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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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August 24, 2004

Late For the Sky: My New Convention Blog

I have a new convention blog. It's called Sky Box. During the Republican National Convention, I will be a contributing writer for Knight-Ridder's Washington bureau, credentialed to cover the event for them, working out of their space. Here, some reflections on the network sky box and the iconography of conventions.

Sky Box will be my temporary forum, but I will cross post most stuff to PressThink and may do posts for PressThink that aren’t for Sky Box. There’s a team of Knight-Ridder journalists who are continuing a weblog experiment they began last month in Boston. I’m joining them. Soon we’ll have a special page where you can find all the K-R people who are blogging the RNC, and I will link to it.

I decided to call the blog Sky Box because I see the network sky boxes with their blazing logos—NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS—as part of the iconography of a political convention. A key part.

But “reading” what this image says has gotten harder and harder, as the big broadcast networks have shrunk their coverage to three hours, while the cable channels go end-to-end, and yet talk over the event for most of their time on air. What happens inside the sky boxes, where producers make TV of the convention, is still important. And for Americans who are viewers of political television, the vantage point of the sky box is totally familiar.

Yet we might never think about it as a “position” of its own.

We’re used to watching Brit Hume of Fox or Judy Woodruff of CNN talk to us about politics, while behind them is a window on the convention hall itself— a frame. The sensation is of inhabiting a scenic overlook. Intellectually, it’s a position that promotes analysis, a step back, the broad overview, the look beyond. Televisually, it’s a command post for the correspondents who fan out below you. Psychologically, it’s about the power of being “above” the action—above politics—with that commanding view. Who owns these boxes when the convention leaves town? Big shots!

So the sky box is supposed to say Big Media and all the glamour of Big Media is supposed to come through the frame. When you’re out on the floor of the convention, and your eye scans the arena, the TV sky boxes hover overhead. ABC News. CNN. MSNBC. Fox. These bright brand names in news form an interpretive ring around the action.

You can sometimes look up and see the silhouette of a known newscaster, and you realize they’re on the air in that box, reporting on the convention by ignoring what’s happening at it now, where you are—near the podium, on “the floor.” And it’s at these moments that a reporter might ask himself: where does a political convention actually “happen,” most of the time? If I want to get closer to it, where do I go?

One answer is: go to the sky boxes where the hook up with the big audience is being made. There you join the Mississippi of attention streams— the TV audience. Go there to find the convention being shaped into an event.

In 2004, the view from the Network boxes doesn’t have the significance it once did. During the era when conventions were re-made into television-friendly events, a lot of political power was “pulled” upward. It got deposited in the hands of a relative few: network producers and the people they put on the air— the anchormen, their correspondents, hired experts and guests.

Now a lot of that power is being re-distributed downward as the conventions change into party “message-fests” that go out to Americans through many different devices, which is why 12,000 to 15,000 media people show up.

The best symbol of this shift was the big surprise CNN sprung on its competitors at the Democratic National Convention in Boston: a small broadcasting platform (a studio, in effect) right on the floor of the Fleet Center. In a sense this meant abandoning the pretense of the sky box: that its cosmic “overview” was the right view. The news is brought down to earth, put into the mix, in the shift from one set to another— sky box to floor. (Of course, the network used both locations in Boston, and drew on both ideas.)

The sky boxes still matter, they’re still icons, but underneath them and all around the hall, other ways of connecting Americans to the convention are showing up. This blog is one. I told you why I’m calling it Sky Box. But I haven’t told you what I plan to do, as the RNC approaches and the atmosphere in New York (which is also my home) heats up.

Sky Box, an image of the conventions as media event, which is also a fading image, is just the name of the album. The songs are to come.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

Here’s one of the Knight-Ridder bloggers: Life of the Parties, Looking at the election through twentysomething eyes by Adam Smeltz.

CyberJournalist.Net has a list of who’s blogging the Republic convention. Help them out by sending in names of blogs that should be added.

CyberJournalist.Net had this overview of Knight-Ridder’s convention blogging from Boston. I was not involved in that. But I was a credentialled blogger in Boston:

PressThink’s Reporting From the Convention

Go here for my first report, on the conventions pointing backwards in political time, here for the second, an interview with the event’s “CEO,” and here for a third, which includes an audio interview with Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post, and the fourth, arguing that Al Queda also came to the convention.

In Boston, I also wrote a quick viewer’s guide for the Kerry speech, but that I could have done from home. Still, it was part of PressThink’s convention coverage because it was part of blogging an event live, which means writing into or “at” people’s experience of the event as it unfolds.

Also… CyberJournalist.Net covers my Sky Box announcement.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 4:53 PM   Print


cool. i look forward to your coverage.

Posted by: Ed Cone at August 24, 2004 8:00 PM | Permalink

Knight-Ridder has clearly distinguished itself over the last couple of years for being just about the ONLY major media outlet that actually did investigative reporting about Bush disinformation during the march to war in Iraq and had the spine to not only print it, but not bury it dozens of pages the the daily false administration claim most other media outlets were mesmerized by.

Speaking as an outsider before you joined Knight-Ridder, how would you situate their style of domestic political coverage up to now as compared to other major media groups? What have they tended to focus on? How has their coverage been distinctive from or similar to the approaches of other groups from what you saw before you joined up? Was their attitude toward blogging very central to the answer for any of the previous questions?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 9:22 PM | Permalink


I look forward to reading it.

