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PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

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 29, 2004

Questions and Answers About PressThink

If you're the kind of person who loves to complain about "meta" posts and make fun of blogging about blogging, please. Don't read this post. You'll hate it. It's the echo chamber again. Q & A about how I do my blog, PressThink. Very self-referential, okay? Meta meta, yadda yadda, blog, blog, blog for pages on pages. The only people who might be interested are...

… other writers trying to do a decent weblog who wish to compare and contrast, plus curious readers of PressThink, students in a Net journalism class, maybe. In place of an FAQ page, I now have this. I am posting it today so it can become a standing link under the About section.

Some of these questions are asked frequently by readers or seen in comments. Others I ask myself. My point is to explain how a weblog like this works, according to the person who thought it up and does it. No relevance to other weblogs or writers is claimed. Part of my purpose is to observe what author Rebecca Blood said about the ethic of transparency— “one of the weblog’s distinguishing characteristics and greatest strengths.” This is a transparency post. (I’ll probably add sections as I go along, so comments are welcome. But if you’re point is…”too much meta,” we covered that.)

Why are PressThink posts so long?

When I started asking around about how to do a weblog, I got many kinds of answers. The one advisory every informant gave was: you must write in short bursts. That’s the style, some said. That’s what works, said others. And, most suspicious of all, that’s what busy, web-cruising readers expect. They don’t have time for your leisurely thesis, I was told. By everyone.

So you decided to be contrarian and go the other way?

No, contrarians are annoying. I didn’t set out to write long essays; it happened as I tried to turn my ideas into posts that said something others weren’t saying, and got some notice. (And I can do short, sometimes.) I set out to be unrestricted: free to figure out for myself what works, what PressThink wants to be.

“People don’t have time for…” reasoning was meaningless to me, and I didn’t trust it. It wanted to restrict my freedom to write what I think, but the whole purpose in starting PressThink was liberation: “Wow, my own magazine. Now I can write what I think.” It’s the same for most webloggers, I would guess. My interest was users who did have time for depth, in whatever number they may prove to exist, ocean to ocean, post to post.

But it’s more like: this is my magazine, PressThink… If you like it, return. In a tiny and abstract way, perhaps, my blog is part of the media marketplace, competing for eyeballs with re-runs of Law and Order. But not really. PressThink, a free citizen in a voluntary nation, doesn’t have to behave like a market actor. Thus my experiment in long form.

Fine, but weren’t your advisors just making a simple point about the nature of the Web medium?

Sure, and I thanked them. But the Web is good for many opposite things. For quick hitting information. For clicking across a field. For talk and interaction. It’s also a depth finder, a memory device, a library, an editor. Not to use a weblog for extended analysis because most users won’t pick that option… is Web dumb but media smart. What’s strange is that I try to write short, snappy things, but they turn into long ones. A certain number of readers show up to complain about it (“too many words spent on the wrong subject!” would be typical) and that gets amusing after a while.

I probably should learn the more classical blogger form— title, link, quick comment. But there are many doing it that way, and many who do it well. Every good blog asks the Web a question at the start: is there any demand out there for an original… for a me? You have to do the actual blog for a while to find out.

So what does PressThink, the title, mean?

Part if it derives from terms like “group think,” but the group is the press. The title is also short for press thinking or doctrine, the philosophy journalists live by, the “religion” of the press. If I wanted to risk a more academic term, I’d call it “journalism’s imaginary.” These are subjects that interest me, especially when they can be read into the headlines. (I’ve done scholarly work, including a Ph.D thesis, on parts of them.) Press think is what I do myself, as a critic and writer. I’m engaged in it when I operate this blog.

I write about the press think of others— like Geneva Overholser or John Carroll or Paul Krugman. I also interview journalists about their own press think, scholars about what they know, bloggers about what they’re up to with this form. Or I might examine the press think built into a weblog (like Front Line Voices) or evidenced by a blogger (Patterico) or found in a report (Harvard study on Trent Lott, the blogs and the press).

A blogger ransacks. If the managing editor of the LA Times gives a “don’t kill the messenger” speech about his newspaper’s bitterly-contested coverage of the California recall election in 2003—and he is defending that coverage with self-evident pride despite the attacks—chances are that some live press think will be in his remarks. Ideas about the kind of journalism worth doing today, about the job the LA Times actually is doing, about the defense of journalism from critics— that’s material. When, in order to get away from the press pack, a Pulitizer Prize winning reporter goes off on a listening tour of California, I may write in praise of her thinking, as I did here.

