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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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August 10, 2004

Guest Critic: The President of Unity Says Don't Blame Us for the "Liberal Media" Charge

Ernest Sotomayor: "The downslide in the credibility of the media began long before this convention was held, and it began when nearly every publisher, nearly ever executive editor and nearly ever TV and radio news director and station manager in the business was a white male."

Special to PressThink

By Ernest Sotomayor
President, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.,
Long Island Editor,

August 10, 2004

For a week media experts, ethicists and observers—liberal, conservative, moderate, whatever—have ranted about the applause for—or lack thereof—for Sen. John Kerry and President Bush at the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention in Washington.

University journalism school deans, journalism purists, conservative and liberal commentators and others have called the convention a sham, a discredit to our profession, a questionable alliance that will erode the credibility of the news media.

Let’s be clear: the downslide in the credibility of the media began long before this convention was held, and it began when nearly every publisher, nearly ever executive editor and nearly ever TV and radio news director and station manager in the business was a white male.

The charge that the news media is soundly liberal and dismissive of conservative viewpoints was levied long before our convention, and it was levied against a media workforce that still today is overwhelmingly white, and has been for more than two centuries.

So it seems disingenuous to blame UNITY for making people in this nation believe that “the media is liberal” just because some journalists applauded Sen. John Kerry during his appearance.

Many of the times that Sen. Kerry was applauded came when he spoke on issues that we are gathered to address as a coalition, such as media ownership, press freedoms, having more people like us among the press corps, or when he raised the names of people whom we hold up as heroes: Frank del Olmo, Ruben Salazar, Frederick Douglass, etc. He cracked plenty jokes and drew laughs, as the president did before the publishers association convention earlier this year. We heard no outcry after that appearance.

The president was greeted with a warm standing ovation out of respect for his office, though certainly not as enthusiastically as Kerry. Would an equal showing have been ideal? Would seated applause have been appropriate for both? Total silence from introduction to goodbye?

Overwhelmingly, the people in the room were professional journalists, not on assignment at the time, and were also as voters who responded as each deemed appropriate. We expect they will return to their jobs, and as they did before gathering in Washington, fulfill their duties as professionals.

The reasons for having the candidates are simple and as journalistically sound as ever: to raise issues that are important to the people in the communities from where we came, but aren’t parts of the discussions on the campaign trail. They include questions about sovereignty on Indian reservations, media ownership, affirmative action, Filipino-American veterans getting their dues, immigration, etc. If we felt we had more people in the press corps who understood these issues, or understood that they are important to tens of millions of Americans, there wouldn’t have been a need for us to ask the candidates to appear before us and discuss them.

These are issues that, unfortunately, received only a cursory examination at these appearances, but at least they were raised, and if they fall off the table, then the people of the nation and the news media have a bigger problem than you can measure with an applause meter.

As for the charge that we’re activists, the plea is guilty. We advocate for fair, representative, accurate journalism, by changing the complexion of newsrooms, not just racially and ethnically, but through the natural diversity of thought that occurs when you bring in people with different backgrounds. Does that make us liberal? You decide. Either way, we’ll continue on our path to point out the disparities, and find ways to make the media more open.

We draw no distinction between our advocacy and those who have filed brief after brief and taken lawsuit after lawsuit to the Supreme Court to get Nixon’s tapes released, to establish protections in libel cases, or to reopen court hearings closed by rogue jurists who don’t believe in a free press.

Those people all stand on the convention that it makes journalism better. We stand for the same thing.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

The debate continues… Just posted, August 12: Guest Critic Juan Gonzalez, Unity Board Member: Our 2008 Convention Must Go Beyond Journalists of Color.

The New York Daily News Columnist, Unity principal, and former head of the NAHA: “As our alliance has moved from the fringes to the center stage of American journalism, I believe we have a responsibility not only to advocate for more hiring and promotion of journalists of color but to press for raising the general standards our industry and profession.” His agenda for Unity: “head in a more inclusive direction.”

For background see PressThink (Aug. 8): “The Crowd’s Reaction Made Some Unity Delegates Uncomfortable.”

