This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
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

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

July 25, 2004

Dispatches From the Un-Journalists

Bloggers who will be filing reports from Boston don't know in advance that what they are doing is meaningless. This can be an advantage. Here's my "convention preview" piece that ran in Newsday today.

This was published Sunday morning in the Opinion section of Newsday— without links, of course. It ran under the title, “Bloggers will file reports from Boston that could close big gaps in the media’s coverage.”


July 25, 2004

Richard Benedetto of Gannett News reported the news on July 11: “Conventions today are little more than weeklong, made-for-TV infomercials and pep rallies for the party, its candidates and its luminaries.”

Brian Faler in The Washington Post had the story earlier, on July 5: “The conventions have become carefully staged productions intended, primarily, to reintroduce the parties’ nominees to the general public.”

On July 15 it was Reuters, quoting “political experts,” who have discovered: “What was once an exciting and occasionally unpredictable way to pick presidential and vice presidential candidates has descended into empty ritual - set-piece events that are infomercials for Democrats and Republicans.”

But back on May 25, a Boston Globe editorial had the scoop, with an upbeat twist: “Even though everyone knows that conventions have become staged events with little real drama, the nominee usually gets a lift in standing from a week of being bathed in favorable publicity.”

You get the drift. Starting today, about 30,000 people will begin assembling in Boston for an event - the Democratic National Convention - that, according to the press, is “staged,” a “set-piece,” an “infomercial,” an “empty ritual,” and, perhaps the cruelest characterization of all, “little more than a reality show.” That was Rick Lyman in The New York Times, July 4.

As proof of this sad state of affairs, observers cite the dwindling hours when the conventions are broadcast in prime time by the major networks. What used to be “gavel-to-gavel” coverage, in the 1960s and ’70s, is now down to three hours - one a night for three nights. That’s how bad it’s become.

Still, there are facts in open view that don’t quite fit this picture. One of the odder ones is that 15,000 journalists and media hands will be in Boston for the big infomercial shoot.

A regular citizen, trying to take seriously what journalists say about political conventions, might have trouble understanding the mobilization of this army for an event declared newsless in advance - by its own scouts!

Roger Simon of U.S. News (who’ll be in Boston) tried to explain. “Even though 99 percent of it is predictable,” he told Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post, “you always have to be prepared as a reporter for something unpredictable. That’s why we’re there - just in case.”

An army of 15,000 protecting against the 1 percent chance that reality will break out? It seems kind of odd. (Reporting and analysis of a pep rally - that’s odd, too.)

Look a little closer and other puzzles present themselves.

Take this comment from Gannett’s Benedetto, who said conventions do still have value: “Voters who really want to know who the candidates are and what they stand for can get a pretty good primer if they watch the conventions.”

Apparently, then, “infomercials and pep rallies” - his words - make for a good briefing on the election. (“Hey, how was the pep rally?” “Great, I learned so much!”)

And what’s the difference, finally, between contempt for an “empty ritual” and contempt for those millions who are influenced by it, watch it, learn from it, attend and participate in it? It’s the kind of question I would like to ask Benedetto.

And I may do that, if I see him in Boston, because I will be there, with credentials to report on the event, along with 30 to 40 other authors who write and publish their own weblogs - some with an online user base nearing 100,000, others far less (mine is 5,000 or so in a good week). This is the first time the “bloggers,” as they’re called, will be invited to join the media crowd.

Often called “online journals,” blogs are self-publishing in action: Web pages, typically written by one person and updated several times a day, with commentary on the news, links to what other blogs are saying, reactions to major events, and—for the successful ones—a devoted following on the Web. Some have comment sections where the users debate things.

There are more than 3 million weblogs on all topics, but the ones that have drawn the most attention, and won credentials in Boston, are mainly about politics and public life - with no pretense of neutrality. Dave Winer, who has been doing his blog since 1997, calls a weblog “the unedited voice of one person.”

I think the bloggers have something to add:

They don’t know in advance that what they are doing is meaningless; if they did, they wouldn’t do it.

They don’t assume that a ritual is an empty ritual simply because it obeys a script, since this is the very essence of ritual, as any Boy Scout or churchgoer can tell you.

