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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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April 16, 2004

Brain Food for BloggerCon

Here's my Introduction, take two, for the Saturday morning session at BloggerCon. Let's start by separating two things. Blogging is not journalism. But if each imagined itself as the other, some good might come of that.

On March 25th, I posted “No One Owns Journalism,” a background essay for the BloggerCon session I will be leading tomorrow. (Schedule here, participants here.) The work of the session began when I drafted my first answer to the question that Dave Winer had assigned me and the participants: What is Journalism?

Not sure, I said, but no one owns it. Journalism is always up for grabs, because it only exists in a free society, which is free to redefine itself and always does.

The session continued its work after March 25 in 120 or so comments at PressThink and BOP that covered a lot of ground and involved some 50 different writers lending data and perspective— many with well thought-out and multiple posts. Some are beautifully written. I urge you to scroll down and see.

Rather than try to summarize all that, I am going to tell you what I learned, and set up the closer on the team. That’s the people who show up in Cambridge. Let’s say there’s 100 bloggers and writers, with a few academics, some business people, some journalists. All can pitch.

In my first try at framing the subject, I had a number of things wrong. My questions were pedantic and abstract. (So I ditched them back of this post.) I wrote too much on the practice of journalism, in order to “open” it to webloggers, when I should have been writing on the practice of blogging, to see where it opens on journalism, here and there threatening to change it.

To me—but then I’m a professor of it—journalism is always up for grabs. That’s a principle and it needs to be maintained. But to many people I have been reading and arguing with in my head, this is true only abstractly. In reality, journalism is the opposite of “up for grabs.” It’s the Establishment. A closed profession. Or worse. Journalism, for many who blog, is one thing they are blogging against. Or instead of. (Or are they blogging “over” it? Could be.)

So what is journalism? Not sure, they say, but someone else owns it.

Something puzzled me as I tracked the discussion of blogging and jounalism elsewhere in the sphere. I kept hearing people say things like, “Well, I don’t think blogging is journalism.” (Or: gimmee a break, all blogging isn’t journalism.) Kevin Drum, formerly CalPundit, now at Political Animal, and one the bloggers said to be most like a journalist, told me in an email: “I don’t think much of the blogging as journalism meme.” Kaye Trammell says bloggers may perform “random acts of journalism,” a statement she can live with “because it does not insinuate that all bloggers are reporting all the time.”

But who ever said—and who believes it now—that “all” bloggers are reporting all the time? It’s a pretty farfetched claim, even for insinuaters. “Blogging is journalism or it’s nothing” doesn’t survive an hour of clicking ‘round the sphere. I looked and found no links to categorical statements like that. (I’m sure they will turn up, somewhere.)

I asked around, left comments at blogs. Zip. When there are many debunking the claim, and it’s hard to find any bunkers out there, something is up with that claim and you have to drill in. In fact, “blogging only counts if it’s journalism” is not being stated by anyone. But a great many bloggers think it’s implied in subtler ways, (perhaps the journalism track at BloggerCon is one) and they react to this. Why?

Part of it is the frontier-to-civilization cycle. Big Journalism is a Back East thing. (And journalists in the West are driven crazy by this.) It’s all rules and “shoulds.” But blogging is virtually rule-less, and open to so many shoulds that none can gain status as standard. Some of the suspicion I found also has to do with professionals coming toward an activity that, long before the pros even knew about it, was not only open to amateurs—people volunteering their time—but had been invented, developed and first popularized by them.

“This is ours, not theirs” explains, I think, why some bloggers say of journalism: that’s theirs, not ours. “Mavericks are notoriously resistant to being told what to do,” writes Rebecca Blood about the blog tribe. It took me a while—and some extended correspondence with Rebecca—before I understood this puzzle and what to do about it Saturday morning. So here’s what I am going to do about it. Quote Jimmy Breslin, from a portrait of the columnist in the New York Observer (April 16, 2004):

For his part, Mr. Breslin, who prefers to think of himself as a reporter and writer—”Don’t call me a journalist, I hate the word; it’s pretentious!”—doesn’t take too well to questions about the place of columnists in today’s culture.

Then there’s this, from Dean Landsman, in comments at the mother ship: “Journalism is a mighty sexy, attractive, and powerful word to use, when discussing blogs and blogging. Writing, I think, is more the issue of note.” (So Breslin thinks we’re pretentious in this session, while Landsman says we’re sexy. But it’s happening at Harvard, so what did you expect?)