If you haven't already -- and I expect you have -- reread some H. L. Mencken convention coverage... just to reaffirm a wonderful ability to recognize what you see and translate it to words on paper.

Gonzo journalism before Hunter Thompson was born.

Posted by: sbw at August 24, 2004 10:02 PM | Permalink

Here's a fun brief read about Mencken's coverage. "Mencken saw political conventions in a harsh light" gives the flavor, including the fact that then, as now, reporters can be wonderfully clear-eyed, entertaining, and dead wrong.

Nothing has changed. The column ends, "Mencken's routine at convention's end was to pack up his Corona, bid farewell to his fellow reporters and predict that the end of the Republic was at hand."

Posted by: sbw at August 25, 2004 2:13 PM | Permalink

Hey Jay, have fun in the insanity that is about to unleash on NYC.

FWIW, I've always thought the coverage missed the biggest point of the conventions... by focusing on the stage, on the power players, white men in suits, if you will.

Most of the time government coverage involves wandering like a satellite around these people, hat in hand, please sir may I have a crumb? For many, the role as an accolyte/high priest to centralized power locked behind borders and gates defines their conception of a journalist.

But what is democracy, radical democracy? (I like C. Douglas Lummis on the subject myself) It is a critique of centralized power... a way of looking at the distribution of power from the few to the many.

So if we cover "democracies" by covering the few, we miss the real story. But the many are rarely in Washington these days, Mr Smith be damned.

Online, we give lip service to this concept of Many-to-Many... but I think most of us are still running around in horseless carriages, loving the rush when the One somewhere taps into the Many, recreating the centralized power model, rather than the distributed power model.

But at a political convention, the Many show up (usually). Not all of them, but more than usual. Odd people from faraway states. Wearing funny hats and goofy outfits (maybe Republicans won't do that, since they had to pay so much to get into the NYC party).

I think a political convention is one of those rare opportunities to observe how (or if) power is distributed to the many, even if they are still within a state political party hierarchy (Lummis talks about these issues too... using Hannah Arendt, stuff on civil society).

But power is SO centralized in the external world right now... even the opening a political convention provides is a rare opportunity to cover something that ISN'T on the main stage.


Posted by: Chris Boese at August 25, 2004 8:00 PM | Permalink

Aloha, Jay.

I'd like to take this opportunity to start a flame war and to ask why no one ever talks to the delegates except for the ones in the funny hats. And I'd also like to ask why no one ever ends a broadcast or a blog entry with "Reporting from outside the Free Speech Zone, this is [your name here]." If you're not in it ...

Anyway. On to the war. While mourning the lack of a 21st century A.J. Liebling, Jack Shafer at Slate managed to work in this dig: "So, instead of producing the next Liebling, the field of journalism saddles us with the worry-bead analysis of Tom Rosenstiel and the goo-goo intentions of Jay Rosen, for which there is no audience outside the industry. (Maybe not even inside it.)"

Obviously this goes beyond a difference in cocktail preferences into the realm of a journalistic philosophy Cold War, and Shafer is lobbing mortar rounds across the DMZ. It's time to recall the ambassadors and issue a stern statement.


Posted by: weldon berger at August 25, 2004 10:44 PM | Permalink

Hmmm. It is a shot across the bow. Usually I respond to Shafer's insults by writing about his ideas. But I have the convention to cover. So we'll see.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 1:31 AM | Permalink

Jay, I really am interested in the other questions as well: why doesn't anyone talk with delegates (probably a more fertile field at the Dem convention) and why isn't the utterly Orwellian designation of "Free Speech Zones" something of more interest than it seems to be to people who make their livings off the first amendment without having to get jammed into a cattle pen to do it?

Posted by: weldon berger at August 26, 2004 2:21 AM | Permalink

The is syndicating your feed.
Looking forward to your scholarly writings.

Posted by: Lilly at August 26, 2004 5:12 AM | Permalink

Chris, Weldon. Your point about talking to the delegates, who are democracy as rule of the many, is a good one. You'll find their experience the focal point more often in local journalism. Local editors can be relentless in their demand on correspondents to bird dog the local delegates and be there for everything that happens to them.

Despite the dullness of that editorial plan, I think it could lead to great reporting. But one of its problems is that individuals having a good time on their big trip to the convention, are not necessarily having a political time. You have to know where the politics is at the convention, that takes local knowledge, and many in the mob of 15,000 have no clue about it.

Frankly, Chris, I don't think journalists have ever asked themselves: what do the delegates do that is inherently political, and humanly interesting in the way that only democracy can be interesting. Many would rather "read" the message of the convention from the top--Rove's level, Bill Schneider's--than write it from below.

You say, "a political convention is one of those rare opportunities to observe how (or if) power is distributed to the many, even if they are still within a state political party hierarchy."

You are totally right.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 2:59 PM | Permalink


Viewing the viewer: Do you feel the standard journalistic pressure to find the Different Angle? After all, isn't it de rigeur for journalists to Find The Angle That No One Else Has Covered?

Questions: I'll second the interest mentioned above to visit ordinary, non-hat- and bling-wearing delegates to ask them these questions:

  • If you were on the podium tonight, what is the key thing you'd say?
  • If you were were President, what is the first thing you'd do?
  • If you could adopt a platform of the Democratic Party, what would it be?

Posted by: sbw at August 27, 2004 10:39 AM | Permalink

From the Intro