The idea is to lift the press think part from passing events that involve the press. And then examine it, or get others to do the same. You asked what the title means. It means that. If you had asked me what the title does, it’s the source code for all the writing and linking that goes on here. The blog is “about” press think; it’s also a contraption for making more press think.

What about this other phrase, your subtitle: “Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine.” What is that about?

That’s about trying to introduce a visual connected to the idea of the blog. I wanted the designers—William Drentell and Ruby Studios—to have some image to work with, and “ghost of…” did that. Once upon a time, the press was the media. But then the media grew up and it surrounded, absorbed and even overwhelmed the press. When the media grew so big it “swallowed” journalism, it took into its machinery the flickering spirit of a free press, a very old flame. Even where extinguished it hangs around. The subtitle points to that.

But it’s more about the visual. A glance at the header box should make that clear.

Politically, where are you: left, right, middle of the road, liberal, conservative?

My views on issues would be standard Upper West Side Liberal Jewish babyboomer— even though I don’t live in that neighborhood. I am a registered Democrat. I supported Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, over David Dinkins (D) and will probably vote Bloomberg for mayor when he runs again. I’ve written for Harpers, the Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, Washington Post, Salon and, to list a few, but not the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard or the Washington Times. I was media editor at Tikkun magazine for a while. That should be enough to place me on your spectrum.

Update: April 2008. As I mentioned here, I am a supporter of Barack Obama for president and I hope he wins. I haven’t given money, or donated time, or been in contact with the campaign, but I voted for him in the primary and intend to do so again in November, 2008. Just thought I should make that clear in this space.

Ever been active in politics?

Not really, except for an over-active mind. Never worked for a candidate. I began my political life watching the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973, so my first sentient experience with government was naive amazement at how well it worked, as day by day the scandal was revealed and the Constitution came to life in those unforgettable people— Butterfield, Baker, Dean. Politics since then has been a slow unwinding of that moment by reality. I was lucky that I began as a believer in what government could do, that I first saw politics at a moment when it worked. It was a two-month illusion, but my “political views” are bound up with that as much as party identification.

Your blog is about the press. So what’s your perspective on journalism? Where is PressThink coming from?

I try to leave ideologically-charged press critique to others—individuals and organizations—that do it eagerly, do it well. PressThink is not a media watch site, although I have written about watch blogs. PressThink is not a bias hunter, in the usual sense, but I have written about bias hunting. It’s not an “inside” look at the press, either, but I’ve written about inside baseball in press coverage. I don’t support George Bush; I do write about his press think. I never became a Howard Dean supporter, but I was a follower of the Dean movement and wrote a lot about its entanglements with the press. Getting the picture? From an Introduction in August, 2003: “I try to discover the consequences in the world that result from having the kind of press we do.”

Another answer to where I am coming from: From 1989 to 2000 or so, I was devoting much of my energies to the public journalism movement, also known as civic journalism. (Click here for a book chapter, here for a Google search to get started, here for the Public Journalism Network blog, here for a PressThink post.) Of course, I don’t see everything the same way now.

So are you a journalist?

If we speak of credentials, then no. I have never worked for a mainstream news organization or been a professional reporter— outside a brief summer fling in college. The press “tribe,” as I sometimes call it, is not my tribe, although I know and admire the work of many people in it. My background is in press scholarship and criticism, so I am really an observer and student of the press. However, I have written for numerous newspapers and magazines and I suppose it could be said that I’m an opinion journalist. But that’s stretching it.

Do you have a blogging method?

Hmm. I read the press, watch the news, click around in my blogroll, and hunt for something juicy, current, interesting. Then I collect links, and start writing. Or someone emails me something and it leads to a post. That’s it, method-wise. What I have instead of method is a kind of style sheet, which has self-imposed instructions for how to do a PressThink post.

In this example, The Tipping Point, there are five fields that get filled in: the title, the subtitle, the essay, the “after matter” (with notes, reactions and links) and the comments. Each requires of me a different kind of writing. The title condenses what the post is about, and arrests attention. The subheading explains the argument, previewing the “story” in the essay. The essay is an essay, but with links— a gesture unto themselves. The “after” section edits and tracks the wider discussion in the blog sphere. The comments begin the dialogue.

A successful post is when all five parts talk to each other as they are read against one another. A PressThink entry is not “done” until the after matter, trackbacks and comments come in, which sometimes takes more than a week. That’s one cycle in the turning of a weblog. When it works (always a hit and miss thing) the post at some point turns into a forum on the subject that occasioned the post— and the fourm is what “thinks.” Of course, I didn’t know about this stylesheet and the posting logic it enforces until after I had stumbled on it through trial and error.