And this, from Rebecca Blood: “So, when I say weblogs and journalism are fundamentally different, one thing I mean is that the vast majority of weblogs do not provide original reporting—for me, the heart of all journalism.”

Blogging is one universe. Its standard unit is the post, its strengths are the link and the low costs of entry, which means lots of voices. Jounalism is another universe. Its standard unit is “the story.” Its strengths are in reporting, verification and access— as in getting your calls returned. Blogging counts because it a very good way of doing what the prophets of IndyMedia said we should do: become the media. (See Anarchogeek, here.) Bloggers are speakers and writers of their own invention, at large in the public square. They’re participating in the great game of influence called public opinion. And they’re developing, mostly through labors of love, what I’ve called an extremely democratic media tool.

Big Journalism frustrates and matters for the same reason: it’s an institution, with the machinery set in place for extracting, checking, editing, packaging and distributing news and information over earthly expanse. By maintaining this machinery through time, and disciplining themselves with a code, the big organizations involved create an asset—trust, reliability, credibility, visibility, brand, icon—that is very hard to match or overcome. (Which is not to say it will endure forever in its present form.)

Blogging is not journalism. When we separate these two things, we honor both. Then we’re prepared for the real work of the conference, which is to arrange more imaginatively, in sentences newly drawn, our two key terms— and to do this not once, but as many times as we can in 90 minutes of conferencing, plus the refelections after. Here’s a bit of what I mean:

  • Blogging is not journalism, but some journalists are natural bloggers and some bloggers may be natural journalists.
  • Blogging is not journalism, but bloggers now filter and edit journalists, and journalists read blogs. (Both facts are new.)
  • Blogging— hey, it’s not journalism. But when journalists blog they have to depart from normal practice if they want to tap the weblog’s strengths. These are an author’s voice, the art of linking, the immediacy and person-to-person tone, the comments section, the conversation with other blogs, tools like Technorati and RSS, none of which shone through in Web Journalism before the weblog’s rise.
  • Blogging is not journalism, but whereas journalism is on the Web, blogging is deeply of it, and so bloggers are ahead of journalists in learning what the Web is for, and how its ecology works. (To say nothing of its social psychology.)
  • Blogging ain’t journalism, but more of it should be, if we’re serious about “advancing” this form. (Doc Searles says so in a pre-BloggerCon post.)
  • Blogging is not journalism. But the blog sphere has a better memory for journalism than most hustling journalists, who are better at forgetting and moving on to the next thing. (What bloggers call their archive, newspaper journalists call the morgue.)
  • Blogging is not journalism, but it is journal-ing; and there’s a connection at the root there that has to do with recording events through time, then using that record to become fuller creatures of our time. (Thus Dave Winer’s probe: Journalism is “an independent view of a series of events,” a definition he built for bloggers, so use it if you can.)
  • Blogging is not journalism, but as Breslin said, journalists are writers and so are bloggers, which leaves reporting (the strength of journalism) and linking (the weblogger’s art) as two differences bound to make a difference.
  • Blogging… just don’t call it journalism. It’s what happens when the readers of journalism turn into writers, and the audience into a talking public. That’s a shock to the body of “mass” media, and even if it’s only a tiny shock, we can still say it’s electric.

Okay, so here’s Blood again in a newly published piece, using her imagination to set these two terms in proper relation. If you’re trying to find journalism, she says, don’t look at the people, look at their practices:

When a blogger interviews an author about their new book, that is journalism. When an opinion columnist manipulates facts in order to create a false impression, that is not. When a blogger searches the existing record of fact and discovers that a public figure’s claim is untrue, that is journalism. When a reporter repeats a politician’s assertions without verifying whether they are true, that is not.

Believe it or not, the question, “what is journalism?” is supposed to be practical. The purposes of BloggerCon—that pretentious, sexy and democratic thing—are to advance the weblog form and develop its nascent sphere. If that’s the practical task, then how is journalism best defined and understood? But in arguing about this, we cannot look only at the journalism we have, and have come to expect. Also in the room tomorrow should be the journalism we need, and a definition of that will prove just as valuable.

Blogging is not journalism. But if each imagined itself as the other, some good might come of it. Journalism that is more conversational, blogging that is more reliable. These we can certainly imagine. But what else can be demanded of the two forms, when they are thought about… together?

The philosopher Sheldon Wolin once said that we need vision in politics because when there is vision, things appear “in their corrected fullness.” At the high end of my hopes for this event, one is able to picture journalism in its corrected fullness. And that’s when we’ll find a vision of it from which webloggers can draw as they develop the form, improve their own sites, and strengthen the sphere they share with members of the press.