PressThink (Aug. 9): Unity and the Ovation for John Kerry: Letters to the Debate, 1-3. Includes mine to Romenesko and two from journalists Linda Picone and Jeff Shaw.

PressThink (Aug. 11): Guest Critic: Former TV News Director Terry Heaton Says Diversity Falls Apart in the Workplace :

The fear of being branded a “token” interferes with the mission of diversity, because the only response offered is the theoretical “anybody should be able to cover ‘those’ stories.” And anybody should. But I thought diversity efforts in journalism were supposed to acknowledge the special contribution minority journalists could make to some stories. Is asking a black reporter to cover a dispute involving the black community really an attempt to “ghettoize?”

Columnist Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe (Aug. 12): When diversity is only skin-deep.

It would be nice to report that Bush and Kerry used their time at the Unity podium to condemn the organization’s obsession with skin color, and to remind the journalists in the room that true diversity, the only diversity worth fighting for, is intellectual diversity: the diversity of minds.

But there was no “Sister Souljah moment” last week. Instead, Bush and Kerry pandered shamelessly, telling Unity’s racialists exactly what they wanted to hear.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 10, 2004 11:55 PM   Print


The thing about writing is that skin color doesn't appear. Ideas appear.

And if the ideas of a dark-skinned journalist are the same as those of a light-skinned journalist, what difference does it make to the reader? How does an upper-middle-class Jayson Blair bring more diversity than a white kid who grew up in a poor family in West Virginia?

I don't blame Unity for the "liberal media" charge, but its definition of diversity seems skin-deep at best. Whom its members applaud for is not a problem in itself, but a symptom of this deeper lack of diversity.

Posted by: Jan Bear at August 11, 2004 2:28 AM | Permalink

Two big groups you fail to mention: church-going believers in a Christian God, and mothers with 2 or more children.

On politics, the main problem of the Secular Fundamentalist = Leftist press is the idea that Christian beliefs should not be part of political discussion. I think this is MAIN Leftist bias of the press, and the main source of Sec. Fund. Bush-hate.

I mention mothers with 2 or more children because in Sweden, and the EU, there are talks about quotas for women as representatives. I claim that, if there are differences, it is because MOTHERS are different than non-mothers, and more personally concerned with children, and the next generation, than non-mothers. (Though often too busy with real family issues than theoretic ones, or most news, or most politics.)

I'd guess the black/ non-black in reporter, in population ratios would be closer than mothers(2)/ non-mothers in reporter, in pop. ratios.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 11, 2004 4:20 AM | Permalink

I found the premise of this entire news cycle to be ludicrous from the start: that the Unity group fighting to change the insular hiring practices of American journalism perfectly represent the biases of the very institution they are fighting to change. It's about time we had some voices in the media underlining this obvious fact. Bravo.

The issue of class vs. race/ethnicity is legitimate, but these categories are hardly mutually exclusive. There are wealthy blacks who get pulled over for driving while black. And as a general rule, the lower you go on the income scale, the more strictly racial hierarchies tend to be enforced.
Just take the radically distinct suspicion of African-Americans toward police officers or their 90% opposition to the war in Iraq. These are very distinct opinions based on very distinct experiences in the U.S.
These experiences are not a result of African-American group think: they are a result of the group-think of those who continue to effectively discriminate whether they manage to convince themselves they are fair-minded while they do it or not. And of course there are blacks who cry wolf on racism. Consistent oppression leads to justifiable suspicion. The line between justified suspicion and paranoia is a very fine one.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 11, 2004 3:39 PM | Permalink

Another point:

Only when Mr. Jacoby starts complaining about the candidates' obligatory and frequent visits (and pandering) to the numerous Jewish organizations he may have a point worthy of discussion.

Until then, Jacoby's whining is nothing but thinly veiled self-serving bigotry.

R. Piper

Posted by: Robert Piper at August 12, 2004 5:48 PM | Permalink

That is an interesting factoid, "Liberty Dad", and an interesting point.

But those stats, again?

I guess I'm wondering if there is any reason why this discussion even includes the word "diversity", when it is so obviously a non-issue??

And "Ben Franklin"..


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