatened. Perhaps it will be improved.

For comparison, listen to Freeman Dyson on amateurs and professionals in astronomy. (From, In Praise of Amateurs in the New York Review of Books.)

There are many areas of research that only professional astronomers can pursue, studying faint objects far away in the depths of space, using large telescopes that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate. Only professionals can reach halfway back to the beginning of time, to explore the early universe as it was when galaxies were young and the oldest stars were being born. Only professionals have access to telescopes in space that can detect the X-rays emitted by matter heated to extreme temperatures as it falls into black holes.

But there are other areas of research in which a network of well-equipped and well-coordinated amateurs can do at least as well as the professionals. Amateurs have two great advantages, the ability to survey large areas of sky repeatedly and the ability to sustain observations over long periods of time. As a result of these advantages, amateurs are frequently first to discover unpredictable events such as storms in the atmospheres of planets and catastrophic explosions of stars. They compete with professionals in discovering transient objects such as comets and asteroids. It often happens that an amateur makes a discovery which a professional follows up with more detailed observation or theoretical analysis, and the results are then published in a professional journal with the amateur and the professional as coauthors.

Now what would the equivalent be in journalism? That, it seems to me, is a question worth posing. Along with: what can amateurs do better than professionals? What are weblogs good at that is harder for the more traditional press? And vice versa.

We never got to that at Davos, but in a detailed and very interesting post reflecting on the bloggers panel, Billmon of Whiskey Bar writes: “Blogs are doing more than just about any other modern institution (if institution is the right word for something as anarchistic as the blogosphere) to recreate a common communication space, and encourage maximum public participation.” (See Davos Discovers the Blogs.)

Filter, Filter

I did, however, have explained to me six or seven times this week that, no matter how many little providers emerge, “there will always be a need for a filter, someone you can trust, a news organization with credibility.” This observation likewise comes from journalists. It is part of their insistence that the news franchise is not threatened by the weblog or by the Internet generally. (The key word for them is “always.”)

In reply to this, I had no quarrel with the proposition—intelligent, reliable filters are needed, perhaps more than ever—but I did ask: what’s makes for a good filter in an interactive age? And what makes the press believe that its filter will be the one that is “always” needed? It is not enough, I said, to claim authoritative knowledge, a professional track record, or accumulated credibility. Increasingly, the quality of an editorial filter will reflect the quality of interaction between those doing the filtering and those for whom this work is done. But what is an interactive filter? Well, one answer is… a good weblog can be that.

Independence in Peril

I had coffee and some intriguing discussion with Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News in London. He’s the boss of the worldwide news operation. Sambrook’s biggest concern (aside from the ongoing inquiry into Andrew Gilligan’s reporting on a “sexed up” dossier) was the flagging support on both sides of the Atlantic for an independent press. Outside of journalists themselves, no one seems to believe in it, he said. Few are willing to stand up for an independent press, and even fewer are willing to credit the existing press with actually being independent. The constant refrain is: you are in someone’s pocket.

We agreed that independence was in trouble in both Britain and the United States. I argued that in the American press, the language of independence had lost much of its power. It was never adjusted to take account of new conditions in politics and public culture that made the press much more of a player. It was possible, I said, to make a case for the American press as, yes, a player but also an independent one. But this would be a different language than objectivity, neutrality, the watchdog role, “all the news that’s fit to print” and so on.

Introduction to Blogging

Finally, these are the only prepared remarks I gave at Davos, as introduction to the panel on weblogs.

People in New York City remain grateful to the World Economic Forum, to its leaders and members, for shifting this event to Manhattan during the difficult winter of 2002. That was something I appreciated, even though I could not get within six blocks of the Waldorf-Astoria that week. So thank you for that, and for asking me to join you at this elevated location in the Alps, where, if I understand your ways, we are to think elevated thoughts— and do the work of the world without neckties.

We have the perfect opportunity to do that today in this discussion of weblogs, a new media form and a disturbance in the field of “public media,” which is not the same thing as the media industry, the news business, or the journalism profession, all of which we will probably discuss.

Weblogs, this new form in public media, bring the once utopian idea of “self-publishing” into reality on the Internet. As Jeff Jarvis likes to say, they give the audience a printing press. Dick Morris, that famous wizard of American politics, says that with the Internet, the voters gain a mouth. The weblog, a tool for self-publishing, has given people without capital a foothold as publishers and producers in the global sphere of information and debate.

This creates, in effect, a new plane of communication equality for citizens in the media age. We can compare the weblog to the “last mile” in a cable system, where greater media capacity comes down from the skies to plug into people’s lives. The weblog is that last mile in the dream of self-publishing. By giving some in the audience a printing press, it is turning some readers of modern journalism into writers, or let us say co-writers with journalists. And this is only one part of a broader trend in which the tools of media production, once available only to professionals, are coming more and more into amateur hands, creating a new class of producers from the ranks of consumers.

What is a weblog? A personal web page, updated easily by an author, that links outward to other material on the Web, and presents original content in a rolling, day-by-day fashion, with the latest entries on top. Weblogs act as filters and finders in a sea of information. They are a little like newspaper opinion pages, or an online magazine, except they are far more interactive and more personal. The software allows for production values high enough that the weblog author suffers no disadvantage in comparison to commercial providers, which is part of what I mean by communication equality.