Aftermath: Notes, Reactions & Links…

Obviously, the bar is open and comments—post-conference—are welcome.

James Fallows in the New York Times on what’s different about weblogs: The Twilight of the Information Middlemen. (May 16, 2004)

From OJR: Columnist Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post on lessons to be learned from blogs for mainstream print journalists: “The most successful blogs all have something in common. Their authors are unashamedly enthusiastic about the topic at hand. (Often, of course, they’re outraged.) The lesson: There is no virtue in sounding bored online. Online, journalists should not conceal their fascination for the topics they cover. They should not hide behind the traditional bland construction of news stories. They should still be fair, of course, but they should also have voice and passion — and sometimes even outrage.”

CableNewser, a lively and newsy blog about the cable news biz (3,500 readers a day and many fans in the industry) turns out to be written by an 18 year-old college sophomore in Maryland. See Baltimore Sun article, “Writing beyond his years.” (June 2, 2004)

Reflecting on the BloggerComn session, Micah Sifry writes Bloggers are editors, not journalists: “bloggers who write about current events and culture (as opposed to people who are mainly focused on their inner world or their personal spheres) aren’t getting attention and adding value to the democratic discourse so much because they’re behaving like journalists, it’s because they’re behaving like editors.” (April 23, 2004)

Geoffrey Nuremberg has original things to say in Blogging in the Global Lunchroom, a commentary on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross (April 20, 2004).

The fact is that this is a genuinely new language of public discourse — and a paradoxical one. On the one hand, blogs are clearly a more democratic form of expression than anything the world of print has produced. But in some ways they’re also more exclusionary, and not just because they only reach about a tenth of the people who use the Web.

Amy Langfield offers an outstanding analysis, complete with predictions, pros and cons, legal questions and a conveniently prepared nut graph (April 19):

Newspapers will add blogs to their Web sites first with their existing columnists, through frequent community op-ed writers the paper has come to trust and through occasional “event” blogs related to things such as an election or major natural disaster. The two things that must happen before newspapers move beyond those steps are that the legal liability must be made clear through litigation and the economy must improve enough for them to hire more people to implement the blogs.

Highly Recommended: Vin Crosbie’s sharp narrative that puts the “What is Journalism?” discussion at Harvard into sequence with three earlier moments when the two tribes—bloggers, journalists—met. Is Blogging Journalism? (Rounds 1-4).

Do read Nico Macdonald in The Register (UK) on the Future of Weblogging (April 18): “This weekend the best and the brightest in the blogosphere will schlepp their WiFi-enabled laptops to the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass….” Also:

The “blogerati” rightly present Weblogging as opening up writing and communication to the masses. However, this populist and laudable attack on the mass communication sector disguises an elitist tendency at the centre of the blogosphere. This tendency is most obvious in the habit of using first names only (or even nicknames) when referring to fellow Webloggers. For a movement that aspires to (and has achieved some) intellectual leadership, this is inappropriate.

An interesting point about a habit that always bothered me, too.

Blogging from Prague, Douglas Arellanas reflects on tech hurdles for newspapers that want blogs (April 20).

Chris Geider, Blogging as Journalism: a Defense (April 19): “The Internet and blogs, in their way, are the best hope for the success of the ‘marketplace of ideas’ for which First Amendment advocates have so long fought. Why would some want to cut it short now?”

Jeff Jarvis posted his notes from the BloggerCon session: “What is Journalism?” (April 17)

The New York Times covers the “blogging as a business” session that Jarvis ran. (April 19)

Betsy Devine’s top ten quotes from the session: “What is Journalism?”

Here are Jack Hodgson’s journalism session notes from TECHpopuli (April 17).

Velveteen Rabbi (Rachel Barenblat) summarizes well the religion and blogging session at the Con (April 19).

See Rebecca Blood’s fine essay: “A Few Thoughts on Journalism and What Can Weblogs Do About It.” (April 15)

When bloggers link to conflicting or contextualizing material, smart reporters will further research and verify promising leads, and credit the bloggers who uncovered them. Participatory media and journalism are different, but online they exist in a shared media space. There are tremendous synergies possible between the two. I have no desire to conform my weblog to journalistic standards, or to remake journalism in my image. I want to find ways to leverage the strengths of both worlds to the mutual benefit of both.