Although we’re told that “bloggers wear their politics on their sleeves,” and things like that, politics is a personal matter for most of them - not a professional interest. Their communication style is citizen-to-citizen, rather than expert-to-layman or media to “mass.”

Journalists are sent by their editors and bosses to cover the convention. Bloggers are “sent,” in effect, by the people who read their accounts and find use for them. Some bloggers heading to Boston have been asking their users, “What do you want to know about when I get there?” How many reporters do that?

People have subscriptions to newspapers. People have relationships to the blogs they follow. Here’s what Amy Wohl, a blogger herself, wrote on July 21: “Those of us who are watching the (convention) from afar will be counting on those of you who are blogging from ‘inside’ to try to see the real story - the one the official journalists won’t write. Be curious, be candid, be passionate, and try to tell us not just what you are seeing and thinking, but why.”

Journalists have learned to split themselves off from the public, and talk about it as an “other,” almost a thing with behavior patterns of its own. Bloggers are more embedded with the public, which to them is not so much an “it” as a “we.” David Weinberger, whose blog reports will run on the Boston Globe’s Web site as well as his own, wrote: “I can’t even anticipate how cynical or filled with spirit I’ll be; I am, after all, perfectly capable of crying at a good political speech.”

Journalists think good information leads to opinion and argument. It’s a logical sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause people to seek information, an equally logical sequence.

What do the bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything you have removed. For journalists the politics at the conventions is no mystery - this is a marketing moment and there is nothing to discover. To the bloggers, or at least to this one, there is always mystery when hope and belief coalesce around a human being, a candidate. And even though I know that will happen, I am still going there to discover it.

Jay Rosen is chair of the journalism department at New York University and the author of PressThink (, a weblog.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

Listen here to NPR’s On the Media report on bloggers and the conventions.

David Weiberger in comments: “I’m approaching this primarily as someone traveling to a new country, reporting back to friends on the strange habits and rituals of the locals.”

This one, I thuink, is going to cause a big stir in the blog world: Daniel Okrent, public editor of the New York Times: Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?: His answer: Of course it is.

And I am gone… to the train station. Next dispatches will be from Boston.

Posted by Jay Rosen at July 25, 2004 9:12 AM   Print


Thanks for the story and the plug, you spelled my name right, but Scripting News started on 4/1/97, not 99. I'm leaving for the airport in seven minutes. See you in Boston!

Posted by: Dave Winer at July 25, 2004 9:38 AM | Permalink

And what's the difference, finally, between contempt for an "empty ritual" and contempt for those millions who are influenced by it, watch it, learn from it, attend and participate in it?

Now, now, this is exactly the sort of pseudopopulist criticism I've noted before:

"And what's the difference, finally, between contempt for "empty calories", and contempt for those millions who buy it, savor it, eat it, consume and are fueled by it? [you pointy-headed elitist "nutritionist", you!]"

Note also that - with a few exceptions - most of the credentialled bloggers are very much of the same general pundit-cloth as the rest of the mediafest (of course, they're almost all freelancers rather than employees, but I don't find that so fascinating a difference).

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 25, 2004 9:39 AM | Permalink

I'm approaching this primarily as someone traveling to a new country, reporting back to friends on the strange habits and rituals of the locals.

Of course, my attitude may change once I get there. I genuinely don't know what to expect.

Posted by: David Weinberger at July 25, 2004 10:56 AM | Permalink

The DNC, The RNC, And The False Choice

It was an important moment in journalism: a staid institution, the RNC, was attempting to control a new medium and was quickly learning it could not … that ultimately, they had to embrace a medium they could no longer control. It was a stark contrast to the DNC just four years later, when TV openly captured every hostile and shocking moment in Chicago, and conventions (and the world for that matter) changed for forever.
The printing press made us readers, the personal computer made us writers, and now, with weblogs, the Internet is making us reporters. The conventions will be blogged … of course they will … whether the DNC and RNC wish it or not, and they can never again remove the reporters from the floor.

Posted by: Tim at July 25, 2004 5:09 PM | Permalink seems rather sad to me that 15,000 journalists are going to attend an event on the idea that they had better be there in case something (bad) happens. Well, speeches happen--speeches full of propositional content. And those proposition, if acted upon, could change the lives of real citizens for better or worse. Seems like those 15,000 journalists actually have much to cover.