For comparison, see Dave Winer’s essay from the 2000 Davos.

Whiskey Bar, Davos Discovers the Blogs

Rebecca MacKinnon of CNN also wrote about Davos at her weblog. Here is a “traditional” journalist who will soon be soon be on leave from the newsroom to explore the potential of weblogs at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center. Bears watching.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 25, 2004 8:36 AM   Print


Hi Jay,

Today is the first anniversary of the Public Journalism Network's Charter Meeting which you attended. To mark the anniversay I wrote a state of the PJNet address in a blog entitled: Public Journalism's New DNA. The mainstream journalists from Davos should read it.

Public journalism, thanks to the infusion of weblogs into its DNA, has evolved, is now more nimble and has figurative thumbs. The mainstream press has not evolved and without taking on new strands of DNA is looking a lot like the dinosaurs, the most mighty creatures to have ever walked the Earth.

To read Public Journalism's New DNA, click on my name below.

Of course I used your line: “The age of the mass media is just that – an age. It doesn’t have to last forever.”

Posted by: Leonard Witt at January 25, 2004 11:32 AM | Permalink

I'm not sure what your purpose was in participating in one of the most non-inclusionary gatherings of power elites, other than to teach them about weblogging which they would certainly use to disseminate their corporate/political propaganda. Where the WEF is an exclusionary event, the World Social Forum, which took place in Mumbay, India this year from January 16-21, is an event that encourages creative thinking and is open to anyone and is "committed to building a society centered on the human person." While Kofi Annan addressed the WEF on the 23rd, the WSF is where he should have been.

There were 80,000 people from 130 countries there discussing real issues such as child labor, homelessness, and the role of the G-20. These issues are all effected by economic policies, including trade agreements, dictated by the very CEOs of multinationals and political "leaders" that you joined at the WEF.

If you want to see the future of journalism, here it is:

Posted by: we are the media 45 at January 25, 2004 2:34 PM | Permalink

I was struck, as I read your account of the Davos meeting, by the futility of blogging. Having discovered blogs a few months ago, I now spend a couple of hours daily reading through my list and noting the degree to which they seem to feed off each other through their links. I enjoy them a great deal and think I learn from them. But what about their influence? The problem lies in the requirement that people read, actually sit and reat, them. Most voters, I fear, construct their opinions by listening to a few outspoken talkers and watching a few sound bites, selecting from among those they agree with anyway for the direction they then take. Perhaps I'm a mite cynical, but I fear the world of bloggers is too small and insular to have as much influence as perhaps it should.

Posted by: Ted Lehmann at January 25, 2004 5:22 PM | Permalink

Ted, here is how blogger Joichi Ito, President and Chief Executive Officer of Neoteny, a venture capital company in Japan, outlined the ecosystem of weblogs:

“The growth of blogging has created a kind of food chain of information. At the top are the 'power blogs' – a relatively small elite of well-known and highly influential sites that may attract thousands or even tens of thousands of readers per day. These account for an overwhelming share of all page views, or 'hits.' Below them is a secondary group of 'social network' blogs, which often follow certain topics or specific regions. Finally, at the bottom is a vast galaxy of obscure blogs that may only get a few hits a day.

"Increasingly news starts at the bottom of the food chain – with a trend or event that is first noticed by a less-known blog, then amplified by a social network until it comes to the attention of a power blog. From there it may even enter the mainstream mass media. So, while power bloggers get most of the attention, the real vital force of the blogging phenomenon is at the bottom, among those who discover news and originate content.”

Ito was a co-panelist of Jay's in Davos and the complete panel notes can be found at:

Even if you are right that people will only listen to a few elites, at least now these elites are enriched by a vast number of sources that they would not have heard from in the past.

Posted by: Leonard Witt at January 25, 2004 5:51 PM | Permalink

For reference, my Davos 2000 piece.

Posted by: Dave Winer at January 25, 2004 8:27 PM | Permalink

Leonard Witt: Hmm ... the finery of the royalty is provided by the sweat of the peasants? So, *therefore*, the peasants really are the important people? Well, yes, in a way that's true, in the aggregate - but it's good to be the king. The top, the elites, *always* feeds off the bottom, the masses. This is true for whales vs. minnows, celebs vs. fans, or A-list vs. hoi polloi.

But any particular person on the bottom has no power whatsoever compared to that of the top.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 27, 2004 5:45 PM | Permalink

Hi Seth:

My two word argument: Rosa Parks

Posted by: Leonard Witt at January 27, 2004 11:14 PM | Permalink

Leonard: You lose. Study the history there.

(for people who don't know the history, Rosa Parks was not an apolitical citizen who spontaneously created a mass movement - she was associated with the NAACP, which had been working on such a case for many months, and had turned down other people as unsympathetic plaintiffs)

Heck, this whole hype-machine around court cases is a particular peeve of mine.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 28, 2004 7:45 PM | Permalink

From the Intro