An April 15 radio segment about Blogging on Australia’s Radio National with author Rebecca Blood, Jay Rosen and Lee Rainie, of Pew’s project on Internet and American Life. Listen here (requires Real Player.)

Tristan Louis had a long and interesting take, prior to BloggerCon: Thoughts Before BloggerCon II— Blogs and Journalism.

Ed Cone comments on this post: ” if my newspaper column on a lazy Sunday is about my dog, is that journalism? Is it journalism if columns about my dog inevitably draw more comment from readers than columns about Iraq, gay marriage, and the local economy?” (April 16)

Dave Winer responds: Jay, I didn’t ask if blogging is journalism. (April 16, see comments too)

J.D. Lasica comments on this post. “I think what really set me on edge was the notion that we should return to the days when only big-J journalists practice journalism and bloggers, well, whatever they did, it certainly wasn’t journalism.”

Sheila Lennon comments on this post: “Journalism is a discipline. — who, what, where, when, why. Get it right, dig, tell a story, publish it. What you type into a blog might be journalism, might even be ‘news’ or it might be blowing smoke.”

Doc Searls comments. “Three degrees of mediation.”

Some great background to these issues is provided in this report, We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information. Written by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, edited by J.D. Lasica. Recommended.

Newsweek on Ohmy “Is This the Future of Journalism? Oh Yeon Ho’s belief that ‘every citizen is a reporter’ has changed journalism in South Korea—and now he’s aiming for the world.”

South African Andie Miller, If Kapuscinski had a weblog. “Whether we call them journalists or not, what bloggers invariably possess – that much of journalism with its deadlines and word-counts has killed in its reporters – is an enthusiasm for telling the stories. If a young Kapuscinski was starting out today, and publishing his writing on a weblog, perhaps we wouldn’t call it journalism. Perhaps we would call it “literary reportage”, as Kapuscinski himself describes his writing. But whatever we called it, we would be richer for his desire to experience the world, and his passion for sharing those stories with us.”

See Jeff Sharlet’s pre-conference set up (and comments) for the Religion and Blogging session at the Con. Jeff is the editor of The Revealer, where faith and journalism collide.

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 16, 2004 10:24 AM   Print


Jay, This is a brilliant attempt to define the undefinable, and you've certainly earned my respect. However, I wonder if the subject itself doesn't produce an exercise in chasing one's tail, because there is no accepted and universal definition of journalism, nor can there be. If you accept the institutional definition, then it's possible to call blogging something different and come to the conclusions you've reached. However, if you accept that the institutional definition might be flawed, then you're back at square one. I think the moment I call myself a journalist, I'm not one, because that determination is reserved for the reader, whom I trust to be able to get it right. Have fun at BloggerCon.

Posted by: Terry Heaton at April 16, 2004 11:51 AM | Permalink

I don't agree that blogging is not journalism. I'm writing something about this right now.

Posted by: Dave Winer at April 16, 2004 12:00 PM | Permalink

My response..$1223

Posted by: Dave Winer at April 16, 2004 12:08 PM | Permalink

Journalism is like obscenity, I know it when I see it.

Institutions don't own journalism, they just monopolized it for a while.

Whether you call it a "post" or a "story," the 1,000 words at my blog on the use of the Internet by the Edwards campaign was journalism. Josh Marshall is doing high-level journalism at his blog. David Hoggard (not a professional journalist) has raised the bar on coverage of local stories here in Greensboro with his blog. Etc.

So journalism clearly happens on blogs.

Does that mean everything on my blog, or others blogs, is journalism? No. The want-ads and comics in a newspaper aren't journalism, either.

If I perform a certain amount of recognizable journalism at my blog, are other posts about my dog or my vacation journalism? I tend not to think so, except in the broadest sense.

But if my newspaper column on a lazy Sunday is about my dog, is that journalism? Is it journalism if columns about my dog inevitably draw more comment from readers than columns about Iraq, gay marriage, and the local economy?

I think the practice of journalism by bloggers is the interesting topic. Of secondary interest is the use of blogs by institutional media. Definitions will take care of themself.

Posted by: ed cone at April 16, 2004 12:36 PM | Permalink

Ouch ouch ouch.

