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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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March 25, 2004

Remembering Neil Postman, 1931-2003

"There aren’t any teachers until there are learners, and there aren’t any learners until something is disturbed in the student’s world." These were my remarks yesterday at NYU's memorial service for Neil Postman, who passed away on October 5th, 2003. He was my teacher.

Tribute to Neil Postman, 1931-2003
March, 24, 2004
New York University

“Remembering Neil Postman”

Remarks by Jay Rosen

Your program says that I am to speak as a “faculty colleague” of Neil’s. But as Neil would surely say in a situation like this, that’s just not the speech you’re going to get. I was a student of his, and I am so today.

Remembering Neil Postman is what we are here to do today. But it is also what we are commanded to do tomorrow, and in the long years ahead.

Remembering Neil is something you can do alone, and everyone here knows what I mean. But even then it is a social act. Think about it: when you picture Postman, in the privacy of your mind, you always picture him publicly. He is around people. You almost always hear him talking. In your head, in mine, he is found in conversation. And that is what I am calling social.

Memory is a social thing. Surely we say that today by coming together in tribute. If it’s social, then human communication is involved. If it’s communication, it passes to us through a medium. If there’s a medium, it imprints on us a message. The message of this medium, this forum, is that human plurality serves memory. Each of us has a part of the puzzle. When you share your piece you communicate Postman. Remembering Neil can be done alone, but not well. And honestly, I don’t recommend it.

Of the many, many things Neil was good at, what he was best at was human communication—all forms. Machines he mistrusted on principle. If I try to fathom today what principle he conveyed to me, it is probably this… There aren’t any teachers until there are learners, and there aren’t any learners until something is disturbed in the student’s world.

Neil’s method as a critic, and also a teacher, was to disturb your understanding before he shared his. One day, while still a graduate student, I walked into the old office in Shimkin Hall. Apropos of nothing, Neil says to me: “Jay, you’re basically a political writer, that’s what you care about, that’s what you do. Did you know that?”

I may have said I did know, but it was disturbing to realize later that I didn’t, until he told me. And that was the day I went from crayons to perfume, as a writer. Intellectually speaking, it was my “disappearance of childhood.” I started teaching myself political philosophy on the side, so as to catch up with Neil’s understanding of me.

He had disturbed me, so later I could learn. Place this against your own experience, those who were students of Postman. Before he taught you anything, he removed—or shifted about—something you really thought you knew. It was a subversive activity. It went along with his philosophy of unlearning things, which he said was education. And his point about undoing things, which he said technology always did. It went along with his needling humor, which never quite left things intact.

If you were the figure, he saw the ground. Neil had a gift for knowing what each individual had to learn in order finally to start learning— for real. And he employed his humor, another gift, against his disappointment when teaching didn’t work. He many times said it: stupidity is an achievement. You had to work at it. It could be studied, like a subject. And that is why he wrote satire. To give his ear for stupidity something to do.

All students of Neil’s subversive subject, media ecology, had to start with talk—with the study of language, and of an oral culture. Which is what we are, temporarily, here today. In one of the books he had us read, by Walter Ong, it is said that human voices are different than written words because the voice always speaks of an interior, an inside. Interiority is not a property of the flattened, and printed page.

No one’s voice spoke with more interior than Neil Postman’s. So much so, in my case, that I have lost all distinction between sounding my own voice and resounding with the lessons of his.

He will always disturb me. He will always teach.

In 1986 he took me to Vienna with him, where we both gave speeches to hundreds of Austrian writers and intellectuals. It was the night Kurt Waldheim had been re-elected President of Austria, an event that disturbed both of us, because we knew something about the Austrian past and the events of March 1938.

For some reason, we decided to walk back to our hotel that night. It took thirty minutes in the rain. We both felt that given the election returns, Vienna should be crying. But of course it wasn’t. I guess we wanted to see such a city for ourselves. By this time, you see, I was a political writer.

Years later, in a remember-when conversation, Neil gave me that smile of his—I am sure you know it—where it showed in his shining eyes. So I knew something comic was coming. “Yes, Jay,” he said, “that night… Vienna was ours.” Of course it wasn’t ours. That night it was theirs, the Austrians. There was his humor again, set deeply against our disappointment.

Now that story is yours, and yours can be ours, as we carry on with our social work, which is the living work of remembering one we loved: Neil Postman.

Though there are many other places to do so, you are welcome to share your refections on Postman in the comments section.

Neil Postman in a June 2000 keynote address:

Esther Dyson, who is one of the more prominent cheerleaders for technological growth, remarks in her recent book that those who worry too much about the electronic world can rest easy in the assurance that human nature will remain the same. Not surprisingly, she misses the point. Human nature may stay the same. But it is part of human nature to hate and kill, and it is part of human nature to love and protect. The question is, what part will be released and nurtured? What part will be suppressed and shriveled? And, of course, is there any connection between our obsession with our technology and our capacity for moral growth?

Posted by Jay Rosen at March 25, 2004 9:44 AM   Print


Thanks for posting this. I didn't read Postman until this past Christmas, which, obviously, is after he died. I read _Amusing Ourselves to Death_ and thought it was one of the most amazing books on our modern culture I had ever read, despite its age now.

A friend recommended _Technopoly_ which I read in January and also found astonishing. I suppose I had been prepared to read him. I'm a book lover, and I gave up on tv about a year ago. But the reason I gave up on tv was not becuse I thought it was evil, but because I loved it far too much. I now view it sort of like alcohol--something fun to due occasionally among friends, but something dangerously addictive and potentially destructive. Not to mention that as a Christian, I was always aware of the fact that television presented a rival version of reality to that presented in the scriptures.

I certainly do appreciate the influence that Postman has had on you, Jay. You are always asking the appropriate questions about journalism ("why do we need to know this?") that are so lacking elsewhere, and I for one think this is sorely needed.

Posted by: Paul Baxter at March 25, 2004 4:06 PM | Permalink

Not getting to meet Prof. Postman in spite of the number if friends I had in the communications department was one of my great regrets from my time at NYU. I encountered his writing in a study of advertising and additction, and found him an insightful, incisive and above all witty observer and media philosopher. I always thought he'd be great to get drunk with.

Sorry to hear he's gone.

Posted by: Outlandish Josh at March 26, 2004 2:32 AM | Permalink

I remember listening to and using Postman's books in my "American High School" education course at NYU in the early '70's. The professor was Bill Bairds' (the puppeteer) brother. The only "education"
("e duco"-leading forth of knowledge out of the individual) I ever received in an "institute of higher learning".
Postman and Baird, are the only true educators I have experienced...true learning "because of" and not "in spite of" the educators....learning how to ask questions creating the motivation to learn further and pass learning on. -v

Posted by: Vito Colonna at March 26, 2004 10:02 PM | Permalink

I became a fan of Neil Postman when my sister, a speech communications major, lent me a book that she had been compelled to read for class. That book, Amusing Ourselves to Death opened my eyes, as a naïve highschooler, to the world of media manipulation and the essence of the visual metaphor of television. Since then, I have also read The End of Education and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century, both books that demonstrate that technological and pedalogical advancement mean nothing if they do not serve a higher purpose. Now that I am an undergrad, I find that Prof. Postman's critical perspective is still with me, and I realize now that even though I never met him and never sat with him in a class; he taught me the invaluable lesson that not everything is what it seems and that I must look deeper to find the real truth. Thanks, Prof. Rosen for continuing Prof. Postman's legacy.

Posted by: Graham Lampa at March 28, 2004 11:29 AM | Permalink

From the Intro