If you’re not a member of the tribe, then what is your connection to the press? Just as a critic, a watcher?

No. For one thing I love journalism, and devour the product. Professional journalists I find to be interesting and, on the whole, very dedicated people with a demanding job, hard to do well. They are far more scrupulous—concerned with getting things right—than many of their critics believe. (They also love to explain things to non-specialists, an attractive quality.)

The press is an important institution; and it has power, although its power is changing today— at the source, which is a free and alert citizenry. That means the errors and excesses of the press are important too. There is a lot of cynicism, even hostility out there about beliefs like these. I identify with some of that disgust, but react with disgust against much of it, because so much of it is cheap, ill-reasoned, flagrantly politicized— a circuit closed.

To me it is entirely possible that the press is failing the body politic, but a lot of the criticism heaped upon the news media is failing badly too. That’s a puzzle worth blogging about— and I have.

You’re a professor of it. Is journalism an academic discpline?

Journalism is not a discipline the way history or psychology are, but the practice of it takes discipline, and its virtues are things I find virtuous in a writer, any writer, including citizens who may take up their pens. Accuracy, for example. If it’s getting a street address right, that’s a fairly simple matter. Accurately portrating how someone else thinks when it’s not your experience, your world, your argument— way harder. And there’s no method for that; it’s a virtue, a discipline. Try it sometime, if the point seems unclear.

Then there 09/11 and everything after. The more serious events around us get, the clearer the virtues of honest journalism and of high standards in reporting the world. I don’t want to live in a country with a shitty press, or a discouraged tribe of journalists. It’s dangerous. So I’m not just a critic. I have a stake in the subject. But then so do you. Maybe that’s what PressThink is “about”— that stake.

You said earlier that you prefer to leave “bias” criticism to others. Why is that? You don’t believe there’s bias in the news media? You don’t see it yourself?

Of course I see it. To me, any work of journalism is saturated with bias from the moment the reporter leaves the office—and probably before that—to the edited and finished product.

There’s bias in the conversation our biased reporter has with his biased editor, bias in the call list he develops for his story, bias in his choice of events to go out and cover, bias in the details he writes down at the event, bias in his lead paragraph, bias in the last paragraph, bias when his editor cuts a graph. The headline someone else writes for him— that has bias. There’s bias in the placement of the story. (No bias in the pixels or printer’s ink, though.)

Bias, bias, bias. Yes, I see it. I see it everywhere. I often disagree with those who see it only somewhere in the press. Bias against Bush. Bias against the anti-war Left. Bias against believing Christians. They don’t go far enough, in my opinion.

“Bias, bias, bias.” Isn’t that a way of trivializing the question?

No, I don’t think it is. Mine is just another way of saying that human judgment tells you what to do in journalism— not god or the rule book or the facts. That’s not a trivial point: journalism is saturated with judgment, and a lot of that judgment belongs to the individual journalist.

The trouble arises (and this is the whole reason we have the bias debate) because American journalists some time ago took refuge in objectivity, and began to base their authority on a claim to have removed bias from the news. This claim was not just hot air. It corresponded to things journalism did.

Things like what?

Well, to give you the compressed version… First journalism removed the political party from influence in the newsroom. Then it removed, as much as possible, the publisher and his pro-business mentality. Then it removed the political opinions of its own people. Then it removed the community— local bias, if you will. Then it removed the public because it had polls instead, and they were more objective.

At each step in these strategic removals, the justification was objectivity: producing more unbiased news. And in this way the press wound up basing its authority—the professional journalist’s bid for public trust—on the claim to have mastered the removal of bias. When actually, they just kicked everyone else out.

Well, you can be better at it than anyone else—total bias removal—and still be pretty bad. Why? Because journalism is saturated with judgment. Good journalism is.

So sometimes the press claims to be dependable because it is said to have mastered something it is actually very bad at— “curing” the news of bias. But then anyone would be terrible at that. So the reason I leave bias criticism to others is that I don’t think “unbiased journalism” is a particularly noble or desirable thing. It’s not my ideal. Nor do I see it as humanly possible.

That it’s not possible to be totally objective— we get that. But still: don’t we want journalists who are as unbiased as possible? Don’t you?

People say that. I almost never believe them. The appetite for factual truth when it conflicts with fixed views is extremely small when compared to other appetites that do get expressed.

In any case, if we do want unbiased journalism we should not. We should want journalists who show good judgment.