Jay, this is exactly the sort of essay which I criticized a while back, and wondered if I'd get myself in trouble for saying that. I don't mean to be personally harsh, but I think it simply goes around a confusion point it created in the first place. As in:

"Is *writing* journalism ... did anyone ever say all writing is journalism? But writing puts words one after the other, and journalists put words one after the other too. Some professional writers are journalists. Some say journalists are writers. But isn't writing more than journalism? Or is journalism less than writing? ..." (on and on, for hundreds of words)

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 16, 2004 12:51 PM | Permalink

Jeez, Jay... how do you find the time to think such deep thoughts?
Interesting, thoughtful analysis, but why such a narrow implied definition of blogging? My definition is very broad -- it's simply one template for Web publishing. The substance of what gets published in that template is what defines whether it is journalism.
Journalists who blog can alter their writing practices without changing their journalistic values. Some amateur bloggers do actual reporting. Others do a credible job of editing and aggregating the news. It's all being done in a different medium, but so what?
(And, yes, the vast majority of blogging is journaling, not journalism in the traditional sense.)
I agree with most everything you say except the blanket statement that "blogging is not journalism." Why do we need to separate the two to honor both? I don't get that...
Finally, you're right about West Coast journalists and the East Coast attitudes that drive us crazy. So when will there be a Blogger.Con on the West Coast?

Posted by: Ken Sands at April 16, 2004 1:05 PM | Permalink

The Blogger As Citizen Journalist:

Posted by: Lisa Williams at April 16, 2004 1:29 PM | Permalink

Blogging-as-journalism and blogging-as-conversation as two ends of a continuum:

Posted by: Frank Catalano at April 16, 2004 3:15 PM | Permalink

Bloggers haven't replaced journalists. They've replaced editors somewhat.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at April 16, 2004 3:23 PM | Permalink

"Bloggers are speakers and writers of their own invention, at large in the public square. They're participating in the great game of influence called public opinion."

Maybe, maybe not. Blogging is new enough that its borders - national, linguistic, substantive, formal, etc. - are open, undecided and in flux. To assume the same contextual frames for blogging that are invoked by US journalism seems reductive. Blogging and journalism might do well to look at each other without mistaking what they see for their own reflection.

Posted by: Tom Matrullo at April 16, 2004 4:33 PM | Permalink

Blogging is writing; sometimes writing is journalism.

Posted by: beerzie boy at April 16, 2004 5:21 PM | Permalink

Well, this is kinda depressing. I am going to have something to eat and think about why there are so many miscommunications here.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 16, 2004 7:35 PM | Permalink

Jay, I'm surprised you bought into the blogging-is-never-journalism nonsense spouted by some bloggers who have a chip on their shoulder about big media journalism, instead of sticking to your guns about the difference between the craft and practice of journalism on the one hand and the institutions of big media on the other.

I wrote a response to your essay here.

Posted by: JD Lasica at April 16, 2004 7:51 PM | Permalink

I don't think any thoughtful person would say that blogging is never journalism, any more than they would say that blogging is always journalism. jay certainly assert either of those things in this essay.

why the absolutist reading? what I got out of the essay was an effort to get people to imagine the possibilities without being tied to their preconceived notions about how this or any other form of media is "supposed" to work.

Posted by: rebecca blood at April 16, 2004 8:42 PM | Permalink

of course that should say "jay certainly does not assert either of those things in this essay."

Posted by: rebecca's pocket at April 16, 2004 8:43 PM | Permalink

To Rebecca's point, I think a fairer summation of Jay's position than some comments are allowing him is that, "Blogging is not automatically journalism." Blogging is a mechanism, using the Web as the medium for written expression. Sometimes it's journalism. Sometimes it's just conversation. And sometimes it's something in between (as I discussed in detail here in late March).

As someone who used to be a professional journalist for many years, even I have trouble defining journalism absolutely. Blogging is starting to seem to have the same problem -- there are more connotations than denotations. I think Jay deserves some kudos for attempting to put a wrapper around the jello.

Posted by: Frank Catalano at April 16, 2004 9:11 PM | Permalink

Ken, Dave Winer tells me he'd like to have a BloggerCon on the west coast but no university has agreed to host it yet. But that may change.

Posted by: JD Lasica at April 16, 2004 9:28 PM | Permalink

Blogging is not automatically journalism. Frank put it well.

Those who think this is some kind of "dis" to blogging--and especially JD--are asked to read it again. What do these sentences say to you? "Blogging is not journalism. When we separate these two things, we honor both." Does that sound like the wind-up to a dismissal?

At his weblog, JD says Rosen "accedes to the view that 'Journalism is not blogging." Bad note taking. The phrase I used--over and over-- was "blogging is not journalism," (you reversed it) and what I meant was: not automatically so. A simple statement like, blogging is not automatically journalism is not offered to you as PressThink's grand insight, or opening gambit in a war of definitions, to be continued at BloggerCon after 30 minutes of tail-chasing 'round the Ole Definition Barn. I think there was a little more to what I wrote than that, Seth.