Posted by: acline at July 26, 2004 10:08 AM | Permalink

If 15,000 reporters declare the convention "empty ritual" and yet make sure to attend -- and if we understand that rituals are by definition loaded with meaning whether the participants get it or not -- then we should ask questions about the ritual role played by reporters who dismiss conventions.

The cynical view is that they're just covering their asses, declaring that there's no story because they can't get one. The ritual view is more complicated. Reminds me a little of the way hasidic women count their kids: nisht eyns, nisht tsvey ("not one, not two") -- denying their existence lest they attract misfortune. The press has no such maternal motive when it comes to conventions, but it does resort to a similar sort of ritual doublespeak.

If we assume that the convention ritual is run by a party priesthood to insure a safe campaign bump for its chosen, then perhaps the press's ritual role can be understood as keeping the public focussed on the master narrative in which it's most invested: the "contest" between two basic worldviews, Dem and Republican. That storyline must, at this point, ritually jettison any remaining nuance of internal party politics, of the uncountable worldviews within just one party. The candidate must be anointed, declared potentially "presidential," if there is to be a continuing story.

By dismissing the convention, the press helps achieve this effect of inevitability more surely than if it skeptically reported internal wrangling, disgruntled losers, could-have-beens, and all the other on-the-ground business of politics. This isn't cynical collusion, but rather, a ritualized genuflection to the story that sells and makes careers.

Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at July 26, 2004 12:25 PM | Permalink

I've got it, Jay. Here's what bloggers at the conventions can do:

Make a table with two columns. Label the first one "Noise". Label the second one "News".

Now help readers recognize the difference between entries in each column.

Oh. And have fun!

Posted by: sbw at July 26, 2004 1:46 PM | Permalink

Lines like this one: "For journalists the politics at the conventions is no mystery - this is a marketing moment and there is nothing to discover" need to be qualified, perhaps replacing journalists with "national political journalists." For other reporters, conventions have much to discover that can and does improve reporting. My experience working for Congressional Quarterly at the 2000 Republican convention gave me a wider range of sources, insights that I would not have otherwise had and even some news. Most reporters don't write for the largest outlets, and many readers don't regularly read them. You paint with too broad a brush - ironic, given that you say the bloggers can bring everything that [journalists] have removed from their coverage.

Posted by: Derek at July 26, 2004 3:44 PM | Permalink

Dude, are you going to start bloggin or what...USE THE CRED YOUR MOMMA GAVE YOU!!!

Posted by: The Backer at July 26, 2004 5:49 PM | Permalink

6643 play texas hold em online here.

Posted by: texas hold em at October 12, 2004 2:17 PM | Permalink


texas holdem

Posted by: play texas holdem at October 13, 2004 1:18 PM | Permalink


texas hold em

Posted by: texas hold em at October 15, 2004 12:06 PM | Permalink

3282 check it out! Video Poker yabba dabba doo
online Video Poker

Posted by: Video poker at October 16, 2004 2:44 PM | Permalink

Anytime you want Texas Holdem , Alway open.

Posted by: Texas Holdem at October 17, 2004 12:17 AM | Permalink

Anytime you want Texas Holdem , Alway open.

Posted by: Texas Holdem at October 17, 2004 10:39 AM | Permalink


Posted by: roulette at October 18, 2004 9:24 PM | Permalink

7090 online casino games

Posted by: casino games at October 22, 2004 1:45 AM | Permalink

153 You know anti wrinkle cream
can work Did you know online degree gets you jobs? online degrees

Posted by: wrinkle cream at October 22, 2004 6:25 AM | Permalink

6395 .Way to poker online.

Posted by: online poker at October 23, 2004 8:08 PM | Permalink

PlLAY the best
debt consolidation only.

Posted by: blackjack game at October 26, 2004 9:43 AM | Permalink

Offering Cialis with overnight delivery. Also, If your looking for generic cialis this is a good site to visit.

Posted by: Cialis at October 27, 2004 9:06 AM | Permalink

3995 slots click here to play
online slots

Posted by: slots at October 31, 2004 2:06 AM | Permalink

6756 Ttry playing online pokeronline.

Posted by: online poker at November 2, 2004 4:54 PM | Permalink

From the Intro