* * *

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Disclosures: Other information that might affect how people filter and evaluate my work:

I am a member of the following advisory boards, serving in an unpaid capacity:

  •, the journalism start-up that explores community funded reporting.

I am a former (unpaid) member of the Wikimedia Foundation advisory board:

I am also a paid member of the advisory board to the Journal-Register Company, an owner of newspapers. I was a paid consultant to the Huffington Post Investigative Fund from April to September, 2010. I no longer have any official role with the Fund.

Related: Cory Doctorow, My Blog, My Outboard Brain and Rebecca Blood, Weblog Ethics.

Xeni Jardan, co-editor of Boing Boing, in an email to Halley Suitt of Halley’s Comment:

Best blogs follow the same form as best writing in a magazine or novel. Whether the posts are brief, a la Cory, or long-winded, a la Kevin, they use only as many words as are absolutely neccesary for the task at hand. It’s not about whether posts are short or long. It’s about the fact that wasted words are obstacles.

In lampoon mode, Stephen Waters writes a post of 1,231 words to “spare readers the tens of thousands of words piled up by academics, journalists, and itinerant bloggers” in my post on Bush’s PressThink. (I told you it gets amusing sometimes.) A savage critique, so check it out. Meanwhile, Dave Winer, master of the concise, writes: “Jay Rosen gazes at his navel.”

Two posts from arts critic Terry Teachout (one of the best) with insights and epigrams: Blogging is not a zero-sum game and Notes on blogging.

Bob Stepno, Blog Reporting Questions: Who Said What and in What Voice? “Just by reflex, shifting ‘writing style” is my preferred way of differentiating between kinds of content in this weblog. For example, I started the year playing journalist with a blog entry written in a newspaper style, even avoiding the first person with the awkward construction ‘this blogger.’”

PressThink: Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds (a short post, Oct. 23, 2003)

George Packer, an agile political writer, in Mother Jones: “First, a confession: I hate blogs. I’m also addicted to them.”

Click here to return to the top of After Matter. To see what I am up to on Twitter go here.

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 29, 2004 12:14 PM   Print


Jay. Wow. I can't believe I'm first. I feel like the first person to walk in the door at Macy's during one of their gigantic one-day sales.

Oh yeah, now I have say something.

First of all, blogging about blogging, meta meta, whatever, whatever. I do it too. When I do it, I run the risk of losing my mother, who's a great fan of my blog, but whose eyes glaze over when she comes to the word "meme."

And that brings up an interesting point. We blog for different audiences, or at least I do. So I see my mom there in Florida really liking the picture of Noah and his friends pretending to be meditating. And then I imagine serious bloggers, like you, looking at the same post and thinking, why is she such a lightweight?

The thing I wanted to bring to your attention, and had I been less lazy, I'd have sent a trackback to your pre-Bloggercon piece when I posted this a few days ago, and were I less lazy still I'd learn html but I haven't, so here's the link:

I wanted you to see this because it raises some of my theories about blogging, and throws some light on your "Is blogging journalism?" question. My theory is that blogging is split right down the middle, like fiction and non-fiction in the world of books. (But not exactly fiction and non-fiction.) So go read my post.

Btw, I think it's great that you don't bow to the pressure of the blog "market" and that you stick to your guns and write long, deep posts.

It gives your readers a chance to post long comments.

Posted by: Debbie Galant at April 29, 2004 1:32 AM | Permalink

I want to say that I really appreciate what you've been doing. I have some bad "channel surfing" habits left over from tv, so sometimes I'll pop over here, see a long post, and think, "I sure don't have time to read THAT." Usually, though, I'll come back later and read it through and find something thoughtful. I read books a lot, but I haven't really gotten used to reading sustained arguments on the web, so I appreciate the fact that you have found some success/some audience for doing that.

I'll add that for someone like me who is not a "liberal", I haven't yet found your own politics distracting in your writing. Would be interesting to figure out why that is the case. I'm guessing it has something to do with your attitude toward writing and how you approach writing about politics. You do a great job of trying to identify with the subject you write about, whatever it is.

Posted by: Paul Baxter at April 29, 2004 8:43 AM | Permalink

"Meta" is introspection. Nothing wrong with it, in my view, as long as it's introspection about something (certainly the case here), rather than being a substitute for substance.

Short/long is just like headline news/in-depth analysis. Some people are the top of the hour news update, and some are the newsweekly punditry (both are press).