My post was a brief against automatic thinking. That blogging isn't automatically journalism is a pre-condition for believing that citizen blogging can indeed become journalism, and give the traditional press a run for its money. It's also a necesarly move for our minds, for until we clearly separate the two, understand what each is, how can they be brought together in a new and more potent combination?

Journalists aren't automatically going to become bloggers, or good bloggers. Surely it's saying this that forces us to think about the blogging journalist and what makes her different.

You'll notice, then, that every one of my bullet points reminds you that blogging is not journalism, and then goes on to say where the two are touching, mixing:

Blogging is not journalism, but bloggers now filter and edit journalists, and journalists read blogs.

The "but" is my attempt to say: once we separate these two things we can see all the intruiging ways they come together.

Ed Cone: "I think the practice of journalism by bloggers is the interesting topic." I agree completely, and this is what I hope to spend the most time on Saturday. "Of secondary interest is the use of blogs by institutional media." True.

"Definitions will take care of themselves." Really? The Bush White House wants to define the press as a special interest, wants to say, in effect, there is no journalism. Is this one we should trust will take care of itself?

How about the day some gateleeper at a public hearing has to define who a journalist is, covering the event, and who's just a citizen, blogging? That one will take care of itself? Maybe there's another way to look at this.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 17, 2004 12:57 AM | Permalink

But if each imagined itself as the other, some good might come of it. Journalism that is more conversational, blogging that is more reliable. These we can certainly imagine. But what else can be demanded of the two forms, when they are thought about... together?

Maybe the big suck-in-the-wind gasp of some commentors might have occured where it did for me.

Blogging that is more reliable. Hmmm. To the crux, then, what is meant by reliable and why would we want to be more so? What is more reliable than genuine voice--verified sources? What is more reliable than publishing when the mood strikes--publishing daily or weekly even if there is no story worth telling?

That BigJ is more reliable--credible?--than blogging, and that blogging would do well to borrow some of that reliability from journalism is what made me gasp a little bit, Jay.

Makes me think, ewww. journalism cooties.

I like what Rebecca said about our mix-and-match processes. Perhaps the context of the written word does the defining.

Have fun at bloggercon!

Posted by: jeneane at April 17, 2004 1:35 AM | Permalink

So I wonder specific acts on a blog qualify as "journalism." (This gets to some of the thoughts in Rebecca Blood's newly published piece linked in Jay's post.) First-person reporting is the method that most people talk about. But reporting is just the most overt form of journalism.

When I was a copy editor, I did many of the same things that bloggers do. Question stories, look for holes, point out errors, seek background where it's missing, strive for balance and context. And when I was a copy editor, I certainly considered myself a journalist. If a blogger does these things in an objective fashion -- or even in a nonobjective fashion, as long as he or she is accurate -- are these acts of journalism? The biggest differences are that I did these things prepublication and I got paid for it.

When I've worked as a news editor, a big part of my job has been to select and edit the stories for the front page, and to make sure that the news of the day was covered throughout the rest of the paper. In essence, to exercise my judgment and organize news stories by their relative value. Bloggers do this too. The difference may be that they get to unashamedly exercise extremely personal judgment, and my goal was always to try to distance myself from my own preferences, to make decisions with the newspaper's overall readership in mind. So is that difference enough to separate journalism from *not* journalism?

When I was an assistant city editor for a while, I had to consider what stories we ought to be pursuing, and to consider how we should cover the issues that we were following. I'd then work with reporters to make sure their stories were accurate, fair, and so on. And if I called myself a journalist while I did all this, what do we call bloggers who weigh in on the same things? Again the difference may be that they get to be very personal in their judgments, and I was supposed to consider the whole of our readership.

I bring these questions up because I think they're interesting, and I'm not sure at all what I think about the answers. There may be things that I'm not considering here. But I think it's important not to limit the discussion to simply reporting when we talk about bloggers performing journalism.

Posted by: Ryan at April 17, 2004 5:26 AM | Permalink

Some bloggers are journalists some (or all) of the time. That would describe me. My weblog varies from personal comments (certainly not journalism) to specific reporting (like my piece yesterday on Sun spinning its services offering).

It's ok for bloggers to not be journalists at all (why should that be everyone's goal?), or to journalists sometimes (in the formal sense, or in some new, blog-specific sense), or to use their blog and the context of the blogosphere as if it were a new publication platform and do their journalistic writing from here.

Real journalism is all about freedom, fairness, and a search for the truth. Blogs can make that easier, more broadly accessible, faster to surface both new facts and feedback, and better at publically archiving information. Accept them as a new piece of the infrastructure.

Posted by: Amy Wohl at April 17, 2004 11:55 AM | Permalink

Blogging is writing; sometimes writing is journalism.

This really is the distillation of the entire thing.

Posted by: The One True b!X at April 17, 2004 5:00 PM | Permalink

Blogging is, er, not journalism any more than printing or writing are journalism.
From what I've seen, blogging is mostly opinion backed up by a few hyperlinks.
When it is journalism, it is usually eye-witness reports -- albeit, minus the "substance" that would normally round a story out where professional journalists are involved, such as interviews, documents, photographs, etc.
As for accuracy and fairness? Forget about it!
Which beggars the question: if blogging is so wonderful why do its advocates sound more like people who have just given up smoking or recently discovered Jesus?
My guess is the "any moron can publish any crap they like" software freely available on the internet gives them a sense of enpowerment they believed they deserved for having an opinion.
But, from what I've seen, driving a pretty automatic doesn't make anyone an expert driver, just another information superhighway hazard.
PSST: Did you hear the one about...?

Posted by: Jack C at April 18, 2004 10:43 AM | Permalink

I keep coming back to this strange assertion: "the blogging-is-never-journalism nonsense spouted by some bloggers who have a chip on their shoulder about big media journalism"

I don't understand how that would follow. wouldn't people with a chip in their shoulders about big media journalism be more likely to be in the "weblogs are journalism" camp, trying to gain credit for being a member of a club they feel they've been excluded from?

Posted by: rebecca blood at April 18, 2004 1:01 PM | Permalink

What is 90% of the "journalism" industry today?

Editors regurgitating wire copy that has been edited and re-edited ten times.

"Journalism" is the mass dissemination of information based on an eyewitness account or a third-party source.

Blogging isn't far from that. Journalists obtain their information from third parties and add some context. Bloggers obtain their information from third parties and add some context.

Sometimes journalists create original or investigative pieces. Sometimes bloggers create original or investigative pieces.

Journalists disseminate information through huge and powerful networks (broadcast, newspapers, the Internet). Bloggers disseminate information through huge and powerful networks (the Internet).

Accuracy and fairness? I'll take quite a few blogs over Fox News any day!

Bloggers might not be as sophisticated or deep in their coverage of a story, but the basic concepts remain the same.

I believe certain professional writers suffer a bit of conceit in their craft, encouraged by the notion of the celebrity author. Professional journalism brings training and standards, but there are no barriers to the acts themselves (researching, writing, reporting).

Posted by: Anonymous at April 18, 2004 5:07 PM | Permalink

I have never, despite Cone's identification otherwise, considered myself a "journalist" because I can't help but to offer an opinion about what I am "journalizing" upon. To my mind a jounalist is bound to cover facts without overt editorializing... so I fail my own litmus test with glee.

Isn't it possible, with certain posts by certain bloggers at certain times, to meld the journalist and blogger moniker into something new?

Names for the meshing of blogger and jounalist? oh I don't know... perhaps you BloggerCon attendees can come up with something catchy.

Posted by: David Hoggard at April 19, 2004 12:54 AM | Permalink

Blogging is not just journalism. Blogs are diverse. How about medical blogs? Science blogs? Other "specialty" blogs? Photo blogs? One day blogs will publish medical, scientific studies and scientific case reports. Readers are peer-reviewers. Blogs are here, and blogs are the revolution. Check out our medical blog: EchoJournal. It is not journalism. Isn't it?

Posted by: Michael at April 19, 2004 1:51 AM | Permalink

Hoggard I didn't call you a journalist, I said journalism happens on your blog. You report. You break stories. That is journalism. Does that make you a journalist? Perhaps, at times. A citizen journalist, as Jarvis likes to say. Journalists also opine, by the way -- the definition of journalist is not "news reporter." But I think this is a lot of navel gazing. My thought in all this is that the medium is not the message. Blogging is wrting. Some writing is journalism.

Posted by: ed cone at April 19, 2004 8:04 AM | Permalink

Dear Jay,
What blogging is is self-syndication. The business of syndicating columns is all but dead and blogging fills in the gaping hole.