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 29, 2004 8:45 AM | Permalink

Jay Manifold and I have been getting a chuckle out of a motto we created during a broadcast of the Radio Rhetorica show: "We make our readers work harder." It was our acknowledgement that we do not follow the "rules" regarding the length and depth of our posts. We are not trying to change the blogging "standard." Instead, we're both a little windy and not inclined to change.

We declared you, Jay, one of our tribe some months ago because you certainly make your readers work harder--and that's part of the value of Press Think. It finds and serves its own audience by being true to the nature of its author.

Yes, I'm busy. I skip around the internet quickly because other demands of life intrude. But I gladly spend time on Press Think. I do not resent its length and depth. It is well worth the high price I pay to read it--my time.

Posted by: acline at April 29, 2004 12:31 PM | Permalink

Thank you, Debra, Paul, Seth, Art. I get a lot of laughs out of this "length" thing, but it's good to know some people gain from those posts.

Thanks for the url, Deb. Believe it or not, I wasn't asking "is blogging journalism?" but everyone thinks I was, so it probably doesn't matter. What I meant in that post was: let's pull these two things apart, blogging and journalism, so we can see how they fit together. Which is what you do in your post.

Paul: to not make my own politics distracting, as you well put it, is definitely a conscious goal. With Web readers overall, you also have to avoid suggesting that you are without politics-- without an ideology, point of view. In that sense, you have to put your own politics "in" enough to be a believable speaker, but not so much as to distract from other ideas.

Acline: I like your make em work for it philosophy of reader relations. Picture the focus group:

What do you demand in a website?
I demand that it be demanding, damnit!
Yes, but what do you want to read about?
Exactly: tell me what I want to read about or I won't visit your site.
No, you're supposed to tell me what you want to read about-- we're doing market research here.
Wait...I come to you for the same thing you're coming to me for? You call that research?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 29, 2004 2:32 PM | Permalink

Love the length.

Love the aftermath.

Wonder why nobody else does it?

Posted by: praktike at April 29, 2004 5:17 PM | Permalink

We do it. Many bloggers do updates, and many have trackbacks (the "link" portion of the aftermath).

I enjoy the length, Jay.

Posted by: Patterico at April 29, 2004 6:54 PM | Permalink

I like your blog.

But most of your comment traffic seems to come from conservative or libertarian sites.

You should make an effort to get some other links. The instapundit chorus is a bit boring.

Posted by: sparky at April 29, 2004 11:40 PM | Permalink

Just for the record, i think the length of your articles is perfect. It allows just the right amount of time to reflect on different ideas, explore them and muse about their ramifications. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Neven at May 2, 2004 7:26 PM | Permalink

Hi Jay,

I was kindly directed to your place by the good folks at Agonist.

I read your piece on the Bush Thesis and found it interesting enough to read right through the comments. Your comments here about how an article takes up to a week to be realized seemed immediately familiar. This chapter approach carries an authenticity not unlike a musical performance, where each movement has a tone and timbre, but is unrequited without response.

Truly I'm not trying to be poetic. Yet, authenticity is a pattern easily recognized if hard to describe. Referring to Bush, he is calling the Press' bluff on that. After all, when he sees his posturing reflected in the daily buzz, the character of the Press and that of his success are too.

In this gap is the opportunity for bloggers. Ideally, if the Press and the President both were the epitome of proficiency, blogs at best would be gossip columns and recipe exchanges. I don't think that's a worry.

It seems to me that length is more properly a concern of the reader than the writer. To mangle a borrowed phrase; which note would you have me remove? Authenticity requires you to take as long as you need. Respect requires you take no longer. The engaged reader will hardly notice or care. The others are not part of the performance by their choice. Indictments or judgements are unnecessary. Not to be misunderstood, by attaching the word performance I do not mean to diminish or undermine, on the contrary. We all give performances. Authenticity infuses it with meaning.

I've enjoyed myself. Thanks!

Posted by: Worldwise at May 4, 2004 1:13 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Neven. I appreciate that.

And to you, Worldwise: that's one of the most useful and supportive (and kindly) comments I have received here. I appreciate your taking the time to say it that way.

I have always found tricky the question of "authenticity" in writing or a speaking voice, in the same way that "be spontaneous" is a tricky bit of advice.

What a weblog can strive for, however, is authenticity of exchange-- for example, it can be authentically interactive with its readers, with the Web, with its environment, the blog sphere, other writers, the news. Striving for that makes sense to me.

You're right that readers self-sort. It's a different system for distributing attention.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 4, 2004 6:13 PM | Permalink

From the Intro