Posted by: Carolee Morrison at April 19, 2004 1:02 PM | Permalink

How old is journalism? Have we really defined the meaning of what journalism is and will be? Someone 3-400 years ago probably would not recognize a journalist.

Studs Terkel is a great example of a blogger who is also a journalist.

Posted by: john cass at April 19, 2004 10:01 PM | Permalink

Blogging is writing. Some writing is journalism. I am for that as a summation. Thanks to those who suggested it.

Self-syndication. I really like that, Carolee. Certainly describes my experience as an opinion writer who started a blog.

Dave Hoggard: "Names for the meshing of blogger and jounalist? oh I don't know... perhaps you BloggerCon attendees can come up with something catchy." scribblers self syndicated

I like Amy Wohl's summary too: "Accept them as a new piece of the infrastructure."

Jeneane: "That BigJ is more reliable--credible?--than blogging, and that blogging would do well to borrow some of that reliability from journalism is what made me gasp a little bit, Jay."

This was not a carefully presented idea, on my part. I would agree there are ways of being "reliable" that blogs should probably not take on. Reliable in going no more than ten feet from conventional wisdom in the chattering classes (an art perfected by Mort Kondracke on Fox and Howard Fineman of MSNBC and Newsweek, among many others) would not be good.

I meant much simpler things like checked facts, spelled names, accurate quoting, an "about us" page that tells me something-- reliable, informationally speaking. If you have ever been fact checked by real checkers in a magazine or newspaper section-- that's what I mean by reliable. I suppose some would argue this is a bad standard for blogs, too. I would not.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 19, 2004 11:11 PM | Permalink

Ryan says something important when, trying to capture the difference between thinking like a mainstream newspaper journalist and thinking about the same kind of events as a blogger, he writes: "The difference may be that they get to be very personal in their judgments, and I was supposed to consider the whole of our readership."

Journalism when there is some pretension to completeness (complete coverage of the Spokane community) requires a different kind of judgment. Rather than information vs. opinion, or objective vs. subjective--which raise so many intractable problems--Ryan suggests that personal vs. impersonal judgment describes the key difference in blogging v journalism.

Blogs require personal judgment to reign--and if they're good it does. Newspapers in cities like Spokane require impersonal judgment if they're to succeed in "covering" the whole community.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 19, 2004 11:27 PM | Permalink

There's a lot missing about reporting and its differences from journalism. The who what when where and how; with opinions about the why. News Reports. Facts.
What that means, and in particular, speculation about the future -- opinions. NOT reporting, except in a Nat. Enquirer sort of way (Kerry's opinon is yada yada). TV news, and much newspaper news, has degenerated from facts with some separate analysis to speculations about the future (what will happen, later -- what are the likely future facts to look like).

Whenever journalism is talking about the future, it's talking about opinions, and TV's seldom better, and increasingly more often worse, than the best blogs. Blogs with personal, first name opinions (I LIKE first names), also about the future.

And Spokane could possibly cover the whole community by including more personal voices -- but a news org would most often do a better job; and impersonal is better, then.

(Good thoughts here; thank you Jay Rosen)

Posted by: Tom Grey at April 20, 2004 8:01 AM | Permalink

The Venn diagram for journalism and blogging certainly intersect, but some of blogging extends outside the circle of journalism, and certainly the circle of journalism extends outside the circle of blogging.

In other words, some blogging is journalism, and some journalism is blogging, but not all blogging is journalism, and not all journalism is blogging.

Where journalism and blogging meet is where there is a discussion of NEWS - north, east, south and west in the context of facts - who, what, how, where and when.

But, when the "why" gets discussed, that's where journalism and blogging part ways. Then, they both morph into editoralizing. At least some newspapers attempt to label a page as an editorial (some just put it on the front page).

Blogging cannot be categorized easily because some of it meets these criteria, and some of it doesn't.

You have to judge for yourself.

Posted by: J. Craig Williams at April 20, 2004 1:57 PM | Permalink

Fascinating discussion interestingly coming out of the Western world, Blogging is actually defined in some places simply as "self publishing"

is defined in the Penguin English Dictionary as "a profession managing editing or writing for newspapers or perodicals'. Is blogging not simply a new form of social commentary owmed by those that wish to speak their mind and create a new voice not owned by traditioanl media forms. As can be found in traditonal media there is interesting informative "writing / joournalism and a vast amount..... that is Do I need to know this??? What is fascinating is how many people have taken up 'blogging' to have their voice heard

Posted by: Lissa at May 6, 2004 12:54 AM | Permalink

From the Intro